This simple and homey apple cake makes the perfect fall dessert. Packed with juicy apples and autumn spices, it tastes just like a slice of apple cake your grandmother would serve.
Over the years, I’ve loved experimenting with new recipes and getting creative in the kitchen, but I will forever adore simple, nostalgic desserts, like this classic apple cake.
This cake is moist and tender and one of my favorite apple dessert recipes. The autumn spices give it a warm flavor that’s perfect for fall. It’s loaded with juicy apples and it smells divine when it’s baking!
Ingredients and substitutions
Sugar: You can use either 1 cup light brown sugar, half a cup brown sugar (either dark or light) plus half a cup granulated sugar, or 1 cup granulated sugar. Brown sugar adds a wonderful flavor to the cake, so I like to include it, but’s completely optional.
Buttermilk: Although I love using buttermilk for this cake, I’ve also tried this cake using plain yogurt and milk. All options are great. If you use just milk, replace the ¼ teaspoon baking soda with ½ teaspoon baking powder in addition to the 1 teaspoon that’s already in the recipe.
Spices: I usually use 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, and ¼ teaspoon ginger or cloves for a nice, balanced spice flavor, but you can add a bit or less if you’d like. I just don’t recommend leaving out the spices, because they really give this cake an amazing flavor.
Apples: This cake is loaded with apple pieces. You can always add more or less according to your desired taste and consistency.
How to make apple cake
- Combine the dry ingredients. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and spices.
- Peel and cut the apples. Peel the apples and cut them into ¼-inch cubes. Set aside.
- Cream butter and sugar. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat room temperature butter with sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Gradually add each egg, mixing between each addition to make sure it’s completely incorporated. Then, add the vanilla.
- Alternate adding the dry ingredients and buttermilk. Add the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk in two additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary to combine all ingredients.
- Fold in the apples. This is the final step before baking
- Bake. Pour the batter in a greased cake pan and bake for 35-40 minutes in a 350°F oven. Allow to cool completely before slicing. I love dusting this cake with some powdered sugar before serving!
Ideas for add-ins and toppings
This cake is incredibly customizable. Here are a few of my favorite add-ins if you want to switch up the flavors a bit:
- Add orange zest of 1 orange to the batter.
- Add up to 1 cup cranberries.
- Add ½ – ¾ cup chopped nuts: walnuts, pecans, or almonds are great.
- Add ½ teaspoon pure almond extract (in addition to the vanilla extract).
- Add 1 tablespoon rum or Calvados.
- Toss the apples with some lemon juice and Calvados for extra flavor.
- Before baking, sprinkle the top of the batter with a mixture of 1 tablespoon sugar plus ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon for a crunchy topping.
- Sprinkle the top of the batter with flaked almonds before baking.
- Top with cream cheese frosting after the cake has completely cooled. If you do, keep the cake refrigerated.
- Drizzle cake slices with a simple vanilla sauce.
More of my favorite apple recipes
- Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake: This showstopping cake is moist and tender and topped with beautiful and delicious caramel apples.
- Caramel Apple Pie: Juicy, caramelized apples take this apple pie to new heights.
- Caramel Apple Scones: Buttery, rich, and perfectly flaky, this scones are full of delicious apples and topped with decadent caramel sauce.
- Caramel Apple Rolls: Yeasted sweet rolls are filled with a delicious apple filling for an amazing morning treat.
- Apple Crumble: This classic apple crumble is topped with crunchy cinnamon streusel and tastes absolutely perfect. Best served with vanilla ice cream!
- 1 ⅓ cups (180g) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon combination of your favorite spices (ground nutmeg, cloves, ginger)
- ½ cup (115g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (100g) brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅔ cup (160ml) buttermilk
- 250 g (about 2 cups/2 medium) apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch cubes (cut first, then measure)
Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Grease and flour an 8" or 9" round springform pan (8" pan will yield a taller cake).
In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and spices. Set aside.
In a mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until combined. Scrape down sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary. Beat in vanilla extract. On low speed, beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating it with buttermilk in 2 additions, starting and ending with the flour. Do not over mix. Fold in apples.
Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool completely.
Serve cake warm or at room temperature.
Store cake at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days or refrigerate for up to 5 days.
Cake can be frozen for up to 2 months.