Looking for the best apple cake recipe this fall? We tested 9 different recipes in search of the best apple spice cake!
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Apple cake (made with fresh apples from apple picking) is one of my favorite theoretical fall traditions. While I’ve never actually been apple picking, I’m excited to change that this fall and use this bake off to make my ideal apple cake!
There are a zillion types of apple cakes out there (Jewish apple cake, German apple cake, French apple cake, upside down, apple crumb, etc.) so it was tricky to narrow down the contenders. Ultimately, I decided to focus on styles of apple cake more commonly found in the U.S.–more on the selection process below!
- 42 total tasters
- All ingredients were measured by weight according to King Arthur (unless the recipe already included weights)
- All apple cakes were baked the day of tasting except for Smitten Kitchen and Divas Can Cook (both recommended baking the day before to let the flavor deepen)
- Each taster ranked each cake on a scale from 0-10 for flavor, texture and overall as a whole
- Gold Medal Flour
- Bob’s Red Mill almond flour
- Fage Greek yogurt
- Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- Kirkland butter
- Crisco vegetable oil
- Simply Organic cinnamon
- Imperial granulated, light and dark brown sugar
PARTNER NOTE: I’m delighted to be partnering with Imperial Sugar on this bake off as I’ve consistently used their consistent, high-quality pure cane sugar products throughout my bake offs. Imperial Sugar is non-GMO verified, allergen free and gluten-free!
For more sweet inspiration, you can visit Imperial Sugar to find more than 4,000 expert-tested recipes, free downloadable vintage cookbooks, sugar scrubs and bath products at the Sugar Spa, and lots of helpful guides on their blog. You can also check out their Pinterest, You Tube, Instagram for even more recipe inspiration!
How I Selected the Recipes
As I narrowed down the wide pool of apple cake recipes to a specific but still diverse category, I used the following guidelines:
- No frosting (glaze is okay)
- No upside down apple cakes
- No apple crumb cakes
- Tried to avoid international regional apple cakes like French/German/Irish/Italian/etc.
- Tried to avoid nuts/alcohol in the batter. If I found a similar recipe that omitted those mix ins, I made the recipe without. (For example, King Arthur’s cake is an adjusted, alcohol-free version of Dorie Greenspan. A Family Feast is a similar, alcohol- and nut-free version of Silver Palate.)
As a result, I ended up testing a good number of Jewish-style apple cakes, a Southern-style apple cake, and a few that may be considered American apple cake. I did make an exception for King Arthur’s French apple cake (adapted from Dorie Greenspan) simply because it felt too iconic to exclude.
After analyzing the data from 42 tasters, results of the crowd favorites are below! As always, I always recommend reading through the entire blog post to understand the profile of each recipe and decide which sounds best to you.
My favorites in each bake off don’t always match the top-rated recipes (see bottom of the post for my picks). These apple cakes varied widely in style, flavor and texture, so “the best” apple cake really depends on what you’re looking for.
Lastly, please always take the results with a grain of salt as any issues could be my own baker error rather than the fault of the recipe. I do truly believe all of these recipes are worth trying and would be delicious standalone!
Factors behind the apple cake ratings
Type of fat
Although apple cakes are more popularly made with oil, several cakes used butter as the main fat. Only one recipe (Salt and Baker) used both butter and oil. From the results, it’s clear that this pool of tasters preferred oil-based cakes. Admittedly, the butter-based cakes (Divas, Cafe Fernando, King Arthur) had other factors that skewed the results.
But ultimately oil, with its 100% fat content, will consistently provide a moist cake texture. Given all the additional flavor in apple cake from the spices and fruit, it makes sense that oil would be the preferred fat. (I.e. The flavor of butter is not necessary for a flavorful apple cake.)
Many Jewish apple cakes tend to omit dairy to keep kosher. I was curious to see if there were any patterns with the cakes that omitted milk/butter/yogurt vs. cakes with dairy. Ultimately, none of the cakes with dairy (Salt & Baker, Divas Can Cook, Sweetest Menu, Pinch of Yum) topped the charts. Added dairy also didn’t necessarily foretell a more tender crumb.
However, I think the addition of buttermilk in Pinch of Yum, for example, helped create a more lush crumb while using less fat (1/3 cup oil to 2.5 cups flour). Compare that to a higher-fat cake like A Family Feast (1.5 cups oil to 3 cups flour), and it’s pretty impressive that Pinch of Yum still had a similarly plush crumb!
While most cakes typically call for diced apples, I tested a variety of methods in this bake off. Thin, long slices (King Arthur), grated (Divas Can Cook), thinly sliced chunks (Pinch of Yum), cooked diced (Salt & Baker), and applesauce (Cafe Fernando). The cooked apples in Salt & Baker seemed to be the least popular method as they almost melted into the cake, leading tasters to wonder where the apples were hiding. King Arthur (with thinly sliced apples) actually had the most noticeably crunchy apple texture, due to the larger apple size and the high apple to cake ratio. I enjoyed the more traditional tender chunks of apples in Smitten Kitchen, Sally’s Baking Addiction and A Family Feast.
But if you want a more subtle incorporation of apple with better distribution Pinch of Yum’s thinly sliced apples were great! For minimal apple texture, grated apples lend even more moisture to the cake while also blending well into the batter. For the absolute least amount of texture, Cafe Fernando is technically an applesauce cake–this will give you a smooth, even crumb.
I was curious whether using applesauce would lead to superior apple flavor, so I kept a close eye on Divas and Sally’s (the only recipes to use applesauce). Divas did have a decent apple flavor, but with only 1/4 cup applesauce, I think this was due more to the grated apples dispersed throughout the cake. Meanwhile, Sally’s recipe is quite similar to Smitten Kitchen but with less sugar and an added CUP of applesauce.
Interestingly, I didn’t necessarily find a stronger apple flavor in Sally’s cake (it’s spiced while SK is not, which confounded the flavor), but the crumb was significantly looser and fluffier. Personally, I prefer the closer crumb of Smitten Kitchen (also helped by more sugar). But if you want a fluffier crumb, try adding applesauce to your cake!
Spices in the cake vs. with the apples
While I expected spices to be mixed into the cake batter, several cakes didn’t includes spices in the batter–just on top or with the apples! I actually found I loved the contrast of cinnamon-covered apples in a non-spiced cake (like Smitten Kitchen). However, if you want a more spice cake-like base, look for a batter that has spices incorporated (like Sally’s Baking Addiction).
Type of apple
Probably obvious, but the type of apple you bake with will affect the flavor and texture of your cake! Most recipes recommended Granny Smith or Honeycrisp apples for a heartier texture that will hold up for a longer bake time. (MacIntosh are notoriously soft if you prefer that texture!)
Dorie Greenspan loves using 4 types of apples in this apple cake since they all behave differently after being baked, which is a fun way to add textural variety. I always gravitate towards Granny Smith because I like the tart flavor, but the type of apple you use is truly a personal preference.
Tips and FAQ on making the best apple cake
I always follow the recipe guidelines on the apple the recipe developer recommends. If no type is recommended, I default to Granny Smith. The tart flavor and firm texture adds great flavor and texture to any baked goods! In this bake off, the most popular apples used across all the recipes were Granny Smith and Honeycrisp. MacIntosh is another popular baking apple, but the softer texture leads to a more divisive mushy texture.
It depends on the texture and flavor you’re aiming for! Diced apples are best for soft, discrete chunks of apples that will provide bursts of flavor and provide a distinct texture. Thinly sliced apples will blend into the batter slightly more but still provide a bit of crunch. Grated apples are the best for adding the most moisture (think carrot cake), melting unobtrusively into the batter, and dispersing the most flavor throughout the cake.
Most apple cakes can be stored at room temperature for at least a day (this will often help the flavors meld together and let the apples soften into the cake). After a day, I like to store apple cake in the fridge and heat up leftover pieces before consuming.
Analysis of the Best Apple Cake Recipes
Cafe Fernando: a close-crumbed, slightly drier cake with a clean but subtle apple flavor
Cafe Fernando’s recipe was by far the most labor-intensive! This recipe calls for 4.4 lbs of apples (ideally Winesap–I subbed Pink Lady) that get diced and roasted. Once soft, you immersion blend the apples and roast the resulting applesauce for an hour to concentrate the flavor. That sauce gets cooled and added to the butter-based cake. Cafe Fernando’s ratios are somewhat similar to Divas, but with less butter and no buttermilk.
First: I did not have an easy time blending the roasted apples. With their dehydrated skins, the apples were quite chunky after 15 minutes of blending. Ultimately, I ran everything through a food processor and the sauce still felt quite chunky. The dryness of the sauce unfortunately carried over into the cake.
This cake had a beautiful even crumb, but it was relatively drier than the others. The blog post noted one taster said the cake tasted like “biting into an apple”–this was unfortunately not our experience. Although I did like the subtle, clean apple flavor, I think most tasters were expecting chunks of apple to make this an apple cake. I’d be curious to try this recipe with storebought applesauce to see if the higher liquid content would lend a more moist texture. The crumb did seem to get a little more moist on day two. I think this would be a fantastic cake served with an apple compote and ice cream for some additional flavor and texture!
- This sample stands out in its simplicity. It has almost no accoutrements (fancy topping, glaze, apple pieces, etc.), but it has a true apple flavor in its batter. It’s different than the others, as almost an apple bundt cake, and it’s slightly dry.
- A wee bit dry, but overall a very pleasant uniform fine-crumbed texture. Not much distinct spice or apple, but I could imagine this being a very tasty based for an apple upside-down cake something similar.
- I really liked the flavor of this one but it was dry — wish it had a soak or something to make it less dry bc the flavor was nice. if you’d asked me what it is tho i would say pound cake on the dry side not apple cake
- The texture was a bit more like a soft sweet bread; has a subtler apple flavor that took a few bites for it to kick in
- It was a fine piece of cake, but probably not a top choice if you’re craving an apple cake. No actual apple pieces inside/less apple flavor; the texture of the cake was a finer grain, but was a little dry. Might be good with an icing.
Divas Can Cook: a moist, bread pudding-like cake with a sweet glaze
Divas Can Cook is a southern-style apple cake made in a bundt pan. Made with all butter, this cake uses a mix of white and brown sugar, just a ¼ cup of applesauce and buttermilk for moisture. Monique gives the option of either grating or dicing the apples finely–I chose to grate the apples. The entire cake gets draped in a thick white glaze. After reading through the comments, I was mildly concerned–several commenters noted that the batter was so wet that the cake never cooked through! Note: I did bake the cake a day ahead as Monique says that the flavor gets better the next day. I definitely should have waited to glaze the cake right before serving–apologies for baker’s error there!
Sure enough, when I cut into the cake, it did feel worryingly wet. It had a very dense, moist, sticky crumb that didn’t closely resemble the blog pictures. Ultimately, I think this recipe needs more flour to hold all the moisture–but we carry on! Some tasters liked the bread pudding-like texture (personally, I wasn’t a fan of the very moist, almost gummy texture). I also wished for less nutmeg as the it was the main flavor I could taste. My favorite part was the grated apples incorporated into the cake–I’d be curious to try this technique with a less wet cake batter. Overall, this would be a good pick if you like a pudding-like cake!
- Very moist, good flavor, really liked this cake. A smidge more nutmeg than I would want ideally but otherwise think the flavor is great. Texture reminded me of more of a pudding (in the British sense) which I really liked. Not the most apple flavor of the cakes but had enough. This was my favorite!
- From appearance alone, this sample stood out before tasting, with a darker, clearly moister look. It almost tastes like an apple bread pudding, with an appealing sogginess, and a simple icing that provides nice textural and flavor contrast.
- Interesting texture — very moist and sticky, more like a bread pudding than crumbly/traditional cake. Didn’t get a lot of apple flavor and it was a little too sweet for me.
- It was a very wet cake that had gummy texture (not sure how else to describe this) which was slightly unpleasant. I liked the flavor of the cake with the spices and sweetness.
- This is really stodgy. It is more like bread pudding but the apple does come through more than some others. I might like the flavor if it wasn’t overly moist.
- Very dense and wet, seemed to have too much egg. Liked the spice and that there were apple chunks. Icing was too sweet for an already very wet and sweet cake.
- Super wet and spongy texture is a no from me. The spice mix has a little too much clove and the apple is lost overall
Salt & Baker: a fluffy, crispy-topped cake with a mixture of apples
Salt & Baker’s apple fritter cake is the only recipe that used a mixture of oil and butter. With all light brown sugar, milk and diced Honeycrisp apples, the ratios are somewhat similar to Smitten Kitchen but with less sugar. The top of the cake gets dusted with a cinnamon sugar crumb and topped with a glaze after baking. This was the only cake that calls for cooking the apples prior to baking. They get sauteed in butter with brown sugar and cinnamon until juicy and tender before adding to the batter.
Interestingly, this was the cake where the most tasters complained about a lack of apple. I think the softened, cooked apples almost disappeared into the cake (not in a favorable way). The vanilla glaze that looked so appealing in photos also didn’t appeal to most tasters–many found it too sweet and superfluous. This felt quite similar to Pinch of Yum but with more spice (allspice specifically). While I slightly preferred the crumb of this cake, I preferred the overall flavors of Pinch of Yum. However, if you like subtle apple flavor and lots of fall spices, this is a great one to try!
- LOVE the texture here – it is soft enough just to the point where it isn’t mushy and you can bite into the cake. I think I taste either all spice or ginger in this one as well, which really gives it a nostalgic Christmas-y taste
- Really liked this one! The texture was excellent: crackly/crunchy top and moist/bouncy cake inside. A good amount of apple layer with each bite and overall not too sweet.
- I didn’t taste any apple but liked the spices. It was a bit dry for me texture wise.
- Fairly dry cake, with no texture variation to save it. Almost no apple flavor either, and I wasn’t a fan of the doughnut-style glaze – it didn’t add anything to the cake and made it unnecessarily sweet.
- Good ginger flavor, not much apple flavor, would be a good spice cake, a bit dry and not too sweet.
- All of the elements of this cake were solid, but it felt like a worse version of [Pinch of Yum]. The texture was a bit drier, and the top was less crispy and lacked the appealing stickiness. On its own (without apples or topping), the cake does not have a ton of flavor, and the mouthfeel is a bit weird, as you chew it. This cake also had a lingering aftertaste.
King Arthur: a buttery, custardy, almond-scented cake that’s very apple-forward
Although I tried to exclude French-style apple cakes from this bake off, Dorie Greenspan’s cake felt too iconic to exclude. King Arthur’s version was inspired by Dorie’s and omits alcohol while including almond flour, which is why I chose to include it. The cake is composed of tons of thinly sliced apples tossed in a buttery, eggy batter with almond extract before being baked.
The result? A custardy, apple-forward cake with a really moist texture and light almond flavor. Per the recipe, I used a mix of Granny Smith and Honeycrisp and the tart layers of apples add a lot of apple flavor. This is definitely a cake for someone who wants cooked apples front and center! Tasters were split on this cake–some loved the buttery, not-too-sweet flavor with almond notes and custardy, tart-like texture. Others found this spongy and lacking in spice with too much almond flavor. I personally liked the clean, buttery, almond-y flavor a lot–but it’s definitely not a classic spiced fall apple cake.
- Strong apple flavor, moist and fluffy with fresh sliced apples that were almost pie-like. Best cake.
- The most apple flavor by far of all the cakes! This made it a little hard to cut into but I loved the tartness, and the apple went very well with the almond flavoring. I could eat a lot of this cake, but I’m also a huge fan of almond flavored desserts.
- Texture was smooth and moist. Almost custardy, which I like. Apple wasn’t grainy like they can come across sometimes in cakes. Sliced and cooked to the right thickness and texture—creamy.
- Unlike the other samples, which ate like apple flavored cakes or cakes with apple pieces, this almost ate like sliced apples with cake holding it together. The primary taste is the apple, but the amount of fruit also keeps the cake very moist.
- Good apple flavor. Nice light texture. Overall a solid apple cake especially if you are looking for more apple taste. Like that the apple was sliced and was present through each bite rather than the dispersed pieces in the other cakes. Didn’t have as much as a fall spice flavor as many of the other cakes. The flavor is very almondy and overpowered the apples a bit.
- I liked the thin layers of apple — it felt less like an apple cake and more like an apple tart without the crust (but I really like tarts, so that worked for me)! Not too sweet and soft texture. Recommend for people who really want apple in each bite.
- Too spongy. This tastes like just apples, no spice.
Sweetest Menu: a sweet buttermilk cake with a cinnamon sugar crumble and just a hint of apple
Sweetest Menu is an oil-based cake that was the only one to use Greek yogurt. Sour cream is one of my favorite ingredients that adds tenderness to cakes, so I was excited to test this one. It uses similar ratios to Smitten Kitchen but with all white sugar and the added yogurt. No cinnamon goes into the cake batter–just buttery cinnamon sugar crumbs on top. This used the least amount of apple with just one chopped red apple.
As you can see from the photo, this was a tender, sweet buttermilk cake–but the apple chunks were few and far between. I cut the apple into about 1″ chunks and while some loved the more crisp texture of the larger chunks, some did not (myself included). I loved the cinnamon sugar crust on top (the thin glaze was a delicious addition). This had a nice soft crumb but it did feel a tad greasy in comparison to other cakes. I enjoyed the flavor, but agreed with most tasters that this felt more like a coffee cake than an apple cake. Personally, I’d triple the apples if I made this again. I might also lean into the coffee cake vibe and add a cinnamon sugar streak in the center of the cake!
- Love!! The crumb on top was so nice and provided nice texture and the cake was moist but not in the mushy way like [King Arthur]. Also liked that the apples were chopped up into pieces and baked into the batter so it’s soft but still with a bit of chew
- The topping was my favorite part, it added a nice crunch and lots of cinnamon flavor. The apple was a little on the crisp side for me, and the cake flavor was a bit bland by itself and a tad oily.
- I love the coffee cake-like streusel, which imparted great flavor and texture, but the pieces of apple were a bit large. The cake itself lacked flavor and away from the apple pieces, was a bit dry for my taste, which the glaze on top could not help.
- Like a firmed up box mix, with vanilla and cinnamon notes. I liked the big chunk of undercooked apple.
- This was definitely more of a coffee cake than an apple cake. Didn’t get a lot of apple flavor except when getting a chunk of apple – otherwise it tasted like a cinnamon coffee cake. However, I love the the crumble top of a coffee cake so really enjoyed the mouthfeel and flavor of this cake! Just didn’t feel like an apple cake.
- Texture was a little dense/greasy and there wasn’t a ton of flavor. Wish there was more apple flavor but liked the cinnamon.
Pinch of Yum: a tender, slightly bready coffee cake with mild spices and apple flavor
Pinch of Yum is such a straightforward cake that I almost excluded it simply because I wasn’t sure the small amount of oil would hold up against other cakes. It has a third of the oil that Sally’s Baking Addiction has to the same amount of flour and just one egg (most other comparable recipes used 3-4 eggs). However, it does have added buttermilk, all brown sugar and 2.5 cups sliced apples.
Luckily for those who prefer using less oil, this cake was far more tender than I expected! Admittedly, it was slightly breadier than others, but I don’t think it would be very apparent if you aren’t doing a side-by-side comparison. Although this cake looked quite spiced, I found myself wanting even more spice. The cinnamon sugar crumble on top is delightful, but the bites without the crumble were a bit bland. Overall, this felt like another coffee cake that happened to have some chunks of apple rather than a true apple cake.
- The texture was great — I loved the variation between loaf, topping, and apple. It was so moist and spiced the right amount (ie. the spices didn’t overpower the apple). This one was my favourite!
- Incredible texture, the inside was extremely airy but kept together, and the crust was really crunchy without feeling dry. The apples added a lot to the texture, and had contribute a really strong flavor. Just a bit sweet for me.
- It doesn’t taste like apple at all. The texture was good and cakey and the crunchy top was good, but it tastes more like a spice cake than an apple cake.
- The best of [King Arthur] and [Sweetest Menu], with a smooth texture and apple texture. Brown sugar stands out with this sample.
- Good texture, loved the crumble but wish it were more throughout-pieces without the crumble were a little bland. I wish the apple pieces, which brought nice textural contrast, were more incorporated throughout, but they sunk to the bottom.
- Overall too dry and the cake flavor was just okay — there was an apple piece that was tasty, but there were too few apples to make the cake appealing overall.
Family Feast: a rich, nutmeg-forward cake with soft chunks of apples and a brown sugar glaze
A Family Feast is also similar to Smitten Kitchen but uses slightly more flour and ½ cup more oil. I was curious to see if the increased fat would lead to a more plush crumb. This recipe is also similar to the famous Silver Palate recipe as well as Bonnie Stern. Like Sally, spices get mixed directly into the batter and this cake gets topped with a boiled brown sugar glaze.
This cake was a symphony of flavors and textures! The crumb is quite rich and the higher ratio of oil is apparent in the slightly greasier crumb. Soft chunks of apples are incorporated in a similar manner as Smitten Kitchen, but the flavor is much more nutmeg/allspice-oriented. The sweet butterscotch-y glaze hardens in a crackly layer on the crust. Some thought it was too sweet and I do agree on some level, but I also loved it. I do think this cake could have withstood a little more apple. Overall, quite rich, decadent and perfect for fall–this isn’t one I could eat a lot of, but I’d enjoy it!
- Dense, moist, slightly chewy (?) cake — almost felt more like an apple muffin. I liked the slight tartness of the apple pieces that offset the sweetness of the cake. Great crackly/crunchy top crust too. Yummy!
- Really killer finish! Lots of complex flavor and great texture. Honestly, a good, comfortable option with a nice crust! Would go great with walnuts
- Very darkly flavored cake, the apples ended up being extremely sour, and the glaze had a very dark caramel-y flavor as well. A really interesting different type of apple cake, with a lot of variation, but also very strong
- This one had an odd flavor, maybe a little malty or almost burnt tasting? I couldn’t quite place it but I found it off putting. I liked the texture of the crunchy topping. The apples in this one were very tart, which was also nice but didn’t seem to go with the flavor of the cake itself.
- Very nice contrast between the crust and the moist crumb, but had a greasy mouthfeel. Not much apple or spice flavor, overall just get a vague brown-sugary flavor. Would have liked more apples and spices.
- I really enjoyed the caramel glaze! This is the only one where I thought the glaze added something to the cake – it made for a nice combination of spicy/nutty/tart flavours. But the spices were a little overwhelming – I didn’t get much apple. The cake was also a little dry, though I liked the textural variation.
- The texture of the cake tasted a notably dense and oily. I’m assuming from the brown color and overly sweet taste, this cake was primarily made with brown sugar and/or had extra molasses incorporated. The taste was OK, but the oiliness of the cake made it hard to get past
Smitten Kitchen: a tender and sweet vanilla cake surrounding pockets of cinnamon-y apples
Mom’s apple cake has been on my baking list for years! While Deb has a number of apple cakes on her site, this felt the most fitting for this specific bake off. The oil-based cake uses a simple batter rich in eggs and white sugar. The diced apples get tossed in cinnamon sugar before getting layered into the (un-spiced) batter. Note: I didn’t have a tube pan, so I used a bundt pan and it worked fine.
Many tasters described this as a “pound cake with apples.” To be frank, I loved it! The contrast of the tender, sweet plain vanilla cake around the jammy pockets of cinnamon-y apples felt unusual compared to the other spice cakes. Although some wished for a more uniform incorporation of spices and apples into the cake, I loved the way you could get a bite of plain cake or a bite of apple depending on your mood. I also loved the crust on this cake and felt the ratio of apple to cake was near perfect. This is a classic for a reason and I can’t wait to make it again!
- This is what I picture and imagine tasting when I think “apple cake.” The cake is moist and flavorful, but the gorgeously cooked apples are the star. Yum.
- I really liked the huge apple chunks in this and the fact that they were spiced. I could really taste both the apple and spices in this without any overpowering the other. The cake was a simpler flavor which really let the apple shine. Texture wise it was a little wet (I’m assuming from the apples) but it was not unpleasant just not my favorite texture to eat. Overall my favorite out of all of them.
- Great flavor!! When you think if apple cake this is what you think of. Tart yet sweet apple flavor is pronounced and welcomed. Not very buttery – can taste an oil aftertaste.
- Plush and fine-textured, like a fluffy pound cake. I taste vanilla in the cake itself and not much else in the way of spices. The bites with apple have a good level of apple, and the bites without apple just taste like vanilla. Would love this if there was more apple, or if the apple was better distributed?
- Overall enjoyed this one! Balanced sweetness and tasted like a vanilla pound cake with apple (good ratio of apple to cake). Cake was soft and moist.
- Dry and stodgy. tasted more like a vanilla pound cake, but liked the apple chunks, just wish it had more!
- The flavor was very apple-y but not too sweet, which I appreciate. The texture was a little mushy/gluey, but the saving grace of the texture is that it had a really nice crust .
Sally’s Baking Addiction: an apple-studded spice cake with a glorious butterscotch glaze
Sally’s popular apple cake recipe is somewhat similar to Smitten Kitchen. The main differences include one cup of applesauce and less sugar in Sally’s. Sally’s also gets topped with an optional brown sugar glaze that I chose to use. Sally also mixes spices directly into the batter for a spice cake-like vibe whereas Deb incorporates spices via the apple chunks.
Despite the similarities between these two cakes, they turned out quite differently! Sally’s cake looks more like a traditional spice cake and yields a very fluffy, open-crumbed cake with moist chunks of apple. I (and many tasters) felt that the nutmeg was a little too strong in this cake, though some appreciated the strong spice level. I loved the sugary, slightly grainy brown sugar icing (and think it may have influenced this cake’s win). The touch of orange juice adds a nice citrus hint that rounds out the apple flavor. If you’re looking for the perfect classic spiced apple cake for fall, look no further!
- Great moist but light and airy texture. lots of apple flavor and apple chunks. Love the brown butter apple butter (?) icing, really set this cake apart from other apple cakes.
- This was DELICIOUS! The texture was incredible, and the glaze on top was really unique. It almost tasted like there was some molasses in it. The cinnamon and apple was well balanced throughout. The cake texture was light and moist.
- I didn’t have a lot, and I can totally see how a large piece would complete overwhelm with its sweetness and richness, but this cake is a great APPLE cake with a lovely texture. Best of a lot of worlds here!
- Overall had a good level of spice (very nutmeg-forward), but wish it had more apple flavor. The icing adds a pleasant brown sugar note and a necessary additional sweetness, since the cake itself isn’t very sweet at all. Overall texture is a little oily and a tad dry.
- I really liked the chunks of apple in this one. Really present in the cake. The frosting made the cake a bit too sweet for me.
- Too much nutmeg, overpowered everything else. The icing on the top was nice and wasn’t too sweet. A good texture that was denser than some of the others but not stodgy. But the amount of nutmeg overshadows all of the other good features.
Erika’s picks: Smitten Kitchen, A Family Feast
Best classic apple cake: Sally’s Baking Addiction, Smitten Kitchen
Best coffeecake-style cake: Pinch of Yum, Sweetest Menu, Salt & Baker
Easiest to make: Pinch of Yum
Best apple flavor: King Arthur, Smitten Kitchen
Best for those who don’t like cooked apple textures: Cafe Fernando
If you enjoyed this bake off, you may also enjoy these other cake bake offs: