Thank you so much to ALDI for sponsoring this post! All opinions are my own - thank you for supporting the businesses that keep Cloudy Kitchen going!
Hi hi! Today is the first day that it finally, finally feels like autumn here in NYC. It’s been gross and hot for the longest time. I finally spied some fallen leaves yesterday, and our CSA pickups have been full of apples, so I think it’s just around the corner.
That of course means that it’s time to kick off autumn inspired baking! I’ve teamed up with my friends at ALDI to bring you this epic autumn inspired cake. ALDI is my go-to for baking staples - they are not only great quality, but extremely well priced, and they always have everything that I need. I got all the ingredients I needed for this cake - ALDI delivers on Instacart (if it’s your first time you can use the code ALDICK to get $10 off your first three orders of $35 or more), so it all showed up at my house just when I needed it! Not having to leave the house for groceries is the best thing ever.
I wanted to inject as much autumn as possible into this cake. There’s a few layers of a spiced brown sugar cake, with all the usual suspects - cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, all the cozy warming spices. The cake is made using the reverse creaming method, which is not only super easy, but also makes a cake that is the perfect texture for stacking. I snuck a little sour cream in there too, just to help up the moisture a teeny bit - this cake is perfectly fluffy, and I love the spices in there so much.
I went all out autumn with the filling and buttercream too - using Gala apples, cooked down with a little brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla, until nice and tender, and paired with a maple caramel buttercream, which might be my new favourite thing ever. I made a caramel by cooking down some maple syrup, then cutting it with butter and cream, the way a traditional caramel is made. The caramel is a little looser than a sugar based caramel, but has the most amazing maple flavour. I doubled up on the maple in the buttercream by making a pastry cream base using the maple, which I turned into a German Buttercream, and then whipped in some of the cooled maple caramel to make a super silky, smooth, maple caramel buttercream, that complimented the warm spices in the cake and the spiced apple filling so perfectly.
A few wee tips:
I finished this two different ways, just to give some options and variations! The first I finished with a caramel drip using some of the leftover maple caramel before I put the blobs on the top of the cake. The caramel is a little more runny than a traditional caramel because it is made with maple rather than regular sugar, so it will be a little drippy. Make sure that your cake is super super cold before you do the drips so that they do not run too much - I was shooting a stop motion when I added my drips so had to do it all in one go and put the drips directly onto a warm cake - they still looked great, but they ran down the sides a little more than most drip cakes.
The second way I finished it was just with a quick dust of cinnamon. I left the drip off - there’s maple caramel in the buttercream so the drip is just for a little fancy finish if you like. I just wanted to show you a couple of options!
Ideally you can make your pastry cream and maple caramel (and maybe even the apple filling) the day before so that it all has time to cool down and allow the caramel and the pastry cream to thicken up. If I can, I like to make all my components ahead of time (including the cake), so that the day I assemble is easy and there isn’t too much waiting around for things to cool down.
I like to divide the batter between the pans by weight. To do this, you zero the scales with one of the empty cake pans on it, then once you have eyeballed your dividing of the batter, you can weigh each pan to ensure that they have the same weight of batter in them. Note that this only works if your cake pans are identical.
I developed this recipe in grams, so if you can, use a scale to make it! It increases the accuracy of the recipe, and saves so much time washing dishes!
Spiced Brown Sugar Cake with Cinnamon Apple Filling and Maple Caramel German Buttercream
- Makes one three-layer, six inch cake -
Prep time: 60 minutes, plus chill time
Bake time: 30 minutes
Spiced Brown Sugar Cake
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
165g (2/3 cup plus 1 tsp) whole milk, at room temperature
70g (1/3 cup) sour cream, at room temperature
300g (2 cups) Baker’s Corner All Purpose flour
100g (1/2 cup) Baker’s Corner Granulated Sugar
125g (1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp) Baker’s Corner Light Brown Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Baker’s Corner Baking Powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp Stonemill Ground Cinnamon
3/4 tsp Stonemill Ground Nutmeg
3/4 tsp Stonemill Ground Ginger
1/2 tsp Stonemill Ground Allspice
1/2 tsp Stonemill Ground Cloves
175g (1/2 cup plus 4 Tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
480g (1 1/2 cups) Specially Selected 100% Pure Maple Syrup
110g (1/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp) heavy cream
35g (1 Tbsp plus 2 tsp) corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp kosher salt
70g (4 1/2 Tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Spiced Apple Filling
900g Gala Apples, peeled, cored, and cut into small cubes
100g (1/2 cup) Baker’s Corner Light Brown Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Stonemill Ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
Maple Caramel German Buttercream
100g (1/3 cup) Specially Selected 100% Pure Maple Syrup
1 large egg
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 Tbsp corn starch
1/2 tsp kosher salt
100g (1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp) heavy cream
90g (1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp) whole milk
1 tsp vanilla
340g (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature
250g (1 cup) cooled maple caramel (weigh this if you can)
Leftover Caramel to drip on cake, optional
Cinnamon to sprinkle, optional
- PROCESS -
SPICED BROWN SUGAR CAKE
Preheat the oven to 350°f / 180°c. Grease three 6” cake pans, and line with parchment paper on the bottom.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, milk, and sour cream.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and cloves. Mix briefly to combine.
With the mixer on low, add the butter a cube at a time, until fully incorporated and the mixture looks like sand.
Add half of the wet ingredients into the mixer. Mix until just combined, then add the second half of the wet ingredients. Mix on medium speed until just combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and give a few folds with a rubber spatula to ensure that no dry ingredients remain.
Divide the batter between your three cake tins (I prefer to do this by weight - see notes). Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cakes are springy to the touch, and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and cool for 15 minutes in their pans, then turn onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
Place the maple syrup in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan. Place the heavy cream, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and heat over low heat just to warm.
Over medium heat, cook the maple syrup, stirring frequently with a whisk, until it registers 250°f / 121°c on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat, and add the butter, whisking to combine, then add the heavy cream mixture, and whisk until incorporated. Transfer to a container and allow to cool, then place in the fridge and allow to cool completely.
SPICED APPLE FILLING
Place the chopped apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla into a medium heavy bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the apples are tender, approximately 10-12 minutes. Do not worry if it looks dry to begin with - the apples will release some of their moisture as they start to cook down.
Transfer to a container and allow to cool completely. Store in the fridge.
MAPLE GERMAN BUTTERCREAM
In a bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, egg, egg yolk, corn starch, and salt. In a medium saucepan, heat heavy cream, milk, and vanilla to just shy of a simmer. Remove from the heat.
Using one hand to whisk constantly, pour half of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture. This helps to temper the eggs and stop them from scrambling. Whisk until incorporated, and then pour the whole lot back into the saucepan.
Heat the milk and egg mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it begins to bubble. It will thicken quickly. Once it has thickened, cook for one minute, then remove from the heat. Pour into a shallow container or bowl of a stand mixer and press some plastic wrap over the surface to avoid a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cold - at least four hours, preferably overnight. If you need to speed this process up, you can place the pastry cream in a bowl, then place the bowl in an ice bath. Stir frequently.
Fit your mixer with the whisk attachment, and place the pastry cream in the bowl. Whip the mixture on medium until creamy and lump-free. Begin adding the butter, a few cubes at a time, until fully incorporated. It may look curdled at some point but just keep whipping - it will come together! Once all of the butter has been added and the mixture is homogenous, add in the caramel and whip on high speed until incorporated. Switch to the paddle attachment and mix on low for 2-3 minutes to help remove any air bubbles.
Level off the cake layers. Transfer some of the buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a medium round tip - this will be used to make a buttercream dam to hold in the spiced apple filling.
Secure one of the layers of cake to a cake turntable or cake stand using a little buttercream. Add about 1/3 cup of buttercream onto the first layer of cake, and smooth using an offset spatula. Create a buttercream dam using the buttercream in the piping bag by piping a ring of frosting around the outside edge of the first layer. Fill in the ring with spiced apple filling - strain the filling with your spoon, leaving the liquid behind. Place the second layer of cake onto the first, pressing very lightly to secure, and sealing the joins with a thin layer of buttercream. Repeat the layering process - add a 1/3 cup of buttercream, make a dam, fill with apple filling, then top with the third layer of cake - I like to put this one upside down to ensure that the top of the cake is flat. Return the rest of the buttercream in the piping bag to the bowl with the buttercream.
Coat the outside of the cake with a layer of buttercream using an offset spatula, then, using a cake scraper, smooth off the sides, exposing some of the cake for a semi naked finish, or covering the whole cake for a more solid finish (if you do this, I recommend crumb coating the cake, chilling briefly, then adding on another layer of buttercream). Smooth off the top edge of the cake using an offset spatula, wiping between strokes.
Add a caramel drip to the top edge of the cake if desired (see notes about caramel consistency). Transfer some of the remaining buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a French star tip such as an ateco #865. Pipe blobs of buttercream on the top of the cake.
Chill the cake until ready to serve. Remove from the fridge about an hour before serving to bring to room temperature.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge