Old-Fashioned Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting

star rating (100) rate this recipe »
whole grain, quick-n-easy
Recipe photo
Hands-on time:
Baking time:
Total time:
Yield: about 24 servings

Recipe photo

This cake is an old, old favorite of ours. It's a cake where the whole is definitely more than the sum of the parts. The moist, semi-chunky cake, spread with the frosting equivalent of brown sugar fudge, is perfect served with a cup of coffee or, better still, a glass of ice-cold milk.

Our thanks to the wonderful Bakery Lane Soup Bowl cookbook for the inspiration for this recipe.

Old-Fashioned Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting

star rating (100) rate this recipe »
whole grain, quick-n-easy
Hands-on time:
Baking time:
Total time:
Yield: about 24 servings
Published: 08/21/2013



  • 2 1/3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Apple Pie Spice or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon + 1/4 teaspoon each ground ginger and ground nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups peeled, cored, chopped apple, about 1 1/3 pounds whole apples
  • 1 cup diced toasted walnuts or pecans


  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/4 teaspoon vanilla-butternut flavor

Tips from our bakers

  • To toast nuts, place them in a single layer in a cake pan. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 6 to 9 minutes, until they're golden brown and smell "toasty."
  • To guarantee lump-free frosting, sift confectioners' sugar before adding to the butter mixture. Usually all the lumps disappear as you beat the frosting; but to guarantee no lumps at all, sift the sugar first.


1) Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease and flour a 9" x 13" pan.

2) To make the cake: Mix all of the ingredients except the apples and nuts in a large bowl.

3) Beat until well combined; the mixture will be very stiff, and may even be crumbly.

4) Add the apples and nuts, and mix until the apples release some of their juice and the stiff mixture becomes a thick batter, somewhere between cookie dough and brownie batter in consistency.

5) Spread the batter in the prepared pan, smoothing it with your wet fingers.

6) Bake the cake for 45 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few wet crumbs clinging to it.

7) Remove the cake from the oven and place it on a rack to cool completely; don't remove the cake from the pan.

8) To make the frosting: Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar and salt and cook, stirring, until the sugar melts.

9) Add the milk, bring to a boil, and pour into a mixing bowl to cool for 10 minutes.

10) After 10 minutes, stir in the confectioners' sugar and vanilla. Beat well; if the mixture appears too thin, add more confectioners' sugar. Spread on the cake while frosting is still warm.

Yield: about 2 dozen servings.

Nutrition information

Serving Size: 1 (81g) Servings Per Batch: 24 Amount Per Serving: Calories: 270 Calories from Fat: 100 Total Fat: 11g Saturated Fat: 5g Trans Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 35mg Sodium: 210mg Total Carbohydrate: 42g Dietary Fiber: 1g Sugars: 32g Protein: 3g

* The nutrition information provided for this recipe is determined by the ESHA Genesis R&D software program. Substituting any ingredients may change the posted nutrition information.


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  • star rating 04/28/2015
  • Anne from Easley, SSC
  • I made this cake as written yesterday, with white whole wheat flour, and the cinnamon, etc. mixture instead of apple pie spice, brought it to work today and got rave reviews: "That was a little bite of heaven. Good! Good! Good!" I did mix up the apples until they released their juices and was rewarded with a moist batter/dough. The frosting was an added bit of delight! (I am a bit confused about the reference in the comments to xanthan gum - I didn't see it in the ingredients.)
    That is correct, xanthan gun is not listed as an ingredient in the recipe. Sometimes xanthan gum is added to frosting as a stabilizer, but you do not have to use it.JoAnn@KAF
  • star rating 04/25/2015
  • Diana S. from Davenport, Iowa
  • made this for a potluck at work...wasn't sure about the cake as the batter was very dense ,super crumbly and didn't really come together at all. Patted it into the cake pan with wet hands as directed and kept my fingers crossed. It turned out great! I let it sit covered for 2 days before I made the frosting, which I was also dubious about, as I thought it would be way too sweet. So not! My coworkers gobbled it right up and there was only 1 slice left by the time I made it to the potluck. I will never doubt again! Thanks, KAF!
  • 04/16/2015
  • greenapplegirl from KAF Community
  • I think I'll have to take my chances, as I can't have xanthan gum, potatoes or potato starch, almonds, peanuts, or carrots. Maybe extra oil and/or applesauce in place of the gum?

    The xanthan gum acts as a thickener in the frosting to help stabilize it. You will want to add something like flour, corn starch, or our Instant ClearJel to do the job. Oil and applesauce would thin the frosting out even more, so please don't use those as substitutes. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  • star rating 04/15/2015
  • linda from Rochester, NH
  • Delicious and moist
  • 04/15/2015
  • greenapplegirl from KAF Community
  • Do you think you could use oat and/or brown rice flour instead of AP Flour for this one? The eggs and apples make me wonder if it will still be moist enough wheat free?

    Without some sort of stabilizer like xanthan gum, your cake might be quite heavy. Check out a GF carrot cake and work from there, adding some apple pieces to the mix. Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

  • star rating 04/15/2015
  • Ardie from Waseca, MN
  • I have made this many times in the past but rather than the icing you can top with a dollop of whipping cream flavored with cinnamon when it is served.
  • star rating 03/26/2015
  • Shannon from Cabot, Arkansas
  • Made no changes my family loved it didn't last 24 hrs in the house.
  • star rating 03/22/2015
  • Bonnie S from Midwest
  • This is an excellent recipe. Easy to make. Good apple flavor. I cut the recipe in half & it worked fine. I didn't even bother with the frosting but probably would if I were taking it as a treat away from home.
  • 02/20/2015
  • Jeanne from PA
  • This is tasty, but does anyone have a recipe for the A&P spice bar cake? Does anyone have a recipe for an apple crumb cake?

    We don't currently have those on the website, but we can add them to the dream recipes list. Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

  • star rating 01/31/2015
  • alleygirl1 from KAF Community
  • Very yummy! Especially the frosting it gets 10 stars! I let the liquid mixture cool for one hour as suggested and then added the icing sugar and vanilla. The cake was ok for me. I am sensitive to the taste of baking soda and found it overwhelming but everyone else loved it.
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