Apple Pie Layer Cake Recipe
Cakes Uncategorized

My Version of Milk Bar’s Apple Pie Layer Cake

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This weekend my husband’s parents came for a visit for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Since we last saw each other, 5 out of the 6 of us have had birthdays! To celebrate all the birthdays, a special meal was in order and of course, that included a cake!

A couple of months ago, when I participated in the Great Bloggers Bake-off, one of the submissions was the recipe for Apple Pie Layer Cake by Christina Tosi, who is the owner of the famous New York Bakery, Milk Bar. The recipe had been published in the Guardian a few years ago. When I saw the recipe, I knew I wanted to make it for my in-laws because my mother-in-law loves apple pie!

I made a few tweaks to the original recipe to put my own spin on it. First, her recipe made 3 6 inch layers that were cut own of a 9 x 13 inch cake, using cake rings. I don’t have cake rings and didn’t forsee using them much, so I decided to alter the recipe quantities to make 3 8-inch round layers. That way I was using equipment I already had. Her cake recipe is what she calls “barely brown butter cake,” which uses a small amount of browned butter and the rest, normal softened butter. I figured that the nutty flavour of browned butter would work really well, so I browned all of the butter used in the recipe. For the apple pie filling, I added some allspice as well as the cinnamon in the recipe. Last, I experimented with making an apple caramel by reducing down apple juice. It worked really well! I drizzled the caramel over the top of the cake for decoration and an extra hit of apple flavour.

Some of the components of this cake are truly unique! Part of the filling is a “liquid cheesecake.” This is a cheesecake that is cooked until it is still soft and jiggly so that it is spreadable when cooled. The component that really blew my mind was the pie crumb frosting! You liquefy some of the pie crumb that is made for the layers in milk, then add it to some butter and sugar to make a frosting. It tasted exactly like pie crust!

We had to wait a week to actually try the cake. My in-laws were supposed to come up last weekend but I ended up not feeling well and didn’t want to expose them to any potentially dangerous germs. After a negative COVID test and recovering from whatever bug I had, we had them up this weekend. Luckily the cake kept really well in the freezer for the week.

I really loved this cake. I was glad I took the step of browning the butter. It was nice and moist and added a perfect nutty flavour that matched really well with the apple pie flavours. The apple caramel on the top added a bit of colour to the cake as well as an amazing little burst of apple flavour. The frosting had a good amount of salt in it. When I tasted it on its own, it seemed a bit salty but was really balanced when matched with other flavours.

This cake does have a lot of components, but don’t let that scare you away from trying this recipe! It tastes amazing and many of the components can be made ahead of time.

For this recipe I have used the following equipment:

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Apple Pie Layer Cake Recipe
Yields: 12 Servings Difficulty: Difficult Prep Time: 3 Hr Cook Time: 25 Mins Total Time: 3 Hr 25 Mins
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My Version of Milk Bar’s Apple Pie Layer Cake

This recipe for Apple Pie Layer Cake will blow your mind! Brown Butter Cake with liquid cheesecake and apple pie filling, pie crumb, pie crumb frosting and an apple caramel all come together for one amazing layer cake! This cake has a LOT of steps. Many of the components can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge until you are ready to assemble the cake. I recommend using cake strips when baking layer cakes to keep your layers flat and avoid having to trim them later. I have made this recipe assuming that you don’t have cake rings. You can either assemble this cake free-form or use strips of baking acetate to keep the layers sturdy.  


0/39 Ingredients
Adjust Servings
    For the Brown Butter Cake
  • For the Liquid Cheesecake
  • For the Pie Crumb
  • For the Apple Juice Soak
  • For the Apple Pie Filling
  • For the Pie Crumb Frosting
  • For the Apple Caramel


0/40 Instructions
    For the Browned Butter.
  • In a small saucepan or skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Continue to cook until the butter turns a nutty brown colour.
  • Transfer butter to a bowl and chill in the fridge until the butter solidifies. Remove from fridge to soften before proceeding with the cake batter.
  • For the Browned Butter Cake
  • Preheat oven to 350 F/180 C. Grease and line three 8-inch round cake tins with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper and coat pans in a light coating of flour.
  • Combine the butter and sugars in the bowl of a free-standing electric 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 homogeneous. 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 scrape down the sides of the bowl. (When I did my cake, I never got the volume to twice the size, even after 12 minutes of beating. The cake was still great!)
  • On very low speed, add the 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 flour are incorporated.
  • Divide batter evenly between your prepared tins. For even, flat layers, you can line your tins with soaked cake strips. This will keep you from having to trim the tops off the layers later.
  • Bake all three pans on the middle rack of your oven until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. About 20-25 minutes.
  • Let cakes cool in pans on a rack for 10 minutes before removing them and letting them cool completely on a baking rack, about 2 hours.
  • For the Pie Crumb
  • Heat the oven to 350 F/180 C
  • Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a free-standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle or flat beater 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 silicone-lined baking tray. 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 before using in a recipe or eating. Stored in an airtight container, the crumbs will keep fresh for 1 week at room temperature or 1 month in the fridge or freezer.
  • For the Liquid Cheesecake
  • Heat oven to 300 F/150 C
  • Put the cream cheese in the bowl of a free-standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle or flat beater attachment and mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the sugar and mix for 1 to 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 homogeneous.
  • With the mixer on medium-low speed, stream in the egg slurry. Paddle for 3 to 4 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and loose. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  • Line the bottom and sides of an 8 inch square baking tin with aluminum foil. Pour the cheesecake batter into the tin, put the tin in the oven, and bake for 15 minutes. Gently shake the tin. The cheesecake should be firmer and more set toward the outer boundaries of the baking tin but still be jiggly and loose in the dead center. If the cheesecake is jiggly all over, give it 5 minutes more. And 5 minutes more if it needs it. If the cheesecake rises more than 5 mm or begins to brown, take it out of the oven immediately.
  • Cool the cheesecake completely, to finish the baking process and allow the cheesecake to set. The final product will resemble a cheesecake, but it will be pipeable and pliable enough to easily spread or smear, while still having body and volume. Once cool, the cheesecake can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
  • For the Apple Juice Soak
  • Whisk together the apple juice, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl until the sugar is completely dissolved. Set aside until ready to use.
  • For the Apple Pie Filling
  • Fill a medium bowl halfway with cold tap water. Stir in lemon juice 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.
  • 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.
  • For the Pie Crumb Frosting
  • 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. 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 blender, remembering to scrape under the blade, then try again.
  • Combine the butter and icing sugar in the bowl of a free-standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle or flat beater 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 for another 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. If the mixture is not a uniform, very pale, barely tan colour, give the bowl another scrape-down and another minute of high-speed paddling.
  • Use the frosting immediately, or store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
  • For the Apple Caramel
  • Bring apple juice to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer until reduced and the consistency of syrup. You will have about 1/2 cup syrup. Remove from heat and whisk in butter and salt. Let cool until the syrup is a thick, but pipeable consistency.
  • For Assembly Layer 1
  • If cakes have rounded tops, trim the tops off, to create a flat top.
  • Place one layer on a cake board or plate. Place a strip of baking acetate around the cake and tape it together to secure.
  • Using a pastry brush, give the cake a good healthy soak of the apple juice mixture.
  • 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 leftover 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.
  • Layer 2
  • With your index finger, gently tuck the second strip of acetate inside the top 5 mm of the first strip of acetate, so that you have a clear ring of acetate 12.5 to 15 cm tall—high enough to support the height of the finished cake. Tape the acetate together to secure. Set a cake round on top of the filling and repeat the process for layer 1 (if 1 of your 2 cake rounds is uglier than the other, use it here in the middle and save the prettier one for the top).
  • Layer 3
  • Nestle the remaining cake round into the apple pie filling. Cover the top of the cake with all of the pie crumb frosting. Garnish the frosting with the remaining pie crumbs.
  • Pipe or drizzle the apple caramel decoratively over the top. If your caramel has hardened too much, place the container in a bowl of hot water to soften the caramel to the desired consistency.
  • Transfer the cake to a baking tray and cover the top. If you have not used acetate, cover the cake completely with plastic wrap. Transfer the baking tray 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 tray out of the freezer and 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 wrap, it can be refrigerated for up to 5 days).


  1. Aha! I’ve been waiting with bated breath to find out what you used the pie crust flavoured frosting for. I couldn’t imagine what it would be for. This looks like a knock-out cake.

  2. Sounds wonderful. Going to bake it tomorrow but you forgot the part where you cook the apples, between steps 23-24. Fortunately I have the original recipe.

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