French Apple Pie Cake

Apple cider cake layers with shortbread frosting, apple pie filling, streusel filling and vanilla bean buttercream.

Course Dessert
Cuisine Cake
Keyword Apple Pie Cake, French Apple Pie Cake, Pie Cake, Thanksgiving Cake
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours
Author cakebycourtney


For the Apple Spice Cake

  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar packed
  • 5 large eggs room temperature
  • 1 cup apple cider room temperature
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

For the Shortbread Frosting

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 16 tablespoons butter melted
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter slightly cold
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar measured and then sifted

For the Crumble

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar packed
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter cold

For the Apple Pie Filling

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

For the Vanilla Buttercream

  • 2 cups unsalted butter slightly cold
  • 6 cups powdered sugar measured and then sifted
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Pinch of salt


For the Apple Spice Cake

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spray three 8-inch round pans with nonstick spray, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and spray the parchment. Set aside.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk lightly to combine. Set aside.
  3. In the small mixing bowl, combine the apple cider, buttermilk and vanilla. Stir to combine. Set aside.
  4. 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.
  5. Gradually add the eggs, beating after each addition. Make sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of your bowl occasionally too.
  6. With your mixer on low speed, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by half of the apple cider mixture. Continue to add another 1/3 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.
  7. Evenly divide all of the batter between the three pans (about 18 ounces of batter in each pan).
  8. Bake the cake layers for about 20 to 23 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes in the cake pans and then invert onto wire baking racks to cool completely.
  9. Level your layers.
  10. 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

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. 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.
  3. Add the butter and water and beat on low speed until the mixture starts to come together in small clusters.
  4. 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.

  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Use the frosting immediately, or store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

For the Crumble

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. Combine the flour and the sugar. Stir until well mixed.
  4. 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. 

  5. Bake for 10 minutes, stir the mixture, and bake another 5 minutes.
  6. Cool completely before using in the cake.
  7. 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

  1. Peel the apples and then cut them into quarter inch chunks.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Continue to beat the frosting on medium-high speed for an additional 5 minutes.
  4. Before frosting your cake, mix the frosting by hand with a wooden spoon to push out the air pockets.


  1. Using a pastry brush, spread some of the caramelized apple juice from the apple filling onto each cake layer.
  2. Spread a small dollop of frosting on your cake board. Place the first cake layer on the board, crumb side up.
  3. Spread about 3/4 cup shortbread frosting on the cake layer. Make sure to get eye level with the cake to ensure it is level.
  4. Using the vanilla frosting, pipe a rim of frosting around the edge of the cake to hold in the apple filling.
  5. Spread about 1/2 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.
  6. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of the streusel crumble over the apple pie filling.
  7. Top with the second cake layer and repeat steps 3 to 6.
  8. Place the final cake layer, top side down, on top of the fillings.
  9. 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.
  10. After the frosting is set, continue to frost the cake with the remaining vanilla frosting.