This Apple Cinnamon Cake will be your new favorite cake recipe for fall. It's light and fluffy, and so incredibly moist inside. It's flavored with vanilla, orange zest, and cinnamon, which pair beautifully with the tender baked apples. This cake is inspired by an old-fashioned apple cinnamon cake that my parent's neighbor used to make for them back in the 1960's. It's a cross between a dessert and a snack cake. It can be served at tea time, or with coffee at the start of a brunch.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
This is a wonderful cake recipe that has all the best flavors of fall represented! Apples, cinnamon, pecans, and orange zest. It's also a very easy cake recipe that can be whipped up on a whim, using pantry staples you probably already have on hand. Instead of a cake pan, bake this in a cheesecake pan for an elegant height on your cake!
- Butter For this cake I prefer to use Salted Land O' Lakes butter because I think it provides the best flavor for the cake. But if you live outside the U.S.A use unsalted butter.
- Sugar If you want an extra light cake use Superfine Sugar, otherwise known as Caster Sugar or Baker's Sugar. But if white granular sugar is all you have, not to worry it will still be delicious!
- Eggs I use three eggs to get the best lift and height on this cake.
- Vanilla Extract Make sure it's pure vanilla extract, as opposed to imitation, you'll get the best flavor that way. Trader Joe's has the most affordable pure vanilla extract.
- Orange Zest Really makes this cake sing! It's such a great flavor combination with the apples and the cinnamon. I use a full 3 tablespoons and use a wide grater to get the largest pieces of zest.
- All-Purpose Flour I am normally not a big "flour sifter", but in this case, it does make a big difference! Take the time to sift the flour. You'll be happy you did.
- Baking Powder Make sure it's fresh. If it's over 6 months old get yourself a new can to make sure it's still active.
- Salt I like to use kosher salt in baking for the best flavor.
- Diced Apples Remember that apples run the continuum of sweet to tart, with Gala apples being on the light and sweet side and Granny Smiths being on the very tart side. Granny Smiths are great for Apple Pie and Galas are great for my Apple Galette or French Apple Tart, but for this cake, you'll want something in the middle. For this recipe, I use Honey crisp apples because they are sweet and slightly tart, which balances out the sweetness of the cake. But you could also use Rave, Fuji, Braeburn or Gala apples too. Or swap the apples for pears that would be great too!
- Pecans Add a nice buttery crunch to this cake and their flavor pairs well with the orange, apples, and cinnamon. Just be sure to chop them finely so they don't weigh the cake down too much.
- Cinnamon I reserve the cinnamon for the topping of the cake, that way you have two distinct layers of flavor. The soft, fluffy cake flavored with vanilla and orange zest, and the crackly, cinnamon sugar on top. For a bit more spice in the interior, you could add ¼ teaspoon of ground cloves which would pair well with the apples, orange zest, and cinnamon. For another apple cake recipe with great spice try my Spiced Apple Cake Recipe.
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How to Make a Cake Fluffy and Light
- Make sure your butter is softened it will be easier to beat and to create volume.
- Use superfine sugar for a delicate crumb. Brown sugar is better reserved for denser cakes or muffins like my Orange Pecan Crumb Muffins.
- Use an electric mixer to achieve the best volume. Your sugar-butter mixture should be nice and fluffy before adding the eggs. Don't skip this part!
- Make sure your eggs are at room temperature, if you forgot to take them out, place them in a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes to allow them to come up to room temperature.
- Sift the flour, and don't use too much. The ratio of butter to flour is perfect for this cake and if you follow the exact measurements you'll have the lightest, fluffiest cake!
- Don't overbake. I wouldn't go over 50 minutes in the oven. At the 45-minute mark, if the cake is becoming too brown before it's done inside, cover it with a sheet of aluminum foil. It's done when a long toothpick comes out clean.
- Don't Underbake. If your cake falls after you take it out of the oven, it is underbaked and unfortunately, the damage is done, putting it back in the oven won't bring it back up.
Topping for Cinnamon Apple Cake
- You'll need very little cinnamon to get great cinnamon flavor in this cake.
- Only ½ teaspoon, mixed with 2 teaspoons of sugar, is all you need.
- Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on the top of the cake and then swirl it into the batter with a skewer.
- This helps the cinnamon sugar bake into the cake and create a nice crackly, topping.
- Alternatively, you could also create a glaze with 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon of heavy cream. Then drizzle the glaze over the cake with a fork or wire whisk.
Serving and Storage Suggestions:
- Allow the cake to cool completely and then cover with foil and leave the cake at room temperature if serving within a few hours. Any longer it's best to refrigerate.
- Remove the cake from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving to come up to room temperature or better yet place it in a 300F oven for 10 minutes to restore its fluffy texture.
- Before serving use a cake lifter or large metal spatula to transfer it off the cake tin base onto a cooling rack or cake stand.
- Dust the cake with powdered sugar. For the softest dusting use a fine mesh sieve to dust the sugar on the cake.
- Cut into 8 generous slices and serve. For a more decadent dessert, serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce. You can find a recipe for homemade caramel sauce in my Caramel Apple Crepe recipe.
- This cake also freezes well too! Slice into individual slices, wrap in a paper towel, and then aluminum foil. Then store it in the freezer for up to one month.
- To reheat, unwrap the foil and place the cake slice, wrapped in the paper towel in the microwave for 1:00 on high and it will taste freshly baked!
- 1 cup (224 g) Land O' Lakes salted butter (if outside the U.S.A use unsalted butter)
- 1 cup (220g) white sugar (for best texture use Superfine, Caster Sugar)
- 3 eggs, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoon (45 ml) orange zest
- 2 cups (280g) all-purpose flour, sifted
- 2 ½ teaspoon (12.5ml) baking powder
- ½ teaspoon (2.5ml) Kosher salt
- 2 ½ cups (312 g) diced apples
- ¾ cup (112g) chopped pecans
- 2 teaspoon (10 ml) sugar
- ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) ground cinnamon
- Preheat the oven to 350F (175C).
- Spay a 9" cheesecake pan with baking spray and distribute it well with a pastry brush. Set aside.
- Beat together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until nice and fluffy, scraping down the bowl as needed.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating in between each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed.
- Add vanilla extract and orange zest beat together and set this mixture aside.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, in thirds, gently beating until combined and scraping down the bowl as needed.
- Add the apples and pecans and beat gently with the stand mixer, or stir in with a wooden spoon until just combined.
- Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, and smooth out with an offset spatula.
- Whisk together the topping sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle it over the top of the cake batter and swirl it into the batter with a skewer or fork.
- Bake for 45 minutes, then cover with a sheet of foil and bake for another 5 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Allow to cool completely and then just before serving run a sharp knife around the perimeter of the pan, to loosen the cake.
- Release the spring and transfer the cake from the pan with a cake lifter or large spatula, to a cooling rack or cake stand.
- Dust with powdered sugar and serve.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 189Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 74mgSodium: 76mgCarbohydrates: 33gFiber: 2gSugar: 7gProtein: 6g