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Apple Spice Layer Cake

A moist, earthy apple spice cake fit for fall.

This apple spice cake recipe makes a big layer cake with an earthy “secret” ingredient to make it stand out from all the rest. Read on.

rye apple spice layer cake with buttercream and apple decoration

Say Hi to This Apple Spice Layer Cake

This is, quite simply, an incredible apple spice cake, especially if you like baking spice. It is hard to have a bad apple cake — almost all of which combine that special apotheosis of good flavor combos: apples and cinnamon.

But this apple spice layer cake recipe from pastry chef and cake artist Monica OConnell goes several steps beyond regular apple cake, for something bigger, moister, and very flavorful — with a special ingredient to add depth and color.

apples on cutting board with cake dry ingredients

Monica OConnell is the owner and cake artist behind Curtis & Cake, a custom cake boutique specializing in high-end wedding and specialty cakes. She was gracious enough to share her recipe for this apple rye cake in accompaniment with her profile on Unpeeled.

baked apple rye cake layer in cake pan

The Bold Ingredients in Monica’s Apple Spice Layer Cake

Rye flour is uncommon in baking, but you’ll use it here for subtle but great effect.

The rye flour is a great move here. I think of an apple spice cake as earthy and autumnal. Rye flour deepens the color to a darkish brown and adds a very mild tang, which seems to heighten the flavor of the mace, cinnamon, and light brown sugar.

I also love the use of baking spices. The combination of apples, cinnamon and mace smell like fall baking. The use of light brown sugar — atypical in many cakes — helps add additional color and a mild note of caramel. Bright orange zest complements the baking spice aroma, and the olive oil deepens the flavor and makes the cake super moist.

All of these ingredients — the baking spices, the brown sugar, the olive oil, the orange — add up to one big apple rye layer cake that is not afraid to be bold. This is no simple, shrinking violet apple cake. This is a bold, intense apple cake that takes a little more effort to make, but is 100% worth the effort. (Also, your kitchen will smell amazing.)

rye apple spice cake with buttercream and apple decoration

Apple Spice Cake: Recipe Notes

  • I baked this cake in two 9″ cake pans, which makes high layers that take about 45 to 55 minutes to bake. But you could also do three 8″ layers or two slightly less filled 9″ layers and a tea loaf or a few cupcakes.
  • The cake batter will seem dry until the last step. Don’t worry. Once you add the grated apple, it will loosen and become pourable like “normal” cake batter.
  • And don’t forget my #1 rule of cake baking: Scrape the bowl often. Unmixed flour and egg loves to lurk at the bottom of the bowl. (My #2 rule: Always lick the spatula. I know, salmonella. I can’t help it.)

To frost and decorate, I used a simple vanilla buttercream frosting and twisted apple peel into rosettes, but Monica also suggests a chèvre or cream cheese buttercream, and a candied walnut garnish.

The cake layers will be high, so feel free to slice each layer in half, pro-baker style, and make four thinner cake layers to fill with buttercream.

Thanks, Monica, for this beautiful cake recipe.

Apple Spice Layer Cake Recipe

Love apple spice layer cake? You’ll also love these great fall dessert recipes and more:

Apple Spice Layer Cake Recipe

Apple Spice Layer Cake

A big, bold apple spice cake recipe made with rye flour, baking spices, and orange zest for extra depth and flavor.
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time45 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keywords:: apple cake, baking, buttercream, fall, layer cake, rye, spice, spice cake
Servings: 2 9" layers or 24 - 28 cupcakes
Author: Adapted from Monica OConnell
Print Recipe


  • 6 or 7 medium-sized apples (900 g.)
  • 3 cups (400 g.) unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups (200 g.) rye flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon mace (nutmeg is the best substitute)
  • 1 1/3 cups (280 g.) sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups (280 g.) light brown sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups (500 ml) olive oil
  • 1 orange, zested
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (vanilla extract works, too)
  • 4 eggs


  • Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease two 9" cake pans and line the base with parchment.
  • Peel, core, and roughly chop the apples and lightly pulse them in a food processor. The apples should look grated or in very small pieces.
  • Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside.
  • Put the sugars, olive oil, orange zest, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on medium until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time. Mix on medium speed until lightened and very smooth.
  • Fold in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  • Fold in the apples and mix just until the batter is smooth and even.
  • Divide the cake batter between the cake pans and bake for 45 to 55 minutes until done. The cake will be done with the centers spring back and a skewer or cake tester comes out clean with a few crumbs, moist but not wet.
  • Let cool fully before layering and adding buttercream.


  • If I wanted to make this cake in a simple, single loaf tin and eat it without the frosting, would I need to use half or a third of the recipe? cheers, x

    • Unpeeled

      Hi, Robin! Good question. I think that 1/3 recipe would be plenty since it’s really big cake. It might be ever so slightly low, but I think that a half recipe will be too much. Let me know how it turns out; I’d love to know the answer to this for future reference!

      • 5 stars
        hey there 🙂 so i made 1/2 of the recipe (i was too lazy to think about 1/3 eggs and all) and baked it in a 30x11cm loaf tin (here in Germany it’s a classic tin for cakes with egg/fat/sugar-based batter, like marble cake, lemon loaf, etc,, and making it in this tin feel more like baking a cake and less like a bread loaf). i didn’t have white sugar and i’m also never quite sure about the translation of the brown sugar variations available here but I used light brown raw cane sugar as well as muscovado sugar and even a bit of black strap molasses cause i really like the depth it gives alongside rye flour. since the dough was a bit wetter than it would’ve been without the molasses, I had to bake it like 65min but it came out moist, and fruity and is super delicious even three days later. s0 long story short, half a recipe works well in a 30x11cm loaf, for the standard bread loaf bans which are a bit shorter but wider, maybe 1/3 would be more appropriate

  • Josephine B.

    5 stars
    Gorgeous cake with the most amazing flavor from the combination of ingredients. Wow factor. (PS–My cake did NOT look as pretty, hahah, but we really loved it anyway!)

    • Unpeeled

      Haha, well, I have had a lot of practice, but I am sure it was beautiful nonetheless and I’m glad you thought it tasted great.

  • 5 stars
    Wow this is a big, good cake!!! Really a gorgeous color and the flavor was also so very good. Everyone should make this! Thanks for the recipe. I wish I could have gotten my apple peel rosettes to look as pretty as the ones in the picture — haha.

  • Kristine

    5 stars
    This is A FANTASTIC recipe! I saw it a few days ago and had to make it right away, even though I had no special occasion for it. I took it to my sister’s house, and split it between her, my parents, and my husband and kids. It’s a good thing, because I COULD NOT STOP EATING IT! Lol! It makes a large cake – I made it with three 9″ rounds, and it was very tall. The flavor is so complex and irresistible, with the savory notes from the olive oil and rye, the tiny salty crunch from the kosher salt in the icing, the deep spice flavor of the mace, the contrast between the sweet chunks of apple and the orange zest. The texture is perfect – dense and moist, with the apple pieces distributed very evenly so there’s apple in every single bite. This goes into my gold star recipe file, to be made again and again. Thanks for a great recipe!!

    • Unpeeled

      Thanks, Kristine!! I love this cake, too, and you’re right: It’s a BIG ol’ cake. So glad you loved it.:)

  • 5 stars
    Delicious!!! Made a 6” layer cake with the apple roses and 16 cupcakes. Made the recommended butter cream frosting!! So yummy but be warned it makes a lot of frosting. I put too much frosting between layers so next time would go lighter between the layers. The cupcakes were also great!! And the apple roses were so pretty. Will definitely be making a again

  • 5 stars
    Made yesterday and everyone loved. It is a very big cake!!!

  • Tessa L.

    5 stars
    Loved this cake. It tastes very moist and has a good spice cake flavor. I did not have rye flour so I used all-purpose for the entire amount and it came out very well. Love your blog!

  • Sally Louise Prangley

    Hi Lisa! I discovered you this summer and have been enjoying many of your recipes! I’ve made the zucchini dump cake several times and my son consumed about half a loaf in one sitting! For this apple cake, do you think I could bake it in loaf pans instead? And if so, what temperature and for how long would you suggest I bake it? Many thanks!

    • Unpeeled

      Hi, Sally! Thanks so much!! (That zucchini cake is one of my favorites.) You can definitely bake this in loaf pans. Keep the same temperature. 350 is a great temperature for cakes. My guess is that it will take slightly longer. Same rules apply for doneness: the top should spring back lightly and not sink when pressed, and a cake tester should come out clean with a few crumbs clinging to it. You could even halve the recipe, which I think would make one nice loaf cake. Keep me posted, and thanks for writing!!

  • Christine

    Hi Lisa,
    I am new to your community (thanks to Jenn Segal 😉 ) and I am tempted to start with this apple cake….but I have a question: there is olive oil used in the recipe, I am afraid that it’s flavor is too strong for me( and it is quite a lot of it. Could I substitute with another cooking oil?
    Thank you very much for your reply!

    • Unpeeled

      Hi, Christine! Yes, you’re right that olive oil has flavor in a way other oils do not. Feel free to just substitute a neutral vegetable oil. I usually use canola oil in my baking. Happy baking; I would love to hear how it turns out!

  • Anna D.

    5 stars
    This is excellent! I am glad I got a “sneak peak” at this recipe and was able to make it. The cake is very moist and I love all of the spice. It’s a big recipe; the cake layers came out nice and high. I also thought the darker color looked so beautiful.

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