Apple Cake (No Butter or Oil)
Make the most of apple season by baking this easy apple cake. It’s not overly sweet, has a moist, tender crumb, and it’s packed with lemon flavor and fresh apple slices in every bite.
Serve it with just a dusting of powdered sugar alongside a mug of steaming hot chocolate, or maybe your favorite pumpkin-spiced latte!
While this cake may look fancy, it couldn’t be easier to make and is completely fool-proof (perfect for beginner bakers).
It’s such a great recipe to keep up your sleeve when you need a quick and easy dessert for a party or when friends are coming over on short notice!
The best part of it is that apples are available year-round! 🙌🏻
Why you’ll love this recipe
- It’s sweet, but not overly sweet.
- wonderful as a dessert, for breakfast, or as an afternoon snack.
- It comes out perfectly tender, moist, and soft every time without using oil or butter.
- ready in just under an hour.
- It’s low-calorie, low-fat, and dairy-free if you use plant-based milk.
Ingredients and easy swaps
It’s very likely you already have everything on hand. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Apples – lots of apples, both folded into the batter and layered over the top. I like to use Pink Lady or Golden Delicious, but any firm apple will work. Pears are a great alternative.
- Lemon – lemon zest brightens up the flavor of the apples, and lemon juice prevents them from browning. You can omit the lemon zest and replace it with ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, all spices, or vanilla extract.
- Eggs – large eggs at room temperature. Eggs help the batter bake up light and fluffy with a good structure.
- Sugar – I used granulated white sugar. Sugar gives sweetness and adds moisture.
- Flour – I have only tested the recipe with all-purpose flour, but several readers baked this cake using gluten-free flour with great results!
- Milk – I always use reduced-fat milk, but you are welcome to use whatever milk you prefer: fat-free, whole, or plant-based.
See the recipe card below for a full list of ingredients and measurements.
How to make apple cake with fresh apples
This moist apple cake tastes fantastic with just a dusting of powdered sugar on top.
For special occasions, serve it warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of salted caramel sauce, or with a dollop of whipped cream.
Tips for success
- Measure your flour accurately – by weighing it or using the spoon and level method. The most common mistake that results in a heavy cake is using too much flour.
- It will seem like you are using too many apples. It’s not, I promise!
- Tap the pan on the counter before you put it in the oven. This will help release any air bubbles that are trapped in the batter.
- If using powdered sugar, do not dust until it is close to serving time because the sugar will eventually dissolve on the cake and disappear.
Any type of apple that holds up well when baked – Pink Lady, Honey Crisp, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, and Jonagold are all good options.
Store apple cake in an airtight container in a cool place for 2 to 3 days or in the fridge for up to 5 days. In warm climates, it is better to store it in the fridge.
You can freeze it for up to 1 month. Once baked, cool it completely, then wrap it tightly in plastic wrap (you can wrap the whole cake or individual slices). Bring it to room temperature before serving.
Replace the apples with pears or with peaches in the summer.
The recipe is adapted from the book “La buona cucina di casa” written by Simili sisters.
Apple Cake (No Butter or Oil)
- 1.21 lb (550 g) apples
- 1 lemon juice and zest
- 2 large eggs
- ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon (90 g) granulated sugar
- a pinch of salt
- 1 cup minus 1 tablespoon (110 g) all-purpose flour sifted
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon (75 ml) milk I used reduced fat (2%) milk
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar to sprinkle on top
- powdered sugar
- Preheat the oven to 356°F (180°C).
- Grease and flour a 9-inch (22 cm) pan, and set aside.
Prep the apples
- Peel, core, and thinly slice the apples. Place the slices and the lemon juice in a medium bowl, toss to coat, and set aside.
Make the cake batter
- Put the eggs, sugar, grated lemon zest, and salt in a large bowl, and beat until thick and creamy.
- Add the flour, baking powder, and milk, and mix on low speed until combined.
- Using a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon, fold two-thirds of the apples into the batter.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and arrange the remaining apple slices, flat-side down, over the top.
- Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar (optional).
Bake the apple cake
- Bake the apple cake for approximately 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, and the top is golden brown.
- Cool completely, then dust the cake with powdered sugar just before serving.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Apples: I used 3 apples. BEFORE peeling and coring, the apples weighed 1.21 lbs (550 grams). The net weight was 0.86 lbs (390 grams). Use any apple that holds up well when baked – Pink Lady, Honey Crisp, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, and Jonagold are all good options.
- Milk: you are welcome to use whatever milk you prefer – reduced fat milk, fat-free, whole milk, or plant-based.
- Baking pan: I baked my cake in a ceramic pan. You can use your favorite 9-inch round pan.
- Baking time – all ovens are different, therefore, the baking time for this cake may vary. If you notice your cake browning too quickly, simply place a sheet of foil over the top and continue baking.
- To store – store it in an airtight container in a cool place for 2 to 3 days, or in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- To freeze – once baked, cool it completely, then wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 1 month.
- Nutrition – nutrition facts are for 1 of 8 servings. Each serving is approximately 90 grams.