A moist, earthy apple spice layer cake from Monica OConnell.
This is, quite simply, an incredible apple cake, especially if you like baking spice. It is hard to have a bad apple cake — almost all of which combine that apotheosis of good flavor combos: apples and cinnamon. But this apple rye layer cake from pastry chef and cake artist Monica OConnell goes several steps beyond regular apple cake, for something bigger, moister, and very flavorful.
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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.
The Special Ingredients in Monica’s Apple Rye Layer Cake
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.)
A Few 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 Rye Layer Cake
- 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.