Sunken Apple Cake is one of the easiest and prettiest cakes to make. It is a simple vanilla cake decorated with apples. As the batter cooks it expands around the apples creating a lovely pattern. Leaving the apples in clusters makes it look pretty and creates a nice textural contrast. A light dusting of powdered sugar is all the decoration it needs. Nut-Free
Cakes like these are the ones I love. There is no need to make fillings, or frostings, or elaborate layers. It is perfect for any time, whether it is just us for tea, or there is a special guest at the table.
What are Sunken Cakes
These are cakes where the batter rises around and over another ingredient, usually a fruit engulfing it. Cakes like these can create dramatic presentations with very little effort. You don’t want to cover this cake with frosting. A dusting of powdered sugar or a side of ice cream or whipped cream is all that is needed.
What Types of Apples Are Best in Sunken Apple Cake?
Any apples that won’t break down completely when heated will work in this recipe. So maybe not Red Delicious. Try to choose smaller size apples to help them fit into the pan. Alternately you could trim the sides to make it fit or come up with another creative presentation.
That said the best apples to use here are firm apples with slightly tart flavors. The tart flavors of the apple complements the vanilla cake surrounding it.
This cake is made with a simple vanilla cake batter. The batter is rather thick and it helps to hold the apples in place and stop them from sinking to the bottom. A few notes on the main ingredients.
Flour: All-purpose flour or cake flour will work in this recipe.
Sugar: The sugar in the recipe is on the low side. It creates a lightly sweetened cake. Add 50% more sugar if you like it sweeter.
Apples: As mentioned above almost all apples will work but it is best to use cooking apples like granny smith.
Making the Sunken Apple Cake
Bring all the ingredients to room temperature. This makes the process so much easier. Generously butter (or oil) the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Preheat the oven to 350℉ (175C) with the rack in the middle.
Peel the apples and cut them into quarters lengthwise. Remove the core and make long slits along the outer side of the apple pieces without cutting through. Don’t worry if you accidentally cut through a few. Just arrange the pieces together when you assemble the cake. Place the slices in cold water with 1 tbsp of lemon juice. This step is not absolutely necessary, but I tend to get distracted in the kitchen and browned apples are not a pleasant sight.
Take the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat them till well mixed and fluffy. Grate the lemon zest over it and mix for another 30 seconds or so until incorporated well. Add the eggs one by one, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract along with the last egg.
Sift the flour, salt, and baking soda together. Fold it into the butter mix in batches, adding the milk in between. The batter will be thick, but it should not be thick like cookie dough. If you are using a mixer please remember to scrape the sides often.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and level with a spatula. Arrange the scored apples on top of the batter. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until the top of the cake is lightly browned. Insert a toothpick through the cake to check. It should come out clean when cooked through.
Transfer to a wire rack and let it cool for 15 minutes. Remove from the pan. You could leave the base on if you like otherwise gently loosen the sides and slide it onto a serving platter.
How To serve
These taste awesome just with a dusting of powdered sugar.
Other toppings are whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
I would recommend storing leftovers in the fridge, covered. Use them within 3 to 4 days.
You can cover the cake tightly and freeze it in freezer-safe bags for longer storage. But I am not a big fan of freezing this cake, as there are 2 different textures here.
Sunken Apple Cake
- 9-in circular pan
- 4 Apples medium sized
- 1 ½ C All-Purpose Flour
- ¾ C Sugar
- 1 Tsp B Powder See Note
- ¼ Tsp Salt
- ½ Tsp Vanilla Extract
- ½ C Butter Unsalted
- 3 Eggs
- ¼ C Milk
- 1 Lemon Zest and juice
- 2 Tbsp Powdered Sugar
- Whipped Cream
- Vanilla Ice Cream
- If the butter and eggs are cold bring them to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350℉ with the rack placed in the middle. Generously butter or oil the 9-inch springform pan.
- Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder. Zest the lemon set aside.
- Pour 4 -5 cups of water into a bowl along with the squeezed lemon. Skin the apples and slice them into quarters. Core the apples. Make even slits along the outer side of the apples without cutting through. Place the apple pieces in the cold water.
- Beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the lemon zest and beat till incorporated evenly. Scrape the sides of the bowl often. Add the eggs one by one beating well after each addition. Add vanilla extract along with the last egg.
- Fold in the flour mix in 3 batches adding ½ the milk in between. The batter should be thick, but not thick enough to be dough. If the batter looks like it is of pourable consistency skip the second addition of milk.
- Transfer the batter into the prepared pan and level the tops with a spatula. Remove the apple pieces from the water and gently wipe/shake off excess moisture. Arrange them on top of the batter in a decorative fashion leaving a little gap in between the slices for the batter to rise through while baking.
- Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the top of the cake has browned. A skewer inserted into the cake will come out clean at this point. Remove from the oven and cool on a cooling rack for 5 minutes. Remove the sides of the springform pan. Leave the base on if desired.
- Just before serving place the powdered sugar in a strainer (sieve) and shake over the cake. Serve as is or a with whipped cream or ice cream.
- Often I don’t use baking powder. When the eggs are beaten well the desired aeration can be achieved without a leavening agent. Baking soda is there as a backup, so if you know your batters well and feel free to skip it.
Important: Values are only estimates. Actuals vary depending on ingredients and serving size.