Fall for this apple cake

fog on the apple farm

During fall in New York, the air gets refreshingly crisp, just like the season’s apples. You know the CRUNCH you hear in the Washington Apple commercials? It’s so loud that it sounds fake, but it’s exactly how good apples are over here.

King David apples

On this first day of fall, my friends and I went apple picking (we city folk are easily entertained). Here’s a recipe to put the season’s bounty to use. It’s the only 100% whole wheat cake worthy to be called dessert. Instead of being thrown in for the sake of being whole grain, the whole wheat lends an extra earthiness to the fruit. The flour’s bitterness is offset with boiled cider. (King Arthur’s Whole Grain Baking says that any acid, such as orange juice, masks whole wheat’s bitterness. You only need to add a little, and you won’t taste the oranges.) While this cake is high in fiber, it’s by no means low fat. The deep, caramel flavor is lovely, so you skip the frosting it if you like.

apple cake

Legacy Apple Cake (adapted from King Arthur Whole Grain Baking)

Makes 1 rectangular or 9-inch round cake


Butter (for greasing the pan)
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (traditional or white whole wheat), plus more for the pan
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, or 2 teaspoons apple pie spice
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup boiled cider or apple juice concentrate
3 apples, peeled, seeded, and chopped or 1 1/3 cup applesauce
1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-by-13-inch square pan or a 9-inch round pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice or apple pie spice; set aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer in a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with the brown and granulated sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, stopping between each addition to scrape the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl. Beat in vanilla, cider (or apple juice) and the applesauce (if using).
  4. With the mixer set on low speed, beat in the flour mixture until evenly moistened.
  5. Toss the walnuts and apples (if using) with 1 teaspoon of the flour mixture. This step ensures that the chunks don’t sink to the bottom of the cake.
  6. With a rubber spatula, fold the apples (if using) and walnuts into the cake batter.
  7. Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. The round cake pan will take closer to 60 minutes.
  8. Remove the cake from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool.


Double this recipe if frosting a double layer cake

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. In a small pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in brown sugar and salt. Cook, stirring, until the sugar melts. Add the milk, bring to a boil, and pour into a mixing bowl. Cool for 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Beat well; if the mixture seems too thin, add more confectioners’ sugar. Use the frosting while it is still warm.

To serve:

Frost the cake. If you are making a round layer cake, level the cake with a large serrated knife. Then cut the cake into two even layers. If only it were that easy, right? The norm is to saw the knife back and forth into the cake. I always get raggedy edges with lots of crumbs.

Baker Linda Dann taught me an easier way. If you are right handed, hold your cutting arm against your body. With knife in hand, bend your forearm so it’s parallel to the cake. Steadily place your free left hand on top of the cake and turn it counter-clockwise into the knife. Don’t move your cutting hand. Keep pushing/rotating the cake into the knife, and you’ll get a clean cut. If you are left handed, switch the hands and rotate the cake clockwise.


Boiled cider is simply apple cider that’s been concentrated till it’s thick and syrupy. To make it, reduce 1 1/2 cups of regular cider in an uncovered pot till you have 1/4 cup. I think this took me half an hour.

For a reduced fat version, replace 1/2 stick of butter with 1/4 cup of applesauce. Add the applesauce with the cider.

Comments (5)      Email Email      Print Print


  1. Rosa said,

    Wow that cake looks good! Really gorgeous!
    I love the first picture…

    September 24, 2007 at 9:04 am

  2. Anh said,

    What a nice looking apple cake. And with all the spices there, everything is perfect!

    September 28, 2007 at 1:52 am

  3. Jeanette said,

    I want to use this recipe for my son’s birthday but I’m a little confused. It says "9 by 13 square pan". A 9 by 13 is a long rectangle which is what I need, does this make a square pan or a 9 by 13 pan??

    October 18, 2009 at 1:36 pm

  4. Jessica "Su Good Sweets" said,

    Jeanette, technically 9×13" is a rectangle. That’s the correct size.

    October 18, 2009 at 1:47 pm

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