Friday, October 4, 2013

Cider Cake

by Sheila Connolly

I know, I just gave you an apple cake recipe (and Cleo Coyle provided another intriguing apple recipe this week), but this is the week Golden Malicious was released (the seventh of the Orchard Mysteries), so it just seems wrong to talk about fish or vegetables.  Plus this is a different cake.

I’m also celebrating my first successful cider-making effort. In pursuit of all things apple, last year I acquired a small antique cider press.  Before you start imagining a room full of equipment, this one is table-top size (and also doubles as a sausage maker and lard press, but I don’t think I’m trying those functions) and has a container that holds maybe two quarts of material to be pressed.

I confess I tried this last year, but I made a fatal mistake:  I thought it would be all right if I just put the whole apples in the press and started cranking.  After a lot of apples, I ended up with one-half cup of cider. That was the end of the experiment for the year.

But this year I talked to a couple of people who know what they’re doing, and they said, grind or chop up the apples before pressing.  Duh.  So I used my antique hand-cranked grinder and made a huge pile of apple mush (scattering bits of apple all over the room along the way).  Then I put batches of that mush into the press and voila!  Cider!  I pressed a half-bushel of apples (a mix of four newly-harvested and very fresh varieties) and ended up with two quarts of cider—which is delicious, I must say.
This is a half bushel of apples
Therefore I am using a portion of my harvest to this recipe for cider cake topped with some lovely cider buttercream frosting.  Enjoy!

Cider Spice Cake

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

¾ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp nutmeg

¼ tsp ground cloves

½ tsp salt

2/3 cup apple cider (note: for both the cake and the frosting you should use unpasteurized cider)

1 cup packed light brown sugar

3 large eggs at room temperature

Put the oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two round cake pans.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a bowl.

With an electric mixer, beat the butter until it is light and fluffy, then add the brown sugar and beat until combined.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each (this will look curdled, but don’t worry).

Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture and the cider alternately, beginning and ending with flour.

Divide the batter between two pans (rap on the counter once to release any big bubbles). The layers will be thin.

Bake in the preheated oven until the layers begin to pull away from the sides of the pans and a skewer or toothpick comes out clean, 25-30 minutes.

Cool in the pans on racks for 5 minutes, then invert onto the racks and cool completely (at least 1 hour—you can’t frost a hot cake!).

Cider Buttercream Frosting

¾ cup white sugar

3 Tblsp cornstarch

1/8 tsp salt

¾ cup apple cider

1 ¼ cups unsalted butter, softened

Whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a heavy saucepan.  Whisk in the cider, then bring to a boil over moderate heat, whisking constantly, and let boil, still whisking constantly, for 1 minutes.  This will be very thick!  Cool quickly by putting the mixture in a metal bowl, and then setting the bowl in a larger bowl of ice and cold water.  Stir occasionally until cool, about 30 minutes.

Beat the butter in a large bowl at medium-high speed until it is light and fluffy.  Mix in a third of the cider/sugar mixture and beat until well blended.  Add the rest and continue beating until smooth.

Then frost your cake!  Place the frosted cake in the refrigerator to set the frosting, about 2 hours. But let it warm up again so the frosting softens when you’re ready to serve. One more note:  this is a very flavorful buttercream frosting, so you can use it for any spice cake or cupcake recipe.



  1. This sounds wonderful! I could just eat the frosting with a spoon. (Something tells me it is not a good idea.) I have a recipe from a New England cookbook that is called cider shortcake. Involves warm cider poured over the cake. Mmmm. I grew up in a town with a very old, working cider mill. You could watch the cider being made and the air all around smelled of apples.

    1. I don't know if I have an apple shortcake recipe--I like the idea! Tomorrow I'm off to Old Sturbridge Village's Apple Days, where they have an ox-powered cider mill. And heirloom apple tastings. And a dozen things to make with apples. I am happy!

  2. This looks fabulous, Sheila. My husband always wants me to make an apple pie with our freshly--picked apples, but this recipe is far more enticing to me.

    1. I've said before, I have a real problem with pie crusts--they just don't like me. So I'll go out of my way to find a different dessert with apples. You have your own apple trees? I'm harvesting mine one at a time, usually after they've fallen. I found one today that evidently a squirrel had tried to steal (gnawed through the branch), but then realized that it was too big to drag away, so I snatched it up.

  3. It does look "good all the way down to my toes"! Thanks

  4. Sheila, where do you keep all your treasures? In the house or a storage barn?? LOL Love the cake. Delish.

    Daryl / Avery

  5. Excellent post, Sheila, you can never have too many apple recipes at this time of year! Loved the story of first and second attempts at pressing for homemade apple cider (that press looks like a mini version of my late father's grape press, which he used to make his own wine). So now I not only want a slice of that beautiful cake, but a glass of your fresh-pressed cider. A great week to celebrate apples and the release of Golden Malicious. Cheers...

    ~ Cleo

  6. Oh, I can't believe my eyes. I was thinking along these very lines this afternoon. Great minds, huh? This cake is gorgeous. I bet it's wonderful!


  7. The cake sounds delicious. I am thinking of getting a cider press so it was interesting to see how you are doing with yours. We have an old orchard and have planted a new one to encourage wild life but in the future we will have to find a way to use all the fruit , so apple juice or cider seem a good option.