5 Ingredients or Fewer

Very Easy Apple Cake

September 23, 2019
80 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom. Prop stylist: Amanda Widis. Food stylist: Oliva Mack McCool.
  • Prep time 25 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Makes 1 (8-inch) cake
Author Notes

This apple cake is as light, puffy, and fluffy as it is easy, easy, and easy. It comes together with only four ingredients (not counting salt, an honorary Big Little ingredient) and takes 20-something minutes to get in the oven. Did I mention there’s no butter or oil? There’s no butter or oil. Oh, and no commercial leavener, like baking soda or baking powder, either. The inspiration here comes by way of Russia, where crackly, tender apple sharlotka is made with white sugar and white flour. This newfangled rendition calls in light brown sugar (malty! caramely!) and white whole wheat flour (still a whole grain, just milled from a paler variety of wheat). Both ingredients turn the cake golden in color and nutty-complex in flavor (and once you have them in your pantry, you’ll start swapping them into everything). I call for Granny Smith apples, but feel free to swap in any sweet-tart apple that holds up well when baked; Honey Crisp, Pink Lady, and Jonagold are all good options. The amount of apples may seem outlandish, but that’s the whole point—apples with some cake, not cake with some apples. I like this best served with confectioners’ sugar sprinkled on top, just before slicing, and a big dollop of crème fraîche (or whipped cream or Greek yogurt or vanilla ice cream) alongside. That said, it’s just as wonderful unadorned—and as suited for brunch as it is for dessert. Because this batter leans so heavily on eggs and sugar, it doesn’t hold up well, so make it the day you want to eat it. —Emma Laperruque

What You'll Need
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Very Easy Apple Cake
  • Unsalted butter, at room temperature, or oil for greasing the pan
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (213 grams) light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 Granny Smith apples (about 198 grams or 7 ounces each)
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (134 grams) white whole-wheat flour
  1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom (but not the sides) of an 8-inch springform pan.
  2. Combine the eggs, light brown sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Start on low, then raise the speed to medium-high, and beat for about 8 minutes, until the mixture is a pale tan in color and super fluffy.
  3. While that’s going, peel the apples, then cut them into ½-inch pieces (they don’t have to be perfect cubes but they should all be a similar size). This should yield about 4 cups of apple pieces.
  4. When the egg-sugar mixture is done mixing, remove the bowl from the stand mixture and add the flour. Use a flexible spatula to gently fold in the flour until it’s almost incorporated. Add the apples and fold those in, too. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
  5. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the top is browned and a cake tester comes out completely clean. Cool in the pan for about 30 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen the cake, and unhinge the outside.
  6. Serve the cake in big wedges, warm or at room temperature, with confectioners’ sugar dusted on top, and crème fraîche (or whipped cream or Greek yogurt) plopped alongside. This is best the day it’s made.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

115 Reviews

alecia September 17, 2023
Super easy and really tasty. I added 1 1/2 tsp of chai masala from Diaspora. Thought about drizzling cajeta on top. The cake was finished after only 30 min so definitely watch the time. This recipe came together so quick, my little ones didn't realize I left the living room.
Sheryl C. September 17, 2023
I was so curious about this based on the review with either a love it or hate it - very few in between so I tried it almost to a t. Added 1/2 tsp of both cinnamon and cardamom to flour. So there is a mistake as written if you measure by grams with the flour should say 234. I think those who were unsuccessful did NOT use a stand mixer with a paddle and let it run for 8-10 min. It’s a long time but it completely transforms the mixture. For me the cook time was too long. Removed it at 1 he and it was a little over cooked. Next time will do 50 min. Otherwise is a great cake - def could use some iced cream. But very nice a super easy. But the mix time for the eggs and sugar and the oven time are crucial to the end result.
Tucker &. September 16, 2023
Emma…everything you do is pure magic. We can amend as we see fit, but you always inspire. Thank you. 🙏🏻
sandy February 27, 2023
This cake is soooooo good! I did, however, make some change the second time I made it. I used Almond Flour (1 2/3 C) in place of whole wheat flour. I love the texture so much more! I dropped the sugar to 1/2 c and used raw sugar. I added 2 Tbsp Molasses for a richer taste. Then added 1/2 Tsp each of Cinnamon, Cardmamom, Ginger, and a pinch of salt. Spectacular
joasp1413 May 5, 2023
With all the changes you made, it was hardly the same cake.
Erin E. February 27, 2023
exactly as it says. Easy, carmely yummy
Elizabeth February 27, 2023
I like this cake, too. ☺️I am amused, because since making it I get notifications when someone else reviews it, and it seems that people either love it or hate it.

My thought is that a sharlotka is a cake that most of us have not eaten/baked before, and it is nothing like cake as we know it. Consider it an adventure! Try something new! 😉
j9jensen February 26, 2023
This may have been the biggest baking flop I have ever made! I followed the recipe using weight measurements. The dough barely covered the apples and you could build a house with the resulting apple brick. It wasn’t sweet and lacked flavor even after I added vanilla and cinnamon. I make a similar-ish apple cake that is foolproof, moist, delicious and just as easy. Not even worth trying again.
Berrygyrl59 December 24, 2022
So disappointed. Not my first time baking. This cake was so bad. I feel all that happened was that I wasted ingredients. The brown sugar made it taste like drinking molasses from the bottle. The cake was removed from the oven at one hour and ten. It was over browning . The tester came out clean, however the cake was not cooked on the middle bottom. The only thing I can think of to repair the recipe is to use half brown and half white sugar and possibly more flour.
Steph M. December 26, 2022
Completely agree. The recipe looked so easy so I figured, "why not?" and made it and I'm glad I made another dessert for Christmas dinner because this was NOT good. It was dry and had very little taste. Any taste that did come through just tasted burnt. I'm sure there is a version to be made that would taste better and still be easy, but I was very disappointed.
Rosalind P. December 22, 2022
crazy mix of reactions to this. I was almost put off by so many negative ones, but it was so easy and looked okay, so I made it. Added 3/4 teaspoon vanilla and about a half teaspoon of cinnamon. Used one very large Granny Smith apple and one very large Gala, because that's what I had. I didn't have an 8 inch springform (sometimes frustrating to encounter pan sizes that aren't used very often. Who can keep them all?). Used a 7-inch, baked 350 for just under 45 minutes. My oven seems to run hot; it was perfectly done. And it was delicious. I would definitely make it again. Yes great with ice cream or whipped cream. But great on its own with a nice cup of tea. Thanks for the genius, again.
Elizabeth December 22, 2022
I liked this cake, too.

It seems to get quite a few negative reviews, but I think that those who didn’t like it just aren’t familiar with the cake that inspired this, a Sharlotka? If you’re expecting a flour-based and leavened cake, this isn’t it, but I like the clean, apple flavor.
Ana S. December 17, 2022
Good flavor but came out more like a pudding than a cake.
cookcooks November 18, 2022
This was so unusual I just had to make it. It was surprisingly delicious. It was almost a cross between a cake and a pie. I would think you really have to have a mixer to do this.
ldbov November 9, 2022
I just made this cake with a few adjustments. First I used gluten free flour since I'm gf, and I added a tbsp of cinnamon, tsp of allspice, and tsp of vanilla. I cooked it for about one hour, and it was perfect. The flavor was very good with my additions, and it's not too sweet which is perfect for me. The texture was very moist. This is a keeper
Amanda November 8, 2022
Underwhelming…I won’t be making this again. I was intrigued by the simplicity of the recipe, but I don’t think there are shortcuts to making a great-tasting cake. While this one was moist, its flavour was one-dimensional. Even my husband, who loves apple *anything*, did not like this cake.
Mark A. November 7, 2022
This is indeed a super easy recipe, but I won't make it again because it's cloyingly sweet. While the interior is cakey, the top is meringuey. For the huge contingent of macaron and other meringue dessert lovers, this one might be for you. But the recipe I'll go back to is Luisa Weiss's Apple-Almond Cake (https://food52.com/recipes/61833-apple-almond-cake-apfel-marzipan-kuchen). Well worth the effort.
Tamara D. November 7, 2022
I made the Weiss cake a while back. A lot of work, yes, but amazingly good!!
antshe November 7, 2022
Excellent recipe! So moist and tasty. I used Honey Crisp and they are just the right flavor for this cake. I wanted to follow the recipe exactly for the first time and I am glad I did.
Tamara D. November 6, 2022
The cake was just OK. Easy to make but needs something more. Maybe some spices? Some rum? I am not sure. A decent cake but not a great cake.
Ophelia November 6, 2022
I had doubts about a cake recipe with no fat but made it anyway. I was tempted to add a glug of oil or some butter but resisted that urge. I did add cinnamon and cardomon and a teaspoon of vanilla to the egg/sugar/salt combo. As I suspected, it turned out tasting like the 90s Snackwell products with "No Fat Added!" - chewy and not worth the calories. This recipe as written needs some type of fat, a bit more salt, and some acid in the form of lemon juice plus the aforementioned spices and vanilla to make it edible.
Nanda G. October 10, 2022
This turned out fine but my spice additions were not enough. I added 1/2 tsp cardamom, scant 1/2 tsp ginger, and 1 tsp bourbon. If I make it again I will increase each and/or use cinnamon.
Iceris7 September 29, 2022
This was so easy and tasty, not too sweet. I used AP flour, a mix of honeycrisp and granny smith apples (needed 4 apples to make 4 cups), a 10" springform pan. I baked it for only 40 minutes and it was perfect. I also beat the egg/sugar mixture longer than 8 minutes because I was worried it wasn't fluffy enough. It all came out great.
ashpop September 29, 2022
Made this with AP flour, Honeycrisp apples, and added a few toddler-doled dashes of cinnamon + mace + cardamom. I used a 9-in springform pan, baking time ended up being around 1 hour.

Turned out very moist and deliciously apple-y. Perfect simple fall recipe for my toddler to help along with, we had so much fun making it!
Lori September 25, 2022
Used AP flour. Added a bit of cinnamon. Flavor was ok, but cake was way too dense for my liking.