This easy apple cake recipe is the perfect autumn treat! Moist, tender, and deliciously spiced, it's a wonderful dessert, breakfast, or afternoon snack.
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
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.
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.
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.
Next, add the flour, baking powder, and baking soda, and whisk until well-combined and smooth.
Use the edge of the whisk to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to make sure your batter is evenly mixed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
- Apple Crumble
- Pumpkin Bars
- Carrot Cake
- Pumpkin Bread
- Best Pumpkin Pie
- Perfect Oatmeal Cookies
- Homemade Cinnamon Rolls
- 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
- 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.