The Ultimate Layered Apple Cake

Apple cake has become a fall tradition at my house. This one, made with olive oil, fresh apple, and maple frosting, is unusual, beautiful, and delicious.

Apple Cake (30)!

Makes 1 eight-inch round double-layer cake

“With regard to servings, I think cutting this cake into only six pieces is outrageous,” is what I’d say, perhaps a bit too loudly, as I sliced off a sixth and tossed it onto my plate. It’s that easy to chow. And so tasty. And it’s made of apple and olive oil, so you’ll feel comfortable telling yourself that it’s good for you. I brought this cake to a four-person dinner party, and we ate half of it. Based on that, I’d say the cake serves eight. But I think you could easily and respectably serve twelve or more.[1]

This cake stays delicious for days. It’s an excellent choice if you want to make a cake one day, and serve it the next. It’s not especially sweet, which makes it a nice pairing for the frosting. If you want a sweeter cake, use a sweeter baking apple – and in that case, you might need about 25% less frosting to complement the cake.

Ingredients for the Cake

Apple Cake (8)!

½ cup (packed) golden raisins
4 Tbs water
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
1¼ tsp baking soda
½ cup olive oil[2]
¾ cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla[3]
2 eggs
1½ lbs (~3 large) tart, fresh apples (such as Granny Smith) peeled, cored, and chopped into pea-size pieces
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 egg whites

Ingredients for Maple Frosting

7 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature[4, 5]
½ cup dark brown sugar
6 Tbs (3 oz.) maple syrup[6]
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature[4]
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional, but recommended)

(Frosting directions begin with Step 6, below.)


1. Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans. Place the raisins and water in a glass measuring cup and nuke until the water boils for a few seconds (~1 minute, total time). Set aside. 2. Preheat the oven to 325ºF. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside. 3. Put the oil, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat until combined, then add eggs, beating until incorporated. The batter should be smooth and thick. On low speed, mix in the apples, raisins (strained, liquid reserved for another purpose), and lemon zest until everything appears to be fully distributed, ~30 seconds. Continuing on low speed, add the flour mixture, beating just until incorporated. Scrape the batter into the bowl that held the flour mixture. 4. Clean and dry the stand mixer bowl and fit it with the whisk attachment. Whip the egg whites to soft peaks. Fold them into the batter in 2 additions. Scrape the batter into the pans and level them with a spatula. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until:

  1. The tops of the cakes darken to the color of a well-toasted or even overly-toasted marshmallow
  2. The sides of the cakes begin to pull away from the edge of the pan
  3. A tester comes out clean

Apple Cake (10aa)!

5. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the pans. Once the cakes are stone cold, remove them from the pans and place them on flat plates or a cookie sheet. 6. To make the frosting, beat together the butter, brown sugar, and syrup until light and airy, ~3 minutes on speed 6. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the cream cheese and beat until the frosting is completely homogenized, ~1½ minutes, speed 4. Spread decidedly more than half the frosting over the top of the cake that will form the bottom layer and the remaining frosting over the other cake. Push the frosting very close to the edge of the cake, but stop short of getting there. Don’t frost the sides. Place both cakes in the refrigerator and chill for 45 minutes. 7. Once chilled, stack the cakes on a cake plate. (Dust with confectioners’ sugar.) Return the cake to the refrigerator[7] until it’s time to serve. Serve the cake cold or at room temperature.


[1] Servings … as a double layer. If you want to stretch it even further, consider leaving the cakes unstacked and serving them as two single layers. A one-eighth slice of a single layer is a small serving, but in no way paltry. The cake is filling enough to make that work for 16 total servings.
[2] Olive Oil: A good, everyday olive oil works beautifully. Save your extra virgin for salad dressing and bread dipping.
[3] Vanilla: I recommend my man-made, hand-made, ideologically-superior vanilla extract. You regular readers know how I feel about the that!
[4] Room Temperature: The butter and cream cheese will come to room temperature in about the same amount of time that it takes for the finished apple cakes to cool.
[5] Cold Butter: Don’t try to cream a stick of cold butter with a cheap hand-held mixer. Oh, and in case you’ve ever wondered how well a hand-held mixer would work with only one working beater, the answer is “like crap.”
[6] Syrup: You’re going to want to use real maple syrup for this cake, not Aunt Jemima. You can swap out as much as 2 Tbs of the syrup for reserved raisin liquid. You can usually find real maple syrup in tiny bottles (thankfully, because it’s so expensive). I found a 3.4 ounce bottle (you could fly with it) of Archer Farms, and that was perfect. Yes, that’s the Targé brand. Sorry, Aunt Jemima.
[7] Refrigeration: To keep it from drying out while in the refrigerator, I place the cake in a tightly-sealed cake tote, which I then place into the fridge.

Apple Cake (15)!

Apple Cake with Olive Oil
Credits for all images on this page: hover over image and/or green caption text. Click to jump to source.
Modification of an olive oil apple cake recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi at Food52.

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14 thoughts on “The Ultimate Layered Apple Cake

  1. I’ve never seen it in any of the stores I haunt. I do see plenty of places online selling it. If you do buy some, let me know what you think of it!

    • I like and regularly use magic strips. They should be called “science strips,” because it’s not magic. Either way, though, I’m sure there’s some conservative political figure who believes that science is the darkest of all magic. I’d refer to them as “Jesus strips,” but that’s kind of provocative, even for me. There’s just no winning with those people.

      Anyway, having to trim cake layers isn’t all bad. It gives you a chance to see inside the layer and taste the cake. Otherwise, cake is one of those weird things that you can’t taste before serving. In trying to tell how your cake has come out, there are many factors you can consider, but none of them involves slicing yourself a piece and then smushing the cake back together so that no one will notice. Because of that, I would generally not consider baking a cake that I’ve never baked before, and presenting it to anyone. Even so, I usually have a fall-back. I have transformed many a failed cake into an epic trifle, for instance. Wait, did I just admit to failing many cakes? What I meant was, on the rare occasion that one of my legendary cakes fails – for instance, if I were called away in the middle of baking to rescue a cat from a tree or stop a runaway train – I have brought it back from the dead, reincarnated as a trifle. I have the power … to make … cakes … live AGAIN! (Lightning strikes) Improvising a trifle is fun. I’ll blog about it next time I fail a cake…

  2. I think this is one of your better recipes. I checked recipe your credited as your inspiration, and I can see why you made the changes that you did. I think that guy was striving for the most complicated recipe he could come up with. Yours is straightforward. And delicious.

  3. I am all about this cake…I can see why it’s called the “world’s best”! And that maple syrup frosting. 6 slices? Try 4…or 3. Heck, just go all in and make it 1!

    • I agree! Just keep telling yourself that it’s made of apples, so it’s good for you. 😉

    • Haha! I know! This cake has been on my mind constantly, lately. It’s a fall tradition at my house, and it’s starting to feel a lot like fall! So glad you stopped in, btw, Kristen!

  4. Oh my gosh Jeff! You need to repost this recipe!! It’s a show stopper and I was very happy to see it in your header or I would have missed it. I LOVE apple in baking, and will be pinning it for the world to see!
    Julie at Hostess At Heart recently posted…Soba Noodle Salad

    • Wow, thanks, Julie. It really is a good one. I usually make one every fall, and this past one slipped by with no cake, so I’m overdue for baking one of these! Thanks for reminding me!

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