Edna Lewis’s Apple Cake with Caramel Glaze

This apple cake with caramel glaze from Edna Lewis is pudding-like and laden with apples, pecans, and spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg.

A square of Edna Lewis's apple cake with caramel glaze on a white plate with a fork.

This apple cake is a cake that I first served for breakfast on a hunting plantation in South Georgia. Spicy and flavorful with a moist, pudding-like texture, this is a truly easy cake—just stir together by hand. [Editor’s Note: We want to emphasize that this is truly pudding-like in that it’s less like a cake and more lovely spiced apple chunks clinging to one another with just enough cake to hold things together, which is not a terrible thing at all.]–Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock

Tips for Making This Apple Cake

This is an easy cake recipe with little room for failure or even mediocre results. Although there are a couple things we found helpful to explore before making it…

What kind of apple should I use?

This cake is never going to be terrible no matter what apple you use, although we prefer those that veer towards tart since the cake itself is plenty sweet. This means Granny Smith or even Golden Delicious. That said, we’ve used Pink Lady as well as Gala apples and not been disappointed. Just know that the cake will be even sweeter if you use an apple that doesn’t have a slightly sour smack.

Do I really need 3 pounds of apples?

Absolutely. Edna Lewis designed this cake to be more like apples held together by cake rather than a cake with the occasional piece of apple. As a result, the texture is sorta spongy and pudding-like, although we quite like it. You may want to enlist the help of others before you start peeling.

 

 

 

Apple Cake with Caramel Glaze

  • Quick Glance
  • (4)
  • 30 M
  • 1 H, 45 M
  • Serves 12
5/5 - 4 reviews
Print RecipeBuy the The Gift of Southern Cooking cookbook

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Ingredients

  • For the apple cake
  • For the caramel glaze

Directions

Make the apple cake

Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

In your largest bowl or container, beat the sugars and oil until very well blended. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, and gradually add to the sugar and eggs, mixing just until well blended. Stir in the vanilla. Then incorporate the apples and pecans. The batter will be quite thick and mostly apples.

Scrape the batter into the buttered baking pan.

Bake the cake until a skewer or toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean and the sides of the cake begin to pull away from the pan, 60 to 75 minutes. (You may want to begin checking the cake for doneness after 50 minutes.) Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in the pan while you prepare the caramel glaze.

Make the caramel glaze

Melt the butter in a saucepan, and add both the sugars and the salt. Stir until blended, and cook over medium-low heat for 2 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream, and boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Assemble the apple cake

Use a skewer or toothpick to poke holes all over the top of the apple cake and pour the warm caramel glaze over the surface. Slice and serve warm or at room temperature. Originally published November 21, 2003. 

Caramel sauce being drizzled over Edna Lewis's apple cake with caramel glaze.
Print RecipeBuy the The Gift of Southern Cooking cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Recipe Testers' Reviews

Wow! Edna Lewis has a real winner here. This apple cake is rich, sweet, unpretentious, yet classy. It would work for breakfast, brunch, tea, or dessert—not wanting to over-gild the lily, I’m still thinking it would be extra-decadent for dessert with a little scoop of French vanilla or dulce de leche ice cream. Or, if you have extra heavy cream leftover from making the glaze, just go ahead and whip it up—in this case, I’d serve it atop the cake, and just a little dollop would do just fine!

The cake is moist and full of apples. I think many varieties of apples would work. We happened to have Pink Lady apples around, a little past their prime, so this seemed a good use for them. If I’d had Granny Smith apples or if I’d had to go out to buy apples, I think they’d be my go-to apple variety here.

The glaze was a lovely finishing touch; however, the delicious cake would be very good as-is, especially warm from the oven. Serves 12?! No one would have any trouble eating 1/12th of this cake, but a smaller piece would surely suffice. I cut the cake in the pan into the twelfths specified, then left it on the kitchen table. When I returned, someone had cut each twelfth in half. Later he shared with me that, although he cut the pieces smaller since they were so sweet and rich, he ate a second small piece right after the first! I am a pecan fan, and pecans are integral to the Southern palate from which this recipe emanates, but for any non-pecan fans, this could easily be made with walnuts, or the nuts could be omitted altogether.

“This looks just like a cake my grandma used to make.” “Is that apple cake? My mom always made it when apples were in season.” These were comments at a recent party where I served this apple pecan cake. Edna Lewis never fails to produce soul-satisfying recipes that don’t involve gourmet ingredients or fancy techniques, just a big dose of good ol’ Southern cooking that you would serve your family.

I did use a stand mixer to mix the ingredients. My cake was done at 60 minutes, when the cake tester came out clean and the cake was just loosening from the sides of the pan. I cut the cake into small squares and placed them on a large platter to serve at an outdoor party. The cake held up well after 1 day and the caramel sauce helped keep the cake moist and delicious.

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Comments

  1. I just made this with overripe honey crisp apples. It was wonderful and although I love caramel (with sea salt as someone suggested) I think next time I would use cream cheese frosting instead. The flavors of this cake remind me of carrot cake and the tang from cream cheese would complement the sweetness of the cake.

    1. Thanks, Peg! I’m so pleased that you enjoyed it. Cream cheese frosting sounds like it would pair nicely with the cake. If you try this, do let us know how it turns out.

  2. Delicious! Since it is just the 2 of us, I made 1/3 of the recipe in a loaf-sized baking dish. Then I made 1/4 of the caramel glaze recipe. I used Empire apples which are slightly tart. We loved it!

    1. Wonderful! I’m so glad this worked out for you, Amy, and thank you for sharing your experience.

  3. This recipe was recommended by our good friend Jack, and it was a hit after an alfresco supper–a perfect dessert with homemade vanilla ice cream! Used Gala apples and wild pecans from Kentucky. Fantastic!!!

  4. I know the recipe says to pour the sauce over the cake while the sauce is warm. But are you supposed to do that while the cake is still warm from the oven? Or should the cake be fully cooled before adding the sauce?

    1. Terri, if you’re not going to be enjoying the cake right away, then you can wait and pour the glaze over just before serving. However, you can let it cool slightly while making the glaze and then pour it over the still-warm cake if you’re enjoying it immediately.

  5. I would like to make this for thanksgiving. If I baked it one day ahead of time, would you put the caramel sauce on it that same day, or wait and make and add the sauce right before serving cake at room temperature? Thank you. Hoping his will be an exciting new dessert at our table!

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