Apricot buttercream (and filling) elevate (and recreate) a 1980s cake

Back in the 1980s, when Michelle and Steve first got together, Michelle made Steve a really good birthday cake. Michelle doesn’t remember much about it, other than that the filling and icing were deliciously flavored with dried apricots. And it was baked in our first apartment kitchen, which (amazing as it now seems) we thought was incredible because it had a dishwasher and new appliances.

We’ve ruined several Le Creuset pots since 1986. But we’ve still got that knife magnet.

Over the years Michelle kept Steve, but she somehow managed to lose the recipe which probably came from a magazine. Recently, thanks in part to our online friend Sacha Madadian (an editor of America’s Test Kitchen’s The Perfect Cake) and Rose Levy Beranbaum, she may have finally managed to recreate it. An interesting apricot filling recipe in The Perfect Cake sparked Michelle’s resolve. For a finishing touch, she decided to simplify the apricot buttercream in Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible (see, you just can’t get away from that horrible decade no matter how you try).

We very much enjoyed how the delicate white cake allowed the apricot flavor of filling and buttercream to predominate. And though we’re quite sure this cake might not be as profitable as other efforts to recreate a hit from that decade, we enjoyed successfully bringing back a delicious bit of the Eighties.


  • Servings: makes and 8 or 9-inch double layer cake
  • Print

(filling adapted from America’s Test Kitchen’s The Perfect Cake/icing adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible)


Use any good white cake recipe.  Michelle likes this one, which also appears in The Perfect Cake.


  • 1/2 c. dried apricots (preferably from California)
  • 1 TB lemon juice mixed with 1 TB water
  • 1/2 tsp. unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 TB water
  • 13-oz. jar apricot preserves (we used Bonne Maman)
  • 1 heaping tsp. candied ginger, finely chopped

Bring dried apricots and lemon juice/water mixture to a simmer in a small saucepan. Remove from heat, cover and let sit for about 10 minutes.

Sprinkle gelatin in 1/2 TB water. Let dissolve for about a minute, then stir into fruit mixture.

Process mixture (including any liquid) in a food processor until fairly smooth. Transfer to a bowl, stir in candied ginger and refrigerate for at least an hour.


  • 1 c. dried apricots (preferably from California, sulfured for best color)
  • 3/4 c. water
  • 2-1/4 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/3 c. granulated sugar

Place apricots and water in a small saucepan. Let sit covered, for an hour or so. Then, simmer for 15 minutes. Add sugar, stir, then simmer for 5 or so minutes more until fruit is soft. Add lemon juice.

Process mixture (including any liquid) in a food processor until smooth. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve. You should have something around 1/2 cup of purée after straining. Let cool completely.

  • 1 c. (2 sticks) very soft unsalted butter
  • 6-7 c. confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • a little milk, if needed

Place butter, 4 cups of sifted confectioners’ sugar and apricot purée in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat until smooth. Add additional sugar, one cup at a time, until thick, smooth and spreadable. Add a splash of milk if too dry.



    • I should NEVER leave such things to Steve! Thank you! I fixed the spelling of her last name and didn’t even notice that. And, that kitchen was in the Monsarrat downtown by the Public Library. I wanted to put in this groovy ’80s shot with gold-painted columns and pink walls but couldn’t make it work. Hope you all are well. ❤

  1. Ron

    Real buttercream frostings are so yummy and your cake with the apricot filling must have tasted divine. Your 80s kitchen brought back memories of similar appliance and colors. I still have one of those coffee cup trees in my shop, I use it to hanging paint brushes to dry.

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