The Perfect Thanksgiving Dessert: French Apple Pie Cake

French Apple Pie Cake – apple cider cake layers with shortbread frosting, apple pie filling, streusel crumble and vanilla bean buttercream.

French Apple Pie Cake - apple cider cake layers with shortbread frosting, apple pie filling, streusel crumble and vanilla bean buttercream #cakebycourtney #applepiecake #piecake #thanksgivingcake #frenchapplepie #frenchapplepiecake #applepie

Thanksgiving Pie Cake

Finishing up my Thanksgiving Pie Cake series with my French Apple Pie Cake. Today’s Thanksgiving cake is inspired by my mom’s Apple Pie. She is a master at pies! I remember vividly many occasions in the kitchen by her side learning the art of pie crusts. Her mom taught her, and my mom taught me. I’m sure she cringes a bit every time I talk about my dislike for pie. I loved learning from her, but I never grew to love pie the way she does.

French Apple Pie Cake - apple cider cake layers with shortbread frosting, apple pie filling, streusel crumble and vanilla bean buttercream #cakebycourtney #applepiecake #piecake #thanksgivingcake #frenchapplepie #frenchapplepiecake #applepie

Instead or recreating my mom’s pie recipes each Thanksgiving, my new French Apple Pie is my tribute to a women who rolled so much pie dough in her life, it makes my hands ache just thinking about it. So much time and love goes into each pie she makes.

So, mom, this one is for you!

French Apple Pie Cake - apple cider cake layers with shortbread frosting, apple pie filling, streusel crumble and vanilla bean buttercream #cakebycourtney #applepiecake #piecake #thanksgivingcake #frenchapplepie #frenchapplepiecake #applepie

French Apple Pie Cake

For my apple pie cake, I started with apple cider cake layers. I recommend using a quality brand of apple cider. I actually got mine at Rowley’s Red Barn in Utah. The flavor is incredible and tastes more homemade than I could ever do myself. I think the key in a quality apple cider is that the flavor is much stronger than a cheap store brand version. And flavor is always number one for me.

French Apple Pie Cake - apple cider cake layers with shortbread frosting, apple pie filling, streusel crumble and vanilla bean buttercream #cakebycourtney #applepiecake #piecake #thanksgivingcake #frenchapplepie #frenchapplepiecake #applepie

For a pie crust element, I used my shortbread crumbs to make a shortbread frosting (similar to Milk Bar) to include in between my layers. I then topped the shortbread frosting with apple pie filling and a streusel crumble for a little crunch.

French Apple Pie Cake - apple cider cake layers with shortbread frosting, apple pie filling, streusel crumble and vanilla bean buttercream #cakebycourtney #applepiecake #piecake #thanksgivingcake #frenchapplepie #frenchapplepiecake #applepie

The cake is then covered in a whipped vanilla bean frosting, which kind of reminds me of the ice cream if you’re having your pie al la mode.

French Apple Pie Cake - apple cider cake layers with shortbread frosting, apple pie filling, streusel crumble and vanilla bean buttercream #cakebycourtney #applepiecake #piecake #thanksgivingcake #frenchapplepie #frenchapplepiecake #applepie

Remember, if you have any left over apple pie filling or streusel (which I’m pretty sure you will), serve a little extra with each slice of cake.

Video Tutorial


French Apple Pie Cake

4.89 from 26 votes
Apple cider cake layers with shortbread frosting, apple pie filling, streusel filling and vanilla bean buttercream.
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 2 hrs


For the Apple Spice Cake

  • 1 cup (226 g) butter softened
  • 1 cup (220 g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (165 g) brown sugar packed
  • 5 large eggs room temperature
  • 1 cup (236 g) apple cider room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120 g) buttermilk room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon (4.2 g) pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (360 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons (8 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (4 g) baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.4 g) salt
  • 1 teaspoon (2.64 g) cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1.3 g) nutmeg

For the Shortbread Frosting

  • 3 cups (360 g) flour
  • 1 teaspoons (5.6 g) kosher salt
  • 1 cup (226 g) butter melted
  • 3 tablespoons (44.36 g) water
  • 1 cup (240 g) milk
  • 1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter slightly cold
  • 1 1/2 cups (187.5 g) powdered sugar measured and then sifted

For the Crumble

  • 1 cup (120 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (110 g) light brown sugar packed
  • 1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter cold

For the Apple Pie Filling

  • 4 large Granny Smith apples
  • 3 tablespoons (42.37 g) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cup (330 g) light brown sugar packed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon (3.9 g) ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt

For the Vanilla Buttercream

  • 2 cups (452 g) unsalted butter slightly cold
  • 6 cups (750 g) powdered sugar measured and then sifted
  • 1 tablespoon (4.2 g) vanilla bean paste
  • 1 teaspoon (4.2 g) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (57.75 g) heavy whipping cream
  • Pinch of salt
  • *This buttercream recipe makes enough to fill and cover your cake. If you want to add additional piping, you’ll want to make an extra ½ batch.


For the Apple Spice Cake

  • Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Spray three 8-inch or four 6-inch round pans with nonstick spray, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and spray the parchment. Set aside.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk lightly to combine. Set aside.
  • In the small mixing bowl, combine the apple cider, buttermilk and vanilla. Stir to combine. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugars. Beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes, until light and fluffy.
  • Gradually add the eggs, beating after each addition. Make sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of your bowl occasionally too.
  • With your mixer on low speed, add ⅓ of the flour mixture, followed by half of the apple cider mixture. Continue to add another ⅓ of the flour, the rest of the wet ingredients and finish with the remaining dry ingredients. Mix until the dry ingredients are incorporated into the wet ingredients. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix again on low for another 10 to 20 seconds.
  • Evenly divide all of the batter between the pans (about 18 ounces of batter in each 8-inch pan or or 12 ounces in each 6-inch pan).
  • Bake the cake layers for about 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes in the cake pans and then invert onto wire baking racks to cool completely.
  • Level your layers, if needed
  • Can be made ahead of time and wrapped separately in plastic wrap and stored in the freezer. Let the cake layers thaw for about an hour before stacking and decorating.

For the Shortbread Frosting

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and paddle on low speed until well mixed.
  • Add the butter and water and beat on low speed until the mixture starts to come together in small clusters.
  • Spread the clusters on a parchment lined sheet pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, breaking them up occasionally and keeping an eye on them toward the 20 minute mark. The crumbs should be golden brown and still slightly moist to the touch at that point; they will dry and harden as they cool.
  • Let the crumbs cool completely before using in a recipe or eating. The crumbs can be stored in an airtight container for 1 week at room temperature or 1 month in the fridge or freezer.
  • Combine the shortbread crumbs and milk in a blender, turn the speed to medium-high, and puree until smooth and homogenous. It will take 1 to 3 minutes (depending on your blender). If the mixture does not catch on your blender blade, turn off the blender, take a small teaspoon, and scrape down the sides of the canister, remembering to scrape under the blade, then try again.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and powdered sugar. Cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes, until fluffy and pale yellow. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
  • On low speed, paddle in the contents of the blender. After 1 minute, increase the speed to medium-high and beat for another 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. If the mixture is not a uniform, very pale, barely tan color, give the bowl another scrape-down and another minute of high-speed paddling.
  • Use the frosting immediately, or store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

For the Crumble

  • Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • Combine the flour and the sugar. Stir until well mixed.
  • Cut in the butter to the flour mixture until small clumps have formed. You can also use your hands to create clusters if you need to. 
  • Bake for 5 minutes, stir the mixture, and bake another 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Toss the mixture again when you remove it from the oven.
  • Cool completely before using in the cake.
  • Can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 1 week or freezer for about a month.

For the Apple Pie Filling

  • Peel the apples and then cut them into quarter inch chunks.
  • Combine the apples with the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a medium pot. Slowly bring to a boil over medium heat, using a spoon to gently stir the mixture as it heats up and the apples begin to release liquid. Reduce the heat and simmer the apples gently for 3 to 5 minutes. Be careful not to over cook the apples – you’ll get applesauce.
  • Transfer to a container and put in the fridge to cool down. Once completely cooled, the filling can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 1 week. I wouldn’t recommend freezing this filling.

For the Vanilla Bean Buttercream

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream the butter on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  • With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the powdered sugar, followed by the heavy cream, vanilla bean paste, vanilla extract and dash of salt.
  • Continue to beat the frosting on medium-high speed for an additional 5 minutes.
  • Before frosting your cake, mix the frosting by hand with a wooden spoon to push out the air pockets.


  • Using a pastry brush, spread some of the caramelized apple juice from the apple filling onto each cake layer.
  • Spread a small dollop of frosting on your cake board. Place the first cake layer on the board, crumb side up.
  • Spread about ¾ cup shortbread frosting on the cake layer. Make sure to get eye level with the cake to ensure it is level.
  • Using the vanilla frosting, pipe a rim of frosting around the edge of the cake to hold in the apple filling.
  • Spread about ½ cup of the apple filling onto the shortbread frosting. You don’t want to add too much filling because it will compromise the structure of your cake. Instead, reserve the remaining filling and serve on the side of each cake slice.
  • Sprinkle about ½ cup of the streusel crumble over the apple pie filling.
  • Top with the second cake layer and repeat steps 3 to 6.
  • Place the final cake layer, top side down, on top of the fillings.
  • You’ll then spread a thin layer of vanilla frosting around the entire cake to lock in any crumbs. This is called the crumb coat. Freeze the cake for 10 to 15 minutes to ensure the crumbs get locked into this coat of frosting.
  • After the frosting is set, continue to frost the cake with the remaining vanilla frosting.
Cuisine Cake
Course Dessert
Keyword Apple, apple cake, Apple Pie Cake, French Apple Pie Cake, Pie Cake, Thanksgiving Cake

Courtney Rich

I’m a self-taught baker, obsessed with cake.

I long ago ditched box mixes in pursuit of melt-in-your-mouth, to-die-for flavor combinations, fillings and textures. I believe cake must be decadent, life-changing and worthy of celebration! And I believe anyone should be able to bake that kind of cake – and I’m here to teach you just that!

Get my free cake decorating guide
Everything you need to know about decorating a cake like a pro!

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Recipe Rating


  1. Could you also bake this on a half sheet baking pan and cut out the cake size (hoping to turn this into a 6 inch cake)?

  2. Is the vanilla bean paste a must or is there a substitute? If it is strongly recommended where to you recommend buying? Thanks, love your cakes!

    1. I do really love it and if you have a coupon for Joanns or Micahels craft stores, you can use it on the vanilla bean paste there and it’s a much better price. If you can’t find it, you can use pure vanilla extract/

  3. 5 stars
    Just made this. Soooooo good!! I got lazy and made a few mods: 2 layers only (cooked longer) and because I didn’t want to drag out my blender I just mixed the shortbread crumbles with the streusel. Next time I’ll try it to spec, but this was still a really amazing cake. The caramelized apple juice soaks into this cake wonderfully. Thank you!

    1. 4 stars
      This cake is delicious, but it’s also a lot of work. I too, like some other people, had my crumble melt. I made it twice, with cold butter and the result was the same each time. If you stir the warm melty mess when you take it out of the oven and ask it cools, it will turn to crumble. I plan to try the crumble from my Dutch apple pie recipe next time.
      Other than the crumble all went well. It took me about 4.5 hours from start to finish. In the future I plan to make the cakes and the shortbread crumbles ahead of time to break it up.
      The cake is delicious and everyone loved it. For taste I’d give it 5 stars. I gave it four stars because of the crumble issue, the awkward directions for the shortbread frosting and the underestimate of time.

  4. So excited about making this recipe! BUT my crumble turned out absolutely awful, more like sand, and totally burnt with the amount of time suggested 🙁 Any suggestions? Afraid to try again and waste more flour…

    1. Oh no! The streusel crumble or the shortbread crumb for the frosting? I’m guessing the streusel? I’m going to adjust the bake time in the recipe.

      1. Just the streusel crumble, I should have taken it out after the first 10 min the edges were started to get a little too brown already. The shortbread crumb turned out perfect though!

  5. Hi Courtney! Is there really not any sugar in the shortbread crumbles? I know the powdered sugar will make the frosting sweet enough but it seems strange to not have sugar in the shortbread. Can’t wait to try this one for Father’s Day! Thanks 🙂

  6. I made this for Fathers Day and subbed apple juice for the milk in the shortbread frosting. It was great! This cake is fantastic. Thanks for another great recipe 🙂

  7. Going to make this for Thanksgiving this year but due to travel and other commitments I’ll need to make it a few days ahead of time. I’m concerned about freezing and thawing with the fruit filling. Do you think it would be ok or do you think the moisture from the thawing apples would make the crumble soggy?

  8. Hi, Courtney!
    I was wondering if I could freeze this cake once it is frosting and decorated completely? Thank you so much!

  9. Hi! Would I be able to substitute apple juice For Apple cider? I’m in the U.K. and I’m not sure Apple cider is the same thing over here… thanks!

  10. 3 stars
    Made this cake for Thanksgiving and it is delicious, however it took significantly longer than an hour to make. There are 5 components to the cake, plus assembling. It easily took 3+ hours to make all of the components and assemble it. Like one of the other comments, my crumble also burned the first time I made it so I had to make another batch at a lower temperature (I have a thermometer and my oven temperature is correct). It is worth the time and effort but there should be a more realistic estimate for how long it will take to make.

  11. Just made the crumble for this cake and it completely melted and made it almost into a cake like mess on my sheet pan. It says 1/2 cup of butter but that seems like A lot. I previously made a crumple from the peach crisp cake and it only called for 3TBS? Is there an error in the recipe?

      1. Hi Courtney! Just made this crumble today and mine also melted into a pool of messy butter and flour and sugar. I didn’t know how to save it. Any suggestions? Thanks!

  12. Hi,

    The heavy cream in your buttercreams, is this also still a little chilled like the butter? Or room temperature?


  13. In the process of making all the components for this cake. So far so good except the crumble. Made it per recipe (even chilled it before baking while shortbread crumble was in oven), it just melted and went dark very fast! Any suggestions? I need to remake this part.

  14. 5 stars
    I haven’t tried everything together in the cake but separate everything taste AMAZING! These recipes never fail me. I love all the combinations. I was a little disappointed when my cake rose so evenly because there was enough to skim off for me to keep eating!

  15. Hello everyone!! Hey, has anyone one had an issue with the shortbread frosting? When I made it, I wasn’t able to add the last half of the shortbread because it was very thick just with the first half.

    1. If you don’t mind me asking, why did you give the recipe a 3 star rating? If it’s amazing as you stated, I think it deserves more stars.
      I have had a couple of reviews that should of had 5 stars and not sure what happened but when I checked my reviews, the stars were incorrect. I just went back in and updated so the creator got what was rightfully deserved.
      Thanks for any feedback on this 😊

  16. 5 stars
    Loved the cake! A truly delicious showstopper. I made the cake the Saturday before Thanksgiving and froze until thanksgiving morning. It was thawed in time for dessert and was the perfect centerpiece. Everyone was talking about how flavorful and moist the cake was. Fit the buttercream I used real vanilla bean instead of the vanilla bean paste and it turned out perfect. I also did a double batch with 9” pans because I wanted a larger cake and it worked well

  17. 5 stars
    Holy Buckets!! This was AMAZING!! The pie crust ‘crumble’ MAKES this cake! I made these into cupcakes and topped with the crumbles-again so good! Take the time to make the crumble! I baked the cupcakes 350 convection for 12-15 min.

  18. 5 stars
    This cake is very flavorful and moist. I was scrolling the internet for a different flavor cake to make and I ran across this one. I somewhat struggled with the shortbread part and I think next time I’ll buy some graham crackers and to make the icing. But my co-workers loves it. My family loves it. thanks for the recipe.

  19. Your vanilla bean buttercream recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste and 1 teaspoon of extract but the weights are the same… 1 tablespoon of paste is about 17 grams. So I just wanted to see if it is 1 tablespoon paste and 1 teaspoon extract and maybe the weight listed for the paste is incorrect?

  20. 5 stars
    Can I make the vanilla frosting ahead of time? If so, how long does it last in the fridge or freezer?
    I’m waiting for my cake to cool, the only thing left to make is the vanilla frosting. Everything I’ve made so far is beyond delicious, I can’t wait to eat this tomorrow. There were some things I needed to adapt. I’ll be back after eating the cake with my proper review. However, I can already tell I’m going to make this cake again and again. It’s worth the steps!

    1. Yes you can make buttercream ahead of time and freeze or refrigerate in an airtight container. It will keep for a couple weeks. Just let it get back to room temp and rebeat it when you need to use it.

  21. Hi Courtney, going to attempt this cake for christmas this year. Looks delicious. Just wondering will the apple cider vinegar make it taste like vinegar? just wondering what the apple cider vinegar does for a cake. Thank you heaps