Milk Bar Mondays – Apple Pie Layer Cake (gluten-free, dairy-optional)

The cake layered and frozen, ready for birthday love

It’s a Milk Bar Monday, folks, and I couldn’t be more tickled pink than to have it coincide with my Lil Sis’s birthday.  A whopping 26 years old (cough), Lil Sis is one of my favorite people on the planet, and a very dear friend.  She massages my weary, arthritis-laden body when I’m sore (awesome having a massage therapist in the family), gave me my first lessons in pasta making in preparation for my upcoming Easy Eats magazine feature, Mitra runs up to her full of love, and she’s instrumental in helping me cope through those big, life-changing moments we all love to fear so much.  Lil Sis claims to be moving to Virginia or North Carolina or something like that in May.  I choose to remain in a state of denial.

Me and Lil Sis, circa 2011

On top of being a truly loving, creative person, Lil Sis has somewhat recently started a gluten-free diet.  I had this CRAZY layer cake to make for this round of Milk Bar Mondays, where a small group of incredible lady bloggers bake out of Christina Tosi’s Milk Bar cookbook.  I’m the alternative baker of the bunch, and was immediately sold on the awesomeness of the swap when my Carrot Cake Truffles were quickly hailed as one of the best things I have ever made.

Because the cake had to freeze and defrost before being plopped in the car to Connecticut and stripped of its acetate mold before being presented, I don’t have great pics of the final product, or us enjoying it.  Head to the other ladies in the swap for some stunning photos of their creations, all which look too amazing for words:

Host Nicole at Sweet Peony has the whole recipe too!

Cassie at Bake Your Day
Erin at Big Fat Baker
Krissy at Krissy’s Creations
Audra at The Baker Chick

Follow the Milk Bar Monday ladies on Twitter! 

Follow the Milk Bar Monday board on Pinterest!

Happy Birthday Lil Sis!

Now, this cake is a little insane.  A brown butter cake layered with Liquid Cheesecake, Apple Pie filling, Pie Crumb and Apple Cider Soak, then topped with Pie Crumb frosting.  Tosi might be a bit insane, but she’s a genius. There were layers of “wow” going through my family as we all tasted, it being proclaimed an incredible combination of coffee cake and apple pie.  It is extremely sweet.  If I ever make it again I’ll cut some of the sugar from the apple pie filling and cheesecake, because it’ll still be plenty sweet with a little omission. But it is ridiculously, amazingly, scarily delicious.  Don’t be afraid of the many steps – it comes together brilliantly.  Just plan ahead a bit (I made most of the components in one day then made the cake and built and freezed it a second), and it makes a stunning presentation.

Happy Birthday Lil Sis.  I love you up to heaven, down to earth.

- Jacqueline

Apple Pie Layer Cake – Gluten Free, Dairy Optional

My version is gluten free, and while I used butter in the cake itself it can be made dairy free as well by substituting the brown butter with melted Earth Balance.  Adapting Tosi’s recipe to be gluten free didn’t work, as there was far too much fat and gluten-free flours can be heavier than all-purpose wheat.  So I made my basic vanilla cake with brown butter instead, and got the same taste results with a better texture.  The key to this cake is making sure that the oven is hot, the ingredients are all at room-temperature or warm, and that you whip the eggs to at least twice their size before folding in the rest of the ingredients.  This way you get an incredibly spongey cake that’s full of flavor and doesn’t risk sinking when you take it out of the oven.

Special Equipment:

  • Quarter sheet pan
  • Parchment paper
  • 6-inch cake ring
  • Acetate strips (2 strips 3″ tall and 20″ long)

Components:

  • 1 recipe Brown Butter Cake (recipe below)
  • 1 recipe Liquid Cheesecake (click on title for link to recipe under Carrot Cake Truffles)
  • 1 recipe Pie Crumb (recipe below), divided equally in two
  • 1 recipe Apple Cider Soak (recipe below)
  • 1 recipe Apple Pie Filling (recipe below)
  • 1 recipe Pie Crumb Frosting (recipe below)

Building the Cake:

  • Use the cake round to gently cut 2 circles of cake from the pan.
  • Place cake ring on a piece of parchment on a sheet pan.  Insert one of the strips of acetate securely into the ring.
  • Pile the scraps of cake cut around the circles into the bottom of the cake ring and use your hands or the bottom of a glass to press into a flat layer.
  • Wash the cake layer with a healthy dose of the Apple Cider Soak, about 1/2 of the recipe.  Use a spoon to evenly spread 1/2 of the Liquid Cheesecake on the layer.  Spread 1/3 of the pie crumbs, pressing them into place.  Spread 1/2 of the apple pie filling as equally as possible over the crumbs (for a firm cake, don’t use the more liquidy part of the filling).
  • Gently insert the 2nd ring of acetate, overlapping about 1/4 of an inch to make an almost 6-inch ring.
  • Gently place one of the rounds of cake in the ring, and repeat with equal amounts of filling.
  • Top with second round of cake, and frost completely with Pie Crumb frosting.  Sprinkle with remaining pie crumbs.

Brown Butter Cake

Ingredients:

  • 8oz (1 stick) unsalted butter  or Earth Balance
  • 8 oz white sugar
  • 4 whole large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3oz white rice flour
  • 3 oz tapioca flour
  • 2 oz millet flour
  • 3/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a quarter-sheet pan with parchment paper and do not grease the edges.
  • If using butter, makes it all deliciously brown and nutty by microwaving it in a heat-proof bowl (Pyrex is great) closed with a heat-safe plate for 6 minutes.  You’ll hear the butter bubble and pop, and it should be dark and golden when you (carefully) remove the plate.  If it’s melted but still yellow, nuke it for another minute or so. If using Earth Balance, simply melt it over the microwave or on the stove until thoroughly melted.  Either way, allow the melted fat to cool while you prep the rest of your ingredients.
  • Weight our your dry ingredients into a medium bowl.  Prep a standing mixer with the whisk attachment.
  • In a double boiler over simmering water, whisk the eggs and sugar until the sugar is completely melted and the mixture is slightly above body temperature (do not let the egg cook, you’re just warming them so that they whip up more easily).  Immediately pour into standing mixer and begin whipping on medium/high-speed until the mixture more than doubles in size and becomes light and fluffy.
  • Add the vanilla and beat until incorporated.
  • Remove from mixer, and fold in flour mixture.
  • Fold in melted butter.
  • Immediately pour into pan and bake for 30-38 minutes or until a toothpick in the center of the cake comes out clean.  Cool completely before building the cake.

Apple Cider Soak:

Whisk together 1/4 cup apple cider, 1 tsp tightly packed light brown sugar and a pinch of cinnamon until the sugar is dissolved.

Apple Pie Filling:

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium Granny Smith Apples
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter or Earth Balance
  • 2/3 cup tightly packed light brown sugar (this could be cut to 1/3 in my opinion)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Directions:

  • Fill a bowl with cold water and add lemon juice to it.  Peel the apples, then half and quarter them.  Remove the core, then cut each piece lengthwise into thirds and crosswise into fourths, so that you have 12 small pieces from each apple quarter. Move them to the lemon water to keep them fresh while you cut.
  • When all the apples are ready to go, strain them and toss them into a small pot with the rest of the ingredients.  Put on medium heat and bring up to a boil.  Cook for 3-5 minutes, until the apple are soft but not getting mushy.
  • Pour into a container and refrigerate until completely cold. (Can be kept in fridge for a week, but do not freeze)

Pie Crumb:

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 3/4 cup tapioca starch
  • 3/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • 2 Tbsp white sugar
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter or Earth Balance, melted
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp water

Directions:

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a half-sheet pan with parchment or a Silpat.
  • Combine flours, gum, sugar and salt in bowl of a standing mixer with paddle attachment and paddle on low-speed until well mixed.  Add the butter and water and paddle on low-speed until mixture starts to come into crumbles.
  • Pour onto baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes, checking them occasionally to break them up.  The crumbles should be golden brown but not hard – they’ll seem to crumble when you press on them, but as they cool they’ll harden a bit.
  • Let the crumbs cool completely before using for the cake (you’ll use half the recipe for the frosting and the other half for the layered cake).

Pie Crumb Frosting:

This makes enough for 2 cakes but Tosi says it’s really hard to make a single serving, so make double and use the rest for snacking or cake-truffle-ing!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 recipe Pie Crumb
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used hazelnut milk to bring out the nuttiness in the brown butter cake.  Unsweetened almond milk or your milk of choice will work well too)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt (I found the frosting to be a bit salty, so I’d suggest cutting down to 1/4 tsp)
  • 3 Tbsp Earth Balance or unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup gluten-free confectioners sugar

Directions:

  • Combine crumbs, milk and salt in a blender and blend for about 3 minutes on medium/high-speed until it’s smooth and homogenous.  Scrape under the blade halfway through to make sure the entire recipe mixes completely.
  • In a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, begin paddling the Earth Balance / butter and confectioners sugar until fluffy and pale, about 2-3 minutes on medium/high-speed.  Scrape down the sides with a spatula.
  • On low-speed, paddle in the milk mixture.  After a minute, bring up to high-speed and whip for another 2 minutes. If mixture is not fully uniform, very pale and fluffy, scrape the bowl again and paddle for another minute.
  • Use immediately, or store in fridge for up to one week in an airtight container.

34 Comments

  1. BigFatBaker says:

    I am so impressed with your adaptations!! And your cake is so gorgeous. I wish I would have brought mine somewhere to share too..this thing is too amazing to keep under wraps!

  2. Wow! This cake looks INCREDIBLE! Happy birthday to Lil sis! You both look gorgeous in the photo. I could imagine that there were lots of wide eyed looks with each bit, so many layers of crazy flavors, this reallyy makes me want to break my diet lol. Thanks for sharing, so glad you guys had a great time <3

  3. I am so impressed that you are adapting these recipes into gluten-free and dairy-optional! Sooooo cool! I really love that you shared a picture of the cake in the ring & acetate so that people know what it should look like. Happy belated b-day to your little sis and I hope you all enjoyed it!!

  4. An apple pie flavoured cake? This is an ultimate cake fantasy hybrid :D
    And for a birthday too – looks wonderful!

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru
    Latest: Surprise Choc Cookies + Choc Truffle Chunk Muffins

  5. Lil' Sis says:

    Thank you so much Dusty! That picture you posted of us is actually from my birthday last year :) also a great time. I love you so much, thank you for such an incredible cake :)

  6. Paula says:

    Happy birthday to your little sister. You are both gorgeous and you really outdid yourself with this cake. It looks amazingly delicious and worth every one of the baking steps!

    • Jhimy says:

      Two years ago at Thanksgiving, sensing that a dircove was on the very near horizon, I drank most of the Yellow Tail I could get my hands on an repaid my wife\’s family for years of verbal abuse and non-sensery. I labled my brother-in-law and family as a bunch of hippies, the sister-in-law with a God complex, and believe at some point told my father in law, just because he doesn\’t believe in Hell, doesn\’t mean they aren\’t making a spot for him. Best. Thanksgiving. Ever.

  7. Meagan says:

    Love, LOVE this post, Jacqueline! And I love that you used this cake as a birthday cake for your little sister!! My younger sister is actually packing up to move away now as well – I am practicing denial every chance that I can get. And what a sweet photograph of the two of you!! :)

    Your cake looks lovely and it sounds like it was the prefect sweet addition to your celebration. Congrats on a very well-deserved Top 9!! :)

  8. Li says:

    What a fabulous recipe! And I love that you made it as a birthday cake. I think I might do the same – for my own birthday in April!! :-)

  9. Charlie says:

    Jacqueline:
    This is awesome. I’m not a real cake eater (although I do have a few favorites) but pie and cake together.
    I have to try this one.
    My Mama says “we” will have to make it. LOL! That means I make it and she eats it.

    Thank you so much for sharing.

    Charlie

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  18. Jenn says:

    EMERGENCY!!! I am in the middle of making this cake, and you have one stick of butter listed for the cake, but one stick is 4 oz not 8!! I am so confused!
    I can’t wait to eat it!!

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