Spiced (Carrot) Cake with Apple Filling and Cream Cheese Frosting
"This cake is AMAZING for the holiday season. What makes this one unique is that I use my carrot cake recipe for the cake layers! All carrot cakes are spice cakes, but not all spice cakes are carrot cakes. It has taken me years to perfect, so it has become a versatile base for so many recipes. If you enjoy carrot cake but with an apple filling twist, this recipe is for you!"
2 ¼ cups flour (add extra 1/4 cup for elevation), sifted
2 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground clove
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs (room temperature)
1 ½ cups light brown sugar (dark if you want very rich)
¼ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tsp pure vanilla
1 tsp molasses
3 cups finely grated carrots, lightly packed
4 medium, granny smith apples- peeled, cored, and chopped into ½ inch cubes
3 Tbsp butter
⅓ cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp water
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg
4 tsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp water
1 (8-ounce) package brick style cream cheese, softened to room temperature
½ cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract*
Spiced Apple Filling
Cream Cheese Frosting
Make the Cake
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray and flour two 9-inch (or 3, 6-inch) round cake pans with non-stick cooking spray. Line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove, and salt.
Using a stand mixer, whisk together oil, eggs, brown sugar, granulated sugar, applesauce molasses, and vanilla extract until well combined. Add grated carrots into the wet ingredients and gently mix until well combined.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently mix with a whisk or rubber spatula until just combined. Don’t overmix.
Divide cake batter evenly between cake pans. Bake at 350°F for 30-35 minutes or until the tops of the cakes are set and a toothpick inserts/removes cleanly. Remove from the oven and set on wire racks. Allow to cool in the pans for about 15-20 minutes. Once the cakes have cooled, remove them from the pans and return the cakes to the wire rack to finish cooling.
Using a saucepan on the stovetop, melt butter and add cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg until lightly simmering.
Add apples, sugar, water and stir.
Cover and cook for 5-8 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally. Apples should be slightly softened, but still firm.
In a separate dish, combine cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of water until a paste/slurry forms. Add to apple mixture and stir until the filling is boiling and has thickened. Be mindful that the apples aren’t getting too soft.
Remove from heat and let cool completely.
Make the Frosting
Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese on medium speed until smooth. Remove from bowl and set aside.
Repeat the process with butter until smooth. Add cream cheese to butter and repeat. This ensures a smooth, consistent texture for your frosting.
Slowly add the powdered sugar and vanilla/liquor and continue mixing until fully combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Assemble the Cake
Level and smooth each cake layer with a serrated. Place one of the cakes on a cake stand/pate and top with a thin layer of frosting, and smooth it out into an even layer. This will create a thin buffer layer for the apple filling.
Add a thick ring (3/4 inch of inch) of frosting to the outer edge to create a “barrier”. Repeat this step with a smaller ring inside that leaves space between each. These will help act as structural components to your cake. Chill in fridge for 10-15 minutes to firm.
Fill space between frosting rings by spooning apple mixture gently and evenly. Do not overfill.
Repeat steps 1-3 if doing a 3 layer.
Flip and place bottom-side up of other cake on top of this layer. Gently smooth sides with cake scraper until the outer edge of frosting “seals” with the cake layers. Add more frosting if needed.
With remaining frosting, add 1-2 drops of gel coloring to HALF of the frosting. Place colored frosting into piping bag with a rosette tip, then add the uncolored frosting on top of it. Gently squeeze a few times so the frosting just starts to blend.
Working from the outside, pipe rosettes across the top.
*Optional: I sometimes use 1 teaspoon of bourbon or liquor for a little spice instead of vanilla. Just don't overdo it or your frosting will loosen up.
I tend to make 1.5-2 recipes of the frosting to get a nice even layer throughout. You may have a little left over, but it gives you enough to make an even, decorative top!
Keep covered and refrigerated until time to serve. Leftovers will keep for an additional 2-3 days in fridge.