Easy, fresh apple cake makes the best bundt cake recipe perfect for anytime of year! Using a combination of oil and applesauce makes an extremely moist spice cake crumb dotted with chunks of fresh apples. It’s finished with a quick brown sugar praline glaze drizzled on top and optional nuts. Gluten-free modifications are included.
apple Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze
Even though fresh apple cake would be hard to ignore anytime of the year, autumn begs for richly spiced cinnamon apples baked together in a warm, old fashioned spice cake.
Settling on that perfect recipe, though, is a tough decision with so many versions out there! How do you decide between apple dump cake, upside down apple cake, caramel apple, Jewish, French, or German apple cake?
Although I wouldn’t shun any of these versions, I wanted this apple cake made with fresh apples to replicate the old fashioned bundt cake like mom used to make. The simple flavors of apple and cinnamon need to shine through a moist tender crumb and chewy crust all around.
What makes this cake recipe exceptionally moist? Using a combination of oil and applesauce achieves a dense bundt cake crumb. The exterior of the cake has a signature chewy crumb, thanks to using baking soda, rather than baking powder for rising.
Once the cake has cooled and been removed from the bundt cake pan it’s time to make the quick, stove top brown sugar glaze, reminiscent tasting old fashioned pralines. Butter, brown sugar, and milk are heated together and then combined with powdered sugar. Drizzle over the top and sprinkle with additional nuts, if desired.
How to achieve a moist apple cake
A lot of apple cake recipes claim to be moist, but I wanted this recipe to really stand behind that claim. Below are some baking tips to ensure it’s true!
- Use plenty of chopped fresh apples. Apple’s higher water content helps make a moister crumb.
- Add applesauce. Not only does this enhance the apple flavor, but adds more liquid to the cake.
- Flavoring the cake the molasses gives the cake a burnt caramel flavor and adds moisture.
- Substitute half the sugar with brown sugar. Brown sugar contains molasses, which makes baked goods more moist.
- Use oil instead of butter. Oil is a neutral flavor and helps keep the texture moist longer without drying out.
- Bake at a lower temperature. This allows for a gentler rise and liquids won’t evaporate as quickly.
best spices to use
The next factor for making the best apple cake recipe is settling on the ideal amount of spice. A traditional spiced cake has a mixture of flavors, such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger.
I prefer the simplicity of the cinnamon and sugar, but also wanted to enhance it with caramel, butterscotch notes. Replacing half the sugar with brown sugar and adding molasses replicated this.
If you wish for more spice complexity use 2 teaspoons cinnamon and add 1/2 ground ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and a pinch of ground cloves.
How To Make fresh Apple Cake
(Below shows step-by-step photos and modified instructions. For the complete recipe, along with ingredient amounts, scroll down to the recipe card.)
- Preheat oven to 325ºF. Spray a non-stick bundt cake pan with cooking spray and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl beat together a cup of sugar, brown sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, molasses, applesauce, and vanilla.
- Whisk together all purpose flour, baking soda, spices, and salt in a separate bowl.
- Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and beat well.
- Fold in peeled, chopped fresh apples and walnuts, if desired.
- Pour into prepared pan and bake for 70-80 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Cool cake in bundt pan for 15-20 minutes. Invert and remove from pan to cool completely on a wire rack.
Praline Brown Sugar Glaze
- In a small saucepan add softened butter, brown sugar, milk, and salt.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute.
- Remove from heat. Add vanilla and confectioners sugar. Stir vigorously until powdered sugar is smooth and incorporated.
- Continue to stir gently for 3-5 minutes until frosting thickens slightly, but is still pourable. Pour over cooled cake and immediately sprinkle on nuts, if desired.
- Serve as is or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce for the ultimate dessert!
best apples to use for baking
With so many apple varieties out there, it’s hard to know which are best for baking! Apple cake can be made with a variety of apples for diverse flavor and texture.
These apples are known to be good for baking, hold their shape, and don’t turn mushy.
- Granny Smith apples (these apples are tarter so may want to pair with something else)
- Pink Lady
- Golden Delicious – My favorite to use in apple cobbler and apple crisp as well!
How to Make Gluten-Free Apple Cake
Good news for those looking for gluten free cake recipes! This apple cake with brown sugar glaze can be adapted to gluten free by switching out the flour with your favorite gluten free all-purpose brand.
Gluten free cakes generally take longer than traditional cakes to bake. Be sure to test the cake using a cake tester before removing from the oven. Gluten-free cakes brown quicker, so they deceptively appear fully cooked before they are.
If you love gluten-free apple recipes, try gluten-free apple muffins as well!
Apple cake tastes better the next day so bake ahead of time! As the cake sits, it becomes more moist while the spices meld and deepen.
Store uncut apple cake, uncovered, on the counter up to 3 days. If the cake has been cut, press a piece of plastic wrap against the cut sides, leaving the rest exposed. It will dry out if refrigerated, so leave at room temperature.
Yes, this cake may be frozen once it has been baked and cooled completely. If the cake has been frosted, let the glaze harden first before wrapping up to freeze.
Wrap the cake securely with plastic wrap, then cover the whole thing with foil. Freeze up to 3 months.
Slices of cake can also be frozen. Wrap individual pieces with plastic wrap and transfer to a gallon freezer bag. Thaw whole cake or slices on counter for 1-3 hours.
Removing a cake from a bundt pan
If baking this recipe for apple praline cake or gluten-free Nothing Bundt cake, use the suggested tips below.
First, begin with greasing the pan. To test this recipe, I used a couple different methods for greasing the baking pan. One bundt pan I greased and floured, while the other I just sprayed with cooking spray.
Unexpectedly the cake pan sprayed with cooking spray was a lot easier to remove. If your bundt pan has a non-stick finish, liberally spraying will suffice.
If you have an older bundt pan, or one without a non-stick finish, use a piece of wax paper to spread softened butter or shortening on the pan. Sprinkle pan with flour and rotate the pan until it adheres to all the butter. Finally, invert the pan over the sink to tap out excess flour.
Allow the baked cake to cool for 15-20 minutes in the pan. This allows the cake to become firm enough to invert without breaking apart. Don’t cool it for longer in the pan, though, because the cake will become damp and stick to the pan.
Use a knife to go around the outside and inside edges of the cake and invert onto a wire rack. If the cake still sticks to the pan, flip it back over, and use the knife to gently reach down around the sides and lift the cake up away from the pan.
Cool completely on a wire rack before sliding onto a serving platter and frosting.
alternative baking pans
Yes, a bundt cake may be baked in a different pan. Match the different pan (or divide between 2 pans) with the same bundt pan volume.
A 10″ bundt pan holds 12 cups, so the cake batter can be transferred to a 9X13 pan or divided between two round 9″ cake pans.
A 9″ tube pan also has the same capacity of a bundt pan, so those can be used interchangeably.
The Joy of Baking has a very hand baking pan chart for comparing different baking pan’s capacity.
Keep in mind, changing the pan will also change the baking time. Dividing the batter between two pans will require less time, while baking in 9X13 pan might require more. Stay close by to make sure your cake doesn’t overbake.
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Fresh Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Praline Glaze
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 1 ½ cups vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour (see recipe notes)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 cups peeled, cored, and chopped sweet apples
- 1 ¼ cups chopped walnuts optional
- Preheat oven to 325ºF. Spray a non-stick bundt cake pan liberally with cooking spray and set aside.
- In a large bowl beat together sugar, brown sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, molasses, applesauce, and vanilla.1 cup sugar,1 cup light brown sugar,1 ½ cups vegetable oil,3 large eggs,½ cup unsweetened applesauce,2 tablespoons molasses,1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ground ginger, allspice, nutmeg, ground cloves, and salt in a separate bowl. Add dry ingredients to the sugar mixture and beat well.3 cups all-purpose flour,1 teaspoon baking soda,2 teaspoons ground cinnamon,½ teaspoon ground ginger,½ teaspoon ground allspice,½ teaspoon nutmeg,⅛ teaspoon ground cloves,½ teaspoon salt
- Stir in fresh apples and 1 cup walnuts, if desired. Reserve remaining walnuts for topping. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 70-80 minutes, or until cake tester inserted in cake comes out clean.3 cups peeled, cored, and chopped sweet apples,1 ¼ cups chopped walnuts
- Cool cake in pan for 15-20 minutes. Use a knife to gently go around edges. Turn cake onto wire rack to remove from pan. Cool completely before transferring to a cake platter and frosting.
Brown Sugar Praline Glaze
- In a small saucepan add softened butter, brown sugar, milk, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute. Remove from heat.½ cup packed light brown sugar,¼ cup butter,3 tablespoons milk, heavy cream, or half and half,¼ teaspoon salt
- Add vanilla and powdered sugar. Stir vigorously until powdered sugar is smooth and incorporated. Continue to stir gently for 3-5 minutes until frosting thickens slightly, but is still pourable. Pour over cooled cake and immediately sprinkle on walnuts, if desired.1 teaspoon vanilla extract,1 cup powdered sugar
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