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 frosting

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

Of course, my perfect fall day also necessitates a big, warm slice of one of my freshly-baked healthy apple recipes. Something frosted. Or glazed. Or ice creamed. Or frosted AND ice-creamed.

Fresh apple cake with cream cheese frosting, you are that apple something of my eye!

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, nutmeg, and allspice and is the kind of homey, comforting dessert we all need right now.

The frosting is something special too. Thanks to a shortcut ingredient, it tastes like it’s made with caramel sauce, a perfect pairing with apple cake, BUT no making of actual caramel is required.

My trick? Brown sugar. Its warm notes make the cream cheese frosting taste like caramel, but it comes together far more quickly and easily.

Translation: easy apple cake = apple cake you are eating sooner rather than later. YES.

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

What Are the Best Apples to Use in a Fresh Apple Cake?

  • For the best fresh apple cake, use firm, flavorful apples like Granny Smith, Cortland, Honeycrisp, or McIntosh. These more firm varieties will hold up well during baking, and their more pronounced flavor will ensure the cake lives up to its apple-icious name.
  • As with my Baked Apple Slices, I love using a combination of two kinds of apples for a slight variation in texture and flavor.
  • As with this Gluten Free Apple Crisp, I do suggest that you peel apples for apple cake, because it will help create a better, smoother texture. (Apples used for a more rustic recipe, like these Hasselback Apples don’t need peeling.)

Fresh apple cake in a baking dish

How to Make Fresh Apple Cake

Behold, a perfect and reliable apple cake recipe! It’s scratch-made and ready to be slathered in cream cheese frosting.

This cake is supremely moist and apple packed. Once you try it, you will never be tempted to make a fresh apple cake with cake mix.

The Ingredients

  • Apples. Sweet, juicy, and beloved by all. Their flavor blends beautifully with the warm spices, brown sugar, and vanilla. Plus, apples are packed with fiber and Vitamin-C, making them a healthy addition to this cake recipe (see more health benefits here).
  • White Whole Wheat Flour. I used white whole wheat flour in this cake for a wholesome, whole grain twist.
  • Walnuts. For a toasty, nutty crunch.
  • Spices. Cinnamon + nutmeg + allspice = the trifecta of cozy, fall goodness.
  • Brown Sugar + Granulated Sugar. A combination of brown sugar and granulated sugar provides the ideal amount of sweetness and the right texture.
  • Eggs + Greek Yogurt. Critical components for moisture and fluffy cake texture.
  • Vanilla. The perfect complement to the warm spices and apples.
  • 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. This delicious frosting is made from reduced-fat cream cheese, butter, brown sugar, vanilla, salt, and powdered sugar.

The Directions

  1. Toast the nuts for 8 to 12 minutes, then chop them. Whisk the dry ingredients together.
  2. In a stand mixer, cream together the wet ingredients. On low speed, add the dry ingredients. Fold in the apples and part of the walnuts.
  3. Bake the apple cake for 35 to 45 minutes at 325 degrees F.
  4. Prepare the frosting, then spread it onto the cake once it has cooled. Finish with toasted walnuts. ENJOY!

Easy fall dessert served on two plates

Recipe Variations

  • Apple Cake with Coconut and Pecans. Swap pecans in place of walnuts, and add a sprinkle of both pecans and toasted coconut on top. New topping, same warm, happy fall feeling.
  • Fresh Apple Cake without Walnuts. Simply omit the walnuts. You could also swap in ⅓ cup of dried cranberries.
  • Fresh Apple Cake with Caramel Glaze. Swap the cream cheese frosting for a simple caramel glaze. Whisk together 3 cups brown sugar, 1 cup light cream, and 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Once the sugar has dissolved, stir in 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.
  • Fresh Apple Cake with Caramel Sauce. Skip the cream cheese frosting, and top your cake with this Apple Cider Caramel Sauce. (I also used it on this Gooey Caramel Apple Cake.)
  • Fresh Apple Cake with Vegan Caramel Sauce. Looking for a vegan caramel sauce instead? Top this cake with my No Cream {Vegan} Caramel Sauce.

How to Store Fresh Apple Cake

  • I’ve found that fresh apple cake does need to be refrigerated for freshness, particularly with the addition of the cream cheese frosting.
  • To Store. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight storage container for up to 5 days. Let come close to room temperature prior to serving. (I find it tastes even better and more moist on day two!)
  • To Freeze. Apple cake is freezer-friendly. Freeze (frosted or unfrosted) cake for up to 1 month in an airtight freezer-safe storage container. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Do not thaw at room temperature or the cake may become soggy.

More Recipes to Use Fresh Apples

A slice of cake on a white plate

Recommended Tools to Make this Cake

  • Baking Pan. Perfect for making this moist fresh apple cake recipe
  • Baking Sheet. The ideal tool for toasting nuts and roasting vegetables.
  • Stand Mixer. If you plan to make cakes often, a stand mixer is a wonderful investment.

Every fall, I like to treat myself to at least one indulgent apple dessert, and this apple cake is a favorite. It’s my grown-up way of experiencing the same unabridged autumn bliss I did as a kid diving into a pile of leaves (but less itchy). I hope you love it as much as we do!

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!

Fresh Apple Cake

5 from 12 votes
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!

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 40 mins
Total: 2 hrs 30 mins

Servings: 1 9x9-inch cake (Serves 12)

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
 

  • 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.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the white whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Notes

  • TO STORE: 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.)
  • TO FREEZE: Freeze (frosted or unfrosted) for up to 1 month. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Nutrition

Serving: 1slice (of 12)Calories: 321kcalCarbohydrates: 37gProtein: 6gFat: 17gSaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 62mgFiber: 3gSugar: 25g

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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53 Comments

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  1. 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!

  2. 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!5 stars

    1. Jamie, I totally wish I were in your kitchen right now! It must smell amazing. I’m a total cinnamon fiend, so I’m all for putting in extra. Hope you enjoy every bite!

  3. 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 :)

  4. 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!5 stars

  5. 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!

    1. 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.

      1. I used cake flour and it tasted great but I felt that the cake is a little dry. Trying to figure out a solution. But it tastes yummy either way. 5 stars

  6. 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! 5 stars

  7. 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!

    1. 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!

  8. 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!

    1. 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!

  9. 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!5 stars

    1. Angela, you can simply omit them. You could also swap about 1/3 cup of dried cranberries if you like. I hope you all enjoy the recipe!

  10. I just love your recipes for healthier baked treats. I have made many of your lovely muffin recipes with excellent and tasty results!! I have a new Le Creuset apple shaped baking dish begging to be used and some wonderful fresh picked local orchard Golden Delicious apples, so this was a perfect fall Saturday baking project. I cooked down my Golden Delicious slightly so I had a combo of lovely moist no-added-sugar chunky applesauce (mostly yummy apple chunks!) I put a dash of cinnamon in as they cooked (because cinnamon, yum) and added about 1/4 tsp ground ginger as well. A lovely thick, yet fluffy batter. It’s in the oven as we speak. Can’t wait to cut it for dessert! Of course I licked the spatula :-) and it’s going to be WONDERFUL, I can already tell! Thanks for another great healthier recipe. 5 stars

  11. Thank you for this recipe! I made this cake into cake pops dipped into white chocolate mixed with a bit of cinnamon. Was a big hit in my house this Thanksgiving!5 stars

    1. Hi Mary! Unfortunately, milk has more moisture than yogurt and lacks the tangy flavor, so I think it would alter the flavor of the cake and make the batter too runny. I know that’s not the answer you were hoping for, but I really want to make sure this recipe turns out well for you!

    1. Hi Angela! I’ve never tried this swap myself, so it would be an experiment. If you decide to try it, I’d love to hear how it goes!

  12. I think this will be my first fall bake! Has anyone out there made it GF? I’ve noticed that when I swap my GF 1:1 flour in for wheat flours it doesn’t always work out. Maybe I should bake for longer at a lower temp? Any advice? Thanks for the recipe Erin!!

    1. Hi Dana! 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!

  13. Loved this recipe! I am not a huge cooked apple fan but I had so many left over from apple picking that I figured I’d try this! So glad I did! Easy to make and very tasty! Will def make it again and share the recipe with others!!! 🍎🍎🍎5 stars