Apple Cake

This easy apple cake recipe is the perfect autumn treat! Moist, tender, and deliciously spiced, it's a wonderful dessert, breakfast, or afternoon snack.

apple cake

I first tried this apple cake recipe on a gray, rainy Monday. I had a mountain of work to plow through, but I managed to carve out enough time to chop the apples, whisk together the batter, and pop the cake in the oven. Like magic, it transformed my day! There’s something about a really simple, really good baking recipe that can brighten my mood in an instant, and this apple cake recipe did just that. It’s a breeze to make, and it yields a moist, tender cake that’s perfect for dessert, breakfast, or an afternoon treat. It’s jam-packed with apples, and brown sugar and cinnamon fill it with rich, spiced flavor. If you ever need a way to lift your spirits on a fall day, make this apple cake.

The recipe comes from Yossy Arefi’s new book Snacking Cakes: Simple Treats for Anytime Cravings, which comes out on Tuesday, but you can pre-order it now! It’s a gorgeous collection of 50 snacking cake recipes that are easy to make and acceptable to eat at any time of day. When you get your hands on it, you won’t be able to choose what to make first. Each of Yossy’s cakes looks more fun and delicious than the next. In addition to this apple cake recipe, I have my eye on her Almond Butter Banana Cake, Citrusy Almond Cornmeal Cake, Simple Sesame Cake…I could list the whole book! More than anything, this book will make you want to bake.

In the introduction, Yossy writes, “It’s a simple luxury to bake a snacking cake for yourself or your friends and family. I hope this book inspires you to do it often, and with abandon.” Let’s make apple cake!

Apple cake recipe ingredients

Apple Cake Recipe Ingredients

According to Yossy, a snacking cake should be “low stress,” and it shouldn’t “require much besides a reasonably stocked pantry, a bowl, and a whisk.” Living up to the snacking cake standard, this easy apple cake recipe calls for basic pantry ingredients:

  • Apples, of course! They fill this cake with autumn flavor, and they make it nice and moist.
  • Dark brown sugar – I’m usually not particular about using light or dark brown sugar in baking recipes, but I highly recommend using dark brown sugar here. It gives the cake an extra-rich, molasses-y flavor.
  • Eggs – They make the apple cake wonderfully light and puffy.
  • Oil – For moisture and richness. I used olive oil here, and it worked perfectly, but a neutral-flavored oil like avocado, canola, sunflower, or grapeseed oil would be great too.
  • Vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg – They add warm, spiced flavor to this fresh apple cake.
  • Salt – Don’t skip it! It really makes the sweet, spiced flavors pop.
  • All-purpose flour – This cake is all about the apples, so you don’t need much flour – just 1 cup.
  • Baking powder and baking soda – For lift.
  • Walnuts – For crunch! You’ll stir some into the cake batter and sprinkle more on top.

Find the complete recipe with measurements below.

Diced apples on a cutting board

How to Make Apple Cake

Because Yossy’s cakes are intended to be simple, everyday treats, almost all of them are made in a single bowl. That includes this easy apple cake recipe! Here’s how it goes:

First, peel and dice the apples. The pieces can vary in size a little based on the natural shape of the apples; aim for 1/4- to 1/2-inch chunks.

Hands whisking cake batter with a metal whisk

Second, whisk the brown sugar with the eggs until they’re pale and foamy, about 1 minute. Then, whisk in the oil, spices, vanilla, and salt.

Whisking wet and dry ingredients in a mixing bowl

Next, add the flour, baking powder, and baking soda, and whisk until well-combined and smooth.

Apple spice cake batter

Use the edge of the whisk to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to make sure your batter is evenly mixed.

Folding diced apples and walnuts into cake batter

Then, add the apples and HALF the walnuts. (I accidentally dumped them all in at first – oops!) Use a rubber spatula to fold them into the batter.

Easy apple cake recipe

Pour the batter into a prepared baking pan, and use an offset spatula to gently smooth the top. Finally, sprinkle the remaining walnuts over the cake, and bake!

Find the complete recipe with measurements below.

Fresh apple cake in a baking pan

Apple Cake Recipe Tips

  • Use good baking apples. You want tart, firm baking apples that will hold their shape in this cake. I used Gala apples, and they were excellent here. Pink Ladies, Mutsu, Jonathan, McIntosh, or Granny Smith apples would be good choices too.
  • Spread the apples evenly in the pan. To make sure that you get plenty of apples in every slice of this cake, use a spatula to evenly spread the apples in the pan after you pour in the batter. Yossy writes that they should be “well dispersed and go all the way to the edges of the pan.”
  • Tap the pan on the counter before you put it in the oven. This will help the apples settle in the pan, releasing any air bubbles that are trapped in the batter.
  • Let the cake cool before slicing and serving. As with all baking recipes, it’s tempting to devour this delicious cake as soon as it comes out of the oven. However, if you allow it to cool, it’ll have a moister, more cohesive texture and stronger spiced apple flavor. Let it cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Then, remove it from the pan and transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cinnamon apple cake on a cooling rack

Serving Suggestions

I’m always happy eating a slice of this cinnamon apple cake plain, with or without a cup of coffee or tea to go with it. However, if you’re craving something a little more decadent, don’t hesitate to dress it up! Yossy recommends serving it with the Crème Fraîche Whip on page 180 or the Maple Coffee Glaze on page 91 of her book. It’d also be fantastic with a dollop of coconut whipped cream or traditional whipped cream, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or a dusting of confectioner’s sugar.

Snacking Cakes by Yossy Arefi

Apple Cake Recipe Variations

Trust me, you’re going to love this fresh apple cake recipe as written, but if you don’t have the right size pan, or if you’re craving another fruit, don’t worry! Here are a few ways you can change it up:

  • Give it a flavor boost. In this apple cake recipe, Yossy lists two ingredients as optional: whiskey and instant espresso powder. I omitted both, and the cake came out great, but if you want to intensify the flavor of this cake, go ahead and add them in. You’ll find Yossy’s recommended measurements in the recipe below.
  • Use pears. Another great fall treat! Replace the apples with chopped peeled pears, and use hazelnuts or pecans instead of walnuts.
  • Use peaches. This variation is at the top of my list to try next summer! Swap the apples for chopped peeled peaches or nectarines, and make sure to skip the espresso powder. This cake softens quickly, so eat it within a day.
  • Make a square cake. Yossy offers instructions for baking every cake in the book in different pans! How handy is that? The original recipe calls for an 8-inch square pan, but as you can see, I used a 9-inch round pan instead. The baking time is the same for both pan shapes – 30-40 minutes.
  • Make a loaf cake. Another pan option for ya! If you choose to make a loaf cake, the baking time will be longer, 45 to 55 minutes.

Let me know what variations you try!

apple cake

More Favorite Fall Treats

If you love this cinnamon apple cake recipe, check out Snacking Cakes: Simple Treats for Anytime Cravings! I’m obsessed with this book, and I think you will be too. 🙂 In the meantime, enjoy one of these cozy fall treats next:

Happy baking!

Apple Cake

rate this recipe:
4.94 from 15 votes
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 35 mins
Serves 8
This easy apple cake recipe is the perfect fall treat! It's moist, lightly spiced, and jam-packed with tender apples. If you don't have an 9-inch round baking pan, you can bake this cake in an 8-inch square pan or a 9x5-inch loaf pan. See the post above for baking times. Recipe reprinted from Snacking Cakes: Simple Treats for Anytime Cravings by Yossy Arefi with permission from the publisher.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup neutral oil, like canola or grapeseed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 small apples, peeled, cored, and chopped into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon whiskey, optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder, optional

Instructions

  • Position a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter or coat a 9-inch round baking pan with nonstick spray. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the brown sugar and eggs until pale and foamy, about 1 minute. Add the oil, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and whiskey and espresso powder, if using. Whisk until smooth and emulsified.
  • Add the flour, baking powder, and baking soda and whisk until well-combined and smooth.
  • Use a rubber spatula to fold in the apples and ¼ cup of the nuts.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and use an offset spatula to gently smooth the top, making sure the apples are well dispersed and go all the way to the edges of the pan. Tap the pan gently on the counter to release any air bubbles. Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup nuts over the cake.
  • Bake until puffed and golden, and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. There may be a bit of moisture on the tester from the apples. Set the pan on a rack to cool for about 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edge and carefully turn the cake out onto a cooling rack. Then invert it again so that it's puffy side up, if desired.
  • Store the cake, wrapped tightly, at room temperature or in the fridge for up to two days.

34 comments

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  1. Katherine
    10.24.2020

    This cake looks delish!! Do you think it would be alright without the nuts? Or should I try replacing them with pepitas, sunflower seeds, or flax seeds? I’m allergic to tree nuts sadly so this is always my dilemma!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      10.24.2020

      Hi Katherine, it’ll be fine without them. I think skipping them would be better than subbing in seeds. It’ll still be a yummy cake 🙂

  2. Jeff stroud
    10.24.2020

    This looks delis !

    I’m wondering, have you made this vegan, without eggs? Do you think flax seed egg would work ?

    • Régine
      10.24.2020

      I would think so. I make my muffins that way, and they are even fluffieré

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      10.24.2020

      Hi Jeff, I don’t think flax would work for this one. Unlike some other baked goods I’ve made, there’s very little flour in the recipe and the eggs provide the structure. I don’t think it’ll rise properly. If you’re craving apples, I highly recommend this apple crumble which is vegan: https://www.loveandlemons.com/apple-crumble/

    • Jacki
      10.24.2020

      I made mine with flax eggs, just pulled it out of the oven and it turned out great!

      • Jeanine Donofrio
        10.24.2020

        oh I’m so happy to hear that!

  3. Cheryl
    10.24.2020

    I made this today following the directions exactly (adding the espresso granules and the whiskey). The cake is fantastic. Won’t last long …..

  4. Courtney
    10.24.2020

    Thanks for the tip on the snacking cake cookbook. I love having a snaking cake to eat during the day. It keeps me from getting tired. I have made an apple cake for myself a couple of times recently, but this one is slightly different so I’m going to give it a try. I definitely want to get the book for more ideas. I love that they are simple, one bowl recipes. Thats exactly the kind of thing I like to make.

  5. Heather Davis
    10.25.2020

    Could you make this gluten free using a gf plain flour? Thanks

  6. Erin Bahbah
    10.25.2020

    This look lovely! Wondering if you could prepare the batter the night before and bake in the morning for brunch? Thanks!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      10.25.2020

      Hi Erin, I’m not sure how that would work but I will say that the cake is super delicious on the 2nd day. I’d probably just bake it the night before. You could gently warm it if you wanted to serve it warm.

  7. Lisa Ellsmore
    10.25.2020

    5 stars
    Made this for breakfast this morning. Added the espresso and sprinkled powdered sugar on top as suggested…we loved it! Gotta mention that since it was warm we slathered butter on our slices—yum!

  8. Noah Levi
    10.25.2020

    5 stars
    Growing up and in all my years of Charging this cake was known to me as Baked Apple Betty.

    • Noah Levi
      10.25.2020

      You can use raisins,craisnetts etc.

  9. Jules M
    10.25.2020

    5 stars
    Made this tonight and it smelled so good in the oven, and tasted just as good afterwards! It has just a subtle taste of spice, and I wonder if experimenting with more nutmeg/spices would make this more of a spiced apple cake. Either way, delicious and can’t wait to have for breakfast 😋

  10. Carrie
    10.25.2020

    What will happen if I leave the peel on the apples? Think that would be OK? I really hate spending the time peeling apples – and aren’t the peels good for you?!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      10.26.2020

      Hi Carrie, the melt in your mouth texture would change since there would be peel bits to chew through. The peels are good for you but I prefer peeled apples in a few baking recipes.

    • Anna
      11.25.2020

      5 stars
      I left the peels on and chopped then finely – delicious!

  11. Barbara
    10.27.2020

    Hi Janine,
    We have GF issues in our family. Do you think this could be made with Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour?

  12. Sharon
    10.31.2020

    This looks delicious! Do you think I could reduce the sugar by using apple sauce?

  13. Megan
    11.08.2020

    I’m very excited to make and try these! I want to try making these in a madeleine pan, so we can grab them quickly and eat them on the go. How long would you estimate they would need to be cooked in a madeleine pan(I realize it could take a few minutes more or less)?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      11.08.2020

      Hi Megan, I don’t think this cake would work in a madeleine pan, the apples are too chunky. It might work in a muffin, you’d just have to watch it closely in the oven.

  14. Heather Davis
    11.09.2020

    For anyone interested in making this gluten free, I substituted the plain flour for a plain flour gluten free mix and it worked perfectly. I added half a teaspoon of xantham gum because my mix didn’t have any it already. I made it in a loaf tin and it’s lovely!

    • Christine
      11.09.2020

      Thank you! That was my question and a few people before me. Heading to the kitchen to try making it with my gluten-free all purpose flour.

  15. Karen Lipsey
    11.16.2020

    I made this today without the nuts and it is delicious! I doubled the apples.

  16. Nicole
    11.25.2020

    My son has an egg allergy. Your banking recipes looks amazing but everything use 2 eggs in it. Do you have any idea how I can substitute 2 eggs in your banking recipes? Thank you!! I love your recipes!!

    • Nicole
      11.25.2020

      *baking – sorry for the typo…

      • Nicole
        11.25.2020

        Thank you so much!! I’m cook so many from your recipes for this Thanksgiving 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

    • Anna
      11.25.2020

      5 stars
      Hi Nicole – I just made this with Just Egg and it turned out wonderfully!

      • Nicole
        11.25.2020

        Hi Anna, that’s incredible!!!! Thank you so so so much for letting me know! I’ll make it tmrw for our Thanksgiving meal. 🙂

  17. Anna
    11.25.2020

    5 stars
    Made this today and it’s delicious! Perfect amount of spice, and so great for autumn. I used Just Egg in place of eggs (3 tablespoons per egg, so six total) and it worked wonderfully! It was my first time trying Just Egg in place of eggs in a recipe and I’m so happy with how it turned out.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      11.26.2020

      Hi Anna, I love Just Egg – I’m so happy to hear that it worked well here! Thanks for leaving this comment, it’ll be so helpful for others!

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.