Introduction: Cinnamon Crust Cream Cheese Apple Pie

About: Hi, I'm Éva from Hungary. I love baking, cooking, and gardening, not to mention the perfect combination: cooking using fruits and veggies from our garden. I often experiment with new ingredients and try to use…

Hello Everyone,

I was wondering for days about what to come up with in the 1000th contest. Contest definition was like a white canvas and for me, having too many or rather endless choices does not make life easier at all.

It was clear from the very beginning that it should be some sort of cooking project, and I also wanted to relate somehow to this very special occasion.

Celebrations usually mean cakes, but our family is not frantically enthusiastic about cakes, we all much prefer pies. Any pie, really. My next thought was, hey, it’s autumn and apple season, so why not bake an apple pie?

It may sound boring, but it’s not a simple apple pie, it’s the best I ever tasted. To put it short, it’s kind of like cheesecake meets apple pie in a delicious cinnamon roll crumb. So that part was decided, but I still needed something extra to honor the occasion. Social media is full of Halloween design pies that rang a bell. Why not try to make a robot design?

To be honest, this was the first time I made a pie with this sort of design on top, so I was actually quite nervous about how I was going to carry out what I had on my mind. I watched tutorials on making design pies, I made an experiment on coloring. You can see the outcome on the cover photo. I am not saying that it is quite as nice as it was intended to be.

Though it would be a pity to skip the cute robot :-) you can make the pie without it and still enjoy the fantastic taste: rich and creamy, sweet yet a little acidic at the same time.

Anyway, this one goes out to all of you guys working at Instructables. Stay safe :-)

Step 1: You'll Need

Please note that the quantities indicated are sufficient to fill a 29 cm diameter deep pie mold. As a matter of fact, the dough itself is more than enough, but since the recipe contains an egg in the ratio of which all other ingredients are measured, it would have been quite insane to cut down the quantity by a third, leading to 2/3 of an egg ...

You can use the remaining dough to make cookies or you may put it in the freezer until further use, it can be safely stored in the freezer for months.

I suggest to prepare the dough in two batches as it is a lot easier to work with (pic 1 shows the ingredients of one batch). For your convenience, I also give the quantity for one batch of dough.

Throughout the recipe, references will be made to one batch of dough, thereby I always mean half of the total quantity indicated here.

For the dough:

  • 680 g (2x430 g) all purpose flour
  • 80 g (2x40 g) almond meal*
  • 400 g (2x200 g) butter
  • 120 g (2x60 g) powdered sugar
  • 2 (2x1) large eggs
  • 2 (2x1) pinch of salt

* You may replace almond meal with any other nuts or - if you prefer - you may just use identical amount of flour instead, but adding ground nuts certainly gives an extra flavor.

For the cinnamon roll filling:

  • 5 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)

For the cream cheese filling:

  • 220 g cream cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 50 g white granuated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the apple filling:

  • 1 kg apples (I suggest to pick a firm and not too sweet, a bit tart type flavorwise that holds well in the oven. I used Jonagold, but Braeburn or Granny Smith could also be a good choice, you may even mix them.)
  • 170 g brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of cornstarch

1 extra egg white for making the decoration.


  • baking tray
  • clingfilm
  • parchment paper
  • pencil
  • sharp knife
  • stand mixer
  • bowls
  • digital scale
  • pie mold
  • rolling pin
  • spatula
  • spoons
  • vegetable peeler
  • silicone brush
  • food-safe brush for coloring
  • food color gel
  • cutting board

Step 2: The Design

This was the first time ever I made a figurative finish on a pie. It was a total leap into the dark taking also into consideration my very limited drawing and crafting skills. You can see in pic 1 that I am not kidding, I guess my ten year old son could have made a better drawing. So the first challenge was to make a decent sketch.

Finally I placed a piece of parchment paper over my Instructables apron and copied most of the figure but skipped the bowl and recomposed the left hand. Then I had to think of a base on which the robot could be placed so I put my mold upside down on another parchment and drew the outline. I centered the robot and tried to create a form around it that I hoped I could manage to put on top of the pie when cut out of dough. When I checked the figure in the mold, I found it too small, so I enlarged it by approximately 15% with my PC but otherwise it seemed OK. At least worth a try, but I still had no clue how it would finally work out.

I decided to get started with baking itself which is a lot more familiar thing to me, and hoped for the best.

Step 3: Dough - Butter Must Be Ice-cold!

From my experience, the trick to making a flaky and flavorful pie crust - besides having a good recipe - is using cold ingredients. Therefore, cut the butter into cubes and put it into the freezer to 10-15 minutes.

Step 4: Making the Dough 1.

Once again, I suggest to make two smaller batches rather than one big batch.

1. Pour flour, almond meal and salt into the bowl of the stand mixer, combine.

2. Add butter cubes straight out of the freezer, but do not dump them in one place, try to scatter them.

3-4. Mix at low speed until crumbles start to form.

5-6. Add sugar and the slightly whisked egg.

7-8. Keep mixing at low-medium speed (KitchenAid 4) until the dough comes together.

Step 5: Making the Dough 2.

Lay a piece of parchment on the countertop and dump the dough onto it. I prefer this method as we will have to wrap the dough and put it into the fridge anyway, and also, this way the counter does not get greasy which means less cleaning. Form the dough quickly into a disc and wrap it.

If you decided to work with half of the dough at a time, it's time to make the second batch the same way as the first.

Place both discs of dough into a ziploc bag and leave them in the fridge for at least two hours (or overnight).

Step 6: Making the Dough 3.

Make cinnamon roll from one batch and one half of the other batch, that is 3/4 of the total quantity. Cut one of the batches in half and put the remaining dough back into the fridge until you get to making the decoration.

To prepare the crust filling, mix the soft butter with the cardamom and the cinnamon until fully combined. On a parchment paper (or on a floured work surface, but I think that it is a lot easier to do it on parchment) roll out the dough into a rectangle.

Depending on the size of your work surface, you may need to divide the dough into 2 or 3 parts (while working on one piece, store the rest in the fridge). The dough should be really thin, about 2 mm. If you have a hard time creating a rectangle like I always do, no problem, take a knife, cut excess parts and rearrange, then roll a little further. Like a puzzle, really (photos 8 and 9).

Spread the butter mixture on top of the dough (the butter mixture should be enough for all of the dough to be made into cinnamon rolls) and roll it into a tight log, from the long side. Using a parchment also helps here, after you have made the the initial tight fold (pic 12) it is a lot easier to form the log by rolling the dough with lifting the parchment bit by bit.

Wrap the rolls (if it is too long do not hesitate to cut it into 2 or 3 parts) into a parchment, then place them into a Ziploc bag and transfer them into the freezer for 15 minutes. The reason for this is that it is way easier to slice the logs when cold.

Step 7: Making the Crust

You will need rolls made from 1 batch of dough to cover the mold, the rest of the cinnamon rolls shall be saved for the crust on top (keep in the fridge until then)!

Prepare your mold the usual way, I spread softened butter in it and dusted with flour.

Remove the rolls from the freezer and slice them into 5 mm thick slices (1/4 of an inch or so). Place the slices into the bottom and the side of the mold and press them together to form the pie shell.

Put the mold into the freezer for 15 minutes and turn on the oven to 180 °C. This will help to keep the form of the shell.

Step 8: Blind Bake

Take the mold out of the freezer, lay a large parchment paper inside and fill it up with beans / lentils to weigh the pie.

Bake at 180 °C in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then take it out, remove the beans together with the parchment and bake uncovered for 5 more minutes. After the first ten minutes I had a small pond of melted butter on top of the crust which did freak me out but it was beautifully reabsorbed in the last 5 minutes of blind baking.

Let the crust get completely cold before adding the filling.

Step 9: Apple Filling

Peel the apples.

Cut them into half, then into half again or quarters depending on their size.

Remove seeds.

Slice them and place them into a bowl.

Add the lemon juice, sugar, salt and the spices and let it sit for about 40 minutes. (Save cornstarch for later!)

Step 10: Cream Cheese Filling

In order to make the cream cheese filling, add all the ingredients and combine.

Step 11: Experiment on Coloring

I could not make up my mind when to do the coloring: before or after baking, that's why, before getting on with the pie I decided to run a simple experiment. I cut off a small piece of the dough and divided it into two parts. Then I separated an egg, took 2 espresso cups and put 1 tablespoon of egg white into each.

I used WIlton food color gel that is a very dense material, so I added just a tiny bit (that stuck to the end of the wooden toothpick dipped into the gel) of yellow into one of the cups and red into the other, then mixed. I painted one half of one of the dough pieces yellow, the other red, while leaving the second piece of dough untouched. I baked both pieces of dough in the preheated oven until the non-painted one started to get brown, then painted the second piece of dough.

It was easy to pick the right method. The one painted before baking (on the left) had a nice color - though not so vivid as prior to baking -, the other one not so much.

Step 12: How to Finish Apple Filling

You will see that in the 40 minutes rest period the apples released a considerable amount of juice that could make this type of apple pie soggy, so we have to get rid of most of it. Cream cheese will make the apple pie sufficiently juicy.

Actually, there is no need to use a strainer, it is enough to transfer the apples into an another bowl with a draining spoon then add corn starch and mix.

Step 13: Fill the Pie

Remember to wait till the pie gets cold, otherwise the cream cheese would melt straight away!

Spread the cream cheese on the crust, add the apples and bake the pie in the preheated oven (180 °C) for 20 minutes.

Step 14: The Crust on Top - More Paperwork

First I cut the outline of the stencil of the base crust that goes on top. I am not sure that base is the correct word to use, but I could not think of anything else, I mean the layer of crust that goes straight on top of the apples and on which the robot will be placed.

Then I cut the parts I wanted to leave open.

Step 15: Cutting the Dough That Goes on Top

There is one thing I definitely learned when making this project. You need to keep the dough cold in order to make clear cuts. My technique was to work on a thin cutting board covered with parchment so that any time I felt that the dough got too soft to work with I could place the whole thing back into the freezer for a couple of minutes before carrying on.

Slice the remaining cinnamon roll into 3-4 mm thick slices.

Arrange the slices in the desired form, place another parchment on top and roll it slightly with a rolling pin. Place the stencil on top, cut and remove the overhanging parts. Place the dough into the fridge (on the cutting board, as it is, just until you get done with the robot and the balloons).

Step 16: Decoration

Do you still remember the 1/4 of the total quantity of the dough that we set aside before spreading the cinnamon filling on the rest? It's time to grab it from the fridge.

Roll it thin (2 mm).

Place the robot stencil on top and cut along the outlines with a small sharp knife. Remember that you should put the dough back into the freezer anytime it gets too soft to work with.

When the robot's ready, place it back into the freezer.

I wanted certain parts of the figure to be more like 3 dimensional, so I cut around the body (at first it was my idea to keep part of the head but that turned out weird).

Cut the body out of the dough the same way as the whole robot, then cut out the right hand and the bottom of the cake from the stencil and make the dough-version.

Step 17: Transferring the Dough

This is a tricky part.

Take a rolling pin and starting from the upper end of the dough, roll the dough gently on the rolling pin, while leaving the dough between the two layers of parchment. Move the dough on the rolling pin above the mold. This way, the lower end of the dough base, where the feet of the robot will stand, will be the first to land on the pie.

Gently start to remove the parchment paper from the down side of the dough while holding the dough on the rolling pin and adjust it to the side of the form. Very carefully, turn the rolling pin, while pulling off the underlying parchment.

Jump for joy when ready, but don't be upset if it accidentally breaks, you may correct the flaw by pressing the dough parts together.

Step 18: Final Assembly

Using egg white as glue, brush the dough base, place the whole robot, brush the belly, place the second layer belly, brush the bottom of the cake and where the right hand goes and place those parts, too.

I also cut and placed a few balloons on the top part, but somehow they managed to evade getting photographed.

Step 19: Coloring

I used food color gel diluted in egg white for the yellow and red parts, whenever I felt that I needed a bit stronger color I poked a toothpick into the color gel and rubbed it on the dough then blurred with the brush. As for the thin black lines I applied coloring as it was, straight from the box.

Step 20: Bake and Done

Bake in the preheated oven (170 °C, no fan) for 15 minutes more and you're ready.

Serve cold so that the cream cheese can set. Enjoy!

1000th Contest

Participated in the
1000th Contest