Best Apple Cake EVER — Courtesy of Pastry Chef Joanne Chang

The apple cake to end all apple cakes. Sheer perfection.

Throw out all those other apple cake recipes. Even the ones handed down to you by relatives (Sacrilege, I know. But you’ll get over the guilt.)

Because the only one you need is this one.

How incredible is this apple cake?

My husband, who doesn’t even like apples (Is there such a person?), took one bite and mid-chew mumbled, “This IS good! And you know, I don’t even like apples.” (Uh, yup, duly noted.)

The name, “Apple Snacking Spice Cake,” doesn’t even do it justice. That moniker conjures up a simple after-school cake baked in a square pan, and cut up to eat out of hand.

That is not this cake.

Rather, this cake is round, tall and the color of dark caramel. It is jam-packed with fruit, too. The batter is quite thick. In fact, it’s almost more apples than actual batter. If that weren’t enough, there’s also a full cup of toasted pecans in it, too. For good measure, there’s also a big handful of raisins. I actually used dried mulberries instead because I love their date-like taste.

A profusion of apples and pecans in every slice.

The result is a cake, in which every bite is a riot of apples and nuts, as well as warm spices of ginger, cloves and cinnamon. But don’t think this cake is too moist like a dreaded fruitcake. Nope, it’s tender and its moistness level is just right. What’s more, when it bakes up, the top of the cake gets that heavenly crisp, crackly texture we all can’t resist.

The cake is the creation of Pastry Chef Joanne Chang, who owns Flour Bakery + Cafe in Boston, where it’s a top-seller. The recipe is from her cookbook, “Flour” (Chronicle Books).

It really should be called “Apple Awesome Cake.” It’s an easy, one-pan cake without any frosting or fancy flourishes. But it’s utter perfection. I’m already thinking what a wonderful dessert it would be for Thanksgiving or Christmas, served with dollops of maple syrup-sweetened whipped cream.

I simply can’t say enough about this cake.

Can you tell?

Apple Snacking Spice Cake

(Makes one 10-inch round cake)

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 cup cake flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 eggs

4 cups peeled, cored and chopped Granny Smith apples (2 to 3 apples)

1/2 cup raisins (or dried mulberries)

1 cup pecan halves, toasted and chopped

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 10-inch round cake pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, sift together the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. (Or, sift together in a medium bowl if using a handheld mixer.) Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment. Add granulated sugar and butter to the flour mixture and beat on medium speed for about 1 minute, or until butter is fully incorporated into the dry ingredients. Stop the mixer several times to scrape the paddle and the sides of the bowl to make sure all of the butter is mixed in. Add eggs and mix on low speed for 10 to 15 seconds, or until fully incorporated. Then, turn the mixer to medium-high speed and beat for about 1 minute, or until batter is light and fluffy.

Using a rubber spatula, fold in the apples, raisins and pecans. The batter will be very stiff and thick. It will look like too many apples and not enough batter, but that’s okay. Scrape all of the batter into the prepared pan, then spread it evenly to fill the pan.

Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the cake feels firm when you press it in the middle and the top is dark golden brown. Let the cake cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Invert the cake onto a serving plate, lifting away the pan, and then invert the cake again so it is right-side up. Slice and plate, then dust the slices with confectioners’ sugar.

The cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Or, it can be well wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 2 weeks; thaw overnight at room temperature for serving.

Adapted from “Flour” by Joanne Chang

Another Recipe From Joanne Chang: Chocolate Chunk Cookies

More Apple Goodness: Stephanie Izard’s Apple-Pork Ragu with Papparadelle

And: Apple-Stuffed Biscuit Buns

And: Flo Braker’s Open-Faced Apple Galette with Quince Paste

And: Sally Schmitt’s Cranberry and Apple Kuchen with Hot Cream Sauce

And: A Visit to the Philo Apple Farm

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  • This cake looks really good! Wonderfully spicy and nutty.



  • Oh this cake looks so delicious! I think it would be a great recipe to use at Thanksgiving!!

  • i’ll have to try this only because i feel like i already have the best apple cake recipe ever!! my husband also doesn’t care for apples but will devour my apple cake.. i’ll have to let you know!

  • Waw! This is one stunning & festive looking apple cake! That would be a glorious & very useful cook book!

  • If I make this, I’m going to substitute cardamom for cloves, which I cannot bear. I do the same in my Christmas gingerbread cookies (recipe from The Joy of Cooking)Ò€¦it’s a wonderful improvement, in my teeny opinion.

    I can almost smell this cake!

  • Oh my goodness…your description along with the pictures kills me. Can’t wait to try this cake. It’s totally perfect for the season and would be nice to bake up one for the Thanksgiving gathering.

  • I’m not a big apple fan either (don’t really get apple pie) but this does look good. What makes it look so chocolately? The whipped cream does sound like a nice touch for the holidays, but I’m going to spike mine with bourbon. πŸ˜‰

  • Was this the one you made a couple months ago? If it was, it was FABULOUS.

  • Oh Carolyn, I love her book and everything that I tried was awesome…now I need to try this cake…looks beautiful…and sure very tempting!
    Thanks for this post and have a great week πŸ™‚

  • Carolyn I have her book and on my agenda is to make her cinnamon rolls on the cover. However I love apple cake as does everyone in my family. I’m guessing it didn’t jump out at me because there wasn’t a photo but I may be wrong. Now I need to go get her book off the shelf and check out the recipe. I love her book! Thanks for bringing this recipe to my attention.

  • Vicki: You are correct. There was no photo of the apple cake in the cookbook. And frankly, with the simple name of “Apple Snacking Spice Cake,” I probably glanced right past that recipe countless times, thinking it wasn’t anything special. How wrong I was. I’m so glad it finally, somehow, caught my eye and enticed me enough to try it.

  • i think we should stick the word ‘snacking’ into every cake recipe title ever created. πŸ™‚

  • You REALLY excite me with this cake. I’ve never had or made apple cake before (now you can say “is there such person?” haha)… and I’m curious to try this as my first apple cake! Saving!

  • This sounds terrific! And if you say it’s the best apple cake ever, I believe it – you’ve tasted tons of stuff, and I trust you. Definitely will be making it. Thanks.

  • You bet this is what I’ll prepare for thanksgiving! I’m definitely convinced with the way you describe how delicious this recipe is. πŸ™‚

  • Oh, yes, any Joanne Chang recipe is a winner! Apple cake sounds wonderful, but her sticky buns will always hold the biggest place in my heart . . . and appetite πŸ˜‰

  • Thanks for reminding me to buy her book! This cake sounds marvelous, especially the description of the crackly top. Do you know if this recipe would also work in cupcake form? It would be a lovely treat to pack in my work lunch. Thanks again! πŸ™‚

  • Row: You probably could bake the batter in muffin tins. But you’d have to watch the baking time carefully, since they are so much smaller.

  • I saw this posting yesterday and thought apple cake would be a good Thanksgiving dessert that would save me from having to eat that awful pumpkin pie. So I made it and agree that it’s just as yummy as Meat Boy says.

    I’m definitely bringing it to the family gathering.

    Thanks Food Gal!

  • SkinnyGirl: Oh, yay! Glad you thought so highly of the cake. I’m making it again for Thanksgiving, too. We’ll start a new trend with apple cake usurping pumpkin pie for the holiday!

  • I have one of those family-hand-me-down recipes and I’ve tried the White House’s “healthy” apple cake recipe, but this one looks much better than either of those!

  • Carolyn, this recipe does look wonderful! I just put a batch of apple squares in the oven. It’s a yummy recipe too. Plus, I still use the handwritten, stained instructions from my late Ma. She wrote down this recipe from a neighbor about 43 years ago. She’s been gone for 24 years now. It makes me smile to read her writing and the aroma makes my mouth water! Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Thie cake sounds delicious and looks beutiful! I need to invite a couple of friends over for tea just to have an excuse to make this cake, otherwise I’ll end up eating it all by myself πŸ™‚

  • Took me a bit to find time to make this, but it’s definitely a winner recipe which shows its strength in how well it withstood all the variations i imposed upon it: walnuts, not pecans; dried apricots (thought i had raisins but didn’t); dark muscovado sugar, reduced by a quarter cup (white’s so boring :-)); a tsp each of ginger, garam masala and freshly ground allspice; and, finally, whole wheat pastry flour, not white….and still it baked up pretty and tasty, too!

  • Sara: Nice improv work on the cake! πŸ˜‰

  • WOW, that apple cake definitely looks and sounds amazing. Recipe bookmarked.

  • Looks and sounds delicious. Thank you.

  • Do you think that it would work in a bundt pan? Looks really good.

  • Sally: It might work in a bundt pan, but the baking time might be less.

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  • I don’t have a 10″ pan. How could I adapt this delicious-sounding recipe to a more common pan size? I’d really like to make it for Thanksgiving. Thanks!

  • Anne Marie: Do you have a pan close to that size? If it’s larger, just note the cake will probably take less time to bake. If the pan is smaller, and therefore will result in a taller cake, it will take longer to bake. This handy-dandy pan guide by the great Alice Medrich might help:

  • Thanks! That guide will come in handy for this and plenty of other recipes.

  • Laura Szakmary

    I have made this cake 4 times now and WOW. By far the best apple cake recipe I’ve found and it is super easy to boot. I get ton’s of compliments on this whenever I make it.

  • Laura: Glad you love it as much as I do. I won’t even try any other apple cake recipe now. After all, once you find THE ONE, why bother? πŸ˜‰

  • Just made this cake and it is a winner! The only change I made was I used fuji apples since I did not have any granny smiths. I will make this again and again. I did only cook it for an hour and it was done. Oh, and my pan was a 9X9 square one, maybe that is why it was finished early. Love the dark color and your notes were very helpful.

  • Maryellen: So glad you enjoyed the cake. It has spoiled me for all other apple cakes now. I won’t even try any other apple cake recipe. This one is the ultimate one. πŸ˜‰

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  • Yum. Just made this in my springform. Moist and perfect for a drizzly day!

  • Judith: So glad you enjoyed the cake. It is one of my all-time favorite cakes. Everything about it is just perfection.

  • I’m not sure how I stumbled on your post but am so pleased that I did! I saw this cake on your site just yesterday and knew that I had to try it pronto (as in last night!). This is one lovely, delicious cake. I love Joanne Chang and pretty much everything she publishes and this recipe is no different. I made no changes and it came out looking exactly like yours. The flavor is fresh and light with just the right tanginess from the Granny Smiths. The spices were perfect, barely there and not overpowering, and the texture was moist but not wet. I would not change a single thing and will add this to my forever list. Thank you!

  • Nancy: So thrilled this is a new favorite for you now, too. It really is the very best apple cake recipe I’ve ever encountered. I make it every year — and always look forward to that first slice. πŸ˜‰

  • I totally agree with you – I thought this apple cake from the Flour Bakery cookbook was AMAZING!

  • Hi Joanne: It’s THE best, isn’t it? I’ve made it at least once a year, every year, since baking it that very first time. Whenever I offer a slice to someone, you should see their eyes light up upon the first bite. It’s an immediate hit. So glad you loved it, too!

  • I made this and was extremely skeptical, but I read some comments by people who said they didnÒ€ℒt normally like cooked apples but still liked this, so I gave it a shot. I am a fellow cooked apple hater, but my husband loves them. Wow – I was really pleasantly surprised. This cake bakes up and caramelizes beautifully to create a delicious crispy crust and edges. Even I enjoyed it and my husband and a guest had multiple slices!

    I tweaked the process a little: I was nervous about creaming the butter, sugar, and eggs right into the flour so I did those first and then added the dry into it. It required a second bowl to whisk the dry ingredients but I didnÒ€ℒt mind. I also left out the raisins because weÒ€ℒre not fans. I thought it might not have much depth of flavor because it lacked brown sugar or vanilla, but truly nothing was missing at all!

  • Hi Courtney: I am so happy to hear this! This recipe doesn’t announce itself immediately as anything special from its title or ingredients alone. But when you bake it and sink your teeth into that first bite, you know immediately you have hit upon something extraordinarily special. I hope it continues to bring you joy and deliciousness for years to come, just as it has done for me since I stumbled upon the recipe years ago in Joanne Chang’s marvelous cookbook. πŸ˜‰

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