Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Apple Pie Layer Cake

This past weekend was a blur of travel, family, and celebrations. On Thursday morning, the kids and I bundled up bright and early and headed to the train station to greet my mother as she roared into town for Matthew's Grandparents Day event at school. Unfortunately, when she stepped off the train, it was clear to all of us that Grandma was not feeling quite herself. Her eye was blood red and she was suffering from terrible head pains. We fed Grandma and then tucked her into bed at home in the hopes that a nap would cure the pain. However, when she awoke her eye was even worse than before and it seemed that perhaps she should see a medical professional. Off to the ER we went and after a few hours of waiting and a couple pokes in the eye from the ophthalmologist on staff, Mom was diagnosed with conjunctivitis (aka "pink eye"). Poor Mom.

The prescription eye drops were the only thing that got Mom through a very chaotic Grandparents Day. Matthew certainly loved having her there. Immediately after the program was finished, the girls and I picked Mom and Matthew up outside the school and started the long drive to Indiana. Usually the drive takes us about five hours but thanks to heavy traffic and an accident, we made it in just under eight. I was not happy. While I was in the driver's seat having a conniption, the kids were awesome backseat travelers thanks to repeat showings of Frozen on the laptop.

I guess I didn't mention that Paul had been in Minneapolis on a work trip all week and was scheduled to fly into Fort Wayne on Friday night to meet us. Well, his plane was overbooked and he got rerouted to South Bend instead. Thankfully, my sisters Sophie and Adrienne picked him up from the airport and he enjoyed a fun, girly sleepover with them, complete with a chick flick viewing, facials and nail paintings. Sophie's cat Frodo also took quite a liking to Paul, so he had to share a sleeping bag with the lovable feline.

Saturday morning, Lucy and I took off bright and early to meet Paul in South Bend so he could take the car I was driving to get new tires. We had previously purchased the tires knowing we were going to be in the South Bend area anyway since we could save a lot of money by purchasing them from this particular tire shop. In other words, we like to make life more complicated for ourselves. Thankfully, my sister Amy agreed to accompany me otherwise I NEVER would have stayed awake on the drive over. I arrived at Sophie's apartment, gave Paul a quick kiss goodbye, and then unloaded my daughter and the goodies I had prepared and packed to bring to the whole purpose of our travels that weekend: Mary's Baby Shower!

For the shower, I agreed to coordinate the making of the sweets since sugar and butter are obviously my obsession. I wasn't about to make everything myself, so I employed the help of some of my sisters. Catherine and Amy made a Fruit Tart, Adrienne made Cheesecake-Stuffed Pumpkin Cookies, Sophie made Mint Brownies, and I made two mini Apple Pie Cakes. I also made some sugar cookie cut-outs in the shape of footballs, football helmets, shamrocks, and pendants and employed the help of my very talented cookie-artist friend Lindsay to help me decorate them in appropriate Notre Dame colors since the theme of the shower was in fact Notre Dame Football. Too bad the team isn't doing so hot this season (Booo!).

After Paul finished getting the fancy new tires installed on the car, he swooped in just in time to take Lucy out of my hands and see us "women folk" as he likes to call us off to the party. We arrived at the humble abode of Raymond and Mary and unloaded our treats. Mary's family had already decorated the house in a cute football/fall theme and I was so excited that the decor they had chosen matched my cake toppers perfectly! The last time I saw the house, Raymond and Mary had pretty much just moved in and it was such a treat to see it all set up! The whole house looked so darling. Mary truly has a great eye for decor.

The party was a lot of fun! There was food, sweets, lots of mingling, and lots of laughing! We played a couple games that were a complete hoot, including a diaper race. Everyone discovered that I am apparently the diaper changing queen because I can snap a diaper on a baby's bottom while blindfolded in less than 10 seconds. I'll be sure to add that to my resume.

Too many pictures, but the diaper race was a really fun game...

New Momma gently diapering the fake baby.

Adrienne brought her game face to the diaper-changing.

Poor Baby! My dear friend Tess made a strait jacket out of the diaper. Her second baby is due
any day now so she doesn't have much time to practice getting it right!

There were of course piles and piles of gifts for the new Momma to open! Mary was so sweet and gracious as she unwrapped each and every item. This baby is so incredibly loved - we only have yet to see his sweet face. We have less than a month to wait! I am just praying that the poor child does NOT inherit my brother Raymond's Dumbo ears.

The recipe I am sharing today is the Apple Pie Layer Cake that I made for the baby shower. I once again turned to Milk Bar for the inspiration for this cake partially because I love Christina Tosi's recipes in general but also because the exposed sides of the cakes make for an easy, breezy, presentation without the use of a piping bag. Plus, the acetate strips employed in building the cake provide a natural, easy way to transport the cake during long car trips.

I received a lot of compliments for the cake at the shower and, after trying a piece myself, was very pleased with the results. My Mom declared it one of the best cakes I've ever made, although her memory has been fading recently. (Love you, Mom! XOXO) The best compliment, however, came when Paul ate his slice - an extra slice saved for him by Raymond and Mary because I had initially neglected to do so. It nearly cost me my marriage. Paul leaned over and told me that he wanted me to make this cake for his birthday. Paul really is not a big fan of cake in general and usually opts for pies and tarts on his birthday, so this was truly a wonderful compliment.

The recipe is lengthy and requires a bit of special equipment, but trust me when I say that it is not at all difficult to make. Just be well-organized and spread the steps out over several days. This is not a cake to make the day you want to be eating cake.

The recipe makes a cute little 6-inch layer cake that serves 12. It's rich, so thin slices are a must.

Apple Pie Cake
From The Milk Bar Cookbook

Yield: One 6-inch layer cake, serving 10-12

Formulae Needed: (See Below)
1 recipe Barely Brown Butter Cake
1 recipe Apple Cider Soak
1 recipe Liquid Cheesecake
1 recipe Pie Crumb
1 recipe Apple Pie Filling
1 recipe Pie Crumb Frosting

Special Equipment Needed: 
1 6-inch cake ring
2 strips acetate (3” x 20”)

To assemble the cake:
Put a piece of parchment or a Silpat on the counter. Invert the cake onto it and peel off the parchment or Silpat from the bottom of the cake. Use the cake ring to stamp out 2 circles from the cake. These are your top 2 cake layers. The remaining cake “scrap” will come together to make the bottom layer.

For Layer 1, the bottom: Clean the cake ring and place it in the center of a sheet pan lined with clean parchment or a Silpat. Use 1 strip of acetate to line the inside of the cake ring. Put the cake scraps inside the ring and use the back of your hand to tamp the scraps together into a flat even layer.

Dunk a pastry brush in the apple cider soak and give the layer of cake a good bath of half of the soak.

Use the back of a spoon to spread half of the liquid cheesecake in an even layer over the cake.

Sprinkle one-third of the remaining half recipe of pie crumbs evenly over the liquid cheesecake. Use the back of your hand to anchor them in place.

Use the back of a spoon to spread one-half of the apple pie filling as evenly as possible over the crumbs.

For Layer 2, the middle:
With your index finger, gently tuck the second strip of acetate between the cake ring and the top ¼ inch of the first strip of acetate, so that you have a clear ring of acetate 5 to 6 inches tall – high enough to support the height of the finished cake. Set a cake round on top of the filling and repeat the process for layer 1 (if 1 of your 2 cake rounds is jankier than the other, use it here in the middle and save the prettier one for the top).

For Layer 3, the top:
Nestle the remaining cake round into the apple pie filling. Cover the top of the cake with all of the pie crumb frosting. Give it volume and swirls, or do as we do and opt for a perfectly flat top. Garnish the frosting with the remaining pie crumbs.

Transfer the sheet pan to the freezer and freeze for a minimum of 12 hours to set the cake and filling. The cake will keep in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.

At least 3 hours before you are ready to serve the cake, pull the sheet pan out of the freezer and, using your fingers and thumbs, pop the cake out of the cake ring. Gently peel off the acetate and transfer the cake to a platter or cake stand. Let it defrost in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours (wrapped well in plastic, it can be refrigerated for up to 5 days).

Slice the cake into wedges and serve.

Barely Brown Butter Cake

40 g Brown Butter (2 tablespoons)
55 g Butter (4 tablespoons, 1/2 stick)
250 g Granulated Sugar (1 1/4 cups)
60 g Light Brown Sugar (1/4 cup tightly packed)
3 Eggs
110 g Buttermilk (1/2 cup)
65 g Canola or Vegetable oil (1/3 cup)
2 g Vanilla Extract (1/2 teaspoon)
185 g Cake Flour (1 1/2 cups)
4 g Baking Powder (1 teaspoon)
4 g Kosher Salt (1 teaspoon)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

To make the brown butter, place 2 tablespoons of butter in a microwave-safe bowl and top with a microwave-safe plate. Microwave for 3-5 minutes. The butter will pop while browning. Check the butter, and if not browned enough, microwave again in 1 minute increments. While the brown butter is cooling, stir periodically to incorporate the caramelized bits of butter. Cool completely.

Combine the butters and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs, and mix on medium high for 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once more.

Stream in the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla while the paddle swirls on low speed. Increase the speed to medium-high and paddle 5 to 6 minutes, until the mixture is practically white, twice the size of your original fluffy butter-and-sugar mixture, and completely homogenous. You’re basically forcing too much liquid into an already fatty mixture that doesn’t want to make room for it, so if it doesn’t look right after 6 minutes, keep mixing. Stop the mixer and scraped down the sides of the bowl.

On very low speed, add the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix for 45 to 60 seconds, just until your batter comes together and any remnants of dry ingredients have been incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix on low speed for another 45 seconds to ensure that any little lumps of cake flour are incorporated.

Pam-spray a quarter sheet pan and line it with parchment, or just line the pan with a Silpat. Using a spatula, spread the cake batter in an even layer in the pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. The cake will rise and puff, doubling in size, but will remain slightly buttery and dense. At 30 minutes, gently poke the edge of the cake with your finger: the cake should bounce back slightly and the center should no longer be jiggly. Leave the cake in the oven for an extra 3 to 5 minutes if it doesn’t pass these tests.

Take the cake out of the oven and cool on a wire rack, or, in a pinch, in the fridge or freezer. The cooled cake can be stored in the fridge, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 5 days.

Apple Cider Soak 
makes about 60 g (1/4 cup)

55 g Apple Cider (1/4 cup)
5 g Light Brown Sugar (1 teaspoon tightly packed)
0.25 g Ground Cinnamon (pinch)

Whisk together all of the ingredients in a small bowl until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Liquid Cheesecake

227 g Cream Cheese (8 ounces)
150 g Sugar (3/4 cup)
15 g Cornstarch (1 tablespoon)
2 g Kosher Salt (1/2 teaspoon)
25 g Milk (2 tablespoons)
1 Egg

Heat oven to 300 degrees F. Put cream cheese into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the sugar and mix for 1-2 minutes, until the sugar has been completely incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Whisk together the cornstarch and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk in the milk in a slow, steady stream, then whisk in the egg until the slurry is homogenous.

With the mixer on a medium low speed stream in the egg slurry. Paddle for 3 or 4 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and loose. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Line the sides and bottom of a 6” x 6” baking pan with parchment paper - I use a 8x4" loaf pan with good results. Pour the cheesecake batter into the pan and bake for 15 minutes. It is done when it is set on the edges but still jiggly in the center. If the edges aren't quite set, bake for 5 minute increments until it's done- no more than 25 minutes.

Cool completely to finish the baking process and allow the cheesecake to set. It will be creamy, and spreadable and can be stored in the fridge in an air-tight container for up to a week.

Pie Crumb 
makes about 350 g (2 3/4 cups)

240 g Flour (1 1/2 cups)
18 g Sugar (2 tablespoons)
3 g Kosher Salt (3/4 teaspoon)
115 g Butter, melted (8 tablespoons, 1 stick)
20 g Water (1 1/2 tablespoons)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and paddle on low speed until well mixed.

Add the butter and water and paddle on low speed until the mixture starts to come together in small clusters.

Spread the clusters on a parchment – or Silpat-lined sheet pan. Bake for 25 minutes, breaking them up occasionally. The crumbs should be golden brown and still slightly moist to the touch at that point; they will dry and harden as they cool.

Let the crumbs cool completely. Stored in an airtight container, the crumbs will keep fresh for 1 week at room temperature or 1 month in the fridge or freezer.

Apple Pie Filling 
makes about 400 g (1 3/4 cups)

1 Lemon
300 g Granny Smith Apples (2 medium )
14 g Butter (1 tablespoon)
150 g Light Brown Sugar (2/3 cup tightly packed)
1 g Ground Cinnamon (1/2 teaspoon)
1 g Kosher Salt (1/4 teaspoon)

Fill a medium bowl halfway with cold tap water. Juice the lemon into it. Fish out and discard any seeds. You will use this lemon water to keep your apple pieces looking fresh and pert.

Peel the apples, then halve and quarter them. Put each apple quarter on its side and cut a small slice down the length of the apple to remove the seeds and core. Cut each apple quarter lengthwise into thirds and then crosswise into fourths, leaving you with 12 small pieces from every apple quarter. Transfer these pieces to the lemon water as you go.

When you’re ready to cook, drain the apples (discard the lemon water) and combine them in a medium pot with the remaining ingredients. Slowly bring to a boil over medium heat, using a spoon to gently stir the mixture as it heats up and the apples begin to release liquid. Reduce the heat and simmer the apples gently for 3 to 5 minutes. Be careful not to cook the apples so much that they turn into applesauce.

Transfer to a container and put in the fridge to cool down. Once completely cooled, the filling can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 1 week; do not freeze.

Pie Crumb Frosting
makes about 220 g (3/4 cup), or enough for 2 Apple Pie Layer Cakes

1/2 recipe Pie Crumb
110 g Milk (1/2 cup)
2 g Kosher Salt (1/2 teaspoon)
40 g Butter, at room temperature (3 tablespoons)
40 g Confectioners’ Sugar (1/4 cup)

Combine the pie crumbs, milk, and salt in a blender, turn the speed to medium-high, and puree until smooth and homogenous. It will take 1 to 3 minutes (depending on the awesomeness of your blender). If the mixture does not catch on your blender blade, turn off the blender, take a small teaspoon, and scrape down the sides of the canister, remembering to scraped under the blade, then try again.

Combine the butter and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes, until fluffy and pale yellow. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

On low speed, paddle in the contents of the blender. After 1 minute, crank the speed up to medium-high and let her rip for another 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. If the mixture is not a uniform, very pale, barely tan color, give the bowl another scrape and mix for one more minute.

Use the frosting immediately, or store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. Use any extra frosting as a dip for apple slices.


  1. I'm trying to figure out what kind of party we can have that would involve you making one of these I could try one without having to make it myself. =) Although I am reading the Milk Bar cookbook right now and I'm getting a little more convinced I need to try!

    1. They are really not that hard. The only pain is some of the extra hard-to-find ingredients and equipment you need, but I've actually used the pans/acetate strips/cake ring a lot since I purchased them so it wasn't a total loss. The other things like glucose, feiuttine, and some of the other things can be found on Amazon or substituted appropriately. You should give it a try! I think they are fun recipes to make.