An Old-Fashioned Apple Spice Cake

September 27, 2009
1 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 6-8
Author Notes

I asked for this recipe about 45 years ago from one of my mother's friends when we lived on an Air Force Base in Okinawa. I had just begun to bake and the recipe is so easy that it was a success on my first try. With a few tweaks, I've been baking it ever since. Try to use a nice, flavorful apple like Granny Smith, Jonathan, MacIntosh, Rome or Paula Red. —betteirene

Test Kitchen Notes

Betteirene's recipe is like a cake with a snowcap. The bottom half is reminiscent of carrot cake, textured with grated apples, raisins and chopped nuts. The cake batter is dense and on top of it you spread a thick layer of brown sugar meringue. As you assemble it, you’ll be convinced of its imminent doom. Fear not! In the oven, the meringue toasts and the cake, protected by its meringue roof, retains its moisture, and the best part is the pudding-like layer that forms between them. The meringue needs to be beaten over a water bath, and we learned the hard way that you need hand-held beaters to do this -- whisking it by hand for 10 minutes over a pan of hot water is like running a marathon in heels. Also, we think that light brown sugar is the way to go for both the meringue and the cake.- A&M —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • For the Meringue:
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • For the Cake:
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (optional)
  • 2 large, meaty apples, cored and grated on the large holes of a box grater
  • 1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
  • 2 cups spooned and leveled all-purpose flour
  1. Position a rack in the middle level of oven. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9"x9" baking pan or casserole dish.
  2. To make the meringue, place the egg whites, brown sugar and water in the top of a double boiler. Put enough water in the bottom of the double boiler to touch the bottom of the top pot. Over high heat, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until peaks form, 3-5 minutes. Set aside.
  3. For the cake, beat together butter and brown sugar until fluffy; add egg yolks and blend well. By hand, stir in baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, grated apples, walnuts and raisins. Fold in the flour, blending well but being careful to not overmix.
  4. Spoon batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Spread meringue evenly over the batter. Bake until top is crisp, about 45 minutes. If you serve it while warm, the meringue will crack when you cut it, but that's a good thing. If you want nice, neat uniform slices, serve the cake the next day.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Little Piggy
    Little Piggy
  • aargersi
  • Rhonda35
  • nutritiontokitchen
  • MrsWheelbarrow

16 Reviews

Jane November 6, 2022
I’m disappointed that my meringue didn’t turn out crackly, but instead more of a spongy meringue like in a lemon meringue pie. I think there is a key omission in the recipe. After whipping the meringue, it says to “set aside.” I set the whole double boiler aside, and I believe the meringue continued to cook while I made the cake. It should either be taken off or out of the hot pot, or made after assembling the cake. This was by no means easy either, plus I felt like I used every pot and bowl in my kitchen. The cake itself was good but for all the work, I’m afraid to try again for a crackly meringue.
Little P. October 22, 2019
Is this.a Swiss meringue? Whip to soft, medium, or stiff peaks? Recipe doesn't indicate.
Jane November 6, 2022
Little P. -seeing this 3 years later, it seems you’ve been abandoned by the editors. I wonder if you tried it and what your experience was. You can see my comments above, but for what it’s worth, I whipped the meringue to a medium peak. I think the failure of my meringue was due more to leaving it in the hot pot after whipping, as opposed to how much I whipped it.
zeldie January 31, 2014
This cake is beautiful and I might think the most absolutely delicious I have ever made! it is a sweet cake and easy! My Mother (Hungarian) made a version of this 45 years ago also! in NYC! Food 52 suggests using light brown sugar. I used 3/4 cup light brown and 1/4 dark brown for the cake part. For the meringue part I used only 1 cup consisting of 3/4 light brown and 1/4 dark. using 1 1/2 cups makes it super sweet. I put the meringue ingredients into my stainless steel mixer bowl (Kitchen Aid Mixer) then put that right over some water simmering in a saucepan…I took a hand whisk and whisked for a couple of minutes till the mix felt warm then popped the bowl into the standing mixer with the balloon beater attachment and put it on high…I got the most stunning meringue in minutes! standing over the stove with a hand mixer is insane! and waiting for an accident. my way is safe fast and efficient.
Little P. October 22, 2019
looks like you made a gorgeous Swiss meringue. The recipe didn't indicate whether to whip to soft, medium, or stiff peaks. Any suggestions?
JBF O. December 16, 2013
do I use light brown or dark brown sugar
linh February 18, 2012
when i serve the cake it was still warm , everybody just loved it so much.
Tokyo Y. February 6, 2012
I have done this twice in two weeks, it is that good. But the second time, I replaced the apples with 3 very ripe bananas. Perfection!!!!
Csweeney January 14, 2012
I loved the story of this cake, and I wanted to like it, but I knew I should have turned back once I saw
How much sugar went intonit. If you dont like super-sweet things, this one is not for you.
pvanhagenlcsw January 8, 2012
This is a wonderful recipe and I am so glad I found it. I do not have a 9x9 pan so I used a round 9" spring form pan . It is fairly deep and good thing because the cake rose considerably.It took considerably longer than 45 minutes to cook but what a beauty and fabulous flavor.
Drew L. November 16, 2011
First and foremost, DELICIOUS!!! This cake was divine! Now... the meringue, while very tasty, decided to expand significantly. Well beyond what I expected from the photo. Any suggestions on how to reduce the puffing of meringue? I'm thinking that I didn't beat the egg whites enough, or perhaps the heat was too low. Any ideas if that would impact it's growth in the oven? Thanks!
aargersi October 30, 2010
I have been eyeing this recipe for a long time - yesterday I finally made it and it is SO GOOD! The meringue is a lot of fun to make, and the cake is just gorgeous ... it may make a Thanksgiving appearance too!
kelleya October 5, 2009
This cake is absolutely wonderful. It is easy to make and delicious both warm and the next day. I used Garnny Smith and they were perfect for this.
Rhonda35 October 5, 2009
The meringue topping reminds me of one of my favorite apple cakes: Torta di Mele in Lynne Rossetto Kasper's "The Italian Country Table." I love the way the top crackles and splinters when you cut into it.
nutritiontokitchen October 3, 2009
Such a creative recipe! I love the brown sugar meringue layer on top.
MrsWheelbarrow October 1, 2009
I cannot wait to try this recipe. It looks fantastic.