This easy Dorset apple cake is a British classic. Soft and fluffy cake, mixed with warming cinnamon and tart juicy apples is easy to make with just one bowl and a few simple ingredients. The maple drizzle is must!
Apples are such a versatile fruit, being used in savory and easy baking recipes. But they really stand out when paired with ground cinnamon and mixed spice baked up into a light and fluffy cake with a crunchy brown sugar streusel topping.
⭐️ What makes this the best apple cake?
- The crumb. Soft, moist, and tender this apple cake will stay fresh for days without drying out!
- The crunchy streusel topping and maple glaze are optional but they truly elevate this simple spiced apple cake into something very special!
- We're using slightly tart juicy apples meaning the apple flavour really shines through and pairs perfectly with the brown sugar and spices.
🧾 Key ingredients and why they work
- apples- This cake really is best with a tart and juicy eating apple that has good acidity.
- light brown sugar- you could use dark brown here too, but the flavour of the cake will be richer and the colour will bake up darker. *Note- dark brown sugar may give this cake a slight flavour of Christmas. No bad thing. Just something to consider.
- plain flour- important to sift the flour for this recipe. Helps to add in some air and lift to the cake and avoid any lumps in the batter.
- baking powder- necessary for the rice and bounce of the cake texture.
- cinnamon- the warmth and slight bitterness help compliment the apples.
- mixed spice- is a mix of cloves, nutmeg, allspice, ginger and cinnamon. It's very similar to apple pie spice and pumpkin pie spice.
See recipe card for quantities.
📖 Substitutions & Variations
Many homemade apple dessert recipes are very straightforward and simple which may not leave room for too many variations, but listed below are a few that you may find helpful to know.
- Flour - you can use self-raising flour in this recipe and reduce the baking powder amount by half.
- Butter - use unsalted butter or dairy-free spread if you prefer.
- Gluten-free - you can use a basic gluten-free flour blend for this recipe with a basic modification. Replace ¼ of the gluten-free flour with ground almonds to bring moisture and richness to the cake batter.
👩🏻🍳 Step By Step
You only need one bowl to make this cake and either a wooden spoon or silicone spatula will work great.
1 & 2
- Mix the dry ingredients together.
- Add in the melted butter. *Melted butter gives this cake a denser, chewy texture over the creaming method.
3 & 4
- Add in the beaten eggs and mix well.
- Fold in the chopped apple.
5 & 6
- Line the bottom of the cake tin with baking parchment paper and grease the sides of the tin.
- Spoon the cake mix into the tin and spread with a spoon. Use the back of a spoon to ensure the top of the cake batter is level.
7 & 8
For the streusel topping
- In the same bowl that you made the cake in, measure out the streusel ingredients. Use your fingers or a fork to rub the butter into the sugar until you have a mixture that resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
- Thinly slice half an apple and place the slices on top of the cake batter. Scatter the streusel over the cake and bake in the preheated oven.
Apple cake: helpful notes
- Batter- Expect a thick and dense batter because of the melted butter. But have no fear. The science and magic of baking are at work and you will end up with a moist and fluffy cake.
- Topping- If you really can't bring yourself to make the streusel by hand you can always whip it up in a food processor. Or, skip it altogether and sprinkle some demerara sugar over top before baking. But I highly recommend you make the glaze. It really is next level!
- Oven temperature- This cake is takes about 60 minutes to bake. Please don't be tempted to increase the temperature. I promise, the last 15 minutes of baking time are absolute magic for this cake. And no. Your streusel will not get too dark.
The best apples & how to use them
This spiced apple cake is intended to be made with any apples that you have on hand, however, after some careful experimenting, I think they're best made with a tart juicy apple that keeps its shape during cooking to balance out the sugar.
- Cox (what I used for this recipe)
- Granny Smith
- Jazz or Pink Lady
Some recipes will call for the apple to be shredded. I found that just disappeared into the batter. Small dice have worked out the best and there's no need to peel the apple. The skin on holds the pieces together while baking and just makes this recipe faster and easier.
The day you make this cake you should keep it at room temperature. After that keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days (it'll be eaten before then!) Because of the moist texture once this cake has a day or so in the fridge it develops an almost pudding-like texture that is truly impossible to beat.
Just in case you skipped all the note above and came right to this bit- no. You don't need to peel the apples. You absolutely can if you or anyone in your family may have sensory issues and will have an aversion to the texture of the apple skin. But keep the skins on helps the apple keep it's shape during baking, and it makes the recipe even easier.
Absolutely! I'd say it's even better the next day. What I would advise, if you're making this ahead, is to make the glaze and drizzle the cake the day you intend to serve it. It will keep in the fridge, but the fresh glaze will keep it's shine, whereas after refrigeration it tends to dull slightly. There won't be any loss of flavor, just shine.
Most apple-growing counties in England have their own version of an apple cake. However, the actual origin of the Dorset apple cake is very sketchy with very few records. There was a famous poet named William Barnes mentioned apple cake in one of his works.
And of course, like any recipe handed down through generations, there are many variations.
Old Fashioned Classic Easy Dorset Apple Cake
- 225 g (1 5/7 cups) plain flour
- 2 teaspoons (2 teaspoons) baking powder
- Pinch (Pinch) salt
- 1 teaspoon (1 teaspoon) mixed spice
- 175 g (¾ cups) light brown sugar
- 150 g (⅝ cups) butter, melted and cooled
- 2 (2) large eggs, beaten
- 4 (4) medium apples, 3 diced and 1 thinly sliced *see notes
For the streusel topping
- 55 g (¼ cups) light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon (1 teaspoon) cinnamon
- 45 g (⅓ cups) plain flour
- 3 tablespoons (3 tablespoons) butter, cold
For the drizzle
- 4 tablespoons (4 tablespoons) butter
- 2 tablespoons (2 tablespoons) maple syrup
- 90 g (5/7 cups) powdered sugar
- Pinch (Pinch) sea salt
- 1 tablespoon (1 tablespoon) whisky, optional- see notes
- Heat the oven to 160ºC fan and grease and line a 20cm cake tin.
To make the streusel
- in a medium bowl combine all the ingredients together. Using your fingertips rub them together until large chunks form. Set aside while you make the cake.
For the cake
- Put the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and sugar into a large bowl, Stir in the butter and eggs. Beat together for a minute or two until well combined.
- Stir in the apples until well distributed throughout the cake batter. Spoon half the batter into the cake tin. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of the streusel over then evenly spoon in the remaining batter. Evenly layer on the apple slices and sprinkle the top of the cake with the remaining streusel. Bake for 60-70 minutes until the cake is starting to pull away from the sides of the tin.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before lifting out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Make the glaze
- add the butter and maple syrup to a small saucepan until melted. Whisk in the powdered sugar and the sea salt until smooth. Drizzle the glaze over the cake and let set for 10 minutes before serving. Serve the cake slightly warm or at room temperature. Store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer for up to 1 week.
- Be sure to not open the oven during the baking time, otherwise, you may end up with a cake sunk in the middle.
- Feel free to add in some raisins if you like. It's not traditional but they would be delicious.
- I made this cake by weighing the ingredients, but the recipe card will convert to US measurements.