My mom’s fresh apple cake is a long standing favorite in our house! It’s old fashioned and moist, full of apples, pecans, and cinnamon which is perfect for snacking, for breakfasts and brunches, or for anytime you need a piece of cake. So grab a spoon and a bowl, because there is no mixer required or a need to preheat the oven, and get ready to start a new tradition in your house.
There are a few signs of fall around here. The leaves starting to change colors. Cooler nights. Shorter days. The arrays of winter squashes at the farmer’s markets. And a tray of my mom’s recipe for her simple apple snack cake.
That’s how I really know it’s fall. When I pull out the recipe and my apple peeler and, before long, my kitchen is full of the smells of butter and cinnamon and apples. Then it’s fall.
What do you need?
- Apples – This is the big one of course! 🙂 You don’t need a ton, just 3-4 apples provide enough diced apple for a large baking pan.
- Nuts – I prefer pecans though walnuts are great choice too. You can toast them if you want, but the recipe goes into a cold oven so you don’t want to heat up the oven just before making the cake. (I use my toaster oven. Works great!)
- Spices – Nothing too fancy, just some cinnamon and vanilla. Your basic baking spices. If you do want to get fancy, you can add a little nutmeg or allspice or some mace. About 1/4 teaspoon of one of those would be enough.
- Butter/Oil – Butter is great for the flavor and vegetable oil makes for a moister cake. Mom’s original recipe calls for oil while I have usually gone with all melted butter. However, I’ve come around recently to a half and half compromise. Flavor + Moistness FTW!
- Eggs – It’s a cake. We have eggs.
- Sugar – We also have sugar. Basic white granulated is all you need.
- Flour/Leavener – While you can make it with all white flour, I like using half and half here white and whole wheat. And that makes it a health food, right? Lots of apples, nuts full of good fats and fiber, and whole wheat. This cake is definitely a health food. And I should go and have another piece.
How to make this
To make a fresh apple cake combine the sugar, eggs, and butter with the apples. Then add the flour and pecans and mix into a thick batter. Spread the batter into a 9×13 pan and bake until it is cooked through and golden brown.
1. Get organized
- Pull out all the ingredients
- Melt the butter (if you’re using) and set it aside to cool
- Peel and chop the apples
- Grease a 9×13 baking pan. For ease getting the cake out, you can also line it with parchment paper so that the ends hang off the long sides of the pan.
2. Mix the dry ingredients
Get your flour, baking soda, salt, and chopped pecans all mixed together in a bowl. I like to do this first since then I’m ready to add it as soon as I mix the wet ingredients.
3. Combine the wet ingredients
Now you’re going to mix the sugar and eggs along with the vanilla and butter (or oil or butter&oil). This is going to make a fairly thick and sticky mixture. Add the chopped apples and mix them in.
4. Finish mixing and bake
Now add the dry to the wet and mix lightly. Just enough so there is no dry flour and no more! Get the batter into the baking pan and smooth it out. Then put it in a cold oven at 325F for one hour.
Tip: Not sure when the cake is done? An instant read thermometer is a great help. You want it to read ~205F (No more than 210F!) and it will be done.
When the cake is done, let it cool, then cut and serve.
What are the best apples to use?
I have used just every apple I happened to have in the house over the years and every one has made an excellent apple cake. (Note: I would shy away from Granny Smith since that is an extremely tart/firm apple.) I do think my favorite apple to use in general is the Honeycrisp. It has an great balance of crispness, sweetness, and firmness which makes it my choice for baking. And the one used in these photos!
Once the cake has cooled you can store it in a sealed container for 1-2 days at room temperature, about a week in the fridge, 3-4 months in the freezer. For best results after the first day, thaw if needed then toast the pieces in the oven for a few minutes before serving.
Can you make this as a one bowl recipe?
I don’t (since it’s so simple anyway), but you certainly can! Just add the salt and baking powder to the bowl with the wet ingredients first. Then measure the flour and pecans into the bowl and continue as with the posted recipe.
It’s great for breakfast, as a snack in the afternoon, excellent for dessert alongside a scoop of vanilla ice cream, with a dusting of cinnamon sugar on top or dressed up with some powdered sugar..
Make fresh apple cake and you’ll see why it’s been a fall tradition in my family for decades. Maybe it will be a new fall tradition in your family too.
If you try my recipe for Fresh Apple Cake, I would love to hear from you in the comments with your experience and rating! And I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.
– Happy Baking, Annemarie
Mom's Amazing Fresh Apple Cake
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups (14 oz) granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 3 cups apples, peeled and chopped, 3-4 apples
- 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz )white flour
- 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz) whole wheat flour
- 1 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- Lightly grease a 9x13 baking pan. If you wish line the pan with parchment paper so the ends hang over the long sides of the pan.
- Combine butter, oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Add apples to the bowl. Mix well and set aside.
- Whisk together flours, pecans, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Add dry ingredients to apple mixture. Combine together with a few swift strokes. Do not over mix.
- Using a silicone spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth it out.
- Put the pan into a cold oven. Set the oven to 325F. Bake for one hour or until an instant read thermometer reads 205-210F.
- Top with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar if desired.
- Butter/Oil: Though I call for half a cup of each, you can use all butter, a mix of half butter and half vegetable oil, or all vegetable oil. Butter is better for flavor and oil is better for moistness.
- Pecans: Keeping in mind that you are baking the cake in a cold oven, if you have a second oven (or toaster oven) you can toast the pecans at 350F for 5 minutes for extra flavor.
- Storage: The cake can be stored at room temperature for a day or two, in the fridge for a week, or in the freezer for 3-4 months.
First published October 2015. Rewritten, expanded, and rephotographed.