“Call Me Old-Fashioned” Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting

The last of the American-grown apples have made their appearance in my neighborhood grocery store this month, so I’ve been chowing down on organic Pink Lady and Fuji apples like they’re going out of style. (And they are if you try to avoid buying produce shipped from the southern hemisphere.) Over the weekend, I was looking for an easy cake recipe that would integrate fruit and nuts and would be forgiving since I’m not the best cake baker when it comes to fancy cakes.

Fortunately, King Arthur Flour’s extensive recipe archive had my back with this apple cake recipe. I’ve made other apple cakes in the last few years, but hands down this is my favorite. It’s moist like a carrot cake, has a nice crumb, and didn’t sag in the middle while baking. Not to mention its brown sugar frosting is off the hook. Even better, though the ingredients list looks long, the only prep that takes more than a few minutes is peeling, coring, and dicing the apples. (If you have a food processor with a shredding blade, it’s even quicker.)

Charlotte the Dog was in attendance during the baking of this cake, monitoring the progress, and the finished product earned her two-paws-up approval.

She's got her eye on you. Image by author.
She’s got her eye on you. Image by author.

While I’m usually a fan of warm cake, I actually enjoy this apple cake more after it’s been refrigerated. The frosting solidifies on top, making it much easier to cut slices. Also, while I’m usually not a snob when it comes to ingredients, I highly recommend using Irish or European butter for the batter and frosting. The slightly higher fat content adds a richness that makes each bite melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

CCN Old Fashioned Apple Cake 1
Image by author.

Old-Fashioned Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting
(adapted from a King Arthur Flour recipe)
Makes one 9-inch by 13-inch sheet cake


– 2 1/3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
– 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
– 2 tsp baking soda
– 3/4 tsp salt
– 1 tsp ground cinnamon
– 1/4 tsp each ground ginger
– 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
– 2 large eggs
– 1/2 cup (8 TBS) unsalted butter, softened (I used Kerrygold Irish Butter, and it worked great.)
– 4 cups peeled, cored, chopped apple, about 1 1/3 lbs whole apples
– 1 cup diced toasted walnuts or pecans

– 7 TBS unsalted butter (Go with Irish or European butter, and you will be glad you did!)
– 2/3 cup brown sugar
– 1/4 tsp salt
– 1/4 cup milk
– 1 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
– 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease and flour a 9″ x 13″ pan. (I used a pyrex baking dish.)

2. To make the cake: Mix all of the ingredients except the apples and nuts in a large bowl.

3. Beat until well combined; the mixture will be very stiff and may even be crumbly.

4. Add the apples and nuts, and mix until the apples release some of their juice and the stiff mixture becomes a thick batter, somewhere between cookie dough and brownie batter in consistency.

5. Spread the batter in the prepared pan, smoothing it with your wet fingers.

6. Bake the cake for 45 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few wet crumbs clinging to it. (Mine was ready to come out of the oven at the 40-minute mark.)

7. Remove the cake from the oven, and place it on a rack to cool completely; don’t remove the cake from the pan.

8. To make the frosting: Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar and salt and cook, stirring, until the sugar melts.

9. Add the milk, bring to a boil, and pour into a mixing bowl to cool for 10 minutes.

10. After 10 minutes, stir in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Beat well; if the mixture appears too thin, add more confectioners’ sugar. Spread on the cake while frosting is still warm.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. renxkyoko says:

    Archived. The recipe is not intimidating. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  2. The A Blog says:

    Your pictures are so cute! 🙂

    1. gwynnem says:

      Thanks, The A Blog. My dog Charlotte makes it easy. 🙂

  3. Oh my god that looks so delicious?

    1. gwynnem says:

      Definitely hit the spot last week. 🙂

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