This Vegan Apple Layer Cake features fragrant apple-cinnamon cakes, bourbon-apple filling, and a classic vegan buttercream frosting scented with cinnamon. Makes one 3-layer, 9-inch cake.
Hey Friends, guess what… it’s CAKE time! Here’s a little warning for all you healthy eaters out there. You might want to look away, because what we have here is quite possibly the most decadent recipe that will ever grace this site. We’re making a Vegan Apple Layer Cake with Bourbon Apple Filling and Cinnamon Buttercream.
And why are we doing that? Well, I may talk a lot about nutrition and be a wholehearted believer in the power of a whole-food, plant-based diet, but I also believe in the power of gettin’ a little crazy a few times a year – birthdays, weddings, holidays. I also believe in the power of meeting people were they are, in other words, showing them that they can have their cake and be vegan, too.
Plus, let’s be honest. I just have a thing for cake. Whether it’s a healthier version or a full-on flour, fat and sugar variety like this one, I think cake is AWESOME. With the blog being new this fall, when apple season hit so did the inspiration! However, after my first two tests of this recipe I got sidetracked with more reasonable things, healthier recipes, budget lunch ideas, Thanksgiving dishes, etc.
I shared a photo of this cake on instagram in celebration of World Vegan Day, and though I semi-intended to post it before Thanksgiving, after a little more time passed (and apple season was passing me by) I realized I probably wouldn’t get around to it. Not because I didn’t like this cake, but because I just didn’t know whether this seasonal, super decadent cake was something you’d be into.
Then, I got some really positive feedback from taste testers. When I made the 3-layer version, Mark took most of it to work the next day to share with co-workers. Everyone liked it so much they started commenting about it on instagram, sending me messages, and apparently even talking about it to others. I continued to hear second-hand from Mark how much they liked it, but it wasn’t until someone reached out and said, “Hey, I heard this cake is amazing. Do you have a recipe because I want to make it for Thanksgiving!” that I knew I needed to get off my lazy tush and type it up. So, here we go!
Moist and scented with cinnamon and ginger, the cake layers are really easy to make and delicious by themselves. But why stop there?
The filling comes together easily in a saucepan by cooking the apples with a bit of brown sugar and maple syrup and thickening it with a corn starch-bourbon slurry (not into bourbon? replace it with water).
The frosting is really easy, too. It’s a typical vegan buttercream with a bit of cinnamon added. Not only does the cinnamon taste and smell lovely, but it gives the frosting a warm and slightly pinkish hue. If you can find Ceylon or above average-quality Cassia cinnamon, it’s worth it here.
Want less cake?
Here’s an idea for a single-layer cake:
As I mentioned, the cake is sweet and delicious all by itself, so if you’re baking for a smaller group or just don’t want to mess with layers and frosting, simply divide the ingredients by 3 to make a single layer. You can dress it up by thinly slicing an apple and placing the apple slices in the bottom of the cake pan in a decorative, circular pattern (see below). Then, pour the batter over the apple slices. When you flip the cake out of the pan you’ll have the effect of an upside-down cake, which is pretty even without frosting! But if you’re feeling fancy go ahead and dust it with powdered sugar and sprinkle on some chopped walnuts.
Though this cake was inspired by fall, you can obviously enjoy it any time of year. Make it for a friend’s birthday party, a holiday meal, your loved ones, or just because you feel like making swirly designs with frosting (always fun). And let’s make a pact. Let’s plan to bring this cake back in the spring and summer with different fruits and spices. You on board?
Bourbon Peach? Strawberry Basil? Lemon Blueberry? Raspberry Mint? I’m game!
If you make this Apple Layer Cake with Bourbon Apple Filling and Cinnamon Buttercream I would LOVE to see a photo. Tag @myquietkitchen on instagram and show us your cakes!
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Apple Layer Cake With Bourbon Apple Filling and Cinnamon Buttercream
For the cakes:
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup applesauce
- 2 1/4 cups unsweetened non-dairy milk
- 1 1/2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2/3 cup neutral-tasting oil
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp vanilla
For the bourbon-apple filling:
- 5 large apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp maple syrup
- 1 Tbsp corn starch
- 1/2 cup bourbon
For the buttercream:
- 1 1/2 cups Earth Balance vegan butter (3 sticks), at room temperature
- 4 to 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 small apple
- fresh juice from half a lemon
- 1/3 cup walnuts or pecans
- dash of cinnamon
Make the cakes:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil the sides and line the bottoms of three 9-inch cake pans with a circle of parchment paper.
- Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl whisk together the milk, applesauce, vinegar, oil, vanilla, sugar and brown sugar.
- Pour the wet mixture into the dry and whisk briefly, just until thoroughly mixed. Divide the batter evenly among the three pans, and bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until the tops bounce back when lightly pressed with a finger. You can also use the toothpick test if unsure. Allow to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes then transfer cakes to cooling racks. Cool completely before frosting. If making in advance, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator with a piece of parchment between each layer. Alternatively, wrap each layer individually in plastic wrap.
Make the filling:
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook the apples, brown sugar and maple syrup until the apples have softened and the mixture has thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes.
- In a mug or small bowl whisk the corn starch into the bourbon and add to the pan. Cook for another 3 to 5 minutes or until all the liquid has evaporated and the filling is jam-like. Transfer the filling to a bowl to cool completely. If making in advance, store the filling in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The filling should be no warmer than room temperature when assembling the cake.
Make the buttercream:
- Using a handheld or stand mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the sifted powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, beating on low speed between additions and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Taste for sweetness, and add the final 1/2 cup of sugar if desired. Add the cinnamon and vanilla, and beat on medium/high speed until fully incorporated and smooth. If making in advance, store the frosting in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Assemble the cake:
- Place one cake layer on a serving plate or cake stand. Using an offset spatula spread a thin layer of frosting on the top and sides of the cake. Spoon about half of the bourbon-apple filling onto the frosting and spread in an even layer.
- Place the 2nd cake layer. Repeat the process of spreading the frosting and apple filling. If your cakes are a bit domed and you want the filling to peek out through the side gaps (as pictured) frost the sides carefully to avoid getting frosting on the apple filling.
- Place the 3rd cake layer and frost the top and sides.
- Core and slice the apple, coating each slice in lemon juice to prevent browning. Decorate the cake with apple slices, nuts, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Serve and enjoy!