Monday, October 28, 2013

Apple Cake with Brown-Sugar Frosting

I love autumn. Crisp air, colorful leaves that crunch when I walk through them, cozy sweaters, frost in the early morning, the approaching holidays…everything about this season makes me smile and sigh with contentment. Best of all, I enjoy biting into a crunchy, juicy fall apple fresh from the tree.

When I saw this recipe for Old-Fashioned Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting on the King Arthur Flour Company website, I knew I had to make it. So while I was at my parent’s house, I grabbed their bag of Jonathan apples and gave the recipe a go.

The cake was a hit! I love the brown-sugar frosting, which reminds me of the caramel frosting on my Old-Fashioned Caramel Cake. The cake was very moist and stayed that way for a couple of days until it was eaten. The recipe would make a great coffee cake by just leaving off the frosting, though my dad and I had no trouble eating it for breakfast with frosting. (In many ways, I’m my father’s daughter.)

However, this recipe was very sweet, so next time I think I’ll make it with tart Granny Smith apples instead. The recipe comments on the website contain suggestions from other cooks on how they reduced the sweetness, but I think using a tart apple would be a good start.

Thank you for all the good wishes for my family from my last post. My dad was recently diagnosed with bladder cancer, so I went to stay with my parents as he went through his first chemo treatment. So far he is doing well, considering, and the prognosis is very good.

Old-Fashioned Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting
Recipe reprinted with permission from the King Arthur Flour Company’s website.

2 1/3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour (I used all-purpose 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, plus 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 (I used un-toasted pecans and they tasted great.)

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 (I used vanilla.)

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees 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.

Tips from the King Arthur 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. I love this type of cake! When I was a kid, my mother made a cake like this with applesauce that she got at the Acme Market. To this day, we call it Acme Applesauce Cake! She out the same type of frosting on her cake ... I have gone over to the cream cheese frosting ... either way, this is a keeper cake!

  2. Honestly I can't wait to make this - it looks seriously good!
    Mary x

  3. Dear Linda, I love this time of year too and I love Thanksgiving. Everything about the holiday is perfect. All focus of giving thanks and preparing a nice feast.
    The apple cake would make a lovely addition to any feast.
    I love this type of dessert.
    I hope all is well. Blessings dear. Catherine xo

  4. This used to be my favorite cake my mom would make. I loved waling in the house after school to the aroma of the apple cake.

    Wishes for tasty dishes,
    Linda @ Tumbleweed Contessa

  5. Susan, my grandmother made applesauce cake and I loved it. I have her recipe and want to try it sometime. It was so moist she didn't add frosting, but this frosting would taste great on it.

    Linda, I'm surprised I never had this cake before since it seems to be one people fondly remember from their childhood.

    Mary, it is seriously good!

    Catherine, I think I will add this to the Thanksgiving dishes I bring to our family celebrations. It would be perfect.

  6. I love anything with brown sugar -- this looks like a good way to enjoy it!

  7. Dear Linda, I am hosting a giveaway for my Cookie Book, please come and join.
    Thank you and blessings, Catherine xo

  8. Hi Linda,

    My favorite thing about Autumn has to be the abundance of apples that are available!

    Now really, who could resist a cake that begins with Apples and Brown Sugar Frosting? Not me, that's for sure!!!

    So glad yo hear your Dad's prognosis is good. My daughter just finished her chemo treatments and is on the road to recovery. Wishing the same for your dad:)

    Thanks for sharing, Linda...

  9. I love apple cake! It's time to make it again - I love the icing!

  10. I'm sorry to hear about your father, but I'm glad that he seems to being doing better now. Apple cake helps to make one feel better about things.

  11. Linda, Sorry about your dads diagnosis. I used to work for a urologist and they have had some great results with bladder cancer. Sending good thoughts your way.

    Your apple cake looks so moist and delicious! Perfect dessert for a fall day!