(Almost) autumn means it’s time to make apple cake

I make Holiday Apple Cake in the early fall, but it’s delicious any time of year.

By Betty Gordon

© 2016 text and photos. All rights reserved.

Every year at about this time, I make a gorgeous apple cake. The apple harvest, usually beginning in September, helps to signal that the hot and humid days of summer are nearly over, and that the beautiful colors of fall are on the way.

The recipe itself isn’t difficult, but there are several steps and the prep is lengthy. Read through the recipe twice to make sure you understand the assembly. Unfortunately, I don’t recall the original source of the recipe, except that I photocopied it out of a book.

I always use Granny Smith apples because their tartness offsets the sweet batter, and their firm flesh doesn’t turn to mush during baking. Making the cake a day or two in advance allows time for the flavors to mingle, while the crumb stays moist. You’ll also need the advance time to let the cake cool completely. If you get impatient and accelerate this step, the glaze won’t cascade down the sides properly.

For presentation, choose a wide plate, platter or platform that will support the weight of this dense cake. Use both hands to carry the plate when bringing it to the table to serve.

It is also important to have a well-constructed bundt pan. This is one of those instances where spending the money for the best equipment pays off. My sister bought me a fluted bundt pan more than 25 years ago. It’s the one I still use. It’s also splendid for pound cakes.

Below is the Nordic Ware link to the cast-aluminum pan that is closest to the pan that I have. This cake makes a lot of batter, so make sure the pan accommodates 10 to 15 cups. It’s sometimes referred to as a 10-inch pan. You may be able to find it cheaper on another site, but make sure what you purchase is a heavy-duty pan, not a lightweight one. The heavier weight helps the cake to bake uniformly.


The Nordic Ware site also shows other bundt-pan shapes and includes recipes.

This cake is guaranteed to bring compliments, and likely a request for the recipe.


An assembly line is an efficient way to construct the layers. The first layer of batter and the first layer of apples are in the fluted bundt pan.


Holiday Apple Cake

Serves up to 20, depending on size of slices

Hands on: 1 hour

Total time: 3 hours, including glaze, plus overnight for the cake to cool completely

Wrapped tightly, the cake will keep for four to five days. Leftovers can also be frozen. Wrap individual pieces in plastic wrap, then encase in aluminum foil. That said, the cake is best when fresh.

For the apple prep:

5 medium apples (I use Granny Smith)

2 teaspoons cinnamon

5 tablespoons granulated sugar

For the cake batter:

1 cup (2 sticks) margarine or butter, softened at room temperature

2 cups granulated sugar

4 eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup orange juice

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

3/4 cup White Glaze (recipe follows)

To prep the apples: Peel and core apples. Cut apples into quarters and then slice apples into pieces about 1/2-inch thick. In a large mixing bowl, combine apple slices, cinnamon and 5 tablespoons granulated sugar. Mix well; set aside. The apples will give up some of their juice while resting.

To make the batter: In a very large mixing bowl (or the large bowl of a stand mixer), combine margarine or butter and 2 cups granulated sugar. Cream at medium speed until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Add to batter about 1 cup at a time and mix until combined. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Add orange juice and vanilla and almond extracts. Continue mixing until batter is smooth (it will be thick).

This is the third and last layer of apples.

Grease and flour a 10- to 15-cup bundt or tube pan. Shake out extra flour. Place a small amount of batter in the prepared pan. Arrange a layer of apple slices in a circle on top of the batter. Repeat layers until you have 7 total (batter, apples, batter, apples, batter, apples, batter).  The bundt pan will be about three-fourths full. When it bakes, cake will rise almost to the top. If you’re worried about it overflowing, place bundt pan on a rimmed baking sheet before putting it in the oven.

This is the fourth and last layer of batter, and the cake is ready for the oven.

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Bake 1 1/2 hours or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack 15-30 minutes, then carefully invert on a large plate or serving dish. Cool completely before drizzling with White Glaze.

Notes: You will have leftover apples. After making this cake for many years, I’ve cut back to 4 the number that I prep, and I still have leftovers. So enjoy eating them later.

It will take some practice to get the ratio correct when layering the batter over the apples. Cover the apples completely on each batter layer, but not overly thick or you’ll run out of batter for the last layer. If this happens, don’t panic or give up. Remember that you’ll be inverting the cake and may be able to disguise the shortcoming.

The most important step: Grease and flour the pan well. If not, it won’t come out in one beautiful piece. The glaze isn’t thick enough to disguise where you’ve tried to put it back together. That said, I’ve never had that happen. I repeat: Grease and flour the pan well.


The fully cooled cake is ready for glazing.


White Glaze

Ices a 10-inch bundt cake

Hands on: 15 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

1 1/2 to 2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Dash salt

4 tablespoons liquid (see below)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium mixing bowl, combine confectioners’ sugar and dash of salt. Add enough liquid to form an icing of spreading consistency. Liquid choices can include water, milk, nondairy creamer, orange juice, lemon juice, brandy or liqueur. Add vanilla extract.

If icing is too thin or runny, add more sugar and mix again. If icing is too thick, add liquid a little bit at a time until you reach the desired consistency.

Using a spoon, drizzle a small amount at a time over cake, beginning at the crown. Icing will roll down sides and puddle on serving dish. If you’d rather not have a puddle, place wax paper pieces around the bottom of the cake stand or plate before putting the cake on it. Glaze the cake. When glaze is set, carefully remove the pieces of wax paper.

An overhead view of the glazed cake. For this version, I mixed orange juice with confectioners’ sugar for a slightly off-white glaze.

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