apple cakeI am lucky enough to have an apple tree in my backyard. Unfortunately, it has been diagnosed with fire blight, so I think this may be its last year. The aborist says it can’t be saved, which makes me want to weep. Our beloved apple tree was already misshapen from years of neglect before we bought our house, but it now additionally has broken branches and peeling bark. Overall, it looks pretty shabby. But I don’t care how it looks. I adore the fruit it bears.

The apples from my tree aren’t anything like what you get at a store. They are unique and part of an age when heirloom varieties grew in abundance. I never have it sprayed, so the cores may sometimes house a happy little worm, but the meat is beautiful, organic and tastes fantastic. Our apples are crisp and delicious right off the tree while also holding up well when cooked or baked. The thought of going to buy a replacement tree makes me depressed. I like the old scruffy tree we have.

One of the best things about having an apple tree is being able to go in my own backyard to pick apples to make a cake. I have quite a weakness for apple cake, especially when the apples are crisp and sweet. So, in honor of my tree and the many apples it has bestowed upon us for apple slices, apple tarts, apple butter, and, yes, apple cakes, I’d like to share my recipe. As you’ll see, the cake is full of apples, but don’t be alarmed that it looks like there are more apple pieces than batter. The abundance of apples makes the cake wonderfully moist. The apples also bake nicely into the batter so they don’t detract from the cakiness of the texture. With a hint of cinnamon and some toasted walnuts, it’s perfect for dessert, brunch, tea, or an afternoon snack. It’s also easy and quick to make.

I am still hoping for a botanical miracle that will save our tree. Maybe I’m feeling sentimental because it’s dying, but I’ve always seen it as a sentry of sorts in our backyard, marking the passing of time: blooming in the spring, bulging with fruit in the summer, dropping golden leaves in autumn, and standing bare and empty in winter. And then it does it all over again, or at least it did.

So in honor of my apple tree, here’s the recipe. I hope you like it as much as we have over the years.

apple cake

Apple Cake

Makes: 10 – 12 Servings


1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
4 heaping cups peeled and chopped apples (about ¼ inch thick cubes)
½ cups toasted walnuts (optional)
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Butter or oil a bundt pan or a 9×13 baking dish.
3. Combine oil, eggs and sugar in a large bowl.
4. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon
5. Add flour mixture to egg and sugar mixture, being careful not to overstir.
6. Add apples and nuts (if using) to the batter.
7. If using a bundt pan, sprinkle the final ¼ cup of brown sugar and ½ tsp cinnamon on the bottom of the greased bundt pan.
8. Pour batter into your pan, spreading evenly.
9. If using a 9×13 baking dish, sprinkle the ¼ cup of brown sugar and ½ tsp cinnamon evenly on top of the batter.
10. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, or until you can pull a toothpick out clean.
11. Sprinkle with powdered sugar when cool.

Apple Cake 9 October,2008Denise Santoro Lincoln

  • That’s the second time now that I’ve seen the instruction to mix vegetable oil with sugar and other wet ingredients before mixing the dry ones into it – can someone tell me what the benefit of all that veggie oil is? Why not butter? And do you think that substituting applesauce for the veggie oil (my mom does it all the time in her cakes) would work well here, or would it just overload the appley goodness?

  • Denise Lincoln

    Many quick cakes use oil to moisten batters and also provide the needed fat for baking. My carrot cake recipe does the same thing. I think you could cream butter instead, if you’d like, but you would end up with a denser cake. It’s an interesting idea to substitute apple sauce for the oil — although probably just 1/2 cup of apple sauce, keeping 1/2 cup of oil. If you try it, let me know how it turns out.


Denise Santoro Lincoln

I am a writer, editor, mother of twins, and enthusiastic home cook. I was raised by an Italian-American mother who, in the 1970s, grew her own basil (because she couldn’t find any in the local grocery stores), zucchini (for those delicious flowers), and tomatoes (because the ones in the store tasted like “a potato”). My mom taught us to love all kinds of food and revere high-quality ingredients. I am now trying to follow in my mother’s footsteps and am on a mission to help my daughters become adventurous eaters who have a healthy respect for seasonal food raised locally. My daughters and I grow vegetables and go to the farmers’ market. We also love to shop at Piedmont Grocery and Trader Joe’s. When I’m not hanging out with my daughters or cooking, I like to contribute to cookbooks (including Williams-Sonoma’s Food Made Fast and Foods of the World series), work as an editor, and write about food for Bay Area Bites and Denise’s Kitchen. My food inspirations are M.F.K Fisher, Julia Child, and Alice Waters — three fabulous women who encompass everything I love about food.

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