Celebrate apple season with this moist gluten free apple cake! Complete with a brown sugar pecan base, soft and tender apple filled cake, cream cheese glaze, and a pile of cinnamon apples.
As the temps begin to drop and the leaves begin to change, I can only think of one thing - apple season! I personally prefer it over pumpkin season (shh don't tell anyone) as it marks the official start to fall.
Whether you venture out to the orchard to pick your own apples or you opt for store bought apples, this gluten free apple cake needs to be on your fall baking list. It's filled with real apples, crisp apple cider, and all the fall spices! Not to mention it's easy to make and has both gluten free and dairy free options.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Butter - Use softened room temperature butter. Swap with a vegan butter if desired.
- Sugar and Brown sugar - Both create a soft and slightly sweet caramel flavoring to the cake. Substitute coconut sugar for the brown sugar if needed.
- Apple cider - Use real apple cider if you can for best results. You can find it at your local grocery store during the fall season. Substitute with unsweetened apple juice if needed.
- Gluten-free flour blend - This is the flour used in the cake to make it completely gluten free. I used Bob’s red mill Gluten free 1:1 Flour and have also used King Arthur's Gluten free Flour. Feel free to use all purpose flour if desired.
- Apples - Use fresh apples both inside the cake and on top. I used honey crisp apples but you can also use pink lady, gala, red delicious, or granny smith apples if you want to add a little tartness. You can also use a combination of both sweet and tart apples!
- Cream cheese - The base of the icing on top. Make sure to set your cream cheese out on the counter to soften it beforehand. Use a dairy free cream cheese if desired.
- Powdered sugar - Just a little is needed in the cream cheese icing to sweeten it.
How to Make Gluten free Apple Cake
You will need a small bowl for the brown sugar pecan base, a large bowl to make the cake batter, and another bowl to make the cream cheese icing. You can use either an 8 inch or 9 inch cake pan.
Step 1 : Make the brown sugar pecan mixture. In a bowl, mix together the melted butter, brown sugar, flour, and pecan pieces until well combined. The mixture should resemble wet sand with nuts.
Grease the sides of the pan with oil and place a piece of parchment paper inside the bottom. The parchment paper is important as it will allow for an easy removal of the cake once it's baked.
Press the pecans sugar mixture into the bottom of the cake pan with the base of a measuring cup or with your hands. Make sure to pack it down tightly.
Step 2 : Mix together the wet ingredients for the cake. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugars until creamy. Do this with a hand or stand mixer. Add in the apple cider, egg, and vanilla extract and continue to mix well.
Step 3 : Fold in the dry ingredients for the cake. Gently fold in the gluten free 1:1 flour, baking powder, and spices. Use big swooping motions to combine the dry ingredients in with the wet and stop when the flour is about 90% incorporated.
Add the chopped apples to the bowl and continue to fold until combined.
Step 4 : Bake! Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan on top of the brown sugar pecan base. Use an offset knife or spatula to even out the top. Don't tap the pan on the counter or you risk breaking up the pecan base.
Bake the cake in the oven until golden brown on top and the edges are pulling away from the sides. It's best to check that the cake is done by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is done. If there is still some batter on the toothpick then it needs a few more minutes in the oven.
Let the cake cool completely before assembling the rest of the cake.
Step 5 : Prepare the icing. Once the cake has cooled, make the icing by mixing together the softened cream cheese, apple cider, and maple syrup until smooth. Then add the powdered sugar and cinnamon and mix until well incorporated. You want the icing to be slightly thick but if needed you can add a splash of milk to thin it out.
Step 6 : Ice the cake. Pour the icing over the cooled cake. Use an offset knife or spatula to spread out the icing just up to the edges of the cake. Let the icing set for about 10 minutes while you make the cinnamon apples
Step 7 : Top with cinnamon apples. Place the apple slices, butter, and cinnamon in a skillet and heat over medium heat until the apples become soft. Stir occasionally to prevent burning. Let the apples cool before piling them on top of the cake.
How to Serve
When ready to serve the cake, use a sharp knife to slice it into pieces. Wipe the knife clean after each cut for clean slices of cake.
- Beat the butter and sugars well with an electric mixer to incorporate air into the batter. This is how we get a nice fluffy texture to the cake.
- Dice up the apples into small pieces about the size of a grape. If the pieces are too big, it will be hard to cut the cake into slices.
- Patience is key with this cake. You want the cake to be completely cooled before pour the icing over top. If it's still warm, the icing will melt and create a big mess. The same goes with the apples on top. You want the cinnamon apples to cool down before adding them on top of the cake.
How to Store
Store left over cake in an airtight container. It will stay fresh for 2 - 3 days out on the counter. You can also refrigerate the cake for up to 5 days. Let it come to room temperature before enjoying!
Frequently Asked Questions
You can use either an 8 inch or 9 inch cake pan. If you use an 8 inch pan, the cake will take a little longer to bake in the oven and will be a little taller.
You can use a variety of apples in cakes. Honey crisp are my favorite as they are sweet with a little tartness. You can also use red delicious for a sweeter apple or granny smith if you like more tartness or a combination of a few different types of apples.
Yes, use dairy free butter and cream cheese to make this cake dairy free.
Check out these recipes for more fall baked treats
PS : If you make this recipe, be sure to leave a star review and comment below! Also be sure to follow along with me on Instagram and Pinterest to stay up to date on all tasty recipes here at The Fit Peach!
Gluten free Apple Cake
For the brown sugar pecan base
- 2 tablespoon butter - melted
- ⅓ cup brown sugar - or coconut sugar
- 3 tablespoon gluten free 1:1 flour - or all purpose flour
- ½ cup pecans - chopped
For the cake
- ¼ cup butter - softened
- ⅓ cup sugar
- ¼ cup brown sugar - or coconut sugar
- ⅓ cup apple cider - or apple juice
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup gluten-free 1:1 flour - or all purpose
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 large apple - diced, approx. 2 cups
For the icing
- 2 oz cream cheese - sub dairy free cream cheese if needed
- 1 tablespoon apple cider - or apple juice
- ½ tablespoon maple syrup
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ large apple - thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350 F. And a small bowl mix together the melted butter, brown sugar, flour, and chopped pecans. Grease a 9 inch cake pan well with oil and line the bottom with parchment paper. Press the pecan mixture into the bottom of the pan with the base of a measuring cup or with your hands. Make sure it is packed down tightly. set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl beat together the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until creamy. Add the apple cider, egg, and vanilla extract and continue to mix well.
- Fold in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sea salt with a rubber spatula. Only fold until the flour is 90% incorporated. Add the apple pieces and fold into the batter.
- Pour the cake batter on top of the pecan base in the cake pan. Use a knife or spatula to even out the batter. Bake in the oven for 40 - 50 minutes until you can insert a toothpick into the center and it comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely before assembling.
- Once the cake is cool make the icing by mixing together the cream cheese, apple cider, and maple syrup with a spoon until smooth. Add at the powdered sugar and cinnamon and continue to mix until well incorporated. You want the icing to be on the thicker side so that you get a nice coat of icing on top of the cake, however, add a splash of milk if needed to send it out.
- For the icing over the cooled cake. Use an offset spatula if needed to spread the icing just up to the edges of the cake. Let the icing set while you make the cinnamon apples.
- Place the thinly sliced apples, butter, and cinnamon in a skillet. Heat on the stove over medium heat until the apples are soft. Stir occasionally to prevent burning. Let the apples cool down before piling them on top of the cake.
- When ready to serve use a sharp knife to cut the cake into pieces and enjoy!
- Store leftover cake in an airtight container out on the counter for 2 - 3 days.