I Tried King Arthur’s Popular Old-Fashioned Apple Cake, and It’s My New Go-To Fall Cake

published Oct 3, 2023
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old-fashioned apple cake cut in squares on cooling rack
Credit: Molly Allen

Fall is in the air, and that means more time with the oven on and warm seasonal scents wafting through the house. When it comes to fall baking, nothing beats a recipe full of fresh apples, and this old-fashioned apple cake recipe is just that.

When I stumbled on this recipe, I was excited about just how easy it seemed to bake a simple apple cake from scratch. But once I made it, what impressed me even more was the incredible texture and flavor with every bite. It’s certainly unassuming with its simple sheet cake shape and smooth frosting, but it’s truly a must-make for a taste of fall.

Credit: Molly Allen

How to Make Old-Fashioned Apple Cake

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease a 9-inch by 13-inch cake pan. Finely chop the apples.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or a mixing bowl with a hand mixer, mix the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking soda, salt, and apple pie spice made up of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg together. Mix until the mixture is crumbly but doesn’t combine into a cohesive mass.

Mix in the apples and toasted walnuts or pecans. Mix until the apples release their juices and the mixture becomes a thick batter, two to three minutes. Transfer the batter into the greased cake pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Once the cake is baked, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool.

To make the frosting, melt butter in a saucepan on medium heat and stir in the brown sugar and salt. Cook the mixture, stirring consistently, until the sugar has melted and you can’t see the melted butter anymore. Mix in the milk and bring the syrup to a boil. Transfer the brown sugar syrup to a heat-safe mixing bowl and allow it to cool for 10 minutes.

Work quickly to whisk in sifted powdered sugar and vanilla extract until the mixture is smooth. Immediately pour the warm frosting over the entire cake.

Credit: Molly Allen

My Honest Review of Old-Fashioned Apple Cake

At first glance, this recipe seemed like it wouldn’t have the great, moist texture of a traditional cake. The mixing method, along with the ingredients list calling for very few wet ingredients, had me puzzled. However, all my doubts turned out to be for nothing. I was amazed by just how much liquid was absorbed from the chopped apples, which thinned out the batter and added plenty of moisture to the cake.

My whole house smelled incredible while this cake was baking, and I couldn’t wait to dig in. It was absolutely worth the wait. Every single bite was beautifully balanced with touches of baking spice, a subtle sweetness from the apples, and nuttiness from the toasted pecans. Many reviews of this recipe said the brown sugar frosting is too sweet, but I have to disagree. It was the ideal complement to the cake, creating a wonderful play on flavors and textures. I’m definitely making this on repeat this fall.

Credit: Molly Allen

Four Tips for Old-Fashioned Apple Cake

  • Use a food processor for the apples. Peeling and finely chopping four apples can take a while. Use a shortcut to make it quicker. Core and cut your apples into chunks, and then chop them in a food processor. This will result in the perfect consistency in a fraction of the time.
  • Try it with unpeeled apples. This recipe can be made with peeled or unpeeled apples. I chose to keep the skins on to amp up the rustic feel. This will add even more texture and pairs beautifully with the toasted nuts.
  • Don’t skip sifting. The powdered sugar for the brown sugar frosting definitely needs to be sifted in order to achieve a smooth texture. Use a


  • Work quickly with the frosting. The key to the brown sugar frosting on this cake is all about heating it to create the intended consistency. As it has a cooked syrup base, it starts to firm up very quickly. Make sure your cake is cooled and ready to be frosted before you make it. That way, you can work fast and immediately pour it over the top of the cake.

This article originally published on The Kitchn. See it there: I Tried King Arthur’s Popular Old-Fashioned Apple Cake and I’ll Be Making it All Fall