Apple Cake

We first ate this cake in the fruitful Val di Non in Trentino, where orchards abound. Back home we didn’t know which apple variety to use, so we called Karen Bates, of the Philo Apple Farm in the Anderson Valley in California, who passed on these tips: Early apples tend to break down very easily—great for applesauce and very tender, juicy pies. Midseason apples cook up fairly tender and hold their shape, while late-season apples border on staying a little too firm and are a lot less juicy. So make your applesauce early in the season and store your late apples as long as you can. We decided on Golden Delicious for their rich perfume and the ability to hold their shape when cooked.–Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer

LC Did You Read The Above Note? Note

Did you read the above note? There’s some serious wisdom in there about the seasonality of apples and what to do with the various varieties in the kitchen depending on when they show up at your local farmers’ markets. Print it out and tape it to the inside of a cabinet, tuck it into your billfold, stick it to your forehead if you have to, or do whatever it takes to commit it to memory. Just don’t forget it.

Apple Cake

Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer

Prep 30 mins
Cook 1 hr
Total 1 hr 30 mins
8 to 10 servings
274 kcal
5 / 3 votes
Print RecipeBuy the Canal House Cooking Vol., No. 7: La Dolce Vita cookbook

Want it? Click it.


  • 9-inch springform pan


  • 6 tablespoons butter at room temperature, plus more for the pan
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour plus more for the pan
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup milk preferably whole
  • Grated zest of 2 small lemons preferably organic
  • 2 to 3 Golden Delicious apples peeled, cored, and thickly sliced
  • Confectioners’ sugar (optional)


  • Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C). Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan.
  • Beat the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add 3/4 cup granulated sugar and beat until fluffy. Beat in the egg. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.
  • Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Gradually add the flour to the butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk, beating well after each addition. Stir in the zest. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with a spatula.
  • Arrange the apple slices in a circle on top of the batter, starting at the edge of the pan and standing them on end with the narrow point in the batter, then fill in the center with as many slices as you can fit. The apples should be quite close together and cover most of the batter. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar over the apples.
  • Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the cake (not the apples) comes out clean. Place the pan on a wire rack, remove the outer ring, and allow the cake to cool. Dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar just before serving, if you like.
Print RecipeBuy the Canal House Cooking Vol., No. 7: La Dolce Vita cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1sliceCalories: 274kcal (14%)Carbohydrates: 44g (15%)Protein: 4g (8%)Fat: 10g (15%)Saturated Fat: 6g (38%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 47mg (16%)Sodium: 23mg (1%)Potassium: 209mg (6%)Fiber: 2g (8%)Sugar: 24g (27%)Vitamin A: 350IU (7%)Vitamin C: 2mg (2%)Calcium: 74mg (7%)Iron: 1mg (6%)

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

My husband declared with much pomp and circumstance that this cake is his favorite thing I’ve have ever baked. I kid you not. And I agree. This cake made me his kitchen superhero and that’s the hallmark of a great recipe. Delicious! I must memorize it.

This is a very plain yet very pretty little cake. Simple, straightforward preparation and simple, straightforward flavor, in which apple is the star. No cinnamon, nutmeg, or brown sugar, so definitely select tasty apples. One surprise: I didn’t expect the cake to look quite so pretty. The apples sink into the cake in places and, aided by the sugar on top, leave slightly lacy, almost crunchy edges, which are pleasing on their own and great for a little vanilla ice cream to settle into.

This is a lovely snack cake. It’s simple to make, not too sweet, and is really nice with tea or coffee, morning or afternoon.

All my tasters enjoyed this one. I heard lots of mmms while everyone was enjoying his or her slice. I found the instructions for how to place the apple slices a bit confusing, though I understood better after looking at the photo. Mine wasn’t quite as pretty as in the photo but this didn’t deter from the taste. I’ll definitely be making this one again. The zest gave it such a bright flavor.

This is a very happy cake. Even though the apples I used weren’t the best and they sunk into the cake, I still had to stop myself from going back for a second piece. The cake itself is tender and moist and stays that way for a few days thanks to those lovely apples. Don’t skimp on the lemon zest—it adds a lovely zip. Oh, and 2 large Golden Delicious were plenty for ringing the top of the cake.

Apple Cake—a simple name for a simply delicious cake. I was curious about this recipe, as for years I’ve been making “Teddie’s Apple Cake” of New York Times Cookbook fame and wanted to see how a recipe from The Canal House folks stacked up against a classic. In short, this beauty didn’t disappoint. This cake is at once simpler and fancier than Teddie’s. Simpler in that it has a pared-down flavor profile of just lemon and apple, but fancier in the way it shows its apples to the world, spiraling inward across the top of the cake. I used 3 fairly large Golden Delicious apples, sliced to about 1/2 inch at the outside edge, and they fit beautifully with only 2 slices to spare. The batter is a breeze to concoct and is easily spread into the pan. The apples, which at first seem to overwhelm the batter, nestle in nicely as the cake rises to partially encase them when cooking. In the end, the golden crust of the batter, crunchy with crystallized sugar, covers about half of each apple slice, leaving the balance exposed in a beautiful pattern. Upon cutting, the cake seems a bit dry to the eye, but once in the mouth is meltingly tender, kept moist by the juice of the apples. As for taste, the generous addition of lemon zest was a perfect sweet-citrusy complement to the fruit, and allowed the cake to achieve a balance that we enjoyed morning, noon, and night. Yes, this cake is delicious as breakfast! The recipe states a baking time between 50 and 60 minutes, but mine was done at 45, so do start checking for doneness early. For its simplicity and elegance, this cake is a must for sure.

Originally published September 05, 2013


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  1. 5 stars
    My 6 year old son requested this delicious cake for his birthday! A family favorite!! Picture was pre oven!

  2. Made this recipe and it was so simple to throw together, but was quite tasty. Great, easy way to use up apples. Thanks for the recipe!

  3. 5 stars
    I made this for dessert for the family for Sunday dinner. I followed the recipe exactly except I left out the lemon peel due to family preference and dusted the apples with cinnamon sugar before baking. I was leery of the amount of dough in light of the 60 minute cooking time but followed the timing as noted. The cake came out perfectly after baking but again I was worried that it would be dried out after being in the oven that long. No! it was very moist and great just on its own also great with the suggested ice cream. There just might be enough left for breakfast. Thanks for the great recipe!

  4. Hi! I would like to make this for tomorrow night, but I have a guest with an egg allergy. Do you think applesauce could be replaced for the egg. (I am a total eggless baking novice, but have read online that many people use this substitution in baked good…)

    1. Hi, Sara. I have heard it can be, but we didn’t test it that way, and I’m hesitant to tell you “yes.” I’d hate to be the reason you have a failure. So, perhaps another dessert?

        1. Thanks for your understanding, Sara. That said, we have quite a lot of other dessert recipes on the site that ARE eggless. I’m searching through them for you at the moment. Any special requests—i.e., chocolate, apple, honey, etc.?

          1. Renee, that is so kind of you. It is for Rosh Hashanah, so as you mentioned, apple or honey cake would be great, and chocolate would also work. I just found out about the egg allergy, or I would have tested a recipe last week! There are no other restrictions (milk, butter is totally fine). Thanks!!

  5. I’ve made this cake twice and it doesn’t seem to turn out like the photo. The apples are still sitting on top of the cake and the sugar isn’t all browned up on the apples. What could I be doing wrong?

    1. Hi, June G. a few questions: 1.) Is your oven properly calibrated? It may not be reaching the proper temperature. I’d suggest purchasing two oven thermometers, keeping one on each side off the oven to make sure you have no cold spots. Also make sure to preheat your oven for at least 20 minutes. 2.) Is the rack in the middle of the oven? If it’s lower, the top won’t brown as well. 3.) Are you using the correct apples? Different apples have different moisture content, and that could be throwing it off. 4.) Last, are you baking the cake for the full amount of time? Meaning 60 minutes? If you can send us a picture of the cake, it would help us.

      1. Thank you, I really appreciate your quick response! The oven was preheated, I’ll check the temp. The rack is in the middle and I used honeycrisp apples. The cake was done at the 50 minute mark. I’ll send a photo, I’ll try to figure that out;) haha!

        1. June G, honeycrisp apples are known for their firmness, while golden delicious are softer. That could account for why they remained so upright. And definitely check the oven’s temperature. If you make this again, let the cake go to 55 minutes or so. The extra time might help in browning.

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