5 Ingredients or Fewer

Very Easy Apple Cake

September 23, 2019
Photo by James Ransom. Prop stylist: Amanda Widis. Food stylist: Oliva Mack McCool.
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

Watch This Recipe
Very Easy Apple Cake
  • Prep time 25 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Makes 1 (8-inch) 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
In This Recipe
  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.

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Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.