Unfussy Apple Cake Recipe

A deliciously unfussy and relatively healthy apple cake recipe. Red-skinned apples punctuate a buttermilk batter and a final sprinkling of sugar before baking lends a nice top crust.

Unfussy Apple Cake

I love this apple cake - here's how it came into being. I accumulated seven different kinds of apples over the past ten days or so. Not really on purpose (election anxiety?), but it happened regardless. There are Rome Beauties in the crisper, Honeycrisps in the refrigerator, Fujis in a bowl on my kitchen island, Braeburns and Galas still in a grocery bag on the counter, and a mix of three tiny heirlooms that found their way into my purse. Time to make an apple cake. Nothing fancy, I used my standard buttermilk cake batter (which I love, and find endlessly adaptable), plenty of hot and spicy cinnamon, and the apples? I decided the sweet, juicy Fujis would take the stage as the signature ingredient. Their rosy skins ended up dotting the cake like confetti, and they bring a sweetness to the cake that allowed me to keep the sugar elsewhere in the batter to a minimum.

Apple Cake Recipe

I used a vibrant, spicy Saigon cinnamon in my cake (also known as Vietnamese cinnamon). Have you tried it? It has fun notes of red-hot candy, and a more complex, less woody scent than the cinnamon many of you are used to. If you come across any from a good spice vendor, be sure to pick some up. Not to worry if you can't track it down, the cinnamon you typically use for baking will work here as well. I bought mine at the Farmers' Market (Marin) from Kathy and Bill - who some of you might remember I visited last year. Kathy showed me how to make her pumpkin pie spice blend, which I then used in last year's pumpkin pie recipe.

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Unfussy Apple Cake Recipe

A big, floppy dollop of boozy, slightly sweet whipped cream takes this cake over the top. Wanting to keep this cake simple, I also had to restrain myself from adding any extra ingredients although I had a block of quince paste (membrillo) that would have been nice cut into tiny cubes and mixed into the batter, or caramel cut into little cubes, or toasted walnut or pecans, or, or, or.....I used a huge, flaked Japanese sugar on top of this cake (you can see it in the photo), but any big-grain sugar will help lend a nice crunchy, sweet, sugar crust. If you don't have whole wheat pastry flour, unbleached all-purpose flour will work as a more conventional substitute.

2 cups sweet, crisp red apples, cut into 1/4 cubes (peel on)
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup dark Muscavado sugar (or other fine-grain natural cane or brown sugar), lump-free
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled a bit
3 tablespoons large grain sugar

Preheat the oven to 400F degrees, racks in the middle. Butter and flour (or line bottom with parchment paper) one 9-inch square baking dish or tart pan, you can also bake it in a 9x13 pan but really keep a close eye on it after 20 minutes - it will be quite thin.

Place the chopped apples in a bowl of water along with the juice of one lemon. Set aside. Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, sugar and salt in a large bowl. And in a separate smaller bowl whisk together the eggs and the buttermilk. Whisk in the melted butter. Pour the buttermilk mixture over the flour mixture and stir until barely combined - try not to over mix. Now drain the apple, shake off any excess water, and fold the apples into the cake batter.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, pushing it out toward the edges. Sprinkle with most of the large grain sugar. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until cake is just set and a touch golden on top. I like this cake every-so-slightly under-baked, just barely, remember it will cook for a little while after you remove it from the oven.

Serves about 12.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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I've been on an apple-cake-making binge and will try yours next! Do you know of a good place to find Saigon cinnamon in the East Bay or SF?


Hello Heidi, Thank you for this lovely recipe. We will be using Jonagold's today :) Have a beautiful day :)


Thanks for the recipe. Sounds terrific! A little recommendation, I found these to be so delicious and useful in my kitchen: http://bajoseasonedsalts.com/ Cheers. John


Where do I get whole wheat pastry flour? I'm in the suburbs north of Chicago. HS: Hi Susan, Whole Foods Markets or most health foods stores typically stock it. At whole Foods look in the baking section as well as the bins. I'm going to mention this in the head notes, but if you can't find it unbleached all-purpose will work as a substitute.


The farmer's market near my home has some 20 different varieties for 99 cents a pound.. i've been going WILD on them! Hehehe. This recipe looks great, and I must absolutely recommend Saigon Cinnamon as well -- it's naturally sweet and tastes just like a red hot. I put it in/on everything. I found it at Sam's Club quite cheaply. =)


Looks yummy! With all those apples, you should try "Apple Salsa" made with Honey Crisp ..... sounds odd, but is absolutely delicious served with oven dried pita chips. Sommer


That looks incredible ... I imagine that you could adapt this recipe earlier in the season and use rhubarb? What about using cranberries now?


Thank you for the simple but yummy sounding recipe. I have 3 buckets of apples i didn't have a clue what to do with. =) I will be making this. I will have a slice with a cup of tea! Sounds heavenly. HUGS


I am having the same apple problem as well right now. Apples always get eaten last in our CSA because they keep the longest and now I have three different varieties from the last three weeks and CSA number four is coming tomorrow! Apple cake, here I come...


Great simple recipe. I am definitely gonna try. One question though - can regular all purpose flour be used for this cake? I love of idea of using buttermilk. Low fat and can keep the cake amazingly moist I guess. HS: yes, go for it.




It looks warm and comforting, the sugar and fluted sides are perfect touches for a no-fuss thing!

Blushing Hostess

What a healthy cake this is, I'm on my way to pick up a big bag of apples right now! Gotta get rid of all that WWP flour I have sitting around too.


The only cinnamon variation i've ever tried is hungarian. This one sounds interesting, I'll have to look for it. As for buttermilk, I've had success lately with a soymilk/apple cider vinegar mixture, so I'll try that here. Thanks!

Michelle @ What Does Your Body Good?

what a lovely recipe for this time of year.....a slice of this cake, warm from the oven, and a mug of nice hot cocoa.......just the thing for a crisp autumn night!


Unfussy = Good. And apple cake is a nice alternative to pie, which I'm not terribly excited about. I am flush with apples right now -- have made apple butter, cider, even a green tomato relish with apples. So this cake will be a real treat, plus I won't need tongs to lift it out of the kettle of bubbling water...!

becky and the beanstock

Red-hot candy undertones? I must get me some of that cinnamon. And I love this time of year...the apples are fantastic and the recipe options of what you can do with them is endless!

Fit Bottomed Girls

I actually discovered Saigon Cinnamon when my store did not have generic cinnamon a while back. I've used it ever since in all my recipes, in fact! My mother is a cinnamon junkie (if such a thing exists), and I've finally introduced it to her as well. She's ga-ga about it! Truly adds a distinctive 'punch' to ones' regular recipes. Speaking of which, thanks for the amazing apple cake recipe! I make my own version with a bag of mix from a not-so-local orchard I frequent, but I am eager to try my hand at one that is really from scratch. Baking isn't my strongest suit in the kitchen, but I keep trying nonetheless. Love the recipes in general, and thank you so much for all your hard work on the site!


Apple Cake is one of my all time favorite fall recipes! I tend to like cakes/breads that aren't too sweet, and this one looks absolutely delicious! I am also intrigued by your use of buttermilk here. I'll definitely be trying it!

Jen (Modern Beet)

This looks gorgeous not to mention yummy! One question (and maybe this is obvious, but I'm new at this) where do you find Muscavado sugar? thanks!

Tabitha (From Single to Married)

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