Classic Apple Cake Recipe

This simple and delicious apple cake recipe is perfect for beginners and will be a hit on any occasion. With only a few ingredients and minimal prep, you can whip up this tasty treat in no time! Get ready to indulge in a slice of sweet and tender goodness.

Apple cake.

Nana’s classic from-scratch apple cake with cinnamon topping is packed with apple flavor. There’s no box mix here! This moist and delicious cake has the perfect amount of sweetness and spice, plus large chunks of apple give it a great flavor and texture. Drizzle with a sweet glaze that will soak in and make the cake out of this world!

With a pleasantly spiced cake, sweet apples in every bite, and a crunchy cinnamon butter topping, this cake is a winner to top off any meal.

Because apples are available (and delicious) year-round, this cake can be made during any season. However, if you can get local apples in the fall (when they are just picked and in season), you will be amazed at how much better it tastes! Local foods always taste better than ones shipped to the grocery store from far away.

Why You’ll Love This Apple Cake Recipe

Made with simple ingredients: This simple recipe requires no special ingredients. You probably have everything you need already in your pantry! If not, a quick trip to your local grocery store will provide the rest.

Easy to make: This recipe comes together in just a few steps: whisk the dry ingredients, whisk the wet ingredients, and then mix and stir. It’s simple and quick. No mixer is required; you don’t have to ice and decorate it after it’s baked!

Easy to serve: You can serve this cake warm, so you don’t have to wait until it’s completely cooled to cut it!

Crowd pleaser: There’s a lot to love about this easy cake. With sweet apples and a moist, light cake, it’s a perennial crowd-pleaser.  


Apple cake ingredients.

See the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page for all measurements.

All-purpose flour: The foundation of the cake. If you are gluten-free, you can substitute a cup-for-cup gluten-free baking mix. The cake will have a slightly different texture but will still work.

Baking powder: This is used to make the cake rise. Baking powder causes air bubbles in the batter, giving the cake a light and fluffy texture.

Baking soda: This is another leavening agent that will give your cake a light and fluffy texture.

White sugar: This gives the cake a sweet flavor. 

Apples: You should peel and dice the apples. If you want to make your cake extra fruity, feel free to add extra apples. See note about apple varieties below.

Eggs: These bind the cake together.

Vanilla bean paste (or an equal amount of vanilla extract): I used to use vanilla extract but now prefer vanilla bean paste in all my cooking. Vanilla extract is made by soaking vanilla beans in alcohol and then removing the beans. Vanilla bean paste starts with vanilla extract, and then crushed-up vanilla beans are added. Vanilla bean paste is much thicker and has a more robust vanilla flavor than vanilla extract.

Vegetable oil: This makes your cake moist and flavorful. You could use melted butter if you had to, but the result may be disappointing. Cakes made with oil are generally better and more consistent than cakes made with melted butter. You can also substitute applesauce for oil cup-for-cup, giving your cake an even sweeter flavor.

Greek yogurt: This allows you to use less oil in the cake by adding moisture and protein to the recipe. You can also use sour cream, although this has more fat and calories than Greek yogurt.

For the Cinnamon Topping

White sugar: The base of the cinnamon topping. For a slightly different flavor, you can substitute brown sugar.

Ground cinnamon: This is the star of the show. Cinnamon is the perfect complement to apples.

Unsalted butter, melted: You will need a liquid to make the cinnamon and sugar into a paste. Melted butter is the perfect liquid for this because it is a solid at room temperature and will firm up as the cake cools.

For the Glaze

Powdered sugar: This is what makes the glaze sweet.

Milk: Any dairy or non-dairy milk will be fine. You’ll drizzle this liquid in the glaze over the cooled cake.

The Best Apples to Use for Apple Cake

There are dozens of different apple varieties available in the grocery store, so how do you choose one for apple cake? Let me help you.

There are two ways to approach the apples in this recipe. The first way is to use two apples of the same variety, as in my cake mix apple crisp. The other method is to use two different apples, as I do in my Cracker Barrel copycat fried apples recipe. I recommend using two different apples for this cake, one sweet and one tart. Using two different apples gives the cake a richer flavor than two of the same kind of apples.

Whether you use two of the same or two different apples, you must use apples labeled good for baking. Apples intended for eating raw are often softer and will not hold up to the heat. Eating apples will turn into mush in the oven, whereas baking apples hold their shape even at high temperatures.

The best tart apples to bake with are Granny Smith (the best overall apple for baking; these are also great for eating raw), Braeburn, Jonathan, and Pacific Rose.

The best sweet apples to bake with are Honeycrisp (this is my top pick for sweet apples – also excellent for eating raw), Jazz, Cosmic Crisp, Pink Lady, and Fuji.


You will need a whisk, a 9-inch cake pan, standard measuring cups, spoons, and mixing bowls. It is also helpful to line the cake pan with a circle cut from parchment paper, but this is optional.


Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease and line a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add the chopped apple.

Apple cake ingredients.

Stir to combine.

Apple cake ingredients.

In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk the eggs, vanilla, oil, and yogurt briefly to break up the egg yolks.

Apple cake ingredients.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and gently mix with a wooden spoon until combined, being careful not to overmix. 

Apple cake ingredients.

Spoon batter into the prepared cake pan.

Apple cake ingredients.

To make the cinnamon topping, combine cinnamon, sugar, and butter. Mix with a fork until lumpy and wet. 

Apple cake ingredients.

Sprinkle over the cake batter.

Apple cake ingredients.

Bake the cake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool completely.

Apple cake.

Mix powdered sugar and one tablespoon of milk to make the glaze. 

Apple cake ingredients.

Stir until smooth. If the glaze is too thick, add an extra tablespoon of milk. 

Apple cake ingredients.

Drizzle glaze over the cooled cake. 

Apple cake.

Cook’s Tips

To ensure that every bite of the cake contains apples, ensure they are evenly distributed in the batter after pouring it into the cake pan. Use a spoon or spatula to move them around if you need to.

Gently tap the cake pan on the counter 2-3 times before putting it into the oven. This will release any air bubbles that might have formed when you poured the cake batter in.

This cake can be served warm or at room temperature. However, serving it warm does not mean straight out of the oven! It needs time to rest and cool slightly before serving. I recommend letting it cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes.


Apples: It wouldn’t be an apple cake anymore, but you could substitute pears, peaches, or nectarines for apples in this recipe and make a delicious fruity cake! (If you use peaches or nectarines, the cake won’t keep as long as it is softer and spoils more quickly. Store leftovers in the fridge and eat them in 3 days or less.)

Greek yogurt: Swap out the Greek yogurt for full-fat sour cream for a close alternative.

Cinnamon: You could substitute apple pie spice or pumpkin pie spice for the plain cinnamon in the recipe.

Powdered sugar glaze: You can replace the powdered sugar glaze with homemade caramel sauce for an extra sweet treat. Instructions for this are below in the Serving Suggestions section.

Apple cake.


Gluten-free: To make this cake gluten-free, simply substitute your favorite cup-for-cup gluten-free baking mix for the all-purpose flour.

Lower calorie: You can reduce the calories in this recipe by using low-fat Greek yogurt and substituting applesauce for the oil in the cake. I don’t recommend using applesauce instead of melted butter in the topping.

Add nuts: I love cakes with nuts; this apple cake is no exception. Add a handful of chopped pecans or walnuts to the batter for a nice crunch in the finished cake.

Bake in a different pan: I recommend a 9-inch round cake pan for this cake, but you could just as easily cook it in a bundt pan or a loaf pan. You must adjust the cooking time depending on what pan you use. I think both a bundt and a loaf would take longer than the 9-inch round pan, but you will have to keep an eye on it and check it every 5-8 minutes or so.

Make muffins: You could also make this in a muffin pan and make apple cake muffins. I recommend checking for done-ness at 20 minutes and every 5 minutes after that. Muffins cook faster than a larger cake.


To store: Store any leftover cake in an airtight container on the counter for 2 to 3 days. 

To freeze: Wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil, then store it in the freezer for up to one month. Remove from the freezer and allow to come to room temperature before serving. If you want to serve it warm, heat it in the oven at 250ºF for about 10 minutes or until just warm but not hot.

Apple cake.

Serving Suggestions 

This cake is wonderful just as it is written, but here are some additional serving suggestions that you might enjoy:

The glaze will soak into the cake in under an hour, so you may want to wait until just before serving to drizzle it. If it does soak in, the cake will taste amazing, but you will lose the pretty presentation of the glaze drizzle.

You can add a dollop of apple butter to each slice of the cake as you serve it. More apple goodness!

Add a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream or a dollop of real whipped cream to your cake. This is especially delicious if you serve the cake warm.

You can add a smear of honey butter to each slice as you serve it, which is also very nice if the cake is slightly warm. To make a simple honey butter, mix 3 tablespoons of softened butter with 3 tablespoons of honey. Add a sprinkle of sea salt and whisk it together until it’s well-blended.

Instead of the powdered sugar glaze, you could drizzle the cake with homemade caramel sauce. To make some, mix one packed cup of dark brown sugar, ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, a pinch of salt, and ½ cup heavy cream in a small saucepan. Whisk gently and cook over medium-low heat for 7 to 10 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before drizzling over your cake. As with the powdered sugar glaze, this will soak into the cake if you let it sit.


What kind of flour is best in this cake?

The best kind of flour for this apple cake is all-purpose flour or a cup-for-cup gluten-free baking mix. Nothing fancy here!

Do I have to use the cinnamon topping or powdered sugar glaze?

Of course not. If you want your cake to be plain, go ahead and make it plain. The cinnamon topping adds a crunchy bit to the top that I think is really nice, and I believe you will miss that if you don’t use it. But you do you and use whatever topping you want or none at all.

Can I make a vegan apple cake?

Yes. You can use vegan flax or chia seed eggs in place of the eggs. You can also use vegan butter and vegan yogurt. I have never tried to make this cake vegan, so I can’t say for sure what your results will be, but it should work out okay. If you make a vegan apple cake, please come back and leave a comment to let me know how it went.

What type of apples should I use in an apple cake?

See the section immediately below the ingredients at the very top of this page for suggestions. To summarize, you should always use apples labeled for baking because they are firmer and hold up better to the heat. My favorites are Honeycrisp and Granny Smith, and I use one of each when I make this apple cake recipe, but I list several other options at the top of the post.

Can I freeze this apple cake?

Yes. Cool the cake completely to room temperature. Wrap the cooled cake tightly in plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil, then store it in the freezer for up to one month. Remove from the freezer and allow to come to room temperature before serving. If you want to serve it warm, heat it in the oven at 250ºF for about 10 minutes or until just warm but not hot.

What is the best way to store leftover apple cake?

Store any leftover cake in an airtight container on the counter for 2 to 3 days.

This article originally appeared on Pink When.