Apple Tea Cake

This apple tea cake is made with layers of apples and cinnamon encased in sweet cake and topped with a tart lemon drizzle. We’re happily indulging at any time of the day.

An apple tea cake on a wire rack with three slices cut from it and one on a blue and white plate.

My favorite school roommate used to get regular care packages from home containing a rich lemon pound cake that was drizzled with tart glaze. It was incredible (she was good at sharing). Twenty years later, that cake inspired this variation, in which a buttermilk pound cake is layered with very thin slices of apple and topped with tangy lemon glaze. When you slice the cake, you see the pretty layers—a lovely presentation.–Amy Traverso

What’s the best type of apple to use for this apple tea cake?

Firm and sweet apples with pronounced lemon flavors are particularly good here in this subtly flavored, not-quite-as-heavy-as-a-pound-cake tea cake. Try a Ginger Gold or Gravenstein if you can find one. Otherwise, a nice Pink Lady or Jazz would be great, too. [Editor’s Note: Gala also works quite well!]

Apple Tea Cake

  • Quick Glance
  • Quick Glance
  • 40 M
  • 3 H
  • Serves 8 to 10
Print RecipeBuy the The Apple Lover's Cookbook cookbook

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  • For the spiced apple cake
  • For the glaze


Make the spiced apple tea cake

Preheat the oven to 350ºF (177°C). Adjust a rack to the middle position. Line a 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch (22-by-11-cm) loaf pan with parchment paper so there is some overhanging all sides.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the butter and sugar on high speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally, until pale, very fluffy, and, in the final moments, mousse-like, 8 to 12 minutes. (Alternatively, you can use a hand-held mixer and a large bowl.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

Gradually add the eggs and egg yolk to the batter, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Switch to your stand mixer’s paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, add 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Add half the buttermilk and briefly mix until combined. Repeat with another 1/3 of the flour mixture, then the remaining buttermilk, then the last of the flour mixture. Mix just until smooth—do not overmix.

Pour 1/3 of the batter into the prepared bread pan and smooth with an offset spatula or knife. Top the batter with half the apples, overlapping the slices if necessary. Sprinkle the apples with half the cinnamon. Repeat with an additional third of the batter and the remaining apples. Top with the remaining batter and smooth with a spatula.

Bake until the cake is golden brown, starting to pull away from the edges of the pan, and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 to 65 minutes.

Prepare the glaze

In a medium bowl, stir the lemon juice into the confectioners’ sugar until smooth. If the glaze seems exceptionally thick, add more lemon juice, about 1 teaspoon at a time, until it reaches a pourable consistency.

Remove the cake from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes in the pan. While the cake is still warm, poke the top all over with a toothpick inserted all the way. Slowly pour half the glaze on the cake and spread evenly with a spatula.

Let sit for 10 minutes to soak up the glaze, then use the parchment overhang to remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack, 45 to 60 minutes more.

When the cake is completely cool, drizzle generously with the remaining glaze, letting it run down the sides. Let the glaze dry before serving, about 30 minutes.

Print RecipeBuy the The Apple Lover's Cookbook cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Recipe Testers' Reviews

What a nice fall cake. The lemon icing combines really well with the cake batter as well as the apple. The cake batter itself was good but the addition of the lemon and apple took it to the next level.

At first I was wondering how much apple you would taste with such a small ratio of apple to cake but it carried through just enough to have a nice crisp apple flavor. The tang of the icing is the perfect finish—even though the cake on it's own would be nice as well.

The only issues I had were the outer part of the cake (the ends) was a little dry and the icing didn't really absorb into the cake but mine might not have been liquidy enough.

I worried there wouldn't be enough apple but it worked out just fine. I think instead of 1/3 on the bottom maybe 1/4 would be better? I felt like I ran out of batter at the top. It covered it ok but I was worried.

This is a great apple cake. Perfect as a simple fall dessert or with a cup of tea in the afternoon. It has a great apple flavor despite pretty minimal apple and the texture was on point (sometimes fruit heavy cakes can be pretty stodgy).

I was a little skeptical of the butter and sugar reaching a "mousse-like" texture, even with the whisk attachment (but was excited to find out what the final baked good would be like IF that happened!). Incredibly, at 9 1/2 minutes, poof, mousselike.

I used a Koru apple.

When I checked the cake at 45 minutes, the top was getting very dark but the inside was still underdone. I tented it with foil and baked another 13 minutes before it was cooked through.

Took close to an hour on the counter for the cake to cool completely but the final product was worth the wait! The bake was great all the way around and had that nice dark crust with a bright, white interior. I love that. It’s moist, has a soft crumb, and good apple and cinnamon flavor. The lemon glaze gave it a nice crunch on the exterior and was a great sharp contrast with the sweet and delicate flavor of the cake.

This will definitely be going into my rotation for the fall! I think there is a lot of room to play with the amount and size of apples going in or even adding another layer of slices in the cake or on top. This is a fun twist on classic flavors.

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