Make the most of apple season! This Apple Crisp Cake pairs spice cake layers with a delicious homemade apple pie filling and apple crisp crumble.
My first ever Apple Crisp (or Apple Crumble) was in Home Ec class in Jr. High. It was (and still is) one of the best apple desserts I’ve ever had — and so easy to make!!
It’s a favorite for sure, and I don’t make it often enough. But we’re in the midst of apple season here, and what better way to make the most of it than with this Apple Crisp Cake!
How to Make this Apple Cake
There’s something so comforting about apple desserts in the Fall. Those fragrant spices and sweet-tartness of the apples — it’s perfect.
To make this Apple Cake, I modified my Spice Cake recipe for the cake layers. I didn’t put apples into the actual cake, as I wanted to separate it out as a filling, but if you’d like to put apples into the cake layers, you can check out the recipe for my Caramel Apple Cake (you can 1.5x the recipe, or adjust the Servings slider to 18).
For the apple pie filling, I used the same recipe that I used for my Apple Pie Cake and Apple Crisp Cookie Cups. It’s an easy and delicious way to make it at home, but you could totally use store-bought instead if you like. I prefer the taste of homemade, so that’s what I do.
How Do You Make Apple Pie Filling?
I like to use Granny Smith Apples for my filling due to their tartness and firmness, but you can use any kind you like, provided it’s not too soft (like Macintosh). You want it to retain some of its structure in the filling. Here are some other good options for apples to use:
- Golden Delicious
- Pink Lady
- Honeycrisp (a personal fave to eat)
Or you can go crazy and do a mix of all of them! That’s probably what I’d do next time, if I actually remember!
To make the apple pie filling, you literally just toss everything except the apples into a pot, boil, cook for 2mins, toss in chopped apples, and cook for 10-15mins until tender. That’s it!
I do this the day before, and keep it in the fridge once it cools. I give it a good stir before using in the cake though, as it sets a bit when cold.
The biggest pain, honestly, is peeling and chopping the apples. But it’s not that bad, and as a bonus for making the filling, your house will smell amazing for hours!
For the apple crisp crumble, I literally took the topping recipe from my Apple Crisp and used that. The only difference is that I melted the butter instead of using it cold, and I love the large chunks of crumble that I was able to get out of it!
The crumble is another super easy thing to do: throw everything into a bowl, mix, spread on baking sheet, bake for 10mins. I also do this in advance and store in an airtight container once cooled. Not unlike my Maple Cake from a few weeks ago, this recipe makes more crumble than you’ll need.
I like to have extra so I can pick out the larger chunks (for the top specifically), but you can halve the recipe if you prefer.
Cinnamon Swiss Meringue Buttercream
The cinnamon Swiss meringue buttercream is your standard SMBC with cinnamon thrown in. I was going to leave it plain vanilla, but adding the cinnamon gives it an additional hit of flavor that goes perfectly with the rest of the cake. Plus it looks super pretty!
I actually made the buttercream in advance too. Come to think of it, every element of this cake was made in advance. Since we got Zelda, I’ve had to portion out my baking even more than before.
Can I make this apple cake in Advance?
I almost always bake the cakes in advance, but I make the buttercream the day I’m assembling the cake even though it adds a bit of chaos to an already hectic day.
Here’s what I did for each component in order to make them in advance:
- Cake Layers – Cool completely, double wrap in plastic wrap, freeze. Thaw for 1-2hours (wrapped) before assembling. Will keep for months.
- Apple Pie Filling – Transfer to glass tupperware, cool completely, refrigerate. Bring to room temp and give a good stir before using. Will keep for 2 weeks.
- Apple Crisp Crumble – Cool completely and transfer to an airtight container. Will keep for 2-3 weeks.
- Cinnamon Buttercream – Refrigerate. Bring to room temperature and rewhip before use. Will keep for 1 week. Or freeze for up to 3 months in an airtight container.
Doing these in advance made it so much easier to assemble on the day of. I didn’t have to worry about making the buttercream or crumble. All I had to do was put it together. Honestly, I’ll probably keep doing it this way from now on!
I have a recipe for traditional Apple Crisp here, but if you’re looking for something outside the box and equally delicious, this Apple Crisp Cake is for you!
Looking for more Fall desserts?
Tips for this Apple Cake with Cinnamon Buttercream
- To make a three layer 6″ cake change the Servings to 12 and use those amounts. Baking time may differ slightly.
- To make cupcakes, all you need to do is reduce the baking time — start checking at 15mins or so.
- You can prepare everything in advance and assemble on a separate day. See post above for details of how I split it up.
- If you prefer, you can use store-bought apple pie filling instead of making your own.
- You will have crumble left over. I like to make more than I need so I have the option to pick out the larger chunks. Feel free to halve the recipe if you prefer, or use the extra as a yogurt topping!
- Be sure to check my Swiss Meringue Buttercream post for tips and troubleshooting.
- Learn how to keep your cakes moist using Simple Syrup.
- To help ensure your cake layers bake up nice and flat, check out my How to Bake Flat Cake Layers post!
Apple Crisp Cake
Cinnamon Spice Cake:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup light brown sugar packed
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup milk room temperature
Apple Pie Filling:
- 2-3 Granny Smith apples chopped (3 cups chopped, 340g)
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar packed
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- pinch ground nutmeg
- pinch salt
- 1 cup water
Apple Crisp Crumble:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 cup light brown sugar packed
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2/3 cup unsalted butter melted
Cinnamon Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
- 6 large egg whites
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 cups unsalted butter room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
Cinnamon Spice Cake:
- Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour three 8″ cake rounds and line with parchment.
- In a medium bowl, whisk flour, spices, baking powder, and salt until well combined. Set aside.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and until smooth. Add sugars and beat on med-high until pale and fluffy (approx 3mins).
- Reduce speed and add eggs one at a time fully incorporating after each addition. Add vanilla.
- Alternate adding flour mixture with milk, beginning and ending with flour (3 additions of flour and 2 of milk). Fully incorporating after each addition.
- Spread batter evenly between the prepared pans and smooth the tops.
- Bake for approx. 40 mins or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.
- Place cakes on wire rack to cool for 10mins then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely.
Apple Pie Filling:
- Toss chopped apples and lemon juice in a large bowl, set aside.
- In a large saucepan, combine sugars, cornstarch, and spices. Pour in water and whisk. Cook over medium heat until boiling. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add apples, bring back to a boil. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until tender (10-15mins). Cool completely.
Apple Crisp Crumble:
- Preheat oven to 350F. Whisk flour, oats, cinnamon, and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Add enough melted butter so that the mixture starts to clump. Spread on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for approx. 10 mins. Cool completely. Break crumble apart if needed.
Cinnamon Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
- Place egg whites and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk until combined.*
- Place bowl over a double boiler on the stove and whisk constantly until the mixture is hot and no longer grainy to the touch (approx. 3mins). Or registers 160F on a candy thermometer.
- Place bowl on your stand mixer and whisk on med-high until the meringue is stiff and cooled (the bowl is no longer warm to the touch (approx. 5-10mins)).
- Switch to paddle attachment. Slowly add cubed butter and mix until smooth.**
- Add vanilla and cinnamon and whip until smooth and fluffy.
- Place one layer of cake on a cake stand or serving plate. Top with approx. 1 cup of buttercream and spread evenly. Pipe a border of buttercream around the outside to hold in the apple pie filling. Fill with approx. 2/3 cup apple pie filling, spread evenly. Sprinkle with approx. 1/2 cup crumble (smaller pieces). Press gently into apple pie filling. Repeat with next layer.
- Place final layer on top and do a thin crumb coat on the cake. Chill for 20mins.
- Frost and smooth the top and sides of the cake with remaining frosting. Place larger chunks of the crumble around the top of the cake.
** The buttercream may look like it’s curdled at some point. Keep mixing until it is completely smooth. If it looks soupy, place it in the fridge for 20mins and rewhip.
Originally published Sep 15, 2018
Love this cake. My attempt at SMBC however was an epic fail (after many tries I got an edible version). To avoid emotional trauma the next time I wonder if astore bought creme cheese icing coumd be doctored to work?
Hi Tanya! I’m so sorry to hear that SMBC is giving you trouble! Have you seen my tutorial with tips & troubleshooting? https://livforcake.com/swiss-meringue-buttercream-recipe/ CC frosting would work but it’s usually softer so there may be an issue with holding in the apple filling. An American buttercream would work well though. https://livforcake.com/simple-vanilla-buttercream/
Hi Olivia! Does it matter if have 3-inch tall 6-inch pans instead of 2 inches? Thanks!
Hi GG! Either will work, mine are 2″ tall 🙂
Denise Tooley says
The Swiss buttercream seems to be too buttery compared to other Swiss recipes I’ve used. I’m wondering if you meant “3 sticks” I stead of “3 cups” of butter?
Hi Denise! No, this particular recipe needs a lot of buttercream since it’s a larger cake.
I made this in the spring for my husband and I. Since it was just the two of us, I made a half recipe (I think? It was months ago!) and used two six inch pans. I cut the cakes in half and had four layers. It was a beautiful, if tiny, cake. And delicious! Definitely use unsalted butter for the frosting though… That was my mistake.
I’m going to make this into cupcakes for my sister-in-law’s birthday this weekend. Looking forward to tweaking it (and not making the same mistakes!).
Despite all the cakes I make, I’m not usually a big fan of eating them. This one is my favourite though!
Hi Jess! So happy you love this one. Thanks for all your tips! It should work great as cupcakes 🙂
What are the modifications to make this cake at altitude? Tks!!
Hi there! I recommend following these tips depending on how high up you are: https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/learn/resources/high-altitude-baking
I’m definitely going to do the filling and icing. Can I use a boxed spice cake mix, “doctored” a bit? I was also going to make only 2 layers. Do you think that would work?
Hi Mary! For sure, I actually have a delicious doctored cake mix recipe you could try with the spice cake: https://livforcake.com/almost-scratch-cake/ If only doing two layers you won’t need as much filling, crumble, or frosting so you can 2/3 the recipe (change the Servings to 10 or so) and use those amounts.
Do you mean 3 sticks of butter rather than 3 cups?
Hi Tayanna! No, the recipe makes a lot of frosting as it’s a large cake.
Cake turned out dry as quite a number of reviews mentioned..
Hi DT! The cakes should not be dry. This is likely due to overbaking or improperly measuring the flour (using the cup as a scoop rather than spooing the flour into the cup and leveling it off). Baking times are a guideline as every oven bakes differently it’s important to check on the cakes as they are baking.
I made the cake, filling and frosted with a cinnamon cream cheese icing and it was wonderful. I love your web site and want to make so many of your cakes. The baking time on this cake needs to be adjusted. The recipe suggests 40 min, but my cakes were in the oven for 20 mins and they are a little dry.
Hi Bonnie! So happy you loved it! Baking times in recipes are just a guideline as every oven bakes differently (some run hot, some cold). Plus I use baking strips on my cake pans which makes them take a little longer. I’m surprised they are done and a little dry at 20mins though! Did you use 8″ pans? You can always save dry cakes by adding some simple syrup 🙂 https://livforcake.com/simple-syrup-recipe/
Katie Koehler says
I love your recipes! I made this cake for Thanksgiving and it was a showstopper! I made it the night before, and all the components tasted really delicious. After assembling and decorating, I put it in the fridge overnight. The next day when I cut into it, the layers came out beautifully and everything tasted yummy. The cake was a little dry though. I’m wondering if the refrigerator dried it out (even with the swiss meringue buttercream on the outside). Do you put your cakes in the fridge if you make them the night before? Or do you store your cakes at room temperature?
Hi Katie! Thanks so much! I’m so happy you liked it! The refrigerator does eventually dry cakes out, but only after more than 3 days or so. Was the cake eaten cold? That can make it feel dry as well. Otherwise, is it possible it was overbaked a bit? Every oven is different and some run hotter than others.
Thanks for your reply. I took the cake out of the refrigerator about 3-4 hours before we ate it, so it wasn’t cold.
I took the cakes out early when I was baking them. I did 33 minutes rather than the 40 minutes in the recipe because they were already done. I leveled the cakes when they were cool, and the scraps tasted moist. Not sure exactly when it got dry. I made a simple syrup and brushed it on some of the cut pieces of cake and that seemed to help.
How do you store your cake when finished decorating? I have a plastic cake carrying container that I use, but don’t know if it should be kept at room temperature or refrigerated.
Thanks for helping me troubleshoot this issue!
Hi Katie! I tend to store my cakes in the fridge for a couple days and any longer I slice them up and put the slices in the freezer. I don’t use a cake container but that would be a great way to help ensure it’s airtight.
Samantha Garcia says
Do you think that a simple vanilla cake with both Apple pie filling and buttercream would be a weird mix
Hi Samantha! I think that would be totally delicious!
hi! for this cake do i need to do a simple syrup soak? the family prefers more moist cakes and i want to make sure its not too dense! thanks!
Hi Julia! There is no harm in using a simple syrup on this cake. I would do that if your family likes moist cakes! You could also use cake flour instead of AP for a lighter crumb.
How would you adjust for 2 8” pans?
Hi Krista! Change the Servings to 12 and use those amounts.
Does the crisp part stay crunchy the next day?
Hi Carmen! It does! It will soften a bit over time, but it won’t get mushy.
I love a simple apple cake, too! This is beautiful! Looks so tender and tasty!! The perfect autumn dessert!!
Thank you Long!
Hi Liv! Made this cake the other day and added a salted caramel drip, and everyone absolutely loved it…even a family member who isn’t a huge fan of cake.
Just wondering if you’ve ever attempted this as cupcakes? I love a denser cake like this but for cupcakes tend to enjoy a lighter fluffier cake, so not sure how this recipe would translate?
Hi Bri! So glad you loved it. I think it would work great as cupcakes! Bake them at the same temp but start checking them at 15mins. I would core them and use the filling inside, then frost and sprinkle the crumble on top 🙂
Do you think this cake would taste just as good with a vanilla buttercream?
Hi Nicole! Yes, I think it would be delicious.
Tastes great! Looks Amazing! Perfect solution for my husband’s birthday cake. He isn’t a big fan of cake, but loves apple pie. Very detailed recipe and was great for teaching my girls how to make a dessert for their dad! Can’t wait for his reaction when he sees and tastes it! Thanks for sharing!
Hi Katie! Thanks so much for the great feedback. I’m so happy you found the recipe easy to follow. I hope you all love this one as much as I do!
I love your website and cakes!! I made your Apple Crisp cake for Thanksgiving and it was perfection. Every element worked. Probably the best and most beautiful cake I’ve made yet (looked exactly like yours!). Here’s the except…. The cake layers rose beautifully and baked perfectly. But eating it my daughter described it more like bread. I’d say it was just a teeny tiny bit dry and maybe not quite sweet enough. Considering I seemingly did everything right, what do you think I need to tweak just a bit?
Hi Sue! Thank you! I am so happy you loved the cake 🙂 Do you mean more like a cake/loaf type bread? My cake recipes tend to be on the denser side but that’s how I prefer them. I would probably bake it less next time so that it’s not dry and/or use a simple syrup on the cake layers. Also, how do you measure your flour? I recommend spoon and leveling it into the measuring up vs scooping it since it can add extra flour and make the cake denser too. I hope that helps!
Thanks, Liv. It wasn’t dense but still pretty light and airy. I weigh my dry ingredients rather than measure. Do you have an opinion about weighing vs. measuring? But, I too decided I might add a simple syrup or soak next time. I’m planning on making your Gingerbread Latte cake next week for a party and then your Eggnog cake for our Christmas dinner. 🙂
Hi Sue! Weighing ingredients is ideal for the best accuracy and results, but measuring should work just fine. The biggest thing about measuring is how you measure flour as this can make a big difference in the cake consistency. It’s important to spoon and level your flour into the measuring cup instead of using it as a scoop. That being said, I almost always measure as it’s easiest for me. I hope you love the gingerbread and eggnog cakes! The Eggnog is one of my all time faves 🙂
I halved this recipe and baked the cake layers in 3, 6-inch pans. Absolutely delicious!! So perfect for fall.
Hi Caitlin! So happy you liked it, thanks for the feedback 🙂