Cinnamon apple cakes are one of my favorite fall desserts! This particular apple cinnamon cake recipe features moist cinnamon cake layers, a fresh spiced apple filling, and a snickerdoodle buttercream for an extra burst of flavor. The result is an apple snickerdoodle layer cake that’s part cookie and part pie for a delectable fall dessert that checks all the boxes.
While the snickerdoodles add a nice touch, they’re not a required ingredient! If you don’t have any on hand (or don’t have the time to make them), simply omit the snickerdoodle cookie crust and make a classic apple cinnamon layer cake instead. The spiced apple filling in this cake is similar to my mini apple pies with salted caramel.
If you’d rather watch a video than read these tips, check out my video for this recipe!
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Ingredients for Apple Snickerdoodle Layer Cake
These lists may look like a lot of ingredients for an apple cinnamon cake, but a lot of them repeat! You’ll need classic baking ingredients along with some apples, snickerdoodles, and warm fall spices.
Ingredients for the Cinnamon Snickerdoodle Cake Layers
- Snickerdoodle cookies. Part of the cookie crust, this gives the cinnamon cake a distinctly snickerdoodle flavor.
- All-purpose flour. Nothing fancy here; use all-purpose flour for a structured but tender crumb.
- Baking powder. Double-acting baking powder gives this cake a lift.
- Cream of tartar. This gives snickerdoodles their tang, and cream of tartar also helps our cinnamon cake rise.
- Salt. Just a pinch helps to enhance all the flavors.
- Ground cinnamon. The main flavoring for this cake, ground cinnamon is a must.
- Butter. Butter helps to keep this cake tender and moist. Use salted or unsalted butter.
- Neutral oil. I use vegetable or canola oil most often, but you can use any neutral oil you have on hand.
- Granulated sugar. In addition to its sweet taste, sugar also makes this cake moist.
- Vanilla extract. A couple teaspoons amplifies the cake-y flavor.
- Eggs. Eggs contain emulsifiers and proteins that help hold the cake together.
- Milk. Whole, 2%, or oat milk are best, but use what you have on hand!
For the Spiced Apple Filling and Cinnamon Buttercream
- Butter. I use salted for the apple filling and unsalted for the buttercream.
- Brown sugar. This gives the apple filling a delicious and slight molasses-y flavor.
- Apples. For the best flavor, use a mix of sweet and tart apples. I like using Pink Lady mixed with Fuji apples for a well-rounded apple flavor.
- Lemon juice. The acidity balances nicely with the apples.
- Spices: Cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and ginger. These make the apple filling taste like fall!
- Powdered sugar. This makes up the bulk of our buttercream.
- Vanilla extract. Cinnamon buttercream tastes best with a little bit of vanilla.
- Milk. I use a few teaspoons in my buttercream to smooth out any possible grittiness.
How to Make Cinnamon Cake Layers
This moist cinnamon cake is made via the creaming method. Cream together butter, neutral oil, and granulated sugar until fluffy and aerated, then beat in the vanilla and eggs one at a time. Continue beating the batter until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Then, add in a third of the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, cream of tartar, salt, and cinnamon), half of the milk, another third of the dry ingredients, the last of the milk, and the last of the dry ingredients.
By alternating the rest of the dry and wet ingredients, you limit the chance of overmixing the batter and creating too much gluten. Gluten is great for breads, but it makes for a very tough cake. By gently mixing the cake together, we ensure a moist and tender cinnamon cake crumb.
If you haven’t already, stir together some butter and snickerdoodle cookie crumbs for a cookie crust on the bottom layer of the cake. Spread the crust around the bottom of one cake pan, then divide the cinnamon cake batter evenly among the three pans.
Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350°F/175°, until the tops of the cakes are lightly golden brown and the cakes start to pull away from the edges of the cake pans. Let cool in the pans for 5-10 minutes, then turn out onto cooling racks to finish cooling.
Apple Snickerdoodle Layer Cake’s Spiced Apple Filling
I like to make this spiced apple cake filling before I bake the cakes. It takes a while for the apples to cool down before you can add them to the apple snickerdoodle layer cake.
To make the spiced apple filling, chop four to five medium apples into ½” pieces. Add to a saucepan with brown sugar, lemon juice, butter, and spices, and cook for 10-15 minutes until the apples have softened. Stir frequently to ensure even cooking.
Once the apples have softened to your liking, remove about a cup of cooked apples from the mixture. Set aside to cool, then blend the rest of the apples into a chunky apple butter. I use an immersion blender, but you can also use a regular blender. Set aside to cool completely before using.
How to Make Cinnamon Buttercream
The easiest part of this apple snickerdoodle layer cake: the cinnamon buttercream!
Beat together butter and powdered sugar in a large bowl until fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. For the smoothest buttercream, make sure your powdered sugar is sifted. Mine was not, and I had quite a few clumps that I had to get rid of later.
Then, add the cinnamon, vanilla extract, and a splash or two of milk and beat for another five minutes. This will ensure a super fluffy buttercream that spreads nicely.
Once fluffy, remove about two cups of cinnamon buttercream and place it in another bowl. Add snickerdoodle cookie crumbs and stir together until combined. Use the snickerdoodle buttercream underneath the spiced apple layer to absorb a little extra moisture and add more snickerdoodle flavor.
How to Assemble Apple Snickerdoodle Layer Cake
Do not frost a partially-cooled cake. If running low on time, wrap a slightly warm cake in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge until it is fully chilled. Frosting and filling a warm cake will only result in goopy buttercream, a lack of structural integrity, and probably a few frustrated tears (speaking from experience!).
To layer your cake, place a dollop of cinnamon buttercream on a cake round or cake plate on a cake turner and firmly press the cake round with the snickerdoodle cookie crust onto it. I like to put the cookie crust on the bottom, but it will require more buttercream to prevent it from sliding around.
Apply a large dollop of the cinnamon buttercream and press a cinnamon cake layer onto it. Spread about a cup of snickerdoodle buttercream onto the cake layer, then pipe a ring of cinnamon buttercream around the layer.
Add half of the spiced apple filling and half of the reserved apple pieces, then top with another cake layer. Repeat.
Once your third layer is in place, spread a light coating of buttercream around the top and edges of the cake to seal in any crumbs. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, then frost with the remaining buttercream. Smooth with a bench scraper for perfect edges.
Top with a few swirls of cinnamon buttercream and top with snickerdoodle cookie wedges, if desired.
FAQs about Apple Snickerdoodle Layer Cake
No, you can make it in 9″ round pans with no adjustments like I did in my full walkthrough video for this recipe on YouTube, or you can halve the entire recipe (cake ingredients, filling ingredients, and buttercream) and make it into a 6″ layer cake.
Nope, you don’t! I like the extra flavor they provide, but you can omit the snickerdoodles and easily make this an apple cinnamon layer cake instead.
I haven’t tried it myself, but you should have good success with a 1:1 gluten-free flour blend.
Other Recipes You May Enjoy
This apple snickerdoodle layer cake is part cookie, part cake, and part pie all at the same time. My mini apple pies taste just like the spiced apple filling in this cinnamon cake, just with some extra salted caramel sauce drizzled on top.
Dish Cleanup: Dish Mountain
I rate my recipe cleanups on a scale of 1 to 5. 1 is only a handful of dishes, and 5 is everything including the kitchen sink.
This apple snickerdoodle layer cake recipe has a cleanup rating of a 5. Each of the components has an easy cleanup rating of a 2 or a 3, but when all combined, it makes for a dish mountain. That’s pretty typical for layer cakes, and this apple cinnamon cake is a worthy way to celebrate fall baking season.
To cut down on the dishes you have to do at once, make the cakes and the spiced apple filling the day before you plan to assemble. Then, on assembly day, make the cinnamon buttercream. You’ll only have half the dishes to do each day that way!
Apple Snickerdoodle Layer Cake Recipe
For the Cinnamon Snickerdoodle Cake Layers
- 3 snickerdoodle cookies (about 180 g)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour (420 g)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder (10 g)
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar (5 g)
- ½ teaspoon salt (2 g)
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (6 g)
- 9 Tablespoons butter, at room temperature (127 g), divided
- ½ cup vegetable oil (120ml)
- 2 cups granulated sugar (400 g)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (10 ml)
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup milk (240 ml)
For the Spiced Apple Filling
- 2 Tablespoons butter (28g)
- ½ cup brown sugar (110g)
- 4-5 medium apples
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- pinch of salt
For the Cinnamon Buttercream
- 1½ cups unsalted butter, at room temperature (339 g)
- 3½ cups powdered sugar (680 g)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 2-3 Tablespoons milk, as needed
- 5 snickerdoodle cookies
Making the Cinnamon Cakes
- Butter and flour three 8" round pans, and preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C. Melt one Tablespoon of butter in a medium bowl, then break up three snickerdoodles into it with your hands or a fork. Mix the butter and crumbs until combined, then press into the bottom of one cake pan. Set aside.
- Combine flour, baking powder, cream of tartar, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl, cream together the remaining butter, vegetable oil, and sugar for 3-4 minutes until the mixture is white and fluffy.
- Beat in the vanilla extract and the eggs, one at a time, until the batter is light and aerated.
- With the mixer on low, add in about a third of flour mixture. Then stream in about half of the milk. Add another third of the flour mixture, the last half of the milk, and finally the rest of the flour mixture. Mix until just combined to prevent overbeating. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure everything is well mixed.
- Divide evenly into the three cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the cake is golden and the edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Let cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
Making the Spiced Apple Filling
- Dice the apples into ½" cubes.
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter on medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar, then add the diced apples, lemon juice, and spices. Stir occasionally and cook until the apples have softened, about 10-15 minutes.
- Remove one cup of cooked apple pieces and set aside. Blend or puree the remaining apple mixture until it looks like a chunky apple butter. Let both cool separately.
Making the Cinnamon Buttercream
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about two minutes. Add in powdered sugar one cup at a time, then the vanilla extract and cinnamon. Once combined, beat on medium for two minutes for a fluffy buttercream. Add 2-3 splashes of milk as needed.
Making the Snickerdoodle Buttercream Filling
- Put 1 ½ cups cinnamon buttercream in a medium bowl. Crumble three snickerdoodles on top of the buttercream, then fold together until well combined.
- If desired, place remaining cinnamon buttercream in a piping bag for easy filling and decorating.
Assembling the Cake
- Once the cake layers have cooled entirely, place a cake board or cake plate onto a nonslip mat on a cake turntable. Place a dollop of frosting in the middle of the cake board or plate. Center the cake layer with the snickerdoodle cookie crust on the board or plate.
- Pipe or spread an even layer of the snickerdoodle buttercream filling on top of the cake layer. Pipe a tall ring of cinnamon buttercream around the edge to prevent the apple filling from leaking out.
- Spread half of the pureed apples evenly in the center of the cake layer. Top with half of the diced apples, then place the next cake layer on top.
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 for the second layer.
- Place the last cake layer on top and press firmly to seal the edges. Use an offset spatula to smooth a thin layer of the cinnamon buttercream onto the edges and top of the cake to seal in the crumbs. Chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
- Once the buttercream has hardened, frost with nearly all the remaining buttercream. Use a scraper or offset spatula to smooth the sides, scraping the excess back into the mixer bowl. For ruler-straight edges, chill for an additional half hour or until hardened, then go over the edges with a scraper once more.
- Decorate as desired. I used a Wilton 2D tip to pipe small swirls on the top, then added wedges of snickerdoodle cookies.
Store any leftovers tightly wrapped in the fridge for up to five days.
This recipe can easily make a smaller layer cake! Simply halve the entire recipe (cakes, filling, and buttercream), and bake the cake batter in 6" cake pans for about 20 minutes until golden brown.
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DI ORO Silicone Spatula Set
Ateco Cast Iron and Non-Slip Pad Cake Stand, 12 inch, White
Ateco 4.5" Offset Stainless Steel Icing Spatula - Cake Frosting Filling Spreader
OXO Stainless Steel Bench Scraper
Wilton No. 2D Large Drop Flower Piping Tip
USA Pan Bakeware Nonstick Round Cake Pan, 8-Inch, Aluminized Steel
Serving Size:1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 613Total Fat: 32gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 108mgSodium: 230mgCarbohydrates: 79gFiber: 2gSugar: 57gProtein: 5g
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