This apple cream pie has a buttery, flakey pie crust layered with homemade salted caramel sauce, apple cider pastry cream and fresh whipped cream. It’s spiced and cozy but light and creamy at the same time!
Why you’ll love this apple cream pie
- It has a lot of layers but each layer can easily be made in advance.
- It’s super seasonal but still very unique; think of a cross between apple and pumpkin pie.
- It’s the PERFECT make ahead dessert for thanksgiving because it needs a good chill time anyway!
If you’re looking for something more classic, try my dutch apple pie, caramel pecan pie, or pumpkin meringue pie. Some other fun twists on classics are my puff pastry apple pie, and chocolate pecan pie!
What is Apple Cream Pie?
Well it’s not really a traditional Thanksgiving (or fall) dessert so it is what you make it. I was thinking of spiced apple flavors but creamy and rich texture like pumpkin pie, so that’s what I did.
I used a traditional pie crust that I blind baked. If you’re new to making pie crust, make sure to read my whole post on all butter pie crusts. There are also videos, so it will be super helpful.
On top of the pie crust is a layer of my homemade salted caramel sauce which I also have a whole post on if you’re new to that. Note that I added an extra two tablespoons of butter to the caramel to make it a little more firm so it doesn’t all just leak out. Also make sure to take it dark enough, if your caramel is pale it will be more runny too (also keep in the mind the darker you take it the more bitter it will be).
Then a layer of apple cider pastry cream because there are few things better than crème pat if you ask me. Last but not least, it’s topped with fresh whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon (which btw everyone thought was marshmallows because of the way I piped the whipped cream lol).
Ingredients & Substitutions:
- Flour: I just use all purpose flour for the crust. There is such a thing as pastry flour and I know some people like cake flour for pie crusts too but all-purpose works perfectly fine here.
- I also HIGHLY recommend using a digital scale, as flour is almost always over measured.
- Butter: I love using salted butter in almost everything, except buttercream, but unsalted works fine too, I would just add an extra pinch of salt.
- You can do all butter, all brown butter or half and half. Just make sure to give the brown butter time to chill back until it’s hard again. I have not tried this recipe with shortening or lard so I can’t recommend them, although I don’t see why they wouldn’t work here.
- Water: you’ll want ice cold water. I measure my water first, pop it in the freezer while I get the rest of my ingredients ready and then bring it out when I need it (make sure it doesn’t actually freeze though lol).
- Alcohol: Never have I ever had a flakier crust than when I added 1-2 Tbsp of alcohol. Because alcohol inhibits the development of gluten, it allows you to add a little more liquid without risking a tougher pastry. My best results were with whiskey, but any type of spirit will work fine and won’t impart any flavor unless you use more.
- This is totally optional and not necessary but definitely recommended to replace 2 Tbsp of the water with alcohol.
- Sugar: I use brown sugar for the pastry cream. You can do light or dark, it doesn’t matter, even granulated sugar will work fine.
- Use granulated sugar for the caramel sauce, don’t swap or reduce this.
- You can make whipped cream with either granulated or powdered sugar, it doesn’t matter.
- Eggs: I use large room temperature eggs for the pastry cream. I recommend placing them in hot water for a few minutes if they’re cold.
- Apple Cider: I used apple cider from a cider mill. The better your apple cider, the better the pastry cream. If you can’t find any, 100% apple juice will work as well, I would just increase the spices a little.
- Spices: I use ground cinnamon and nutmeg; you can also use fresh nutmeg and grate it but use about half the amount.
- Cornstarch: you’ll need this for the pastry cream and I 100% recommend a digital scale for this too. Don’t swap for flour, it’s not a 1:1 swap and I haven’t tested it with flour.
- Heavy Cream: For the whipped cream, you’ll need a heavy cream that’s at least 35% fat. Make sure it’s cold when you whip.
- But make sure it’s at room temperature for the caramel.
- Salt: I like fine sea salt for all bakes and the caramel sauce.
How to make Apple Cream Pie
The Pie Crust
This pie crust recipe is super simple to make and has never failed me! & I’m not a fancy pie kind of girl. If you’ve been here a while, you’ll know that cakes are more my thing. So I’m telling you this pie crust turns out for me every time and I have tested it many different ways.
Step 1: Cube cold butter and then place it on top of the flour in the food processor and place it in the fridge or freezer, measure out water and place it in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Step 2: Place flour in a food processor and place the cubed butter on top. Pulse for a few seconds until the butter and flour look like small crumbles.
Step 3: Drizzle in half the water and alcohol and pulse, then drizzle in a little more at a time just until the dough starts to look more wet. The dough will still be crumbly but when you press on it, it should stick together.
Step 4: Dump the mixture onto the countertop and use your hands to press it all together and fold it over itself a couple of times so it all sticks together nicely. You should see bits of butter in the dough and it should be fully hydrated (so no dry.flour spots) but not too sticky to handle.
Step 5: Wrap the disc in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 1-2 hours. Then roll it out and place it into a pie dish. Fill the pie with pie weights and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the pie weights and bake for about 10 more minutes, until it’s golden brown. Allow to cool completely before filling.
Salted Caramel Sauce
Step 1: Heat the sugar in a saucepan until it dissolves. Don’t stir it, just swirl the pan as needed, until it turns into an amber color.
Step 2: Remove it from the heat and pour in the heavy cream while stirring constantly. Then stir in the butter until it’s all combined.
Step 4: Pour the caramel sauce in a heat proof jar and stir in the salt and vanilla extract. Set aside to cool completely.
Step 5: Once the caramel and the pie crust have cooled, spread a layer of caramel sauce on the bottom of the pie crust and freeze for 15-30 minutes, until it feels firm.
Apple Pastry Cream
Step 1: Heat the apple cider in a medium saucepan over medium heat, just until it starts to steam and/or simmer, 1-2 minutes.
Step 2: Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, sugar, spices cornstarch and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk well until the mixture is completely smooth and there are no lumps.
Step 3: Temper the eggs, by streaming the hot milk into the egg mixture while whisking the eggs. Pour the whole mixture back into the saucepan and whisk continuously over medium-low heat.
Step 4: The pastry cream will begin to thicken after just 2-4 minutes. At this point whisk aggressively for another 30-60 seconds.
Step 5: Continue whisking while you remove the pan from heat and then pour it into a bowl. Give it another good whisk, making sure there are no lumps.
Step 6: Add the butter and vanilla and allow the heat from the pastry cream to melt the butter. It may separate at first but as you whisk, the pastry cream will come back together and should be smooth and silky.
*if you have any lumps, feel free to press the pastry cream through a sieve while it’s still warm.
Step 1: Spread the cooled caramel on the bottom of the crust and freeze for 15-ish minutes.
Step 2: Spread the pastry cream on top of the caramel sauce and refrigerate for 1-2 hours so it firms up.
Step 3: Then spread another layer of salted caramel sauce on top of the pastry cream and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Step 1: Sift the sugar and salt into the bowl and add the heavy whipping cream and vanilla bean paste.
Step 2: Whip the cream until it’s thick and fluffy and just when it reaches a stiff peak. Don’t overbeat or it won’t be smooth anymore (and can turn to butter lol).
*If you over-beat slightly, add a touch more cream and fold just until it’s combined.
Step 3: Pipe the whipped cream on top of the chilled pie and dust with cinnamon.
Tips for getting the pie crust just right
- Temperature matters: to create a flaky crust, you want the butter to be cold so it doesn’t melt into the dough. To keep the butter as cold as possible I like to put my flour and sugar in the food processor bowl and then freeze the whole bowl while I cube my butter.
- Add the butter to the bowl and freeze for 5-10 more minutes.
- For ice water, I just put 1-2 ice cubes in the cup and then measure the water or measure the water and freeze it for a few minutes, as well.
- Temperature matters again: Refrigerate the pie dough for 1-2 hours after you’ve made it. This will allow the gluten to relax a little and keep the butter cold. Once it feels a little more firm, about an hour or so, you can roll it out. I roll out half at a time (so the bottom crust first and then the top crust) so the other half doesn’ t get too warm.
- If you’re making designs with the top crust and it starts to feel sticky/soft, just refrigerate it again for a few minutes.
- Temperature matters one more time: You want the pie crust to hold its shape while it’s baking. If you bake room temperature pie dough, the butter will melt right out and the crust will shrivel up.
- What you want to do is, once the pie is all done, pop it in the fridge or the freezer for about half an hour before baking. You want the crust to be firm and cold before baking so that it holds its shape.
- Temperature matters one last time: Depending on what you’re filling your pie with, the temperature of the oven matters. You always want to bake your pie crust at 350F (177C) or higher, if the oven is not hot enough, the butter will just leak out and the crust will shrivel up.
- I blind bake/par-bake my crust at 400F-425F (204-218C) and it sets beautifully without any major shriveling.
How to roll out pie dough
When I refrigerate my pie dough for 1-2 hours, it is firm but it’s still malleable and able to be rolled out. If your pie dough feels rock solid, let it rest on the counter for a few minutes until it’s able to be rolled out without cracking.
The dough should not be super sticky so just lightly flour the countertop and the top of the dough. Place the rolling pin in the center of the pie disc and roll out almost to the edge of the pie but don’t go past the edge. Then turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat until it’s about ⅛ inch thick and large enough to fully cover your pie dish.
You can either roll the dough around the rolling pin and unroll it over the pie dish or I like to gently fold the dough in half and then fold it in half again and then unfold it over the pie dish.
How to blind bake pie crust
Blind baking means to completely bake the crust before adding a filling and it doesn’t get baked anymore after the filling is added. This method of baking pie crust is good for precooked fillings or no-bake fillings such as custards made on the stove top, no-bake cheesecakes, lemon meringue pie, key lime pie, etc.
To blind bake the crust:
- Roll out your dough onto a well floured surface. Fold or roll the dough up and place it over the pie dish. Press it down on the bottom and adjust the sides as needed. Do whatever design you desire along the edge of the crust and then refrigerate or freeze for at least 30 minutes, until the pie feels firm.
- During this time preheat the oven 425F (212C) – can do less too if desired but don’t go below 350 (177C). Once the dough is firm, place a sheet of parchment paper (I like to crumple mine so that it fits more accurately) on top of the dough and fill it with pie weights. If you don’t have pie weights, use uncooked rice, dried beans or even flour. Place the pie dish on top of a cookie sheet (just in case there’s any butter spillage – I use a metal pan) and bake for 20 minutes (a little longer if oven temp is reduced a little), until it starts to get some color.
- Remove the pie crust from the oven and carefully remove the parchment paper with the weights from the pie crust. Egg wash the pie crust now (if desired) and then return it to the oven for another 10-15 minutes, until the pie crust has browned as desired. Remove and allow to cool completely before filling. Don’t fill a hot crust, you’ll get a soggy bottom.
NOTE: I don’t ever use convection for baking pies because the last thing to finish baking is the bottom so you definitely want the heat coming straight from the bottom of the oven and not circulating to the top.
What type of pan is best for pies
I prefer to bake pies made with pastry in a metal pan. Metal pans conduct heat the quickest and most efficiently. Your crust will most likely have the best bake using a metal pan.
That said, I don’t always bake my pies in metal pans because my metal pan is quite shallow and I don’t have a deep dish metal pan so I use my ceramic ones for things like deep dish apple pie and it works fine with a few insurances.
I always make sure to bake on conventional (no fan) and not convection and I like to place it on the bottom rack so that the bottom pie crust gets direct heat. I also always place my pie dish on a metal baking sheet to catch any drippings.
I haven’t tried it but some people recommend using a baking stone underneath the pie dish to bring more heat to the bottom of the pie.
And if I’m baking a more hefty, wet pie like traditional apple pie, I usually sprinkle some sort of starch, like flour or cornstarch on top of the bottom pie crust to help absorb more of the filling juices.
Frequently Asked Questions
It just needs a little more hydration, add another 1-2 Tbsp of water at a time until it forms a dough.
Your pie crust can crack when you go to roll it out if it’s not fully hydrated (see above) or if it’s too cold when you’re rolling it out. Just leave it out at room temperature for a few minutes before rolling.
The pie dough can leak butter if it wasn’t fully chilled or if the chunks of butter are too large in the crust. When you blend the flour with the butter, you want pea size chunks or smaller.
The pie will shrivel up and shrink when it’s baking if it wasn’t fully chilled before baking. You want the pie crust to be cold so the butter is firm when it goes into the oven.
The dough was overworked. You want to handle it as minimally as possible, once it comes together, let it be, refrigerate it and when you roll it out, use it. Don’t re-roll it out.
The pastry cream can be runny for a few reasons:
1. It didn’t get it enough time to chill/set in the fridge after assembling the pie
2. It didn’t measure the cornstarch with a digital scale so it could be off a little.
3. It was over-whisked after letting it chill and before you spread it in the pie. This needs to be done very gently so you don’t disrupt the bonds formed by the cornstarch.
Salted caramel sauce can be finicky but the two main reasons for crystallizing would be that the heat is too low and/or some sort of impurity was introduced, causing it to crystallize. Make sure to use a very clean pan and whisk and don’t touch it while it’s caramelizing. I keep my heat on a medium-low setting but it depends on every oven, it should not take longer than 10-15 minutes max to caramelize (1 batch).
How to store apple cream pie
Keep the pie covered airtight in the refrigerator for a few days, or up to a week. It’s best served with fresh whipped cream.
You can also freeze the pie, I recommend double wrapping it in plastic wrap and then in foil and thawing in the fridge overnight before serving.
Thanks so much for reading today’s post, if you have any questions just comment down below.
If this apple cream pie makes it to your thanksgiving table, I would love it if you left me a review!
As always, have a blessed day and happy baking!
Apple Cream Pie
- 1 Tbsp whiskey *optional (bourbon, vodka, any spirit works)
- 1/4 cup (4oz/120mL) cold water
- 1 1/4 cup (150g) all-purpose flour spooned and leveled
- 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup (113g) salted butter cubed and cold
- 1 egg for egg wash
Salted Caramel Sauce
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup (59mL) water
- 1/2 cup (118mL) heavy cream room temperature
- 6 Tbsp (84g) salted butter softened
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Apple Cider Pastry Cream
- 12 ounces apple cider can reduce by 50% for a stronger apple flavor but it's good without reducing too.
- 2 large eggs or 4 egg yolks room temperature
- 3/4 cup (150g) light or dark brown sugar not packed
- 5 Tbsp (50g) cornstarch
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- tiny pinch fine sea salt
- 1 Tbsp vanilla bean paste or extract
- 4 Tbsp (56g) salted butter room temperature
- 2 Tbsp (25g) powdered sugar
- Tiny pinch of salt
- 3/4 cup (6oz/180mL) heavy whipping cream cold
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Dusting of cinnamon
- Place the alcohol in a measuring cup and add the cold water. Place it in the freezer while you prepare the other ingredients.1 Tbsp whiskey *optional, 1/4 cup (4oz/120mL) cold water
- Place the flour and salt in the bowl of the food processor. Place the whole bowl in the freezer while you cube the butter.1 1/4 cup (150g) all-purpose flour, 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
- Add the cubed butter to the flour in the freezer, for 5-10 minutes.1/2 cup (113g) salted butter
- Remove the the bowl from the freezer, place it on the food processor and pulse until pea seize chunks form.
- While the food processor is on, stream in the water mixture just until it starts to come together. Start with only 2 Tbsp of water and use up to 1/4 cup if needed, I usually do 1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp of alcohol. You want the dough to be kinda crumbly but stick together when you press on it.
- Remove the dough from the food processor, press it together so it all sticks together. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for an hour.
Salted Caramel Sauce
- Place the sugar and water in a medium size heavy bottom sauce pan. Swirl the pan until the sugar is immersed in water. Place the saucepan over medium heat and allow the sugar to fully dissolve in the water, gently swirling the pan every minute or so.1 cup (200g) granulated sugar, 1/4 cup (59mL) water
- Bring the sugar and water to a simmer and lower the heat to low. Place the lid on the pan and allow the mixture to simmer until the color begins to darken to a light amber color, this should take about 10 minutes. Make sure to remove the lid and check the color at least every minute.
- You can gently swirl the pan every couple of minutes but DO NOT STIR IT WITH ANYTHING. If there are crystalized pieces of sugar on the sides of the pan, the steam running down from the lid should dissolve them but if it doesn’t, you can use a pastry brush wet with water to brush them away.
- Once the sugar is an amber color, remove it from the heat and pour in the heavy whipping cream while stirring constantly. Then stir in the softened butter.1/2 cup (118mL) heavy cream, 6 Tbsp (84g) salted butter
- Pour the caramel sauce in a heat proof jar and stir in the salt and vanilla extract.1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- While the caramel is cooling, preheat the oven to 425F (218C). Roll out your pie crust and place it in a pie dish. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of it and fill it with pie weights. If you don't have pie weights, fill it with dry beans, rice or flour.
- Bake the pie for 20 minutes, remove it from the oven, remove the pie weights and parchment paper and brush with a little egg wash. Return the pie to the oven and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, until it's browned and the bottom no longer looks wet. If you need to, tent the edges of the pie crust with foil or a pie shield to prevent them from burning.1 egg
- Remove it from the oven and allow it to cool completely before filling.
Apple Cider Pastry Cream
- In a medium saucepan (preferably stainless steel or nonstick – avoid aluminum), heat the apple cider over medium heat and bring it to a simmer.12 ounces apple cider
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, spices and salt aggressively for 1-2 minutes, until the mixture becomes smooth and runny, with no more chunks.2 large eggs, 3/4 cup (150g) light or dark brown sugar, 5 Tbsp (50g) cornstarch, 2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, tiny pinch fine sea salt
- Temper the eggs by streaming half of the apple cider into the egg mixture while continuing to whisk. Dump the whole mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, while whisking continuously.
- Within 1-3 minutes, the mixture should start to thicken, continue whisking. Once it's starting to stick to the pan, whisk aggressively for another 30-60 seconds.
- Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl with the butter and vanilla. Allow the heat from the pastry cream to melt the butter for a second and then gently whisk it. It may separate at first but it'll come back together as you whisk it. The pastry cream should be smooth and silky now, if you have any lumps, feel free to push it though a sieve.1 Tbsp vanilla bean paste or extract, 4 Tbsp (56g) salted butter
- Cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Once it’s cooled to room temperature (or almost) spread the custard into the pre-baked pie crust.
- Once your pie crust, caramel sauce and pastry cream have cooled completely, spread a layer of caramel sauce on the bottom of your pie crust. Freeze the pie for 15-30 minutes to set it so it doesn’t move when you spread the pastry cream in.
- Spread the pastry cream on top of the caramel and refrigerate for 1-2 hours before topping it again with a layer of caramel sauce.
- Refrigerate for several hours or overnight and then make the whipped cream topping and dust with cinnamon.
- Sift the powdered sugar and salt into the bowl of the stand mixer (or a large bowl with a hand mixer).2 Tbsp (25g) powdered sugar, Tiny pinch of salt
- Add the heavy whipping cream and vanilla bean paste on top and beat at medium-low speed for about 1-2 minutes, until it starts to thicken.3/4 cup (6oz/180mL) heavy whipping cream, 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Increase the speed to medium-high and continue beating for another 1-2 minutes, until the cream forms stiff peaks. Don’t over-beat passed this.
- Use the rubber spatula to scrape the edge of the bowl and fold it a couple of times to make it smooth and silky.
- Pipe on top of the chilled pie and dust with a little cinnamon.Dusting of cinnamon