Hey, hi, and hello! On my Instagram story the other day, I asked for help deciding what cake design to create this week. At first, the results were mixed, but a front-runner soon emerged. With that poll was born the inspiration for this Cinnamon Apple Cake, featuring buttercream fall flowers and monarch butterflies taking flight.
So, today, I’m here to show you the process and share my recipe for this delicious fall treat! Whether you just LOVE fall or you’re not so much the biggest fan, the warm, cinnamon flavors in this sponge are sure to win you over. Then, each layer is topped with a seasonal apple pie filling and maple simple syrup. Finished off with vanilla bean buttercream, this cake promises to be your new addiction. Trust me: it is mine.
Plus, I’ll show you the method to create gorgeous, blooming buttercream fall flowers and fondant monarch butterflies.
The concept behind this cake is fall florals that transform into monarchs and fly off of the cake. So, if you look closely, the flowers near the top of the cake actually take on a butterfly shape. Fun, huh?
Well, without further ado, let’s get in the kitchen. First, watch my quick video tutorial for leveling, stacking, and decorating your cake.
I’ll also show you how to craft each type of fall flower featured on this cake (with a handy piping tip diagram below the recipe – don’t miss it!), as well as the method of sculpting delicate, fluttering monarch butterflies.
Then, check out the materials list and recipe below to get started baking your own beautiful and delicious fall creation! Happy baking!
Cinnamon Apple Cake – Video Tutorial (Baking & Decorating)
Now that you’ve gotten a visual idea of how to prepare and decorate your cake, let’s move on to the technical part!
Cinnamon Apple Cake – Recipe & Method
Before getting started with your bake, read through the materials list and recipe. Preparing your mise en place in advance ensures an effortless baking and decorating process!
Gather Your Baking Materials
For this bake, you’ll need a few special tools (in addition to basic kitchen cookware.) I’ve included links to each item for easy reference, in case you’re missing a few things. I am an Amazon affiliate, so I may earn a commission on applicable sales, at no additional cost to the consumer. See below for more details.
- 3, 8-inch cake pans (I actually used them each twice, to create six layers of cake)
- Cooling racks
- Silicone pastry brush
- Cake leveler
- Flower nail
- Piping bags, couplers, and the following Wilton (or equivalent) piping tips:
- Small round – 2
- Small star – 14
- Specialty/round petal tip – 81
- Small petal tip – 101
- Medium petal tip – 104
- Grass tip – 233
- Leaf tip – 352
- NOTE 1: See my diagram underneath the recipe for a helpful visual tip-to-flower comparison.
- NOTE 2: If you’re newer to cake decorating, instead of purchasing each of the tips separately, you can find most in a handy starter kit like this one.
- Off-set spatula, bench/cake scraper, and cake turntable (most cost-effective purchasing is to buy in a set like this one)
- 2″x2″ parchment paper squares (you can cut them from normal parchment paper)
- Black and orange fondant; or buy white and color it yourself
- Fondant/flower wire
- Food coloring gel
- Food-grade paint brushes
Cinnamon Apple Cake Recipe & Decorating Method
Follow the recipe below to bake your very own Cinnamon Apple Cake! This recipe creates 3 layers of cake, each about 1.5-2 inches tall.
Baker’s Note: To give my design added drama and propel the butterflies further in the air, I wanted a strikingly tall cake, so I made this recipe twice, resulting in six layers of cake. Unless you have six cake pans, I wouldn’t simply double the batter, otherwise, the baking powder will lose its effectiveness while resting on the counter, and your fourth, fifth, and sixth layers won’t rise.
If you choose to bake six layers, keep in mind, the apple pie filling recipe won’t need to be scaled or changed. However, depending on exactly how many flowers you create and how thick of a crumb- and top-coat you apply, you may need to make another half-batch of buttercream.
If you don’t want as much cake or you don’t want to go through the effort of making the batter twice, you definitely can still build this cake with three layers, by precisely following the recipe below. Your result will appear slightly wider than tall, but, once decorated, it’ll still look beautiful. Plus, most importantly, it will taste amazing no matter what!
Cinnamon Apple Cake with Maple Simple Syrup and Vanilla Bean Buttercream
- 3 cups flour, plus extra for flouring the pans
- 2 tbsp cinnamon
- 1½ tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks); plus extra cold butter for greasing the pans
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup milk, room temperature (whole or 2%)
Apple Pie Filling
- 2 large granny smith apples, cored and cubed
- 2 tbsp butter
- 4½ tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 1½ cups apple cider or apple juice
- 3 tbsp cornstarch
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp honey, optional
- 10 drops orange bitters, optional
Maple Simple Syrup
- ½ cup maple syrup - use the good kind!
- ¼-⅓ cup water
Vanilla Bean American Crusting Buttercream - For Layering, Crumb Coating, Top Coating, and Buttercream Flowers
- 2 cups butter, softened (4 sticks)
- 7 cups sifted powdered sugar
- 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 4 tbsp heavy cream, room temperature
- Preheat your oven to 350°F, butter and flour your cake pans, and set aside.
- In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set it aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, cream together the butter and both sugars on medium speed for 2-3 minutes until it lightens in color and has a fluffy texture.
- Crack the eggs into a bowl/container with a pour spout (to ensure no shells accidentally make their way into the batter), and slowly add approximately one egg at a time to the running mixer. Then, add in the vanilla extract and paste and combine again.
- Next, in three increments, alternate adding the dry mixture and milk to the wet ingredients. Use a spatula to combine the batter gently, by hand, until all of the flour and milk is added.
- Pour the batter evenly into the three prepared pans, and place them into the preheated oven. They should take anywhere from 28-36 minutes to bake. Don't open the oven door until the 28-minute mark, at which point you can begin to test for doneness with a toothpick.
- Once the pans have cooled for a few minutes, use some oven mitts to flip the cakes out of the pans and onto the cooling racks. Tap the bottom of the pans to help the cakes release, if necessary.
- Let the cakes cool completely before decorating. If you're not leveling and stacking on baking day, double wrap each cake layer in plastic wrap and place them in the freezer.
Apple Pie Filling
- If you haven't already, peel, core, and cube the apples.
- In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
- Then, to the butter, add the apples, sugar, cinnamon, and juice/cider. Stir to combine, and let the mixture simmer until the apples are al dente. Watch them carefully.
- Meanwhile, take a few tablespoons of the simmering liquid and add it to a small bowl with cornstarch. Whisk the mixture together.
- Add the slurry to the simmering mixture, and increase the heat to bring it back to a boil (this will activate the thickening powers of the cornstarch.)
- Once the apples are able to be pierced with a fork, and the slurry has started to thicken, remove the mixture from the heat. Don't worry if it's not as thick as you'd like - it continues to thicken as it cools. Add the vanilla, honey, and orange bitters, and let chill fully in the refrigerator before stacking the cakes.
Maple Simple Syrup
- In a mason jar or cup, mix the syrup and some of the water together. Depending on the viscosity of your maple syrup, you may not need the full amount of water, but it does need to be loose enough to brush on top of your cake layers.
Vanilla Bean American Crusting Buttercream - For Layering, Crumb Coating, Top Coating, and Buttercream Flowers
- Using the paddle attachment of your stand mixer, beat the butter on medium-high for 5-8 minutes. You'll know it's finished when the color is light and texture is fluffy.
- Cup by cup, add the 7 cups of sugar to the butter, making sure each addition is fully combined before moving on.
- Once the buttercream is combined, add in the cream and vanilla. Mix to incorporate again.
- Use this buttercream as is to crumb- and top-coat your cakes. However, before making your buttercream flowers, add up to another cup of powdered sugar, proportionally, based on the amount of buttercream remaining from the original batch. (If you have half of your original amount of BC left, add a half-cup of powdered sugar.) This creates a more stable buttercream for holding intricate floral designs.
Stacking & Decorating The Cake
- Using your cake leveler, remove the tops from each cake for a smooth, flat building surface. Save these cake scraps for snacking, or creating cake balls!
- Brush the maple simple syrup generously onto each layer of cake with the silicone pastry brush.
- Cut a wide opening in a piping bag (you don't need a tip for this) and create a ring of buttercream around the top edge of your bottom cake layer. This will create a dam, into which you will spoon out and smooth about half of the apple pie filling. (If you are using six cake layers instead of three, read the next step/note below, before moving on with this step.) Gently place your second layer of cake onto the bottom layer, and repeat the process again, piping a ring of buttercream and filling it with apple pie filling. To top your cake, invert the final layer so the bottom is facing upwards. This creates a smoother top for frosting and decorating.
- NOTE: If you are using six layers of cake instead of three, stack the layers into three sets of two cakes each, with a thin layer of buttercream spread in the middle of each one. Then, use these stacks of two as "one" layer for building with the apple pie filling in the step above. This way, your cake remains balanced with the fillings and stays structurally sound as well.
- Apply some white frosting to the top of the cake, using your offset spatula to smooth it out and begin to push it over the edges. Apply more buttercream to the sides, as needed. Then, with your bench scraper at a tight, close angle to the side of your cake, begin to smooth the sides of the cake. This first coat doesn't have to be perfect, and cake is likely to show through - that's fine. This "crumb coat" locks in the cake crumbs and provides a smooth canvas for your final coat. Place the cake in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes to let the crumb coat harden to touch.
- Meanwhile, tint buttercream with your food coloring gel and mix to your liking for your final coat. Once the cake is chilled, repeat the process again, in a similar manner as the crumb coat, but this time, with your final buttercream color. Smooth the top and edges out, and use your offset spatula to add frosting to any holes or dents. Keep scraping around until you are happy with this top coat.
- To smooth the corner edges of the cake, hold your offset spatula parallel to the top of the cake, and gently but decisively push the buttercream off of the edge and in towards the center. Wipe your spatula on a towel and repeat. Chill the cake while you prepare your buttercream flowers.
- To create beautiful buttercream flowers, fill piping bags (fitted with couplers) with colored, stiff buttercream. Use a small bit of frosting to attach a parchment paper square to the flower nail. Moving in short strokes, pipe the flower pattern according to my video, depending upon the flower you wish to create. See my diagram below for the piping tips you'll use. Gently slide the parchment paper off of the nail, onto a flat surface like a baking sheet. Once the baking sheet is full, place it in the freezer until they're hardened. Once the flowers are solid, you can use a bit of buttercream as glue to attach them to the cake. Simply peel off the parchment paper and adhere it like a sticker!
- Print out or draw a sketch of a monarch butterfly. Lay a piece of parchment paper over it. Then, roll out and color some black fondant. Make thin long tubes, and lay it over the parchment paper to outline the monarch. Then, add the smaller black lines by creating thinner, shorter tubes of thin fondant. Next, slide out the drawing of the monarch, and place it over a piece of thin, orange fondant. Cut out the body shape of the monarch, and place it over the black lines. Use a rolling pin to flatten the fondant slightly, adhering the orange to the black, combing it into one piece. Using some smaller white pieces, and more black if necessary, add more details, pressing them in with your finger or a food-grade paintbrush. Roll a larger piece of black fondant into an oblong shape to create the butterfly body. Insert your wire into the body, then attach it to the wings. Place the butterfly in between two angled drying racks, forks, or the edges of a small plate to shape it as if it were flying. Let dry for at least 24 hours, more if your pieces are thick. Once completey dried, you can go back and add smaller details with a food-grade paintbrush and food coloring gels as the "paint." Gently press down into the cake to place.
- Store the cake covered at room temperature for up to 4 days. However, remove the butterflies and store them uncovered at room temperature, otherwise, the moisture from the cake may cause them to become gummy and gooey. You can also freeze the cake or individual slices for up to 2 months. In frozen, thaw in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours (depending upon the size) before serving.
Here are the tips I used to create each floral detail:
For more information on piping buttercream flowers, check out my tutorial here! In that post, I share how you can pipe beautiful spring roses and chrysanthemums.
LOL, that’s not a misspelling. Bon Appetit… Apple… Apple Cinnamon Cake… you get it. 😉 I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and I know you’ll love this Cinnamon Apple Cake recipe.
Feel free to comment below or message me on Instagram with any questions you may have, and so we can keep in touch! You can tag me in any photos you post of your baked creations, too. I love to see what you’re up to in the kitchen!
And, enter your email below to receive notification of my next blog post like this one, as well as exclusive recipes and just-for-you content. You don’t want to miss it!
Take care guys! Until next time…
Addicted to Pinterest, like me? Pin the image below to save this recipe for later or show it to your friends. After all, sharing is caring. 😉