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John's Three-Layer Apple Cake


Imagine those caramel apples you loved as a kid, now all grown up and baked into a cake. Stacks up well, doesn't it? Try this cake, courtesy of John Barricelli, host of "Everyday Baking."

  • Prep:
  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 12

Source: Everyday Food, September 2008


For the buttercream

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces

For the cake

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pans
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pans
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, two coarsely grated and two diced


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter three 8-inch-round cake pans; line bottoms with parchment paper. Butter, then flour paper and sides (tapping out excess); set aside.

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together butter, sugar, and eggs until well combined; fold in grated and diced apples. Add flour mixture; mix just until combined. Divide batter among prepared pans; smooth tops.

  3. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool cakes in pans 20 minutes, then invert onto wire racks; peel off parchment. Invert cakes again, and let cool completely on racks.

  4. Make buttercream: In a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a pan of simmering water, whisk together egg whites, sugar, and salt until sugar has dissolved; remove from heat. Using an electric mixer on medium, beat mixture until fluffy and cooled, about 15 minutes. Increase to high; beat until stiff peaks form. Reduce to medium-low; gradually add butter, beating until fully incorporated, about 3 to 5 minutes.

  5. Assemble cake: Place one layer on a serving plate; spread top with buttercream. Top with another layer; spread top with buttercream. Top with third layer; spread remaining buttercream over top and sides of cake. Refrigerate at least 1 hour (or up to 4 days). To serve, bring cake to room temperature; slice with a serrated knife.

Cook's Notes

You can also bake the cake in a 13-by-9-inch pan; the baking time will be about the same. Also, if the buttercream separates, continue beating -- it will come together.

Reviews Add a comment

  • adelaewintersg
    22 SEP, 2018
    I made the recipe exactly as the recipe reads. Overall, it’s fantastic! It is not a light & airy cake, but rather a dense, moist cake that is FULL of apples... exactly what I was after! I did not care for this buttercream, however, and if/when I make the cake again I will try a cream cheese frosting. This buttercream uses too much butter and though I opted to leave the sides of my cake naked, it was still too much for my taste.
  • sarabeth721
    28 JAN, 2018
    First of all, the flavor of this cake is beyond heavenly. I made the recipe, but after taking the cakes out of the pan, I knew it wouldn't be high enough so I made the recipe again and used 5 layers, which really made an impressive-looking cake. I did, however, use a cream cheese frosting. Everyone went crazy over this cake. Yes, it's a fair amount of work, but really worth it. Once it was all frosted, it was quite heavy.
  • beths228
    6 MAR, 2017
    Absolutely love this recipe!
  • buncontrolgmai
    21 DEC, 2015
    Made this in a double batch for a 6-inch tall stack cake. I creamed the sugar, butter and eggs until at least doubled in volume - at least 5 minutes. Used 4 6x3 pans. The cakes sunk in the middle but when I evened them out (after the cake was VERY cold) the four layers stacked nicely. I used a no-bake cheesecake filling and the salted caramel buttercream and it was a flavor explosion! The apples made the cake more challenging to cut but was completely worth it.
  • Katie Floyd
    24 OCT, 2012
    SO....I just made this cake and its the stickiest cake I have ever made. Let the cake cool for a long time before applying frosting--if you don't you end up with a melting mess. I'm having to salvage mine. :-( The presentation won't be the best but it tastes amazing. The frosting recipe has too much butter for my taste, so I added some more brown sugar, cinnamon and a little lemon juice. It worked wonders! I'll definitely make this one again.
  • SarvieG
    11 AUG, 2012
    This was so delish! I had to make two batches, I have no idea how one batch can fill three pans. Even with the doubled recipe, I only had two layers (although they were thick). I also used a cream cheese maple frosting, using imitation maple extract. I didn't even melt the butter and didn't dice the apples fine enough, but this cake was still delicious with great presentation. I topped it off with a homemade caramel sauce!
  • SarvieG
    8 AUG, 2012
    This cake definetly looks nice! For some reason, I had to make the batter twice because the first one did not even come close to filling three cake pans, let alone two. I think I did not dice the apples finely enough...I also used the maple cream cheese frosting using maple extract but I kept finding it didn't have a distinct enough maple flavour.. maybe it would've worked better with maple syrup. Overall though, pretty good!
  • 1275
    2 APR, 2012
    GREAT!! So easy and moist and full of flavor! We loved it! To make this easier, I halved the recipe and put it all in one 8 inch round cake pan. I cut the sugar by 1/3 cup and used all grated apples. It was very easy to whip up and smelled great. Instead of trying the icing recipe provided here (sounds like a TON of butter!) I made my own cream cheese frosting: 2 oz. cream cheese, 2 T. butter, 1 cup 10x, 1 t. vanilla. Really, really good sprinkled with some cinnamon sugar. Will be making again!
  • Theloveubake
    25 NOV, 2011
    I have made this recipe 3 times since Sept ' rocks every single time. I changed it a bit by adding dulce de leche between layers along with the cream cheese frosting instead of the frosting suggested. ABSOTIVELY YUMMY!!!!
  • sarahkSD
    23 SEP, 2011
    Oh goodness! I made this recently for my friend's birthday and I thought it would be good, but it exceeded my expectations by far! It was like pure heaven!