Preheat oven to 350F and grease and flour three 6″ cake pans, line bottoms with parchment.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cocoa powder until well combined.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter until smooth. Add sugar and beat on med-high until pale and fluffy (2-3 minutes).
Reduce speed and add eggs one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Add vanilla extract.
Alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour (3 additions of flour and 2 of milk). Fully incorporating after each addition. Do not overmix.
Spread batter evenly into prepared pans. Smooth the top with a spatula.
Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.
Place cakes on wire rack to cool for 10 minutes then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely.
Make the Apple Pie Filling:
Toss chopped apples in lemon juice, set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Add water and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cook for 2 minutes.
Add chopped apples and bring back to a boil. Simmer until apples are tender (approximately 10 minutes). Remove from heat and cool completely before using on cake.*
Make the Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:
Place egg whites and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer**, whisk until combined.
Place bowl over a pan of simmering water to create a double-boiler. Whisking constantly, heat the egg mixture until it registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer. Carefully transfer the bowl onto the stand mixer.
Using the whisk attachment, beat the egg white mixture on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes until the bowl is no longer warm to the touch and the meringue is fluffy, glossy and holds a stiff peak.
Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, slowly add cubed butter and mix until incorporated.
Add vanilla and whip on medium-high until silky and smooth, about 3 to 5 minutes.***
Make the Pie Crust Inside the Cake, Accents, & Braid:
Preheat oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment.
Roll out each crust and cut out two 7” circles. They will shrink a bit, so it’s important that they are larger than the 6” cake. I placed a 6” cake pan on top of the crust and used my knife to cut out a slightly larger circle.
Re-roll the dough and cut 3 long ¼” wide strips for the braid. Trace a 6” circle onto parchment. Braid the dough and place it on the outside of the circle (again, it will shrink a bit so make it a tad bigger). Cut more strips and braid as needed until the braid goes all the way around the circle.
Use remaining pie dough tocut out leaves and flowers if desired. Re-roll pie dough as needed.
Transfer pie discs, leaves, braid, and flowers onto baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush with egg wash.
Bake for 15-17 minutes or until golden. Cool completely on pan.
Make the Pie Crust Lattice:
Preheat oven to 400F. Place oven rack in lowest position. Place a 6” cake ring on its side on a sheet pan. Anchor it as best as possible to prevent it from rolling. I used two folded silicone baking mats around the sides. Lightly spray outside of cake ring with cooking spray.
Roll out pie dough and cut into ½” strips. Take 4 of the longest strips and place them together. Use the other strips to create a lattice effect. I used a small brush dipped in water to help adhere the pie dough pieces to each other.
Trim edges and cut lattice into 6” sections.
Repeat until you have enough to go around the cake. Apply leaf and flower cutouts using the egg wash as glue if desired.
Place a 6” lattice section on top of the cake ring. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush with egg wash.
Bake for 15-17 minutes or until golden. Cool completely on cake round.
Very carefully, transfer to parchment lined baking sheet.
Repeat with remaining sections.****
Assemble the Cake:
Place one layer of cake onto a cake stand or serving plate. Spread a thin layer of frosting on top and place a disc of pie crust on top. Using a large round tip, pipe a dam of frosting along the top of the pie crust to hold the filling.
Top with approximately 1/2 cup of apple pie filling and spread evenly.
Repeat with next layer and place final cake layer on top. Crumb coat the cake and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Frost the cake and smooth the sides and top. Apply lattice or pie crust cutouts to decorate as desired.
* If filling appears too thick while cooking, add a bit of water. I let mine sit in the fridge overnight, so it thickened up quite a bit. You can microwave it in 30 second intervals to thin it out and bring to room temperature.
** Ensure there is NO trace of egg yolks in your whites and that your mixer bowl and whisk is completely grease free or your meringue may not stiffen.
*** The buttercream may look like it’s curdled at some point. Keep mixing until it is completely smooth.
**** The lattice will be very fragile so be careful when removing from cake ring and transferring to cake. I had many, many pieces break, even the ones on the final cake (you can hide some of the broken ones in the back).
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