Healthier apple pie layer cake

Slightly healthier apple pie layer cake recipe! Gluten free or not, adapted from Christina Tosi’s momofuku cake… :)

Special everyday cakes and treats

Try this delicious autumn apple cake with amazing layers magically combining flavours and textures with that genius Christina Tosi touch.  Close your eyes and be transported to apple pie-stroke-cheesecake eating mode … with layers!  You can go yummy full-sugar, butter or gluten as in the original recipe but this slightly healthier adaptation tastes just as decadent and scrumptious.  If you’re used to cakes with less sugar you might prefer this final version where the apple and subtle cinnamon flavours shine through.  The apple pie filling layer is lightly cooked with very little pure maple syrup and cinnamon.  In the cheesecake layer the unrefined golden caster sugar is reduced by over half and a third of the cream cheese is replaced with natural healthy low-calorie skyr that adds a subtle yummy tang.  So it’s all a little healthier especially if you have just one slice.  Lol.  Tastewise the brown butter adds lovely flavour and colour to the delicious gluten-free sponge while Momofuku’s classic crunchy pastry-like pie crumbs finish this cake off to perfection.  Then for extra tasty crunch and sparkle some optional easy caramel shards and popcorn were added!  Friends and colleagues have loved this slightly healthier apple pie layer cake.  Tempted? 🙂

Healthier apple pie layer cake, gluten free or not

Healthier apple pie layer cake

Prototypes and encouragement

An earlier prototype made with Granny Smiths and closer to the original had slightly reduced sugar.  Friends rapidly scraped every crumb off the plate so it was clearly yummy and addictive.  But it felt a bit sweet.  Here it is decorated with a little caramel sauce and pie crumb formed into misshapen logs under caramel flames because it was November 5th bonfire night.

Apple pie layer cake - prototype 1

Apple pie layer cake prototype 1

The final slightly healthier prototype is my favourite.  I daydream about getting home to eat a slice or two, cycling back faster to help burn off previously consumed cake.  At school a colleague’s eyes glazed over with cake joy as she yummed her way through a slice during our break.

So if you’d like to recreate an amazing apple autumn cake then never fear, it’s fun and not difficult to make.  Get a cake ring and acetate strip and you’re set for life making all kinds of easy Tosi layer cakes or French entremets mousse cakes.  Totally worth it…


Healthier apple pie layer cake

Healthier apple pie layer cake

This cake is a slightly simplified version of Christina Tosi’s cake in the lovely Milk Bar book.  I eliminated her top creamy layer by replacing it with extra liquid cheesecake, meaning reduced work and sweetness.  The official recipe in grams is at the Guardian online here or there’s Gastronomia & Cia’s Spanish version here.  Google Tosi apple pie layer cake for other versions.  And you can find out more about Christina Tosi in Netflix’s Chef’s Table series 4, pastry.

Apart from using Doves Farm self-raising gluten free flour and less butter, sugar or cream cheese but more apple, I also added optional Calvados apple liqueur to the apple soak – nice!  The quantities were decreased to reduce or eliminate leftovers. The caramel shards and popcorn were added for decorative purposes, flavour and crunch.  For prototype 1 a little caramel sauce on top was a yummy addition.  Feel free to experiment.  Or keep it simple and healthier with no shards or popcorn.  Still very attractive and yummy.

Healthier apple pie layer cake

Healthier apple pie layer cake


MULTI-TASKING METHODDAY ONE:  make all the layer elements over a 3-hour period on day of assembly.  Measure pie crumb and sponge ingredients together.  Quickly cluster up the pie crumbs and bake while beating butter sponge on standmixer.  While the sponge (30 mins work, 20 mins baking) is in the oven prepare the liquid cheesecake (10 minutes work,15 mins baking).  While cheesecake’s in the oven prepare and cook apple filling on stove (10 mins work, 5-10 mins cooking) Wait 4-5 hours for everything to cool.  Make apple soak + assemble (25 mins work).  Freeze overnightDAY TWO:  pull off tin/acetate, decorate with optional caramel shards (5 minutes work, 20 mins baking).  Defrost 4 hours in fridge before eating.  Add optional popcorn before serving.  Or…

SPREAD OUT METHOD.  DURING THE WEEK – Make various layer elements over several days before assembly stage.  Store pie crumbs in an airtight mason jar.  In the fridge store sponge in plastic film plus cheesecake and apple pie filling in separate airtight containers.  DAY ONE – make apple soak + assemble then freeze overnight DAY TWO – as above.


  • Standmixer or electric handwhisk
  • Baking tin:  32cm x 23cm (13in x 9in) and 4.5 to 5cm high (2in) or similar to this rectangular tin.
  • Cake ring 14cm/5.5in diametre and 6cm/2.4in high (I used 4.5cm/1.7in high, which works okay).
  • Acetate strip (6cm/2.4in wide) like this one or this one and sellotape.


Butter should be unsalted and good quality French-style like Président.  I use golden unrefined caster sugar and Doves Farm self-raising gluten-free flour.

Pie crumbs

Pre-heat oven to 170ºC/340ºF (fan/convection) or 190ºC/375ºF (static oven).

  • 40g/2 and 1/2 tablespoons + 3/4 tsp unsalted butter
  • 100g/3/4 cup + 3 and 1/2 tsp gluten free flour or plain/all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp (1g) fine sea salt
  • 10g/1/2 tbsp pure maple syrup (or sugar/honey)
  • 10 – 20g/2 – 4 tsp water

Making pie crumbs for the apple pie layer cake

  1. Melt butter in a small heavy-based saucepan on low heat.
  2. Whisk flour and salt in a medium-sized bowl to combine.
  3. Add melted butter and maple syrup then 2 teaspoons (about 11g) water.  Stir mixture until it starts coming together.
  4. Add a little extra water gradually until you get a slightly moist ball that stays together and gathers up all the little crumbs.
  5. Lay out small clusters on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
  6. After 5 minutes in the oven lower temperature to 160ºC/320ºF (fan/convection) or 180ºC/350ºF (static oven).  Bake another 20 – 30 minutes until golden brown and starting to harden.  I like them crunchy.

Barely brown butter sponge

Brown butter sponge

Pre-heat oven and use baking paper to line baking tray (see size in Equipment section above).

  • 50g (to 55g)/3 and 1/2 tablespoons (+1 tsp) unsalted butter – makes about 40g brown butter (using a saucepan)
  • 220g/1 cup caster (superfine) sugar
  • 60g/1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 55g/3 and 1/2 tbsp + 1 tsp unsalted butter
  • 155g beaten egg (about 3 small-medium eggs)
  • 125g/1/2 cup buttermilk (115g if using plain/all-purpose flour)
  • 65g/1/4 cup + 2 and 1/2 tsp light vegetable oil (like grapeseed oil or cold-pressed light olive oil – I use food-grade linseed/flaxseed oil)
  • 1/2 tsp (2g) pure vanilla extract
  • 185g/1 and 1/2 cups gluten-free flour or plain/all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp (4g) baking powder (gluten-free if preferred)
  • 1 tsp (4g) fine sea salt

Apple pie layer cake illustrated recipe, brown butter sponge

Making brown butter sponge 1

Making brown butter sponge 2

Making brown butter sponge 3

If using gluten-free flour the sponge may not spring back under your finger but a skewer inserted in the middle of the baked cake should come out clean.  If not, bake a further 5-10 minutes.  Cool in tray 5-10 minutes then carefully turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

This sponge can be stored in the fridge wrapped in plastic film up to 5 days or in the freezer 1-2 months.

Liquid cheesecake

Liquid cheesecake

  • Before starting bring the cream cheese, skyr and egg to room temperature.
  • Pre-heat oven (see illustration).
  • Use baking paper to line 20cm/8in diametre cake tin.


  • 230g/8.1oz cream cheese (like natural Philadelphia)
  • 100g/3.5oz natural unsweetened skyr (or cream cheese)
  • 100g/1/3 cup + 2 tbsp caster sugar (I used golden unrefined) or more, to taste
  • 30g/1 and 1/2 tbsp pure maple syrup (or sugar/honey)
  • 82g beaten egg (about 1 and 1/2 eggs, small/medium-sized)
  • 9g/1 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch/Maizena)
  • 3/4 tsp (3g) fine sea salt

If you prefer your cakes less creamy you can try reducing the quantities by 2/3:  153g cream cheese, 67g skyr, 67g caster sugar, 20g/1tbsp maple syrup, 54g beaten egg (1 small/medium-sized egg), 6g/2 tsp cornflour, 1/2 tsp (2g) fine sea salt.


Apple pie layer cake illustrated recipe, liquid cheesecake

Making liquid cheesecake

You can see in the first photo below that the baked cheesecake hasn’t browned.  Perfect.
Baked liquid cheesecake

Store at room temperature if using the same day or in the fridge.

Apple pie filling layer

  • 500g/1.1lb apples (Reinettes, Granny Smiths or any tasty crisp apples)
  • 1 lemon
  • 20g/1 tbsp pure maple syrup (or sugar)
  • 15g/1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp (1g) fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp (1g) ground cinnamon

Apple pie layer cake illustrated recipe, apple pie filling

Cutting apples for the apple pie layer cake

Cooking apples for the apple pie layer cake

Apple juice or cider soak – optionally spiked with Calvados apple liqueur!

  • 50g/ml unsweetened apple juice or dry apple cider (like Bulmers)
  • 10g/2tsp Calvados apple liqueur, optional
  • 5g/1 and 3/4 tsp pure maple syrup (or sugar)
  • pinch of ground cinnamon, to taste

Whisk together in a small bowl to combine.  Check flavour and sweetness is to your taste.


When everything’s cooled to room temperature start assembling.

Apple pie layer cake assembly 1

Cut sponge then line the cleaned cake ring with acetate as in the illustrations.

Apple pie layer cake assembly 2

Brush the bottom 2 sponge halves with 1/2 the apple soak and continue constructing as per the following illustration, pressing pie crumbs in the middle layers lightly into the liquid cheesecake with the back of your hand.

Apple pie layer cake - assembling

Assembling the apple pie layer cake 1

If sponge layers break or crumble a little fill the gaps with small extra pieces of sponge.  It won’t be noticeable later.  Save the best complete layer for the top.  Freeze leftover sponge to make apple pie cake truffles.

Assembling the apple pie layer cake 2

Freeze overnight (12 hours) in the acetate and cake ring.


Slide a large sharp knife under the frozen cake, between the bottom of the cake and the base or plate. Lift cake carefully with one hand and slide the cake ring downwards off the cake and onto your arm.  Place the cake back on the base/plate.  Whip off the acetate (cut if necessary) and defrost in fridge 3 to 4 hours before eating.  Yay!

Decorating (optional)

Here’s the cake with just cinnamon caramel popcorn.  Add popcorn last minute – it gets soggy in the fridge!

Healthier apple pie layer cake

Apple pie layer cake

Caramel sauce also makes a nice addition, or shards.

Caramel shards

These are so easy to make.  Sieve a thin layer of caster sugar over a baking tray lined with baking paper.  Bake 15-20 minutes in the oven preheated to 170ºC/340ºF (fan/convection) or 190ºC/375ºF (static oven) until most of the sugar melts and caramelises.  Take out and wait 5 minutes or so for the caramel to harden (careful, it’s hot).  Then peel the paper off the back of the shards.

Making caramel shards

Healthier apple pie layer cake

Apple pie layer cake

The shards here were not bitter but a bit dark – make them lighter if you prefer.

Eating and storing

Keeps in the fridge up to 3 or 4 days, maybe more.  You can immediately cut slices from the still frozen cake to freeze in airtight tupperware up to 1 month or two.  Defrost 3 hours in the fridge before eating.

Here’s a slice of the earlier sweeter version.

Apple pie layer cake, prototype 1


It’s a delicious Autumn cake to share around.  Apple, cinnamon and cake is a winning combo as a work colleague declared.  And caramel can tip it over into ridiculous levels of yumminess.  I’m also a big fan of those pie crumbs hiding in there like crunchy rustic jewels.  Anyway enough rambling about this cake.  There’s probably something I should be doing (oh yeah, making mousse for my dome cakes).  Off to the kitchen again (yay!) but first perhaps you’d like some healthier apple pie layer cake? 🙂

Healthier apple pie layer cake, gluten free or not

Apple pie layer cake

Farewell again dear reader!  Wishing you a lovely week with yummy comfort food the colour and taste of Autumn staving off the oncoming Winter.  Happy baking and eating! 🙂  Lili x



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Baking on Sundays with my French mum was a lovely part of my childhood. Later I experimented with baking books or internet recipes and did the pâtisserie course at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. Still trying out new recipes and inventing cakes with influences from all around the world, including some healthier ones. Yes, love cakes!!! Hope you'll love them too and have fun baking. :)

9 thoughts on “Slightly healthier apple pie layer cake recipe! Gluten free or not, adapted from Christina Tosi’s momofuku cake… :)”

  1. It does look wonderful and delicious, Lili.
    I haven’t had Calvados in at least forty years (yes, since I was a baby 🙂 ) It would be worthwhile trying this cake just for that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Mary, also for that great image of you sipping Calvados as a baby. 🙂 Have been thinking I might double the quantity of calvados next time and include it in the apple filling too.
      Think that’s what my mum, who’ s French, would suggest – alcohol in cakes is wonderful indeed…😋


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