This easy spiced apple cake is vegan, oil-free, and packed full of fall flavor. Perfect as-is or topped with vegan cream cheese frosting.
My mom's birthday is coming up, and since I'm lucky enough to be living four minutes from her again this year (after 20 years in a different state!), you bet your ass I'm making her birthday cake.
She almost always requests carrot cake or spring fling cake (recipe coming eventually, Denver friends). This year, she wanted something with apples and fall spices.
And for some reason, she wanted cornmeal in it. 🤷♀️
Ask and you shall receive, dear mama!
This recipe is very loosely (like, very loosely) based on my cornbread recipe. I've changed some ratios, added sweetness, and used white whole wheat flour in place of oat and brown rice flour. I've also added, as mom would say, "a grundle load" of diced apples.
This apple cake is soft and moist, perfectly spiced, and smells amazing. The perfect cake to celebrate the birthday of my favorite lady.
Let's talk about the recipe!
- This apple cake is vegan, oil-free, and whole grain.
- It can be made gluten-free by using oat flour or an all-purpose gluten-free flour blend in place of the white whole wheat flour.
- It's not overly sweet, which makes it the perfect cake to serve with a dollop of whipped coconut cream or your favorite non-dairy cream cheese frosting.
- The recipe is quick and easy to make with no weird ingredients or difficult techniques.
The full recipe is in the recipe card at the end of this post, but here's a quick look at the ingredients you'll need to make this vegan apple cake.
- white whole wheat flour
- canned coconut milk
- coconut sugar
- vanilla extract
- balsamic vinegar
- baking powder
- ground ginger
How to Dice Apples for Apple Cake
I tried this recipe with larger chunks (about ½") and smaller chunks (about ¼") and definitely preferred the smaller chunks. Plus, they made the cake easier to cut without having to saw through giant apple pieces.
To cut apples into a ¼-inch dice, start by sitting one of the apples on your cutting board with the stem side up. Slice off one side without coming too close to the core.
Rotate the apple 180 degrees and slice off the other side. Repeat on the two remaining sides so you’ll end up with two large side sections and two smaller wedges.
Place one of the wedges on the cutting board, skin side up, and cut it into ¼-inch slices. Rotate the slices 90 degrees and make perpendicular ¼-inch cuts across the slices.
Repeat with the rest of the apple pieces and the second apples, and discard the apple cores (or throw them outside for the birds/squirrels/deer).
Now that you've diced your apples, preheat your oven, and line your cake pan.
Whisk your dry ingredients together.
Then whisk together your wet ingredients in a small bowl.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix until mostly combined.
Add your diced apples and gently fold them in. Don't overmix the batter or the cake will turn out chewy. The batter will be very thick.
Plop the batter into your cake pan and smooth it to the edges as best you can. Sprinkle some coconut sugar over the top and stick it in the oven.
Bake the cake until the toothpick test says it's done. Let it cool for a bit, and cut it into pieces. Serve it warm and enjoy a little moment of sweet juicy apples and fragrant autumn spices.
Substitutions and Variations
Here are some ideas for substitutions you can try.
- Flour - The white whole wheat flour can be replaced with an equal amount of oat flour, an all purpose gluten-free flour blend, or even regular all purpose flour
- Coconut milk - The coconut milk can be replaced with ⅓ cup non-dairy milk plus 2 tablespoons of your favorite smooth and unsalted/unsweetened nut or seed butter (I tested it with soy milk and almond butter)
- Balsamic vinegar - this is purely for a hint of interesting flavor, but you're welcome to leave it out without making a substitution
Have some fun with these variations to make the cake your very own.
- Sweetness - if you like sweeter desserts, feel free to add a couple more tablespoons of coconut sugar to the recipe, or add frosting once the cake is cooled
- Apples - peaches or pears would also be delicious here
- Add nuts or raisins - ¼ cup of either nuts (like pecans or walnuts) or raisins (or both!) would work
Any firm apple will work well for apple cake, whether it's sweet or more tart. I've made this with Granny Smith, Gala, Honeycrisp, and Pink Lady apples (my fave) and they were all great. Don't use anything softer like a Red Delicious or the apple chunks might turn to mush after being baked.
Can I make a round cake or make this in a 9x13 pan?
Recipes written for 8x8 pans work as written in a 9-inch round cake pan. Cut a circle of parchment to line the bottom of the pan and cut a long strip to line the walls. Bake as directed.
For a 9x13 pan, you'll need to double the recipe. When you select the "2x" option in the recipe card, it will show measurements for a double batch. Start checking the cake for doneness at 35-40 minutes by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. If there is any wet batter or very moist crumbs on the toothpick, bake the cake for another 5 minutes and check again. When the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is done.
You can also halve the recipe by clicking the ".5x" option and baking the cake in a parchment-lined loaf pan.
Did you make this recipe? Please let me know how it turned out! Leave a rating and comment below, and share a picture on Instagram.