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Apple Cake with Brown-
Sugar Frosting

By , from the Culinate Kitchen collection
Serves 16
Total Time 1½ hours


Chock-full of apples, this is a favorite fall birthday cake. Though I’m sure it would be good without it, the frosting — reminiscent of maple-bar icing — is awfully tasty.



2⅓ cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
2 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ginger
tsp. ground cloves
tsp. nutmeg
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
cups sugar
2 eggs
4 cups apples (about 3 large apples), peeled and finely chopped
¾ cup pecans or walnuts, finely chopped


cup unsalted butter
~ Pinch of salt
½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
4 Tbsp. milk
cups powdered sugar, sifted
½ tsp. vanilla or maple syrup


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan.
  2. Make the cake: In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, salt, and ground spices.
  3. In a mixer bowl, or with an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and mix for another minute, until the eggs are blended into the butter and sugar.
  4. Reduce the speed to low and add flour mixture, a third at a time, just until the dry ingredients are incorporated. The batter will be very thick and stiff.
  5. Fold in the apples and nuts and stir just enough to evenly distribute the apples and nuts through the batter.
  6. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with a spatula, pushing the batter into the corners of the pan. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. When the top of the cake is firm and an inserted toothpick comes out clean, the cake is done. Cool on a wire rack.
  7. Make the frosting: In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Add the salt and brown sugar and stir over medium heat until the sugar melts. Add the milk and bring the mixture to a boil.
  8. Remove pan from heat and pour contents into a medium bowl. Cool for 10 minutes. Add powdered sugar and vanilla or maple syrup and stir until well blended.
  9. Spread frosting on cooled apple cake. Cut into squares to serve.

This content is from the Culinate Kitchen collection.

There are 13 comments on this item
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Average Rating 4
46% recommend this recipe
1. by trpeltz on Oct 18, 2007 at 4:41 PM PDT

Carrie - I am Gina Norton’s friend and she introduced me to culinate. I love the site and your writing. Just made your apple cake last night (minus the frosting - just too sweet - will try paring down the sugar next time and going for frosting too). Anyway - while my mixer died on me mid-way through mixing and led to a mixing debacle - the cake tastes great and was perfect for the occasion (book club). THANK YOU.


2. by Carrie Floyd on Oct 18, 2007 at 10:27 PM PDT

I’m glad you liked the cake and I understand the “too sweet” comment re. all the sugar in the frosting. Last weekend when I made apple cake I wondered if there was a way to cut back on the sugar and still get a similar tasting frosting. Cream, I thought, has potential; maybe you fold the cooled brown sugar-butter mixture into lightly whipped cream? It would have a different texture but it might be good. Sugar or cream, six of a one, half dozen of the other—choose your vice!

3. by Kiggles1208 on Oct 27, 2007 at 9:43 AM PDT

this cake is incredible! i really enjoy it for breakfast on the weekends with my coffee. and i took it to work to share with my coworkers and they raved about it! i will be making it for the 3rd time tonight. my in-laws are coming to visit and i think they’ll really love it. i think i might try it in a bundt pan. what do you think?

4. by Carrie Floyd on Oct 30, 2007 at 12:14 PM PDT

I think it would be great baked in a bundt pan, though I’m not sure how that affects the cooking time. That said, more often than not, I use a different pan than what is recommended when I bake. My advice: check it after a half hour to see how it’s shaping up, then check it every 5-10 minutes (depending on how gooey or firm it was when you first checked it) until it’s done (it will be firm, browned and an inserted toothpick will come out clean).

5. by sj.breeze on Nov 28, 2007 at 1:43 PM PST
Rating: four

Carrie, this is a wonderful cake recipe; thanks so much for sharing it. I made it on Thanksgiving for the non-pie contingent and we enjoyed it for a good few days after too!

6. by Teno1010 on Oct 23, 2008 at 5:20 PM PDT

Re: use of a bundt pan. If you go to, you will find wonderous things about what to do about changing pan sizes or measurements. You will have to register. I found this site by accident. Apparently though to view other things such as receipes, etc. you will need to be a premier member for a fee. But is appears to be a wonderful site. I too may use the bundt pan for this delicious receipe which I can’t wait to try.

7. by Rachel on Nov 13, 2008 at 12:25 PM PST

This works great subbing in all whole wheat flour for the white flour, and adding milk to reach a ‘normal’ cake batter consistency. I rough chop the apples, leaving the peels on. I left out the icing and nobody missed it.

8. by jesswil28 on Dec 10, 2008 at 6:16 PM PST

This is a fantastic cake recipe! The first time I made it as written and thought it was fabulous. The second time I increased the recipe by half and made it in two 10” round pans and then frosted with a maple cream cheese frosting (this was for Thanksgiving). Easy to make, easy to play with - very nice. Thank you!

9. by vincent on Mar 6, 2009 at 9:51 AM PST


We bumped into your blog and we really liked it - great recipes YUM!!! YUM!!!.
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10. by Courtney Cavellier on Aug 30, 2009 at 11:58 AM PDT

I also think this recipe is great - I’ve left the peels on the apples, too, since I like the texture and color it adds to the cake. I’ve made it twice, once with the icing and once without. The icing is really tasty and easy to make, but the cake makes a lovely coffee cake by itself.

I served this cake to my dinner guests twice now and received lots of compliments!

11. by anonymous on Sep 28, 2009 at 7:53 AM PDT


The recipe sounds delicious!! What kind of apples did you use?

12. by Lee on Oct 24, 2009 at 5:10 AM PDT

I really don’t bake much at all, but I will make this recipe again. This is a great apple cake recipe. Next time I will make it without the frosting, but even with the sweetness of the frosting, the apple taste is wonderful.

13. by Elizabeth Lizotte-Brown on Oct 29, 2009 at 4:12 PM PDT

I really enjoyed this cake; I had a bounty of apples from my CSA and was housebound due to a 2-day Denver snowstorm. Since I didn’t have any powdered ginger, but DID have candied ginger, I minced it (two chunks) and mixed it with the flour. (Since it’s sticky, the flour helped keep it separated.) I shredded my apples. My two year old twins and neighbors alike are thrilled with it. Chose not too frost it, but think the frosting sounds really lovely.

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