Nothing says fall to me more than apple picking and making this Gluten-free Apple Cake! This old-fashioned apple cake is made from scratch with fresh apples. The tart apples are balanced with a sweet streusel topping and notes of warm cinnamon.
This apple cake recipe is near and dear to my heart. It comes from a cookbook, Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax, which I received a copy of as a kid. I would spend hours flipping through the pages of this cookbook, looking at the recipes, and then finding the corresponding picture in the middle of the book. I used to love reading the excerpts at the beginning of each recipe and the little historical tidbits in the margins. For whatever reason, this recipe stood out to me. After I made it, I fell in love instantly, and have subsequently, made this cake every year since.
After going gluten-free, I knew this was one recipe I absolutely had to revamp. Much to my dismay, it took many, many tries, and a lot of determination to get it just right. That's the thing about gluten-free baking, sometimes it's tricky, kind of daunting, and not always perfect. Some attempts sank in the middle, one attempt was overdone on the edges but underdone in the center, the streusel topping and apples completely sunk in yet another attempt. All that to say, after much tweaking and research, I've finally figured out how to make my favorite gluten-free apple cake, just like I remember it!
What's to Love
- Old-fashioned, homey, and made from scratch, just like Grandma used to make.
- The streusel topping adds sweetness and texture.
- It's the perfect fall spice cake with lots of cinnamon.
- You can use a variety of tart baking apples.
- Since it's so moist, it keeps well for up to three days.
- The recipe can be halved and baked in an 8 or 9-inch square pan.
- Gluten-free Flour Blend: I used Namaste Perfect flour blend in this recipe. I'm confident other gluten-free flour blends would also work well in this recipe, such as Bob's 1-1 baking flour or Pamela's Artisan Blend.
- Apples: You'll want to use a tart apple that is good for baking since the rest of the cake is pretty sweet. Cortland, Granny Smith, and Golden Delicious are all great baking apples and one or a mixture of these work great in this recipe.
Pro-tip! Don't use more apples than the recipe calls for! Adding extra apples will affect the result! Gluten-free flours don't absorb extra moisture as well as regular flour and because the apples add so much moisture, it's important not to overdo it. Adding too many apples will result in an overly moist, soggy, dense cake.
- Buttermilk: I recommend using real buttermilk, but if you don't have any, you can make a substitute using regular milk and lemon juice or vinegar:
- Put 1 tablespoon lemon juice or apple cider vinegar in a measuring cup.
- Fill with regular milk up to the 1 cup mark.
- Let stand for 5 minutes.
- Nuts: Walnuts and Pecans are both delicious in this cake! The cake is still delicious even without any nuts! So, you do you!
*I haven't tested dairy-free or egg-free substitutes in this recipe. I will update this post as I experiment with these options.
Make the Cake
- Whisk the dry ingredients.
- Cream the butter with sugars and then the eggs.
- Blend in the buttermilk alternately with the dry ingredients.
- Then stir in the apples.
- Spread the batter into a greased 9x13 inch cake pan.
Make the Streusel Topping
- Make the streusel topping by cutting the ingredients together with a pastry knife.
- Sprinkle the topping evenly over the cake.
- Bake the apple cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the top springs back when gently touched.
Pro-tip! Due to the streusel topping, it is sometimes hard to tell when this cake is finished. I have found it is better to bake the cake a few minutes longer than to underbake it. If you're not sure if it's finished, let it go another 5-10 minutes. It's an already very moist cake and the extra bake time doesn't hurt the outcome at all.
Serving and Storing
Allow the cake to cool slightly before cutting into large squares for serving. It is delicious when served still warm from the oven and still perfect yet up to a few days later when eaten for breakfast! Store this cake at room temperature, tightly wrapped for up to 3 days. If you are baking this cake for an occasion, it is best fresh, so bake as close to the day of serving as possible.
If you loved this gluten-free apple cake and you're looking for more fall recipes, take a peek at my other favorites!
- This Peanut Butter Caramel Apple Dip is so easy and tastes just like a caramel apple!
- I love these classic Gluten-free Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting!
- Try these Gluten-free Apple Crisp Cups for a fun, personal-sized twist on apple pie!
Gluten-free Apple Cake with Streusel Topping
- 2 ½ cups Gluten-free Baking Flour with Xanthan gum, , such as Namaste Perfect Flour Blend
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup butter,, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk,, see notes for substitution
- 2 cups peeled, cored, & diced Granny Smith apples,, see notes for apple types, do not add extra apples
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup gluten-free flour
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons cold butter,, cut into pieces
- ¾ cup chopped pecans or walnuts,, optional
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan. Set aside.
Make the Cake
- Whisk the dry ingredients together in a small bowl.
- Cream the butter and sugars together with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Then blend in the eggs until smooth.
- Add the dry ingredients, alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Blend until just combined.
- Stir in the diced apples.
- Spread the cake batter into the greased pan. Make the streusel topping.
Make the Streusel Topping
- Place the flour, sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Add the cubed butter and use a pastry knife to combine the topping until the mixture is crumbly and there are no dry bits of flour remaining. Stir in pecans or walnuts.
- Sprinkle the topping evenly over the top of the cake batter.
- Bake at 350°F for 50 min, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and the top springs back when touched.
- Cool in pan on a wire rack.
- Buttermilk substitution: Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to a measuring cup, fill up to the 1 cup mark with milk. Let stand 5 minutes.
- Don't use more apples than the recipe calls for! Since apples add so much moisture, it's important not to overdo it since gluten-free flours don't absorb moisture as well as regular flour does.
- Granny Smith, Cortland, Golden Delicious, or a combination of these apples all work well in this cake. Use a tart apple that is good for baking.
- Due to the streusel topping, it is sometimes hard to tell when this cake is finished. It is better to bake the cake a few minutes longer than needed rather than underbaking it. If you're not sure if it's finished, let it go another 5-10 minutes. It's an already very moist cake and the extra bake time doesn't hurt the outcome at all.
- This cake will last several days, tightly wrapped, at room temperature.
*Recipe originally published October 8, 2018, post updated October 12,2020