Recipe: Apple Spice Cake

Our contributor, Tessa Huff, is back with a new cake recipe perfect for fall….

I don’t know about everyone else, but from where I write and bake, the seasons are already subtly changing.  Even though I do not have to return to school or anything, I can sense a shift in energy around the city.  Soon it will be darker earlier, the tourists absent from the city center, and I’ll need a scarf at the beach.  However, as sad as it always is to see another beautiful summer come to a close, I do love fall flavors and autumn baking the absolute most out of any season.

It is safe to say that it is fairly commonplace for recipes and menus to follow whatever produce and local goods are in season.  It might not be boot weather quite yet, but that will not stop us from stockpiling recipes with apples, pumpkin, cinnamon, and even gingerbread now.  To add to this list of baked goods to be make this season, try this Apple Spice Cake with Dulce De Leche Frosting.

Apple Spice Cake Recipe  |  by Tessa Huff  |


You might not be able to do your own apple picking (although I hear that can be a very fun autumn outing), but smelling baked apples automatically makes anyone ready for the leaves to change, football games, pumpkin picking, and the like.  In this cake, layers of apple cake are placed between creamy Dulce de Leche buttercream.

Apple Spice Cake Recipe  |  by Tessa Huff  |

Apples make this cake moist and the cinnamon adds a lovely layer of flavor.  Dulce de Leche is a type of sweetened cooked cream.  It resembles the most creamy caramel you will ever taste.  I added a pre-made Dulce de Leche to Swiss meringue buttercream.  The Swiss meringue buttercream is not overly sweet, so the end product was just perfect.  Hello caramel apple cake!  To finish, you may ice the cake in the same buttercream as the filling, or use vanilla.  The cake was topped off with caramel dipped hazelnuts to add extra height and flare.

Apple Spice Cake Recipe  |  by Tessa Huff  |

Apple Spice Cake Recipe  |  by Tessa Huff  |


a recipe by Tessa Huff

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
3 medium apples, peeled and chopped

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare baking pans and set aside.
  2. Sift flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together.  Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, place butter and mix on medium- high.
  4. Add the sugar and mix together until light and fluffy.
  5. With the mixer on medium-low, gradually add in the eggs and vanilla extract.
  6. Turn the mixer off once combine, and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  7. Starting and ending with the flour mixture, alternate by adding in the dry ingredients and milk, with the mixer on low.
  8. Stir in the chopped apples to combine.
  9. Pour batter into prepared baking pans and bake until done (about 22 minutes for 3 X 8inch pans)


Dulce De Leche Buttercream

6 egg whites
2 cups sugar
6 sticks unsalted butter, softened
pinch salt (if desired)
1/2 cup Dulce de Leche caramel sauce


  1. Place egg whites and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Slightly whisk together to combine.
  2. Fill a medium sauce pan with a bit water to create a double boiler for the mixing bowl.
  3. Heat the double boiler over medium- high heat.  Continue to heat until the egg mixture is hot to the touch (about 155-165 degrees.)
  4. Once hot, transfer the mixing bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
  5. Beat on high until cool.  The bowl of the mixer should be room temperature.
  6. Once cool, gradually add in the butter and salt with the mixer on medium-low.
  7. Add in the Dulce de Leche.
  8. Turn the mixer back up to medium-high and mix until fluffy.


Caramel Dipped Hazelnuts

1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
8-12 whole hazelnuts

  1. Place water and sugar in a medium sauce pan and heat over high heat.
  2. Stir with a rubber heat-proof spatula or wooden spoon until sugar is combine and almost clear.
  3. Continue to heat, swirly occasionally, as you carefully insert tooth picks into the hazelnuts.
  4. Cook the sugar until medium amber, swirly to combine.
  5. Once amber in color, remove from heat and place in a shallow ice bath.  Cool for about 5 minutes before removing form ice bath.
  6. Meanwhile, place a piece of parchment or newspaper on the floor under your kitchen counter.
  7. After about an additional 5 minutes, test the consistency with a practice hazelnut.  Do so by dipping it in the caramel and pulling it straight up.  If the caramel is too runny, a continuous stream of caramel will flow from the nut.
  8. Once it is the correct temperature and consistency, caramel will drip slightly and very slowly from the nut.  Place dipped nuts over the side of the counter, over the parchment, and let gravity pull the sugar.  If cool enough, you may help guide the sugar with your finger tips.
  9. Working quickly but carefully (hot caramel is HOTTT), dip the remaining hazelnuts.
  10. Let dipped nuts dry until set (about 5-10 minutes).
  11. Carefully removed the toothpicks and place on top of your cake just before serving.


Baker’s Notes:

  • If caramel hardens too quickly, you may carefully re-heat over the stove top.  Do so with a very watchful eye and do not burn the sugar.
  • The caramel-dipped hazelnuts will not store very well.  After about an hour or so, you might notice the sugar starting to dissolve a bit.



Tessa Huff is a professional cake designer and lover of all things art and design. She particularly enjoys creating edible decorations, sugar flowers, and unique flavor pairings with fresh, seasonal flavors. Read more about Tessa on her bio page.


  1. 4

    Dana says

    FYI- might want to edit the instructions to say “sift flour, baking soda, cinnamon, & salt together”… As a novice baker and frazzled mom I read that to put ALL dry ingredients together. I then read step 4 where you add the sugar. Oops, had to start over. Just a thought!

  2. 6

    Vicki says

    Just wondering why the frosting between the layers looks thicker and darker than the frosting on the outside of the cake….did I miss something?? Thanks – it looks amazing, cannot wait to try it!

  3. 8

    Jessica says

    Curious what size cake this yields. I am also a novice baker but would love to try this for my daughter’s fall-themed birthday party. It sounds like it’s more than one 8″ round pan? Did you do 3 8″ round pans and then assemble the layers that way?

    • 9

      kate says

      i just made this, it made two 8″ round pans for me which i baked at the same time and then sliced the tops off so i could put the two cakes together (one turned upside-down). Mine is not 3 tiered but i could have easily made a bit more batter and made it so! cake looks good BUT i baked for so much longer than 20 mins, i think my oven must be playing up!
      I am still waiting on the recipe for whatever is inside the cake layers in the picture, i just used the buttercream this time but would like to know for future!

  4. 10

    ginger says

    The dulche de leche is cooked sweetened milk. A simple version is to cook a can of sweetened condensed milk. You can do this in the microwave or using a double broiler. It changes the color and flavor of the sweetened milk. I’m sure you can get the exact instructions for the easy method or the homemade version on the internet.

  5. 11

    Rich says

    the filling is the dulce de leche butter cream. The frosting on the rest of the cake is just buttercream.
    My question is this, the quantities of the ingredients in the recipe for the dulce de leche buttercream seem excessive. mor like enough for the entire cake. 6 sticks of butter just for the filling? My thoughts would be to make the frosting sans the dulce de leche then divide accordingly adding the dulce de leche for the filling portion.
    Would this be more accurate?


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