Caramel-y chewy outside, tender moist inside studded with apples and nuts.  Naturally dairy free, and easily made gluten free, this cake epitomizes the best non-chocolate cakes.  

A square piece of apple cake sitting on a glass plate with three red apples behind.

Perfect with a cup of tea for a snack or a cold glass of milk for breakfast. It has been part of my life for as long as I can remember.  I think it should be part of yours. 

This cake is simple to prepare, tastes amazing, but it is not very pretty.  It ALWAYS sinks in the middle.  To combat this, I added another egg and some baking powder as well as soda.  These modifications helped, but don’t be surprised if your cake sinks in the middle.  It will still taste delicious!

Testing Gluten Free Options

I fell back on my favorite gluten free flour alternatives that I discovered when testing muffins:  almond flour, oat flour and buckwheat flour. Because I have not had good luck with the texture of commercial gluten free flour blends, I skipped them in my first round of testing. 

In my first batch I tested 

  • Half oat flour / half almond flour
  • Half oat flour / half buckwheat flour 
  • One third oat flour / one third almond flour / one third buckwheat flour

My favorite was the one that used half oat flour, half almond flour.  Even though I used my favorite Burkett Mills buckwheat, which is light in color and flavor and finely ground, the buckwheat gave the cake a little more of a grainy consistency.  It was not bad so if you cannot eat nuts, and have Burkett Mills buckwheat, you might try it.

Next I tested a commercial gluten free flour mixture, King Arthur’s Measure for Measure.  This cake was quite good.  My gluten free husband likes it a lot.  My daughter and I think that it is similar to using buckwheat flour, good but not quite as good as regular flour in texture.  The is a very minor difference.  It still tastes yummy and the texture is not overly gritty.


When made without gluten, this cake sunk even more than usual in the middle.  When I added an additional egg to the recipe, it gave it enough structure that the middle sink was less pronounced.

When I added another egg to the cake with regular flour, I liked it when I added 3 eggs to a double recipe (which is what I usually make).  But when I added 2 eggs half a recipe, which is the amount in the recipe below, the texture was a little bit too eggy for me.  But it is inconvenient to use 1 and a half eggs in a recipe.  Because you do not need the extra egg when using regular wheat flour, add just one egg.  

But for a double recipe made in a 9 x 13 pan, the middle tends to sink more. So if you are making a double recipe with regular flour, add a third egg. If you are doubling the recipe for gluten free flour, use 4 eggs.

Ingredients and Substitutions

Apples – I prefer Macintosh for their excellent flavor.  You do want a “cooking” apple like Macintosh, northern spys, Empire, Cortland, granny smith so that the apple cooks down slightly.  You do not want hard bullets in your cake!!

Sugar – I have tried to reduce the sugar in this cake without good success.  The texture and “caramel – y goodness” is due to the sugar in cake.  It is dessert (or breakfast if you are lucky!).  Eat in moderation (with lots of fruits and vegetables in your diet says the dietitian!)

Eggs – See above for the changes to the number of eggs with gluten free flour and if you are doubling the recipe.  I have not tried any egg substitutes in this recipe.  Due to the texture issue I had with the buckwheat flour, I would try aquafaba (liquid from canned legumes) before a flax egg.  Especially if you are using a gluten free flour replacement, the eggs give structure to the cake so I would expect it might fall more in the middle – which this cake tends to do anyway.  

Flour – unbleached all purpose or gluten free alternative.  See section on gluten free testing above / below.

Oil – use any neutral oil you can tolerate.  I usually use canola.

Cinnamon – the original recipe calls for just cinnamon, but there is no reason why you cannot use other warm spices like nutmeg, cardamom, all spice, cloves.  Experiment with your favorites!

My favorite cinnamon for baking is Korintje Cinnamon from The Spice House. (This is an affiliate link so if you purchase something I will earn a small commission at no cost to you.)

Nuts – I have successfully used walnuts and pecans.  You can leave them out if you cannot tolerate them.  Personally I would not use almonds or hazelnuts because they have a much firmer texture.  Feel free to ignore my advice here!

Vanilla extract

Baking powder

Baking soda



Peel and core your apples.  Cut them into pieces about 1/2 inch.  Put them in a glass measuring cup larger than the amount of apples if you have one.  If not put the apples in a glass bowl.  Add the sugar on top of the apples and stir to combine. As the sugar and apples combine, the sugar will begin to dissolve.  This is great – it will help the texture of your cake.

three pictures in a row, first showing chopping apples, second combining apples and sugar, third the sugar dissolving when with the apples

When I was testing this recipe, I had to put one of my apple sugar combinations in the refrigerator to finish later.  This was fine and the cake was wonderful.  So don’t be afraid to pause here and refrigerate your apples and sugar, covered, for a few hours or up to a day. 

I recommend saving your apple peels and cores for apple peel tea.  Just toss them in a container or freezer bag into the freezer until you have enough!

Preparing your pan – If you are going to be serving this cake to company, then you will want the pieces to be nicer looking.  In this case, you will need to line your pan with parchment paper so you can remove the cake from the pan to slice it with a serrated knife.

I line the bottom and 2 sides with parchment so I can pull the cake out with the two sides or parchment that stick up.  You can just line the bottom with parchment and turn the cake over to remove it from the pan.  Before slicing you will want to turn the cake back over.

Usually I do not line my pan with parchment.  I just cut the cake in the pan and use a spatula to remove pieces.  But the pieces tend to fall apart a bit at the edges so the pieces are not as “pretty.”   But they taste just as yummy!!

Chop nuts – If your nuts are in the freezer, measure them and put them on the cutting board to thaw slightly.  I find them easier to chop when not frozen solid.  Other wise chop your nuts into medium size pieces.

Combine the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon In a small bowl.  Mix well.

three pictures in a row: combining dry ingredients in a bowl, chopping nuts, whisking oil into eggs

Mix – You can use a stand mixer, hand held mixer or a whisk and spoon or spatula to mix the cake.  It is a quick easy cake to mix so I prefer to skip the mixer.

Place the eggs in a large bowl and whisk.  Add oil while whisking.  Whisk until well combined.  Stir in vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients and apple/sugar mixture alternately in 2-3 batches.  Stir well after each addition. If you are not using a mixer, switch to a spatula or spoon when you start mixing in the apples.  The apple pieces tend to get stuck in your whisk.  

Stir in the nuts.

Whether or not you used parchment, spray the pan, taking care to spray the bare pan well. 

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.  Level it in the pan.

Three pictures in a row: adding dry ingredients alternately with sugar/apple mixture, can mix with mixer or by hand, cake batter in pan ready to bake.

Bake at 350° for 45-50 minutes.  The edges will pull away from the side of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the middle will come out clean.  If it has small wet crumbs, bake another 5 minutes or so.

Baked apple cake in a 9x13 pan (double recipe)

Cool in pan on a rack.  When cool, go around the edges with a knife to loosen the cake.  If you are not serving a crowd, just cut and remove the pieces you are eating right now.  The cake stores well in the pan.

If you used parchment, lift the cake out of the pan after going around the edges without parchment with a knife.  If there is only parchment on the bottom, go around the edges with a knife and flip the cake over onto a rack.  Remove the parchment and then flip the cake back over onto a plate.  Cut with a serrated knife for the cleanest edges.

How to store

Store at room temperature uncovered for 3 days.  I do sometimes cover after a day.  After 3 days you can wrap and freeze.  

Doubling the recipe

The original recipe used twice as much of all ingredients and baked in a 9 x 13 pan.  If you use a 9 x 13 pan, the cake will sink more in the middle.  To combat this, if you are using regular flour, use 3 eggs instead of 2 and the cake will sink less.  If you are using gluten free flour, 4 eggs is plenty.  


piece of apple cake on a glass plate with a bite on a fork coming toward you

A square piece of apple cake sitting on a glass plate with three red apples behind.

Old Fashioned Apple Cake

Tender, carmel-y, melt in your mouth cake filled with apples nd studded with nuts.
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Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 9


  • 2 cups apples, peeled, cored and chopped into about ½ in ch pieces
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg* see note below
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup flour** see notes above for recommended gluten free options
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup chopped nuts walnuts or pecans preferred


  • Peel and core apples. Chop into pieces about ½ inch. (Save the peels and cores for apple peel tea!)
  • Combine apples and sugar. Let stand while all the other ingredients are prepared. Stir occasionally. Some of the sugar may start to dissolve. This is great! If not, it is ok also.
  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • If you are serving this to guests or it is important to remove it from the pan, line an 8x8 pan with parchment. You can just cover the bottom, but I usually make a sling so that 2 sides are also covered and it is easy to pull out the cake. Otherwise skip the parchment and just grease the pan in step below. If you are doubling the recipe, use a 9x13 pan.
  • Combine dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon) in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Set aside.
  • Chop nuts. Set aside.
  • Whisk eggs by hand or with a mixer.
  • Add oil slowly to eggs while whisking. Whisk until thoroughly combined.
  • Add vanilla and whisk until combined.
  • Add the dry ingredients and apple/sugar mixture alternately in 2-3 batches. Stir well after each addition.
  • Stir in the nuts.
  • Spray the pan with cooking spray. If you have lined the pan with parchment, spray lightly and be sure to cover any uncovered surfaces.
  • Spoon the batter into the prepared pan making sure it is level.
  • Bake at 350° for 45-50 minutes. The edges will pull away from the side of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the middle will come out clean. If it has small wet crumbs, bake another 5 minutes or so.
  • Cool in pan on a rack. When cool, go around the edges with a knife to loosen the cake. If you are not serving a crowd, just remove the pieces you are eating right now. The cake stores well in the pan.


  • *Eggs - for regular flour, use 1.  For gluten free flour, use 2,  To double the recipe in a 9 x 13 pan, for regular flour use 3 eggs.  To double with gluten free flour, use 4 eggs.  For all details see blog post.
  • ** see blog post for all the recommended gluten free flour blends
Keyword dairy-free, gluten-free, peanut-free, soy-free
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