Fresh Apple Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

This old-fashioned Fresh Apple Cake recipe is all the bits I cherish about fall—apple picking, chunky sweaters, cinnamon sticks, and crackly orange leaves—turned into a warm hug of a dessert and slathered with dreamy caramel cream cheese frosting. 

Old Fashioned Fresh Apple Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting. INCREDIBLE autumn flavor and a must bake in the fall! Moist, fluffy, and the cream cheese frosting is to die for! Better than the Pioneer Woman!

When I think about the perfect fall day, I envision red leaves against icy blue skies, backyard football games, and piping hot mugs of cider.

I imagine pink cheeks, fuzzy slippers, and oversized, squashy armchairs.

Most importantly, my perfect fall day necessitates a big, warm slice of freshly baked apple something. Something frosted. Or glazed. Or ice creamed. Or frosted AND ice creamed.

Fresh Apple Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting, you are that apple something of my eye!

Moist, spiced apple cake with caramel cream cheese frosting and walnuts.

This fresh Apple Cake is a moist, rich spice cake studded with hunks of tart apple and bits of toasted walnuts. It is scented with cinnamon and nutmeg and allspice and is the kind of homey, comforting dessert I imagine myself loving as a kid and baking as a grandma and craving every autumn in between.

Fresh Apple Cake is loaded with apples and slathered with caramel cream cheese frosting.

The apple cake recipe was a bit of a saga to get right, but it was worth every Granny Smith (and GASP honeycrisp!) in the bag.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have witnessed the incident in which the beautiful apple bundt cake I stayed awake until midnight to bake emerged from its pan in 10 odd pieces.

As I learned the hard way, this apple cake is so supremely moist and apple packed, it’s better suited for a regular square baking dish than it is a bundt pan.

(Don’t worry though—I pieced that broken bundt back together, poured caramel glaze over the top, and served it at a dinner party. No leftovers!)

Reliable Fresh Apple Cake, scratch-made and slathered in cream cheese frosting.

A few adjustments to the recipe later, and I have for you a perfect, more reliable Fresh Apple Cake, scratch-made and ready to be slathered in cream cheese frosting.

But not just any cream cheese frosting. CARAMEL cream cheese frosting. This Fresh Apple Cake is special, and it deserves a special topping to match.

The addition of the brown sugar makes the cream cheese frosting taste like caramel, no making of actual caramel required. Translation: it’s quicker and easier, which means you will be eating apple cake sooner than later. YES.

Add a shower of toasted walnuts and you have a creamy, crunchy sensation in every bite.

Another yummy twist for the next time you bake this cake, as I suspect there will be a next time: Fresh Apple Cake with coconut and pecans (swap pecans for the walnuts and add a sprinkle of both on top). New topping, same warm, happy fall feeling.

Delicious Fresh Apple Cake, made with apples, walnuts, and caramel cream cheese frosting.

Every fall, I like to treat myself to at least one indulgent apple dessert. It’s my grown-up way of experiencing the same unabridged autumn bliss I did as a kid diving into a pile of leaves, with fewer bruises. I can attest to this because I tried jumping into what I thought was a large, cushy leaf pile recently. Let’s just say I don’t bounce back the way I once did.

While Vegan Apple Crisp, Hasselback Apples, and baked Apple Chips are a few of my go-to healthy apple treats, this Fresh Apple Cake is extra special. Don’t skip the cream cheese frosting, and be generous with the nuts. Your inner leaf-jumping kid (and outer apple-dessert-loving adult) will thank you!

Old Fashioned Fresh Apple Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting. INCREDIBLE autumn flavor and a must bake in the fall! Moist, fluffy, and the cream cheese frosting is to die for! Better than the Pioneer Woman!
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Fresh Apple Cake

Yield: 1 9x9-inch cake (Serves 12)
Prep Time:
30 mins
Cook Time:
40 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 30 mins
Moist, rich old fashioned apple cake with caramel cream cheese frosting. Filled with fresh apples, walnuts, and cinnamon. Easy to make and a fall favorite!

Ingredients

For the Apple Cake:

  • 3/4 cup walnut halves
  • 1 2/3 cups  white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter — at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs — at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt — at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups peeled and 1/4-inch-chopped apples — about 2 medium apples—choose a firm, flavorful variety such as Granny Smith, Fuji, McIntosh, or Cortland

For the Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 6 ounces  reduced-fat cream cheese — at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter —  at room temperature
  • 1/2  cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Instructions

  1. Place the rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 9x9-inch or 8x8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper so that it overhangs two of the sides like handles. Lightly coat the parchment with nonstick spray. Set aside. Place the nuts in a single layer on an ungreased baking pan. Bake until toasted and fragrant, about 8 to 12 minutes. Do not walk away during the last few minutes (this is when nuts love to burn). Immediately transfer to a cutting board. Coarsely chop and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the white whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.
  3. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, stopping in between each to scrape down the bowl. Beat in the Greek yogurt and vanilla extract. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients, mixing just until evenly moistened. Fold in the apples and 1/2 cup of the toasted chopped walnuts. The batter will be very thick.
  4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and with the back of a spatula, spread it evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the edges are light golden brown, about 35 to 45 minutes. The baking time will vary depending upon the moisture content of your apples. The center of the cake will still feel soft but should spring back just a little when touched. Check at the 35-minute mark. If your cake isn't done but the top is browning more quickly than you would like, loosely tent it with foil, then continue baking as directed. When it's done, place the pan on a wire rack and let cool completely before frosting.
  5. To make the frosting: In a mixing bowl or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, butter, and brown sugar at medium speed until creamy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and salt and beat until blended. Reduce the mixer speed to low. Gradually add the powdered sugar, beating just until combined. Increase the mixer speed to high. Beat 1 additional minute or until smooth. Spread the frosting generously onto the cooled cake. Sprinkle the remaining walnuts over the top. Slice generously and serve.

Recipe Notes

  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. (I find it tastes even better and more moist on day two! Let come close to room temperature prior to serving.)
  • Freeze (frosted or unfrosted) for up to 1 month. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Autumn Apple Dessert, Easy Homemade Cake Recipe, Fresh Apple Cake

Nutrition Information

Amount per serving (1slice (of 12)) — Calories: 321, Fat: 17g, Saturated Fat: 8g, Cholesterol: 62mg, Carbohydrates: 37g, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 25g, Protein: 6g

Did you try this recipe? I want to see! Follow Well Plated on Instagram, snap a photo, and tag it #wellplated. I love to know what you are making!

Old Fashioned Fresh Apple Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting. INCREDIBLE autumn flavor! Easy, moist, and perfect for any apples like Granny Smith or Honeycrisp. Healthy whole wheat recipe that families love! #wellplated #applecake #desserts #healthy

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About Erin Clarke

I’m fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food taste incredible. Wearer of plaid, travel enthusiast, and firmly convinced that sweets and veggies both deserve a place at the table. MORE ABOUT ERIN…

31 comments

  1. Hello yum. I have been meaning to bake some and haven’t gotten around to it yet. Thanks for the reminder! xo

  2. Pumpkin bars! I follow the Law Student’s wife on pinterest and facebook–love the blog!

  3. My favorite fall treat are Lumberjacks-molasses and spice crinkle cookies-‘Good in the spring,too. The kids eat them by the handfuls,me too!

  4. I made this apple cake yesterday and I think it might be my new fall favorite!

  5. I’m in the process of baking this cake now! Holy moly I got some of the batter on my finger and had to of course give it a try- SO much flavor I did double the amount of cinnamon but I’m literally licking the bowl, Cannot wait to try this!

  6. oh my gawd, love me some apple cake! and I’ve got to try this brown sugar frosting. . yummmm!!!

  7. You are the bomb Erin thanks! you always make some of the greatest stuff here on the web blogs and that’s why I keep coming back for your recipes have a good morning :)

  8. I meant to write Peter I dont know why it typed Erin .

  9. Just wanted to say that I just made this BUT I make cakes for a restaurant and I didn’t have the icing ingredients so I kind of fudged things .  I made the cake as is (delicious) but instead of icing I made a mixture of 1/2 c of sugar, 1/2 c of butter and 1/2 c of evap milk and boiled for 2 minutes and poured over top of warm cake – Awesome!  (no cider either – used little cup of applesauce) McGuyvering!

  10. Wow. I was still regretting the fact that I never got to eat apple cake in Iceland, but now it looks like there’s no cause for it! I could inhale this cake!

  11. Caramel and apples in a cake is PERFECT for fall! :)

  12. Can I use cake flour, in this recipe?

    • Hi Lynn, I haven’t tested the recipe with cake flour, so I can’t vouch for the results. You may need a few additional tablespoons of cake flour, as it’s a much lighter flour than whole wheat or all-purpose. If you do give it a try, I’d love to hear how it goes.

  13. Sounds /Looks Yummy! Anxious to try this recipe!

  14. OMG, this is the most fall dessert EVER! LOVE it!

  15. I made the cake tonight and it is so delicious and moist! The directions are easy to follow too. And the frosting is finger linking good!..I set some to the side so I can dunk apple slices with it. Might make the cake again for Thanksgiving. Thx for sharing! 

  16. I tried making this cake today and even after an hour in the oven, the top was still very pale and the middle was not cooked. Does the temperature stay at 325 for both toasting the walnuts and baking the cake? I’m positive it’s not an issue with my oven. Thank you!

    • Hi Liza, 325 is the correct temperature. The longer bake time probably was the result of the moisture content of your apples. I hope you were still about to enjoy the cake!

  17. Hi Erin,
    This seems amazing! Did you try it with any type of gluten free flour? I really want to try it but can’t eat gluten :(
    Please, please let me know! Thank you!

    • Hi Tascila, I have not tested the recipe with gluten free flour, but if you want to experiment, I think a 1:1 GF flour blend may work. If you do decide to experiment, I’d love to hear how it goes!

  18. Hi,
    This looks yummy,what should be the quantity if substitute all purpose flour?

  19. How would you tweak recipe to use a 9 x 13 pan and have more servings?
    Sounds like a great recipe

  20. Thank you, Erin, for this delicious cake recipe! I used Granny Smith apples, chopped pecans instead of walnuts, and plain whole milk yogurt instead of Greek yogurt but it was still mighty moist and tasty 🤤 Served it for company this evening and it was a hit! Such a genius dessert, it has fall written all over it!

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