It’s apple season! And also one of my favorite seasons for indulging in all things sweet. The air is cooling and all of the upcoming holidays just have me feeling extra happy and eager. I’ve been dying to use apple cider in something for a couple of weeks now, and a simple sheet cake (loaded with frosting!) was a no-brainer. I love cake. And since I’m dairy-free I rarely get to indulge in it. Growing up, my grandma would make layered caked with penuche frosting. I didn’t know what exactly it was at the time, I just knew it was delicious and that she would have a plate of the leftovers waiting in the refrigerator for my mom (and me!) to snack on. Yes, I ate a lot of sugar growing up. Penuche frosting is made with brown sugar, so it’s super sweet with its own distinct (and totally mouth watering) flavor.
I was a bit nervous to make the frosting for the first time as I’d attempted it with coconut sugar before and failed. But it came out perfectly! I used vegan stick butter and almond milk, and I couldn’t be happier with the results. You’ll add all of the ingredients, except the powdered sugar, to a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and then allow that mixture to cool completely. Then you’ll simply beat in the powdered sugar! It’s time consuming since it can take up to 2-3 hours for the mixture to totally cool, but it’s a pretty simple, fail-proof recipe. The cake itself is easy. You don’t have to use mulled apple cider, but you’ll need to reduce the cider for around 20-30 minutes anyway so why not add in a cinnamon stick (or ground cinnamon) and a few orange slices? The result is a spicy, more flavorful apple cider. Then you’ll add lots of spice into the batter for extra fall flavor. For this, feel free to adjust the spices to your liking!
Some of the ingredients I like for this recipe:
Whole wheat pastry flour adds fluff to this cake. This flour is a staple in my pantry for baking cakes and quick breads. I love it, and I highly recommend it for this recipe! You can use all-purpose flour in its place, but I promise the WWPF really makes a difference in the cakes texture.
Coconut sugar is my go-to sweetener. It’s unrefined, low GI, and doesn’t taste like coconut. Plus, it tastes less sweet than regular white sugar, which helps balance the sweetness of the penuche frosting.
Mulled apple cider is a delicious and spicy warm cider that bring in lots of fall flavor to this cake. Feel free to reduce your apple cider without the added spice/orange.
Applesauce brings moisture and sweetness to this cake! Plus, it goes along with the apple theme, so I felt it was perfect.
Light brown sugar is necessary for the traditional penuche frosting. The molasses taste adds a unique flavor to the frosting. I don’t recommend any substitutes as I’ve tried coconut sugar in the past with no luck.
Apple Cider Cake
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 1/2 cups apple cider, reduced
- 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
- 1/2 an orange, sliced (optional)
- 3/4 cup coconut sugar (or light brown sugar)
- 1/2 cup neutral oil
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs, room temp (or 3 flax eggs)
- Heaping 1 cup applesauce
- 3/4 cup vegan butter (or butter)
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3-4 cups powdered sugar
- Add the apple cider, cinnamon stick, and sliced orange to a small pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer until liquid reduces to a 1/2 cup. This can take up to 30 minutes. Once reduced, set aside to cool and remove cinnamon stick and orange slices. This is also a good time to bring your eggs to room temperature - place them in a glass of warm water until you're ready to make the cake batter.
- While the mulled apple cider is cooling, preheat your oven to 350°F. Prepare a 9x13" cake pan with non-stick spray and (optional) line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
- In a medium mixing bowl, add the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices. Whisk until well combined; set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat together the mulled apple cider, coconut sugar, oil, vanilla, eggs, and applesauce until combined. Beat in the dry ingredients until batter is smooth - about 1 minute.
- Bake cake at 350°F for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out with a few crumbs. To frost the cake out of the pan (like I did) allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes. Then invert it onto a cooling rack, remove the parchment paper, and invert the cake onto another cooling rack so it's right side up. OR allow cake to cool completely in the pan.
- While your cake is cooling, start the frosting. Add the vegan butter, brown sugar, and almond milk to a medium saucepan. Bring mixture to a full boil then immediately remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl to cool completely - the cooling process can take up to a couple of hours.
- Once your cake and brown sugar mixture have totally cooled, add 3 cups of sifted powdered sugar to the brown sugar mixture. Beat with a whisk attachment until smooth. Add powdered sugar by the 1/4 cup until you've reached a thick, smooth, spreadable consistency. If it becomes too thick, add a little plant-based milk 1 tsp at a time.
- Frost your cake with an icing spatula, swirling it around the cake. The frosting may shift a bit on the cake, but it'll will eventually set up.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for maximum freshness.
- A neutral oil is one with a light taste, like extra light olive oil, refined coconut oil, or avocado oil. For this recipe, I used extra light olive oil.
- For the penuche frosting, your brown sugar mixture must be completely cool in order for the frosting to turn out. This took a couple of hours for me, so it's important to start your frosting while your cake is cooling!