apple cider doughnut cake

You guys. Break out the streamers and balloons.

Brooklyn Homemaker turns two today!

apple cider doughnut cake with mascarpone icing & cider caramel sauce | Brooklyn Homemaker

It has been exactly two years since I started this whole adventure, and I gotta say that I’m really proud of myself and my humble little blog. I think a celebration is in order.

When Brooklyn Homemaker was born I had no idea how far I would come, or could come, or how much I’d learn, or grow, or how many friends I’d make, how many people’s lives I’d touch, or how many people’s lives would touch my own. Day by day, post by post, little by little; I’ve forged new relationships, met new people, tried new things, experimented with new recipes and ingredients, grown as a photographer and recipe developer, and slowly developed a dessert plate hoarding problem that’s beginning to concern my husband. I’ve also learned that while the blogging world is competitive place, it’s also a warm and welcoming place with a strong sense of community. It’s filled with genuinely lovely, charitable, supportive individuals who love to help each other out whenever and however they can.

Over the past two years I’ve also learned a lot about myself and what I want for and from Brooklyn Homemaker. I’ve learned to accept that what I like and what I don’t like is more important to me than what the blogging powers-that-be tell me is important. Lately I’m trying to take a quality over quantity approach when it comes to my posting schedule, and focus on what makes me happy rather than what I’m told will get me more re-pins and likes. I gotta be me. What else can I be?

apple cider doughnut cake with mascarpone icing and cider caramel sauce | Brooklyn Homemaker

When my first anniversary rolled around last year I decided to recreate the cake that started it all, the cake that launched 1,000 posts (well, 142 and counting), the incomparable Aunt Sassy cake. While this pistachio dream cake is seriously amazing, I couldn’t do it again because, well you know, been there done that. Twice.

This year I was looking for the perfect way to represent myself and my blog, in big fancy cake form. I wanted something both festive and elegant at the same time. Something refined and adult, but with a bit of fun and nostalgia thrown in for good measure. Being that it’s Fall and all, and being that Fall is the best season ever invented, I also wanted to do something seasonally appropriate. Something with apples…

apple cider doughnut cake with mascarpone icing & cider caramel sauce | Brooklyn Homemaker

Is there any better way to add fun and nostalgia to a dessert than to base it on something we ate as kids? I don’t think so. Luckily when I was growing up there were plenty of harvest festivals and county fairs for me to get nostalgic about. Upstate New York is just lousy with them this time of year! There’s the Lafayette Apple Festival, Tomatofest (hosted in my own hometown), the Jordan Fall Festival, countless county fairs, and the great New York State Fair (dat butter sculpture doe), just to name a few several…

Of course the best part of these fairs and festivals is always the food! There’s the staples like fried dough, funnel cakes, and corn dogs; but upstate we have our own regional specialties like salt potatoes, chicken spiedies, and steaming cups of fresh pressed warm apple cider. When it comes to fall festival foods though, my all time favorite is and always will be sweet little apple cider doughnuts fresh and warm from the fryer, sparkling with sugar and cinnamon.

As soon as those chubby little doughnuts crossed my mind I KNEW I had my idea.

apple cider doughnut cake with mascarpone icing & cider caramel sauce | Brooklyn Homemaker

Now, you may think that to really translate the essence of a doughnut into cake form it should be round, like a bundt cake. While I’d normally agree with you, I do plenty of bundt cakes around here. This occasion called for a true celebration cake. Something with layers. Something tall.

apple cider doughnut cake with mascarpone icing & cider caramel sauce | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’m not usually a huge fan of naked cakes. They can feel a little too hip and trendy for me, but I guess I live in Brooklyn so I should probably just get over that. I also feel like the whole point of icing a cake is to seal it under a thick delicious layer of sugar and fat to keep it from drying out or going stale. This time around though, I had this whole big bright idea to coat the cake layers in cinnamon and sugar rather than icing to really drive home the cider doughnut point.

We all make mistakes.

Even me. Even after two years of blogging.

apple cider doughnut cake with mascarpone icing & cider caramel sauce | Brooklyn Homemaker

I was really stuck on this idea of coating the cake layers in sparkly cinnamon sugar, so I brushed each one with some melted butter and pressed the sugar into it. Then I stacked away and sandwiched a thick blanket of icing between each layer. The icing squeezed out the sides a little as I stacked, and at first looked imperfect and rustic in a charming sort of way. Once I went ahead with the caramel drizzle though, I had a disaster on my hands.

Rather than drizzling evenly and elegantly down the sides of the cake, as soon as the caramel reached the icing it pooled and dripped and ran all over the place. I did my best to control the way I drizzled and poured to get the look I wanted, but to no avail. You’ll just have to trust me when I say that it looked really terrible. Even Russell, who generally knows to bite his tongue when I’m in the kitchen, had to admit that it wasn’t my best work. I mean, it’d still taste great but it certainly wasn’t going to photograph well, and this is a special occasion!

As fate would have it, Russell had friends visiting from LA and of course they rang the buzzer almost at the exact moment that I realized things weren’t going my way. I was already getting frustrated, and with guests coming through the kitchen with suitcases I started to get really embarrassed too. I try to project an image of domestic perfection through my blog, so when things don’t turn out perfectly I feel like it reflects poorly on me and my abilities as a baker and blogger. I was so upset and embarrassed by my cake that I actually just stood in front of it as our guests were coming in, trying to block it from view as they were getting settled. I knew I was being ridiculous, but that just made me feel even worse and I could feel my temper getting away from me. Rather than risk a blowout in front of people I barely knew, I put the cake in the fridge for a few minutes and went to sit and chat with our guests. Once I’d calmed down a little I felt brave enough to take the cake back out of the fridge and see what I could do with it. Luckily I had a bit of icing and caramel left over, so I scraped the mess off the sides and set to work with an icing spatula. Once the sides were nice and smooth, the caramel poured down the cake like a dream!
Phew! Crisis (and tantrum) averted.

apple cider doughnut cake with mascarpone icing & cider caramel sauce | Brooklyn Homemaker

This cake. Oh boy. This cake.
What can I say?

This cake is out of control. It’s a true celebration cake in every sense.
The cake itself is unbelievably moist and tender and springy, just like a fresh apple cider doughnut. It’s rich, subtly spiced, and just sweet enough; and just like an apple cider doughnut it has a delicate yet distinct apple-y flavor.
To add an adult, elegant touch I opted for a mascarpone cream icing rather than whipped cream or cream cheese. This was a new recipe to me, which can sometimes be risky, but in this case the risk really paid off. I think this might seriously be my new favorite icing, and it’s the absolute perfect compliment to this cake. Thick, creamy, rich, and just sweet enough. It has a texture almost like whipped cream, but somehow richer and thicker and more decadent (and certainly more stable at room temperature)
Then of course, there’s the caramel sauce. I don’t have words for just how good this stuff is. It’s insane, like eating a caramel apple, in sweet buttery sauce form. It’s made by reducing and reducing and reducing apple cider until thick and syrupy; then adding butter, cream, brown sugar, a bit of spice, and a touch of salt. I should have guessed this, but with this sauce the lost cinnamon sugar coating wasn’t even missed.
The sugary chubby little doughnuts on top aren’t absolutely necessary, but they sure are cute, and I really think they make this cake sing.

I couldn’t have asked for a better cake to celebrate my second anniversary. Here’s to many more to come, and here’s to you guys! Thanks for reading, and commenting, and thanks for coming along for the ride!

apple cider doughnut cake with mascarpone icing & cider caramel sauce | Brooklyn Homemaker

Apple Cider Doughnut Layer Cake with Spiced Mascarpone Icing and Apple Cider Caramel Drizzle

Apple Cider Doughnut Cake:
(adapted from Serious Eats)
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature (plus more for pans)
2 medium cooking apples like Cortland or MacIntosh, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
2 cups apple cider
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for pans)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Additional for assembly:
3 fresh apple cider doughnuts (optional)

For the Cake:
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Brush the bottoms of 3 eight inch cake pans with butter. Place 8″ circles of parchment in the pans, and generously brush pans all over with butter and coat with flour, tapping out any excess.

In medium saucepan, bring chopped apple and cider to boil over medium-high heat. As apple begins to fall apart, stir and whisk with a fork to try to mash and break it up as much as possible. Reduce heat slightly and simmer and reduce, stirring frequently, until mixture measures exactly 1 1/2 cups, about 20 minutes or so. Cool at least 5 minutes in a large measuring cup before mixing in buttermilk and vanilla. Set aside.

In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add oil and beat until incorporated, about 1 minute.

Decrease mixer speed to low and add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with apple mixture, scraping down sides and bottom of bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Increase speed to medium and beat mixture just until combined, about 30 seconds.

Evenly divide batter between prepared pans. Bake until cake tester inserted in cake comes out clean, rotating cakes halfway through baking, about 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer cakes to cooling rack for about 20 or 30 minutes, before carefully removing the cakes from the pans to cool the rest of the way.

Cool completely, about 1 hour, before assembly. Just before assembly, remove parchment if still stuck to the cakes.

Apple Cider Caramel Sauce: 
(adapted from Café Sucre Farine)
2 cups apple cider
½ cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
¾ cup heavy cream
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place apple cider in a medium heavy-bottomed pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to a high simmer, and cook until cider is reduced to ¼ cup. It should get a bit thick and syrupy. The thicker it gets the closer you need to watch it to be sure it doesn’t dry out or burn.
Add butter to the pan and heat until melted. Add the sugar, cream, salt and spices and whisk to combine. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 7 minutes, stirring frequently.
Remove from heat and add vanilla extract, stirring to combine.

Mixture will thicken as it cools.

You’ll likely have more sauce than you need for this cake. Any extra should be kept in the refrigerator to be eaten with a spoon at midnight.

Spiced Mascarpone Cream Icing:
(adapted from Fine Cooking)
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
1 lb. (16 oz) mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream until it begins to thicken and form soft peaks. In a separate bowl, stir together the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla, spices, and salt until smooth and well combined. Transfer mascarpone mixture to bowl with thickened cream and beat on low speed until almost smooth, 30 to 60 seconds. Scrape down the sides and fold to incorporate. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until the mixture is thick and holds firm peaks, another 30 to 60 seconds. Do NOT overbeat or the frosting will become grainy.

Assemble Cake:
Place the first cake layer on an 8″ cardboard cake round, serving plate, or cake stand. If necessary, trim the top with a cake leveler or sharp serrated knife to create a flat surface. Top with about 1/3 of the mascarpone cream icing and evenly smooth out with an icing spatula. Add the next layer, trim and ice with the same amount of icing, then add the third layer and trim flat as necessary. Top the third layer with about half of the remaining icing, and smooth it out as flat as possible. Spread the remaining icing in a very thin smooth layer over the sides of the cake, and put it in the refrigerator to firm up for about 30 minutes.

Top the cake with about 3/4 to 1 cup of the cooled caramel sauce, carefully and evenly drizzling some down the sides.

If desired, top the finished cake with 3 small fresh apple cider doughnuts.

This cake will keep well in a cake saver at room temperature for up to 3 days, if the weather is not too hot or humid. Otherwise, wrap tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature for at least an hour before serving.

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65 comments

  1. Wow, your cake looks super amazing! Happy Anniversary, your blog is just beautiful. Thanks so much for the link too. I’m thrilled that you love that caramel sauce as much as we do. It’s quite dangerous to have it in the house as it’s just too easy to scoop up a bit of vanilla ice cream and add a drizzle (or more). :)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Everything about this cake and these photos is absolutely perfect!! I’m especially in love with that last shot of all the slices. Congratulations on hitting the two-year mark, and I’m looking forward to seeing what year three (and beyond) has in store for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tux, this cake is the bomb! Congratulations on your anniversary. I love watching your beautiful work. I really enjoyed your comments on posting. I got caught up in the numbers for a while and wasn’t enjoying what I was doing. I got real with myself and now am doing what I enjoy. I may post to many breads, but hey, I love baking bread! I had to laugh about your frustration because I can really relate!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Happy blogging anniversary Tux! What a gorgeous cake to celebrate with too! Every part of this delicious layered cake has be craving a slice. And your photos look like an old Dutch masterpiece still life! That golden light and all the beautiful fruit scattered on the table. Cake, that’s my kind of art.
    A note on blogger tantrums/melt-downs. Oh I feel your pain. And my fiance feels your husband’s pain too….

    Liked by 1 person

  5. wow. absolutely gorgeous cake and stunning photos. and congratulations on your 2 year anniversary! i’m brand new to your blog (and brand new to blogging myself), but you had me at cider, caramel and doughnuts. and upstate ny and the speidie! i too hail from upstate and it’s rare to find the person that values (or knows) the speidie and a perfect fall doughnut. i look forward to seeing what you come up with next!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Cathy! So great to meet a fellow upstater! I buy a bottle of Spiedie sauce every time I go home, and my husband (from LA) loves it! He loves salt potatoes even more. I had no idea they were a regional thing until moving to NYC and people didn’t know what they were. They’re so simple, and SO GOOD! I make them for BBQs every summer and all my friends here are obsessed with them now. Bringing a little upstate down to the big city, one recipe at a time!

      Like

  6. Congratulations on 2 years of blogging! Just found this post and had to say that this cake looks like a phenomenal way to celebrate – love how you dipped the layers in cinnamon sugar, and all the apple caramel and spiced mascarpone just sound heavenly. Great idea to top with doughnuts too! :)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This was the first thing I saw when I woke up Thursday morning, and just…oh, my god. I can’t. Pajama-clad at 6 am, I turned to my husband and said dramatically “DID YOU SEE WHAT TUX DID?!” Then I died and was reborn again, into a caramel-y, cake-y, cinnamon-sugary dreamland where I was eating this cake and everything was right in the world.

    This is seriously so amazing, there are no words! So instead, I’ll congratulate you on your 2nd blogging birthday! I’m so grateful for you and your blog – watching your writing and photography develop these past few years (year? years? However long we’ve been blogging friends lol) has been an absolute honor and pleasure. I always look forward to your posts and your blog is such an inspiration to me, over here in my little corner in Ohio! Whether you know it or not, your talent and dedication pushes me to be a better blogger, and I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels that way! Your genuine passion and love for baking/cooking/homemaking comes through in the most authentic way, and I absolutely LOVE your philosophy of putting this passion first, above and beyond the somewhat constricting norms of blogging that can easily suck the joy out of the whole process.

    This cake is drop dead gorgeous! I love that we always seem to be leading parallel lives – if you remember, I also made a cake for the blog’s second birthday, but unlike mine, your cake is actually stunning and amazing lol

    I hope you never stop blogging, because I think there’d legit be a huge void in my life! Unless of course, at some point you start a bakery or a farm or a culinary school and you’re too busy living your dreams to keep writing about them :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow Lindsay. I don’t know what to say!
      Thank you sooooooooo much!

      I always look forward to your comments so much, they mean so much to me! I’m so glad that we get to be such good (blogger) friends and we’re such an inspiration to each other!
      Sometimes when I’m not happy with the way a recipe or a photo is coming out, I think “I wonder what would Lindsay think of this? Is it worth posting or should I ditch it?” There have been two posts I’ve abandoned recently because I decided they weren’t good enough for you (or for Brooklyn Homemaker).

      I totally thought about you and the struggles you had with your anniversary cake when I had my little caramel issue. Just as I was about to go into temper tantrum mode myself I tried to remind myself you had issues with your cake too and you powered through and made it work (beautifully). Your cake looked pretty amazing to me and I definitely don’t think you can down play how delicious it looked!

      Every time I see an interesting ice cream flavor (or now, a box of Teddy Grahams) I think of you. Yesterday Russell ran out for tortillas and came home with a pint of CoolHaus made with figs, balsamic, and mascarpone. Do you have CoolHaus in Ohio? Have we talked (commented) about this already?
      I’m so so glad we’ve found each other, and I hope you never stop blogging, and making ice cream, (and eating ice cream) either, unless of course it’s so you can open your own gourmet ice cream shop!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Aww, you’re the best! Are we in love a little bit? I think we might be. And our husbands are just gunna have to deal with it!!! lol

        It’s so funny how much pressure we put on ourselves with the blogging stuff – It’s always so worth it in the end, but my God, if I don’t spend half my week stressing about it sometimes! Having awesome, supportive, and talented friends on the other side of the screen makes it so much easier, doesn’t it ? :)

        I really wish we had CoolHaus around here – I follow them on Instagram and stalk them like a big weirdo, but unfortunately I haven’t seen them around here yet (granted, I haven’t checked in the Big City, aka Cleveland, so don’t quote me on that). I’ll just have to try it when I head out to the Real Big City for our If the Spoon Fits/Brooklyn Homemaker collaboration!!!!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. This cake looks amazing and I would love to try and make it. Just 2 questions: in the very top photo, the un-iced cake layers seem to be covered in cinnamon sugar. However there is no mention of doing this in the actual recipe. Also, is the apple cider you use an alcoholic one? Would apple juice work instead?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Julie! Thanks for commenting! I’m so happy you’re going to make this cake, it’s one of my absolute favorite things I’ve ever posted here!
      I actually have a big party coming up and jumped at an excuse to make this cake one more time! :)

      So- my original idea for this cake was to have a coating of cinnamon and sugar on each layer, just like an apple cider doughnut, but as I mentioned in the post, when I went to assemble the cake the icing squeezed out between the layers and the caramel didn’t want to drizzle properly so I had to do a thin coat of icing all over the entire cake. Once this was done the cinnamon and sugar were dissolved and absorbed by the icing, so in the final recipe I left this step out. Since it didn’t come together the way I’d initially envisioned, it now just seems to be an unnecessary extra step.

      As for the cider, I used non-alcoholic fresh pressed apple cider. It’s basically just unfiltered apple juice and it’s very common in the northeast in the fall, but if you can’t find it regular 100% apple juice should work just fine.

      I hope that helps! And I hope you enjoy this cake as much as I do!!!!

      Like

  9. Ok so I just made this cake and it is sitting in my fridge as I type, but now I’m freaking out! First of all- the cake and frosting are delicious! But I’m serving the cake tomorrow evening and as I was assembling the cake I started getting really worried that the cake is going to be too moist and mushy when people go to eat it tomorrow. When you said the cake stays good wrapped tightly in the refrigerator for 3 days, did you mean just the actual cake layers before it is assembled? Or after it is assembled? I assumed you meant assembled since that tip was listed at the very end, but I’m second guessing that now. Does the whipped cream in the frosting start to deflate and get all watery like plain whipped cream does? I’m going to die if I serve a mushy cake tomorrow…eeek!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Courtney!

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I’m so thrilled that you made this cake, and that you liked the cake and icing so far! I’m actually making this cake again this weekend for a party and I can’t wait!

      To answer your question- No need to freak out! You were right in thinking I meant the assembled cake could be stored for up to three days in the fridge! Just be sure to take it out at least an hour before serving so it can come to room temp! Nothing worse than ice cold cake (in my opinion anyway, hahahaha!)

      For whatever reason, the mascarpone helps to stabilize the whipped cream so it doesn’t deflate or melt. I think it might be the acid used to make the cheese, but I’m really not sure. I just know that it works! Hahaha! I’ve actually been using all sorts of variations on this icing recipe, and as long as the mascarpone is in there, the whipped cream doesn’t deflate! It’s definitely much softer than a normal buttercream, but your cake won’t get soggy from it.

      I hope your guests love it as much as I do!!! Please drop back by and let me know!

      Like

  10. Hello! I made the cake for an event for this evening and let me just tell you it is FANTASTIC! I’d love to send you a pic. I could not find apple cider doughnuts in St. Louis this weekend so I did without. But I made a little mini bowl of cake from leftover tops of the cake, frosting and caramel and ate it for breakfast this morning. NOM NOM NOM. Thanks for a beautiful and fantastic recipe. I can’t wait to serve it tonight :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you soooo much for your comment Kristin!
      I’m so happy to hear how well the cake turned out. I’m actually in the middle of baking it again myself for a party I’m going to tonight!
      I’d love to see a photo – if you’re on instagram please tag me (@tuxeda) or you can email me at brooklynhomemaker@gmail.com

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment. It really puts a big smile on my face when I know people are enjoying my recipes so much!

      Like

  11. I know I’m late to the party, but this cake looks gorgeous! My daughter chose it for her 13th birthday in a few days. I’m a pretty confident baker, but I have a quick question — would it work for me to make the caramel sauce ahead of time? Thank you! We are looking forward to trying this recipe! I just discovered your blog, and love it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Beth! Thank you so much for your comment! You can absolutely make the caramel ahead and store it in the fridge until you’re ready for it. If you wanted, you could also make the cider & Apple reduction for the cake ahead too!
      I hope your daughter has a wonderful birthday and that everyone loves this cake!

      Like

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