Ginger Cake with Apple Butter "Frosting"

October  4, 2018
14 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
Author Notes

My mom used to make a lovely pink applesauce in the fall. I loved the way the skins add tartness, thicken the texture, and of course, lend their lovely hue. I found by cooking the mixture down even more to further reduce the liquid, the texture gets more like apple butter—thicker and smoother (and still pink)! Turns out, it makes a lovely, deliciously fruity alternative to traditional frosting on a layer cake. I paired it with a light, fluffy ginger cake (complete with a sprinkling of minced candied ginger on the surface) – it’s a really yummy cake with all the goodness of fall (and it makes your kitchen smell ten kinds of amazing). —Erin Jeanne McDowell

  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 2 hours
  • Makes two layer 8 inch cake
  • Pink Apple Butter
  • 7 medium (about 875 grams) red skinned apples, such as McIntosh, cored and diced
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup (198 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/3 cup (76 grams) apple cider
  • 3 tablespoons (43 grams) apple cider vinegar
  • Ginger Cake
  • 1 1/2 cups (180 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 large (227 grams) eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) vegetable oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 1 cup (198 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (76 grams) whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup (92 grams) minced crystallized ginger
In This Recipe
  1. Make the apple butter: in a large pot, stir the apples, lemon juice, sugar, salt, ginger, cider, and cider vinegar to combine. Heat over medium heat until the mixture begins to simmer – continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples soften, 20-25 minutes.
  2. Puree the mixture using an immersion blender, blender, or food processor until smooth. Return to the pot and continue to cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reduces slightly and thickens. It should be thick enough that when you dip it into the apple butter, it will fully coat a spoon without dripping off (and it will continue to thicken as it cools).
  3. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until well chilled, at least two hours.
  4. Make the cake: preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease two 8 inch cake pans with nonstick spray, line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper, then flour the sides of the pan.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, and nutmeg to combine. In another medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, vegetable oil, and sugar until pale and thick, about 1 minute. Add the milk and vanilla and whisk to combine.
  6. Gradually whisk the flour mixture into the yolk mixture, mixing just until combined.
  7. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar to medium peaks, 3-4 minutes.
  8. Add about 1/3 of the egg whites to the batter and mix with a silicone spatula to combine. Add the remaining whites in 2-3 additions, folding gently just until incorporated.
  9. Divide the batter between the two prepared pans and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle the surface of each cake with half of the crystallized ginger.
  10. Bake the cakes until they pull away from the edges slightly and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 25-30 minutes.
  11. Cool for 15 minutes inside the pan, then invert onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
  12. When the cake is cool, place one cake layer (ginger side up) on a platter or cake stand. Scoop some of the apple butter on top, and spread into an even layer. Top with another cake layer (ginger side up). Frost the top and sides with the remaining apple butter. Serve immediately.

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I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, The Book on Pie, is out on November 10th, 2020.