This recipe is a slight modification of my grandmother’s popular Jewish Apple Cake Recipe (for those of you who don’t like change, I’ve made notes so you can make it exactly as her recipe is written!). Super simple to make, no mixer required! Recipe includes a how-to video!
(Mostly) Old Fashioned Apple Cake
We took Luke apple picking over the weekend (scroll to the bottom of the page for a picture!) and after bringing home approximately 20 lbs of apples I asked on Instagram if there were any apple recipes that you’d like to see. In addition to apple fritters and apple butter, I received so many requests for a “good apple cake”. Fortunately, I already had this recipe planned to share with you today.
This is my grandmother’s apple cake recipe…. sort of. Because I’m basically incapable of leaving any recipe unaltered, I made a few subtle changes to her original recipe. I truly wasn’t sure if I could improve upon the original, but after taste-testing (and having my family taste-test) I decided I wanted to share my version with the alterations. Look, I’ve shared plenty of her recipes as she shared them with me (like her hot milk cake and apple dumplings!), so just trust me on the changes here!
Because I know I’m going to get a few comments asking me exactly how my grandmother’s recipe was written, I included the notes on how to make it as per her instructions in the recipe card.
What You Need
The recipe is simple, and the texture and technique actualy remind me a lot of my banana cake. The crumb is a bit more dense than a classic cake and is almost like a quick-bread, between the sugar in the batter and on top it’s sweet enough that it doesn’t need any frosting.
- Apples! I use Granny Smith, though you can substitute your favorite apple (or whatever you have on hand).
- Flour. Use all-purpose (plain) flour. Do not use self-rising flour, and I have not tested this recipe with cake flour so I can’t advise on that.
- Sugar. This recipe uses a fair amount of sugar. My grandmother’s recipe used all granulated, but I love the flavor brown sugar adds so I substituted half of the granulated sugar with brown.
- Cinnamon. A bit of cinnamon mixed with sugar makes the topping for this cake (and I toss the apples in a bit of it, too).
- Oil & Butter. Another deviation from my grandmother’s recipe: she uses all oil. I love the flavor butter adds so again I split it right down the middle and melt a stick of butter for my variation of the recipe. The cake is plenty moist enough (thanks to the apples) and doesn’t suffer for the reduction.
- Baking powder. Helps keep the cake from being too dense.
- Eggs. You’ll need 4. Large or extra large will work.
- Salt & Vanilla extract. For flavor.
- Buttermilk. This adds a subtle depth of flavor to the cake. Her recipe uses orange juice, which you can use instead, but I prefer to use buttermilk.
This is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Apple Cake
The batter for this recipe can be made in a single bowl in 5 steps and it can be done completely by hand (no mixer needed).
- Toss together chopped (peeled) apples with a bit of cinnamon and sugar.
- Stir together dry ingredients and make a well in the center.
- Whisk together your wet ingredients in that well (this saves us a dish, but you could do it in a separate bowl if you prefer) then gently combine wet and dry ingredients and stir in apples.
- Spread into pan, top with the rest of your cinnamon/sugar and bake!
TIP: Because this cake is moist and a bit dense it can be difficult to tell when it’s finished baking (the toothpick test doesn’t always cut it). If you’re not sure if your cake is done, pierce the center with a sharp knife and take a peek inside to make sure it’s not raw!
Frequently Asked Questions
Use my easy buttermilk substitute instead (you just need whole milk and vinegar or lemon juice). Alternatively, use orange juice, which is what my grandmother uses in her recipe.
Yes, but either omit the topping and use the glaze from my bundt cake recipe or you can portion half the batter into the pan and then layer and swirl some of the topping in the center before adding the rest of the batter.
To make in a bundt pan, thoroughly grease and flour the pan first and then bake for approximately 1 ½ hours. Check after an hour and loosely tent with foil if the cake is browning too fast. Use a wooden skewer or knife to test if it’s done.
Granny Smith are my preference and a nice slightly tart contrast to the sweet cake. However, just about any apple may be used (Honeycrisp, Gala, Cortland are all good choices). Keep in mind Granny Smith apples are quite tart and substituting a sweeter apple (which is just about any other apple) will make the cake sweeter, too.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. It may also be frozen (tightly wrapped) for several months.
I haven’t tried it but I don’t really see why not. Instead I’d rather direct you to my apple crumble muffins, which are specifically designed to be made in a cupcake tin .
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Let’s bake together! Make sure to check out the how-to VIDEO in the recipe card!
- ½ cup granulated sugar (100g)
- 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 3 cups apples peeled, cored, and diced. I use Granny Smith (375g)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour (375g)
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar (300g)
- 1 cup light brown sugar firmly packed (200)
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ cup canola oil or vegetable oil (115ml)
- ½ cup unsalted butter melted (113g)
- 4 large eggs room temperature, lightly beaten
- ⅓ cup buttermilk or orange juice (80ml)
- 2 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and lightly grease the sides and bottom of a 9×13 baking pan.
- Prepare topping by whisking together ½ cup sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon. Measure out just 2 tablespoons of the mixture and pour over your apples. Toss until all apple pieces are coated and then set aside.
- In a separate large bowl, whisk together flour, sugars, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt until well-combined.
- Make a well in the center and add oil, butter, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla extract. Stir the liquid ingredients together until combined and then carefully fold the dry and wet ingredients together until well-combined (but don’t over-mix).
- Add apples and stir until combined.
- Spread batter into prepared pan and sprinkle the top evenly with remaining topping mixture. Transfer to 350F (175C) oven and bake for 40-45 minutes if using a metal pan or 50-55 minutes if using a glass dish. Cake will be done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs (no wet batter!). Since it’s a somewhat dense cake, sometimes I like to use a knife to make a small cut in the center of the cake and make sure it’s baked through.