Food and Drink

Lean into October with a fresh apple cake

This past weekend, while chasing the last bits of October sunlight, I filled the kitchen with everything apple. I've been wanting to make a fresh apple cake ever since picking small crabapples and a slightly larger green variety a few weeks back. Some went into a fresh sauce flecked with cardamom and ginger, others eaten out of hand while simmering Calvados-spiked toddies and waiting for dough to rise for apple-grape focaccia.

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I first made this apple almond cake in a Bundt pan but found that, moist with fruit, it can be difficult to turn out without sticking to the curves of the pan. So I simplified and layered the batter with apple slices in a 9-x-13-inch dish. You can peel the apples or not (sometimes I only peel half the amount so the cake has flecks of color) and I've included a step to sauté the apples for ten minutes so they soften a bit more. You can toss them in the cake without pre-cooking but just know they will be a bit firmer*.

I like the addition of almond flour for moisture and flavor. I'm not one for sugar-forward baked goods, but if you prefer, you can always up the sugar by a quarter cup and/or dust the whole slab with some confectioner's sugar once it's cooled a bit; serve as is or with vanilla ice cream, sweetened whipped cream, or vanilla custard sauce.

Fresh Apple Cake
Makes 1 (9×13-inch) cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup ground almond meal/flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
4 tart firm apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch slices (about 1 1/2 pounds after coring and peeling), such as Granny Smith or Braeburn
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Scant 1 cup granulated sugar plus 1 tablespoon, divided
1 cup unsalted butter plus 1 tablespoon, softened
4 large eggs, room temp
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Optional serving suggestions: confectioner's sugar; whipped cream; vanilla custard sauce; vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9-by-13-inch cake pan and line with parchment paper with a two-inch overhang on either side (for easy removal of cake from pan). Combine flour, almond flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.


Peel apples. Cut in half and remove core and stem; discard. Slice apples into 1/4-inch slices and toss in a small bowl with lemon juice and zest and one tablespoon sugar. *SEE NOTE ABOVE: Heat one tablespoon butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add apple-lemon mixture (save bowl) and sauté 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove apples back to bowl and toss with heaping one tablespoon reserved flour mixture; set aside.

Beat one cup butter in a large bowl (or bowl of stand mixer) until light and fluffy, scraping down sides of bowl. Add remaining scant one cup sugar and beat until well combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in remaining flour mixture on low speed just until blended. Add sour cream, orange juice and vanilla extract and beat until well blended, being careful not to overmix.

Spoon one half of batter into prepared pan. Top with most of apple slices, reserving a few for the top. Spread remaining half of batter in a single layer, using a spatula to smooth the top. Arrange remaining apples over top of batter. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes or until cake is golden brown and a tester inserted in center comes out clean. Transfer cake in pan to a wire rack and let cool 10 minutes. Run a knife around edges of pan and gently lift cake, using the parchment overhang, and place on a cooling rack. Serve warm, dusted with sugar, if desired or serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream, vanilla custard sauce, or vanilla ice cream.

Kim Sunée

Kim Sunée is a bestselling author ("Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home," "A Mouthful of Stars," "Everyday Korean: Fresh, Modern Recipes for Home Cooks") and a former magazine food editor. She's based in Anchorage. For more food and travel, visit