Applejack Cake – A Vintage Sour Cream Spice #Cake Recipe with Apple Pie Filling and a Silky Sour Cream Frosting

Applejack Sour Cream Spice Slice on an autumn plate Bake This CakeGet your Autumn party started with our Applejack Cake — a delightful sour cream spice cake (also affectionately known as an apple spike cake for the apple brandy that you may want to brush over the layers). It’s totally loaded right down the middle with a slow-cooked brown sugar and cinnamon apple pie filling then top-layered with a silky smooth sour cream frosting.

The best Autumn party cake money cannot buy — cause it’s handmade at home using a simple turn-of-the-Century cake recipe made modern for country folks and city slickers alike.

Applejack Vintage Sour Cream Spice Cake recipe BakeThisCake

All the charm of gentle Autumn spices and brown sugar gathered up into a moist and tender old-fashioned dessert cake – that I’m thinkin’ will rock your holiday entertaining! Or maybe just one sweet slice on a pretty plate by the fireside to share with your honey. 🙂

Cracklin Cozy Fireplace Bake This Cake

Layered with a fresh apple filling made from 3 pounds (count em!) of slow-cooked apples, it tastes like a slice of grandma’s apple pie tucked in between two moist layers of cake.Apple Filling for Applejack Sour Cream Spice Cake BakeThisCake

The Season Starts with a Neighborhood Party at our House!
Annual Halloween House bat flyer Bake This CakeEvery year about this time, I’m getting ready to swing the doors of my house wide open for an old-fashioned neighborhood Halloween party that’s sponsored by our local property owners’ association.

Originally, the Annual Halloween House was conceived as a way-station for neighborhood trick-or-treaters. Maybe the kids could sit a spell with their parents on the lawn — or they could check out their burgeoning candy loot by the fireplace with a mug of hot cocoa. But over the last decades it has grown to a full-on costume party chili feast for neighbors, their family and friends.

Knollwood Annual Halloween Party Collage
The graveyard out front is kid-friendly (not too scary for the little ones) and we always cheer the arrival of our special guests — the local Fire Marshal and the fire fighters from Local 18 — who roll up in their gorgeous red fire engines with sirens blaring.

Skeleton wtih hay hair Bake This Cake

I make 4 giant pots of chili, corn dogs, salads, sides and dessert for up to 250 guests. Sparkling green punch is served to the kids from a giant black cauldron (laced with a hunk of dry ice for that fun smokin’ effect) while the adults toast the night with their own witch’s brew (laced with…well, brew).

Secret Weapon for a Big Party at Home!

Now remember, I’m a very busy working solo mom, so this kind of large party on the homefront every year works ONLY by virtue of one special tool (besides a little help from family and friends)…THE STRIKE-OUT LIST! (And a very long list it is!)

Ghost meringue Halloween cookies Bake This CakeThe List lives in my computer and is quite detailed — about 10 pages long, single-spaced. I crack it open in August (yeah, I hear you) and I start meddling with it in the evenings during the 11 o’clock news. (I’m big on displaying strike-outs as tasks get completed and yellow highlighting.) By mid-September The List moves to the kitchen laptop so it’s front and center. I’m regularly whittling it away with house repairs, garden spiffing and general menu planning. But it will stay alive, strike-out by strike-out, through the ordering of rental tables and chairs, through the unpacking of lawn and house decorations, through many shopping trips for food and supplies, the building of the graveyard, the set-up of the buffet tables, decorating and prep-prep-prepping of the food. I always seem to need more lights and at least one new lawn decoration (that I buy on Halloween’s Eve for last-minute discounts).

Since the chili takes about 8 hours of slow cooking, I fire up those big pots at dawn on the day of the party. I don’t have a recipe — I just wing it with tomatoes, masa, ground sirloin and chili spices. Every year I add a different “experimental” ingredient to one of the 4 pots of chili. Last year I used a sweet cornbread recipe in one, and the year before I added beer, the year prior maple syrup and balsamic vinegar. So guests can choose their weapons and select: Kid Friendly, Mild Mannered, Spicy or Experimental. I might add a vegetarian bean chili this year and see if I get any takers…but I’ll have to use a slow cooker cause there’s no more room on the stove. 🙂

Pumpkin Portrait Bake This CakeBut The List goes on with cross-outs and highlights until just before sundown on October 31st — when I run around lighting candles, turning on the graveyard lights and twirling the wine in the metal ice buckets.

It’s not a gourmet food event. We’re doing simple all-American food, but I think it’s more about the people. I believe it’s quite unusual these days to see a nice big annual neighborhood gathering. Like, how common could that be? So I’m gonna work my tail off again this year to make it all come together for some light-hearted fun, food and fellowship.

The cake, the cake, tell me about the Applejack Cake already!

Woman's Exchange Cook 1901 Bake This Cake

This recipe starts with a Cream Spice Cake found in the 1901 (original about 1894) “Woman’s Exchange Cook Book: A New and Complete American Culinary Encyclopedia Containing Facts Worth Knowing, Health Suggestions, Care of the Sick, Table Etiquette, Dinner Giving, Menus, Household, Toilet and Cooking Recipes”. Wow, what a title! It was edited by Mrs. Minnie Palmer using recipes presumably gathered from the Woman’s Exchange operations “with the approval of Mrs. J. B. Lyon, President of the Woman’s Exchange, Chicago, Illinois”. For further exploration of the history of the Woman’s Exchange movement, you may wish to see our post for Sour Cream Pound Cake and an Amazing Group of Women Helping Women.

Although the old-fashioned spice cakes were moist and light in texture, folks back then liked their cakes WAY SPICY! SO –we had to whittle down the original clover and nutmeg quantities (by lots!) to get it just right. Yeah, our first test cake tasted like pepper! Oh no!

SO, pardon the revisions but it just had to be done! Now its gentle and sweet, has 3 large eggs (instead of the optional 5 yolks) and smells of wafting pumpkin spice. All taste testers have given the final version (set out below) a perfect thumbs up! whoo hoo!

spices for vintage sour cream spice cake recipe bake this cake

You don’t have to, but you can kick it up a notch for the adults with a little hard apple cider sprinkle on the cake and YO! — you’ve got a party cake on your hands!

P.S. You may want to sample this year’s Halloween House Cocktail called a Jack Rose — using 2 parts Applejack, 1 part fresh lemon juice or lime juice and 1/2 part Grenadine.

Applejack Jack Rose Cocktail wiki public domain photo by Anthony Covello

I love the golden brown sugar batter in this cake. And I think the sour cream brings out the richness and adds a lovely moisture to the texture for that old-fashioned cake-perfect result.Brown sugar batter with sour cream for spice cake bake this cakeOkay, let’s bring Autumn on and do this Applejack Sour Cream Spice Cake thing!

Applejack Vintage Sour Cream Spice Cake

Tools needed for making the cake:
Cooking spray
Parchment paper (for lining cake pans)
2 cake pans, 9″ each (but you could do this loaf style too)
2 Large bowls (one for pre-mixing the dry ingredients, one for the batter)
Electric mixer
Measuring cups and spoons

Applejack Sour Cream Spice Cake Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter, unsalted, room temperature
2 cups golden brown sugar, gently packed
3 large eggs
1 cup sour cream (not reduced fat)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Optional: 2 to 3 Tablespoons of good quality apple brandy or hard apple cide and a pastry brush (or spoon) for basting
Tip: If you’re using fresh spices, like grating a nutmeg nut, use a little less of the spice to achieve a soft spice taste.

Place rack in center position and heat oven to 350.
Spray two 9″ cake pans with cooking spray, line with parchment, then spray again.

Gathering ingredients…

Butter and Brown Sugar for Applejack Sour Cream Spice Cake Bake This Cake

Using your electric mixer, beat for about 1 minute on high-speed:
1/2 cup butter, unsalted, room temperature

Add into the creamed butter, slowly at first, then beating on high for 3 minutes:
2 cups golden brown sugar, gently packed
Tip: Use your finger tips or a sifter to be sure your brown sugar has no hard lumps.

Eggs and Sour Cream for Vintage Sour Cream Spice Cake Bake This Cake

Beat into the butter-sugar mixture on high-speed for about 2 minutes:
3 large eggs

Beat into the butter-sugar mixture on high-speed for about 2 minutes:
1 cup sour cream

Here are the wet ingredients in progress: butter, sugar and eggs, sour cream, and the final first-half batter…
Applejack Sour Cream Spice Cake Batter Prep Collage Bake This Cake

Gathering the dry ingredients…

Dry Ingredients for Sour Cream Spice Cake Bake This Cake

In a large bowl, whisk together to fully blend:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Blend into the batter on medium speed for about 1 minute:
the prepared dry ingredients

Divide the batter evenly between the 2 prepared cake pans.

Here are the dry ingredients in progress: gathering, whisking, beating into the wet ingredients, and dividing the batter between the cake pans…

Adding Dry Ingredients to Applejack Sour Cream Spice Cake Bake This Cake

Bake at 350 for 30 to 35 mins until golden brown and center toothpick test shows clean, making sure the center of the cake is fully risen to level or higher position, or to an internal temperature at center-position of about 195 degrees.

Tip: From the various tests we ran on this cake, it may deflate if poked too soon in the baking process so be sure the cake is a nice golden brown before pressing gently on the top center or testing the top center with a toothpick or a temperature probe.
Double tip: If one of your cakes deflates slightly when tested, don’t worry, just quickly pop it back in the oven and continue baking until the center levels out.
Triple Tip: If you filled one cake pan with a little more batter than the other cake pan (which can easily happen), consider trimming the larger one to match so that both cake layers are just about or exactly even.

Cut around the edges of the pans and remove to a wire rack, remove the parchment paper.

Optional Applejack Baste: While cakes are warm, use a pastry brush to gently pat on (or sprinkle with a spoon):
1/4 cup of Applejack apple brandy or other good quality apple brandy (like Calvados…or your homemade hard cider)

Sour Cream Spice Cake Cooling Bake This Cake3-Pound Apple Cake Filling aka Apple Pie Cake Filling:

Wash, peel, core and slice:
3 lbs Washington Gala Apples, or other favorite apples, red or green

Tip: I used the amazing OXO apple corer for total apple project prep time in 5 minutes flat!

3 pound Apple Filling Prep Collage BakeThisCake

Using a heavy pan if possible, cook on low heat covered with a lid for 35 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the apples just become tender:
the prepared and sliced apples
1 Tablespoon butter unsalted
4 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspooon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch salt

3 Pound Apple Filling Final Prep Collage Bake This Cake

Add and cook on medium low heat uncovered for 15 mins, stirring occasionally, until the apples are very tender and most of the juices have disappeared (the final apple filling should not have watery juices remaining):
2/3 cup golden brown sugar gently packed (checking it with your fingers to remove any lumps)

Chop the apples into small dices (I used an old dough-cutting tool inside the pot).

Reserve 1 cup of the final apple filling (to use for decoration around the bottom rim of the cake).

Spread apple filling on the top of the bottom layer cake while still warm and press into shape as needed at edges.

Apple Filling for Applejack Sour Cream Spice Cake BakeThisCakeThe apple filling should be nice and thick and very tasty to the taste buds.

If any apples overhang the edges of the cake, use a knife or spoon to push them back to become even with the sides of the cake.
3 Pound Apple Filling Side Close up Sour Cream Spice Cake Bake This CakeTurn over the top cake layer on top of the filled cake and check the cake to make sure the apples are nicely tucked in so that they don’t over hang.

Tip: If you want to leave the sides of the cake unfrosted, that’s great too, and, in that case, go ahead and let those apples spread out over the edge of the cake a bit.
Placing Top Cake over Apple Filling Vintage Spice Cake Bake This Cake Sour Cream-Cream Cheese Meringue Frosting:

This is a lovely silky-soft frosting that is not meant to have stiff peaks.

This frosting recipe uses a special ingredient that we’ve been experimenting with called dried meringue powder (it’s peanut and gluten free),

Meringue Powder for Sour Cream Cream Cheese Frossting Bake This Cake

If you don’t have meringue powder, that’s okay, just use less sour cream (down to 2 Tablespoons to reduce the liquid) plus add more powdered sugar as needed to achieve the consistency you desire.

Tools needed for Frosting:
Large mixing bowl
Electric Mixer
Measuring cups and spoons
1 Teaspoon (or fork, for placing the reserved apple pie filling around the bottom rim of the cake as a decoration)

Ingredients for Sour Cream Cream Cheese Meringue Frosting:
1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 cube), chilly but almost room temperature and chopped
1/2 cup sour cream
4 oz cream cheese (half of a large package)
2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup dry meringue powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, fine quality
Reserved 1 cup of apple pie filling for outer rim decoration

Beat on high-speed until fully blended for about 3 minutes:
1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 cube), chilly but almost room temperature and chopped
1/2 cup sour cream
4 oz cream cheese (half of a large package)

Beat into the creamy ingredients, slowly at first, increasing to high-speed for about 3 to 5 minutes:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup dry meringue powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, fine quality

Sour Cream Cream Cheese Frosting Collage Bake This CakeFrost the top and sides of the cake.

Using a teaspoon, place little chunks of the apple filling around the bottom rim of the cake.

This cake will hold in the fridge for a number of days (and may even be better chilled overnight and frosted just prior to serving (we’ve tried it so many ways now, I can’t decide which method is best). But they’re all awesome, I swear!
Apple Sauce Rimmed Sour Cream Spice Cake Bake This Cake Thank you for joining us for this little history cake adventure! I hope you had fun touring our annual Halloween party and checking out an historic spice cream cake made modern with just a few adaptations.

I hope you get the chance to try it (show us your photos and we’ll try to post them).

Please consider following us on Facebook where we show photos of test cakes in progress and ask for advice and guidance at all steps along the way from our incredible fans. Also check us out on Pinterest.



Leslie Macchiarella getting ready for the neighborhood Halloween party

You may also enjoy checking out some of our other old-fashioned dessert recipes (all with step-by-step photo instructions):

Homemade Pumpkin Bread Recipe
Old Fashioned Sour Cream Pound Cake
Betty’s Fresh Banana Layer Cake
Bread Crust Tiramisu
Lizzie’s Homemade Maraschino Cherry Cake
Homemade Graham Crackers

Macarons from Bottega Louie's Bake This Cake

Leslie with the fire fighters

Owl candles Bake This Cake

pumpkin decoration Bake This Cake

19 thoughts on “Applejack Cake – A Vintage Sour Cream Spice #Cake Recipe with Apple Pie Filling and a Silky Sour Cream Frosting

  1. This looks amazing! If I made this with a buttercream frosting, would it keep at room temp? I’m mainly wondering about the filling, if it needs to be in the fridge or not. Thanks!

    • Buttercream frosting generally holds nicely on the counter for about 2 days but, with all the apple pie filling in this Applejack cake, I worry that it might start to ooze out the sides a bit so keep your eye on it for that reason or spread the filling to slightly less than the actual edge of the cake to prevent “weeping” through the frosting. You might even make a little border of buttercream around the edge of the filling before frosting to prevent any spillage of the filling. Best, Leslie

      • Sorry I’m asking again. I know the frosting would be fine, but what about the filling? Would it spoil?

      • Sorry, June, I was not clear, you’re right. Assuming normal room temperature with buttercream frosting, this cake should do fine on the counter for 1 or 2 days (perhaps in a covered cake holder or loosely covered and away from the sun). The sugar in the apple filling acts as a sort of preservative just the way an apple pie can sit on the counter for a day or 2 in normal room temperature.

  2. Hi your recipes are amazing! I just made the Heirloom Vanilla Custard Frosting it tastes just like my mom used to make. I can’t wait to try this Applejack cake. I do like mine on the spicy side, maybe not as spicy as the original. Could you tell me the original spice amounts and maybe I can find a happy medium? Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful recipes!

    • So glad you enjoyed making the Heirloom Vanilla Custard Frosting! If you want to go spicier on the Applejack Cake you’ll want to add freshly ground pepper and mace and increase the amount of cloves. We found quite a bit of variation in the old recipes but overall many were peppered with more clove taste. If you find a great hot-spice blend for this cake, please let us know.

  3. Pingback: Parties and Entertaining | Momtrends

  4. Oh MY! This looks so delish and devilish at the same time…perfect treat for Halloween…and Leslie you look so innocent on the outside…haha! 😉

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