Old Fashioned Fresh Apple Cake Recipe

The BEST old-fashioned fresh apple cake recipe and a firm family favorite. This moist and flavorful cake is bursting with as much fresh apple as I could cram into it. Nutty browned butter, walnuts, and cinnamon with a dulce de leche topping take it to the next level.

An old-fashioned fresh apple cake made in a bundt pan covered in caramel and chopped walnuts. A slice is being taken out with a silver cake lifter.

Why You’ll Love My Old-Fashioned Fresh Apple Cake

  • The taste of fresh fruit from the apples really shines.
  • This is a very simple fresh apple cake that you can whip up whenever the craving strikes.
  • You likely have all the ingredients on hand already.
  • You can make it in a bundt pan like the photos, or a simple baking dish.

This old-fashioned fresh apple cake is a simple and rustic recipe with a tender and moist crumb that really shines from the brightness of the fresh apples and the warmth of the cinnamon and browned butter.

It is especially popular at autumn but we love it so much that I make it year-round.

This would make a delicious snack or coffee cake — serve it with my hot spiced custard milk and maple pecan ice-cream.

I love this fresh apple cake topped with dulce de leche (or caramel) and crushed walnuts (or pecans) but I’ll also give you a quick and tasty maple icing recipe you can use instead.

It was inspired by my mother’s fresh apple kolač cake that I grew up eating and then tweaked to my own tastes.

And if you love this cake, I promise you will love my pumpkin spice bundt cake or my fried apple fritter rings too.

Top view of all the ingredients needed to make old fashioned fresh apple cake.

Ingredients

  • Fresh Apples | People will say that the best apples for use in a fresh apple cake are: granny smith, honeycrisp, fuji and gala.
  • Eggs | eggs add structure, texture, protein, flavor and leavening too.
  • All-Purpose Flour, Sifted | this cake has been successfully tested with all-purpose, bread flour, and einkorn all-purose flour. Do not use cake flour. Sifting is highly recommended.
  • Unsalted Butter, browned | browned butter gives this cake a deep nutty background flavor that really makes a difference. You can use plain (softened) butter but I highly recommend trying it browned as it’s not much extra effort.
  • Brown sugar | more flavorful than white sugar, brown sugar adds sweetness and more to this cake and its texture.
  • White sugar | white sugar adds a different texture and keeps the crumb from becoming overly dense. You can use all brown sugar (or even all maple sugar) and it will be delicious, know that you may need to bake a bit longer and that your crumb might be soggier than you would like.
  • Walnuts | walnuts and apples are a delicious, classic pairing. You can skip the walnuts or use pecans instead.
  • Cinnamon | if you love cinnamon, this cake uses a generous amount. You can also substitute with pumpkin spice.
  • Pure vanilla extract | this is a flavor enhancer that makes the other ingredients shine. You can use imitation if you don’t have pure vanilla.
  • Baking Powder | helps your cake to rise and increase in volume
  • Baking Soda | makes for an airier crumb
  • Salt | All desserts benefit from a bit of salt
  • Dulce De Leche or Caramel | caramel or dulce de leche are perfect topping for this cake. You can use other glazes or frostings (like cream cheese), or leave it plain too, as this cake is truly delicious without anything extra at all.
  • Maple syrup (Optional) | if making the maple icing glaze.
  • Powdered sugar (Optional) | if making the maple icing glaze.

Scroll to the Substitutions & Variations section below for more details on what can be added, changed, and subbed out in this cake recipe.

See the recipe card for quantities and instructions.

Equipment

Instructions (Step-By-Step Photos)

Here are the step-by-step instructions with photos of the whole process to help you see what your recipe should look like as you cook. I really recommend pre-measuring and prepping all of your ingredients to have on hand before you start.

How To Make Browned Butter

Brown your butter before starting the other steps in this recipe so that the butter has time to cool down. You don’t have to use browned butter, but it is highly recommended and only takes minutes.

  • Measure out 1 cup of unsalted butter into a pan on medium-low heat.
  • As the butter melts, swirl it around the pan. Butter goes from brown to burnt very quickly, so stay by and watch. The butter will foam; this is fine.
  • Just keep swirling the butter over the heat until it is light brown in color and smells nutty and toasted. This will happen in mere minutes.
  • Remove from heat and let it come to room temperature on the counter or put it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes before using it in this recipe.
  • Do not add any additional water to make up for the water evaporated.

Proceed with the recipe:

Close up of a peeled apple on a cutting board.

Grated fresh apples on a wooden cutting board.

Peel your apples and grate them down to the core. Compost the peels and core or use them in other recipes.

Spices being added into a large bowl of sifted flour.

A large bowl full of flour and whisked spices and other dry ingredients.

Add all of the dry ingredients (sifted flour, cinnamon, salt) except for the baking soda and baking powder into a bowl and sift them thoroughly to combine.

Eggs and butter being creamed in a stand-mixer.

Using a hand-mixer or stand-mixer, mix your eggs and browned butter thoroughly for a couple minutes until the mixture is light, fluffy, and pale.

Sugar being added to eggs and butter for further creaming in a stand mixer.

Eggs, sugar, browned butter being creamed in a stand mixer.

Add your vanilla extract, white sugar, and brown sugar and keep mixing for a couple more minutes. Set aside and move on to the next step.

Grated fresh apple being combined into the bowl of flour and spices.

Take your grated apples and, using your hands, thoroughly coat and mix them into your flour mixture. You will have a rough, shaggy dough.

Once the apples and flour are completely combined, add the baking soda and baking powder and briefly mix them into the dry batter too.

The wet ingredients and dry ingredients are combined to form the batter for fresh apple cake.

The wet ingredients and dry ingredients are combined to form the batter for fresh apple cake. Walnuts are added to the batter.

Add the wet ingredients into the flour-apple mixture along with your chopped walnuts and stir quickly (a silicone spatula is best) to combine.

A bundt pan, greased with lots of butter.

Fresh apple cake batter poured into the bundt pan.

Pour the apple cake batter into your greased-up bundt pan or cake pan and place it into the oven.

Fresh apple cake after baking, there are some cracks.

Check after 45 minutes for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the deepest part. If the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is ready. This cake typically takes 50 minutes to bake completely, sometimes a bit more.

If ready, place the bundt pan on a heat-safe surface for 10 minutes before flipping it onto a plate. Your cake should come out cleanly in one piece. You may need to gently pry the edges away from the sides (including the middle) of the bundt pan with a knife first.

Don’t leave the cake in the bundt pan for much longer than 10 minutes, or it may stick.

Transfer to a wire rack for cooling.

Hot fresh apple cake cooling on a cake stand, getting ready to be finished with a topping.

Hot fresh apple cake cooling on a cake stand, getting ready to be finished with a topping.

Dulce de leche caramel being drizzled on the apple cake.

The cake is getting topped with crushed walnuts.

The top view of a fresh apple cake covered in dulce de leche caramel and crushed nuts. It is sitting on a wooden cake stand with a slice missing.

Once the cake has completely cooled, you can add the dulce de leche, caramel, maple glaze, crushed walnuts, or whichever topping you add — or nothing.

Side view of the apple cake on the wooden cake stand. It has been cut and sliced.

Hint: grease your bundt pan (if using) LIBERALLY with butter (or lard) and then sprinkle the buttered pan thoroughly with a thick layer of plain white cane sugar. Turn the pan upside down over the sink to get rid of excess sugar.

Substitutions & Variations

  • Sugar | Swap out the brown and white sugars with maple sugar in a 1:1 swap (that link is my recipe for making it yourself) or use all-white or all-brown. Understand that using all brown, especially dark brown sugar can make the texture of the crumb soggier and wetter than you may like and it will require additional baking time.
  • Gluten-Free | You can swap the wheat flour out for your favorite gluten-free flour mix. I’m talking about commercial gluten-free flour mixes sold for this purpose, not your own blends; those are used at your own trial and error.
  • Flour | This cake has been successfully tested with all-purpose, bread, einkorn, and gluten-free flours. It has never been tested with freshly milled flour or whole wheat flour.
  • Pumpkin Spice | Add powdered ginger, nutmeg, and allspice for a pumpkin spice version of this fresh apple cake recipe alongside the cinnamon and vanilla extract. you can also try making my favourite pumpkin cake recipe – Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake.
  • Nuts | This cake is just as delicious without walnuts if you dislike them or are baking for someone with allergies. Try other nuts – swap out the walnuts with pecans or hazelnuts.

Storage & Freezing

This cake can safely be stored on your countertop for 2-3 days if wrapped or stored on a cake stand underneath a dome.

The cake can also be baked ahead and frozen for up to 3 months without any noticeable change in taste, texture, or quality. As long as it is securely and thoroughly wrapped. This would be a great way to get ahead of your Thanksgiving or Christmas baking as the glaze topping comes together in minutes.

Related

Top Tips

  • Thoroughly mixing the ingredients without over-mixing them is the key to the texture of this fresh apple cake turning out moist and with a perfect crumb instead of dry uneven lumps inside.
  • Make sure all of your ingredients are at room temperature for the best results.
An old-fashioned fresh apple cake made in a bundt pan covered in caramel and chopped walnuts. A slice is being taken out with a silver cake lifter.

Old Fashioned Fresh Apple Cake

This old-fashioned fresh apple cake recipe is crammed full of fresh apples and walnuts.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: autumn cake, bundt cake, thanksgiving dessert
Servings: 8 Slices
Calories: 893kcal
Author: Jana Dziak

Equipment

  • 9 or 12-Cip Bundt Pan or baking dish
  • Hand Mixer or Stand Mixer

Ingredients

For The Cake

  • 3 cups packed fresh grated apple
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour sifted
  • 3 large eggs room temperature
  • 2 cups roughly chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup white cane sugar
  • 1 cup butter browned
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon or pumpkin spice, levelled
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Dulce De Leche Topping

  • ½ cup dulce de leche or caramel sauce
  • ¼ cup crushed walnuts

Maple Glaze Topping

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup crushed walnuts

Instructions

Browned Butter

  • Brown butter first. Measure out 1 cup of unsalted butter into a pan on medium-low heat.
  • As the butter melts, swirl it around the pan. Butter goes from brown to burnt very quickly, so stay by and watch. The butter may foam, this is fine.
  • Just keep swirling the butter over the heat until it is light brown in color and smells nutty and toasted. This will happen in mere minutes.
  • Remove from heat and let it come to room temperature on the counter or put it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes before using as you move on with the next steps of this recipe.
  • Do not add any additional water to the browned butter make up for the water evaporated during cooking.

Make The Cake Batter

  • Wash and peel your apples. Grate them down to the core until you have three packed cups of apples.
  • Grease your bundt pan (if using) LIBERALLY with butter (or lard) and then sprinkle the buttered pan thoroughly with a thick layer of plain white cane sugar. Turn the pan upside down over the sink to get rid of excess sugar.
  • Add all of the dry ingredients (sifted flour, cinnamon, salt) except for the baking soda and baking powder into a bowl and sift them thoroughly to combine.
  • Using a hand-mixer or stand-mixer mix your eggs and browned butter thoroughly for a couple minutes until the mixture is light, fluffy, and pale.
  • Add your vanilla extract, white sugar, and brown sugar and keep mixing for a couple more minutes. Set aside and move on to the next step.
  • Take your grated apples and using your hands thoroughly coat and mix them into your flour mixture. You will have a rough, shaggy dough. Once the apples and flour is completely combined, add the baking soda and baking powder and briefly mix them into the dry batter too.
  • Add the egg-sugar-butter wet ingredients into the flour-apple mixture along with your chopped walnuts and stir quickly (a silicone spatula is best) to combine.
  • Pour the apple cake batter into your greased up bundt pan or cake pan and place it into the oven.
  • Check after 45 minutes for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the deepest part. If the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is ready. This cake typically takes around 50 minutes to bake completely, sometimes a bit more.
  • If ready, place the bundt pan down on a heat-safe surface for 10 minutes before flipping it over onto a plate and then transferring the hot cake to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Once completely cool, top with dulce de leche and crushed walnuts or keep reading to make a great maple glaze.

Make The Maple Glaze

  • Make the glaze by whisking butter and maple syrup over medium heat before adding powdered sugar and whisking until desired consistency is achieved. Pour over cooled cake. Add some chopped walnuts.

Notes

  • Your cake should come out cleanly in one piece. You may need to gently pry the edges away from the sides (including the middle) of the bundt pan with a knife first. Don’t leave the cake in the bundt pan for much longer the 10 minutes or it may stick.
  • Thoroughly mixing the ingredients without over-mixing them is the key to the texture of this fresh apple cake turning out moist and with a perfect crumb instead of dry uneven lumps inside.
  • Make sure all of your ingredients are at room temperature for the best results.
Storage & Freezing
This cake can be stored on your countertop safely for 2-3 days as long as it’s wrapped or stored on a cake stand underneath a dome cover.
The cake can also be baked ahead and frozen for up to 3 months without any noticeable change in taste, texture, or quality. As long as it is securely and thoroughly wrapped. This would be a great way to get ahead of your Thanksgiving or Christmas baking as the glaze topping comes together in minutes.
Substitutions & Variations
Sugar: Due to the nature of this batter, you should not use maple syrup or honey. You can use maple sugar =, coconut sugar, or other granulated sugars.
Gluten-Free: You can easily swap the wheat flour out for your favourite gluten-free flour mix instead. I’m talking about commercial gluten-free flour mixes sold fort his purpose, not your own blends, those are used at your own trial and error.
Flour: This cake has been successfully tested with all-purpose flour, bread-flour, einkorn flour, and gluten-free flour. It has never been tested with freshly milled flour or whole wheat flours.

Nutrition

Serving: 1slice | Calories: 893kcal | Carbohydrates: 97g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 53g | Saturated Fat: 20g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 19g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 134mg | Sodium: 586mg | Potassium: 357mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 53g | Vitamin A: 966IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 136mg | Iron: 4mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




15 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    What a deliciously looking apple! This recipe is right on time for the fall season. I have bookmarked to try over the weekend! Thanks for sharing!!!

  2. 5 stars
    This cake was so warm and comforting and made my house smell amazing!! Tasted great with my morning coffee too!

  3. 5 stars
    Absolute success – the combination of flavors was perfect. I served this at a luncheon today and it was a big hit.

  4. 5 stars
    Love this Old Fashioned Fresh Apple Cake Recipe looks so delicious and comforting. Will make it soon. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  5. 5 stars
    This actually looks almost exactly like the apple cake that my grandmother used to make. Just looking at it is making me so nostalgic. I can’t wait to make it!

  6. 5 stars
    This is delicious! I love apple-y recipes, and I can’t wait to make this again. It will be absolutely perfect for the cooler fall weather!

  7. 5 stars
    What a delightful find this Old Fashioned Fresh Apple Cake Recipe is! You’ve hit a home run with your perfect balance of spices that evokes warmth and comfort, complementing the sweetness of the apples beautifully. This recipe is an absolute gem that I’ll be adding to my family’s treasured collection; thank you!

  8. 5 stars
    This was absolutely delicious – worth every second spent in the kitchen making it. Putting this one in my back pocket for this fall when we go apple picking!

  9. Pingback: Easy Chewy Milk Chocolate Fudge Cookies - The Peasant's Daughter
  10. Pingback: How To Make Maple Sugar - The Peasant's Daughter
  11. Pingback: Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake - The Peasant's Daughter
  12. So as i made this Apple cake.. NO SALT MENTIONED IN INGREDIENTS. Then it says whisk salt in flour mixture.. is there salt or not.

    1. Thank you for letting me know, I’ve fixed the recipe card! I must have deleted the line about salt while editing and formatting. The recipe uses a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and it will not make a huge difference in the end thankfully, it’s a very subtle thing.