Spiced Apple Cake with Mascarpone Browned Buttercream.

Have you ever tasted something so good that you wonder how you’ve lived without it? Have you?

Over the weekend, a guest brought his mama’s recipe of “Candied Yams” to my house for Thanksgiving. OMG, let me tell you… the buttery PECANS absolutely floored my tastebuds! How had I lived 31 Thanksgivings without it?! I had made my own Southern Sweet Potato Casserole, but this young airman’s yams blew my sweet potatoes out of the water! I savored every single bite, and I begged the spoonful of leftovers from him before he left our house. I used it to top a leftover cinnamon roll for breakfast the next morning, and oh!

It was a VERY good thing.

That’s the kind of GOOD I tasted last week when I created this new cake & buttercream. See?

Spiced Apple Cake w/ Mascarpone Browned Buttercream.

A lot of people have never had mascarpone cheese. Heck, a lot of folks have never even heard of mascarpone cheese. If you’re among either group, let me introduce you to your new best friend, mmkay? “Mascarpone” is a slightly sweet, Italian cream cheese. It’s a bit softer than traditional cream cheese. Previously, I’ve only used it as a spread on pastries, and I had some leftover in my fridge, so…

A star was born. A sweet, nutty, spicy, apple-y star that dances on your tastebuds in whimsy. And I promise you, this is the kind of whimsy you NEED in your life. There’s a bit of work involved, but the rewards are so worth it, I promise!

I was selected by Foodbuzz to create something new & exciting using both Duncan Hines® & and Comstock®/Wilderness® products, and I came up with this amazing dessert. I chose a Moist Deluxe Spice Cake for the Thanksgiving holiday, and sweet Apple Fruit Filling as the perfect complement. My favorite thing about Duncan Hines cake mixes is the absolutely VELVETY texture of their batter – seriously, it is SO silky-smooth! – and the light, perfectly-spongy texture of the final baked cake. Duncan Hines is my go-to brand when I’m making a boxed cake mix every time!

To make this cake, follow the steps below, or skip down to the recipe near the bottom of this post. :-)

Gather the ingredients:


Make the cake as directed on the package, substituting an equal part applesauce for the vegetable oil called for.

Mix and applesauce.

Be sure to follow the easy instructions on the box. Though the mix first starts out looking all crumbly, it quickly turns to a silky-smooth batter. Try not to swipe this goodness (if you’ve got more self-control than I have! ;-) )

Smooth as silk.

Pour batter into two well-greased & floured 8″ or 9″ cake pans. Bake according to directions on the box.

Two cakes.

While your cakes are baking, start making your Cinnamon Syrup. Combine candy brown sugar, water, and cinnamon in a saucepan.


Bring to a boil.


Add butter. Mmmm… butter! :-)

Adding butter.

While the syrup is also cooling, brown more butter in a separate pan.


When it smells nutty & reaches a caramel color, it’s perfect! Set it aside until it begins to cool back into a solid butter again.


By this time, the cakes should be done. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Begin making your frosting by combining the beautiful browned butter with the sweet, creamy mascarpone.


Beat until smooth.


Sift powdered sugar before adding.


Add a few tablespoons of the cinnamon syrup until the buttercream is spreading consistency.


When the layers are cool, begin “building” the cake by frosting a “crumb-coat.”


Spread apple pie filling over the bottom layer.


Top with second layer, and finish decorating the cake. (I piped small swirls on the top to form a “corral,” and then I spread more apple pie filling inside.) Dust frosting with a bit of cinnamon-sugar for a finishing touch.

Spiced Apple Cake with Mascarpone Browned Buttercream.

Slice & serve as is, or drizzle with a teaspoonful of more Cinnamon Syrup.

Spiced Apple Cake with Mascarpone Browned Buttercream.

Whatever you do, make sure you come over to the dark side… after all, we have perfect swirls of Mascarpone Browned Buttercream. ;-)

Spiced Apple Cake with Mascarpone Browned Buttercream.

And trust me, it’s *SO* worth it!

Spiced Apple Cake with Mascarpone Browned Buttercream & Cinnamon Syrup
(recipe by Nicole Cleghorn)

Spiced Apple Cake:


Cinnamon Syrup:

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon


Mascarpone Browned Buttercream:

  • 8 ounces mascarpone
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-4 Tbsp. Cinnamon Syrup


1. Preheat oven to 350. Prepare Spice Cake batter as directed on package, substituting 1/3 cup applesauce for the vegetable oil called for in the directions. (*Tip: I substitute equal parts applesauce almost every time a dessert recipe calls for vegetable oil. It’s healthier, and the taste is hardly changed at all.) Pour cake batter into well-greased & floured cake pans, and bake according to package (depending on which size pans you’re using). Cool for 10 minutes in pans, and then turn out cakes on to a wire rack & cool completely.

2. While the cakes are baking, make your Cinnamon Syrup. In a 2-qt. saucepan, combine brown sugar, water, and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, and gently boil for minutes. Remove syrup from heat and add butter. Stir until butter is melted; set aside to cool.

3. While the syrup is cooling, make your browned butter. Using a light-colored pan, melt butter. (*Tip: A darker pan proves difficult to see the color of the butter change. I used a stainless steel saucepan for this step.) When the butter has fully melted in the pan, watch it closely, stirring constantly. Between 3-4 minutes, the butter will begin to change to a slightly brown, almost caramel color, and it begins to have a nutty aroma, too. Remove the pan from heat, as the butter can burn quickly. Set aside to cool until the browned butter begins to return to a solid state. (*Tip: I popped mine in the fridge to speed up the process.)

4. To make the buttercream, place both the cooled browned butter & the mascarpone in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed until smooth & creamy. Sift powdered sugar; add in two additions, beating well. Frosting will be thick. Thin to spreading consistency using 2-4 tablespoons of the cooled Cinnamon Syrup.

5. To “build” the cake, frost cooled layers with Mascarpone Browned Buttercream in a fine “crumb-coat” first. Add just a smidge more buttercream on the bottom layer, and then top with 1/2 cup of apple fruit filling. Top with second layer, and frost cake as desired. Top with additional 1/2 cup additional apple fruit filling. Dust with a bit of cinnamon-sugar (if desired).

6. Slice and serve. Drizzle slices with teaspoonfuls of more Cinnamon Syrup. Store leftover cake in refrigerator.

Yield: 12 servings
© Nicole Cleghorn 2011 (All rights reserved.)

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received coupons for a Duncan Hines® product and a Comstock® or Wilderness® filling of my choice. The opinions are my own, as well as the recipe created & shown above, and I thank Foodbuzz for this very sweet opportunity!

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4 comments on “Spiced Apple Cake with Mascarpone Browned Buttercream.

  1. I have yet to make brown butter and your tutorial is very informative. This cake looks amazing Nicole an I’m sure it tastes as every bit delicious as it looks. What a wonderful recipe you have created! It should be printed on the back of Duncan Hines’ Moist Deluxe Spice Cake Mix!

    • Paula, browned butter always seemed so daunting to me, but it really is pretty simple. You just need a watchful eye, of course. Let me know when you try it! :-)

  2. I’m going to try this recipe this week. It sounds DEliCiouS! You are an amazing, talented cook!

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