Fresh apple cake with browned butter frosting is an easy make-ahead sheet cake for Thanksgiving or any fall celebration. It tastes even better chilled the next day!
How do you use your apples from pick-your-own orchards? We have so much fun with the picking, but then giant bags of apples take up room in my fridge forEVER! ha!
When I wanted to open up some storage space in the fridge, it was time for a new apple recipe that used a LOT of fresh apples in one dish.
We already have a phenomenal apple crisp recipe our whole family adores but this year I wanted to try something new.
- Why This is the Best Recipe
- NOTE: Apples to Cake Ratio
- Best Frosting for Apple Cake
- Slice The Apples
- Make the Cake Batter
- Tips for Combining the Apples and Cake Batter
- Baking Instructions
- Frost the Cake
- Make Ahead Tips
- Serving Suggestions
- More Fresh Apple Recipes
- More Easy Cake Recipes
- 📖 Recipe
- 💬 Comments
Why This is the Best Recipe
I love all the sheet cakes on this site but I think this is the best fresh apple cake recipe because:
- More Apples!: This recipe uses so many fresh apples. It is just bursting with fresh apple flavor.
- Amazing Frosting: I hope you'll try the brown butter frosting recipe, but don't worry I have an easy alternative, too.
- Delicious Cold: I keep my cake in the fridge, I love those cold juicy apples!
- Make Ahead Recipe: The cake tastes even better the next day. This makes it the perfect choice for a holiday dessert.
The shopping list for this recipe is so easy since you probably have most of it in your pantry right now:
- Fresh Apples: I used granny smith.
- Baking Soda
- Chopped Pecans
You'll also need one batch of frosting. I have two excellent choices below.
NOTE: Apples to Cake Ratio
I wanted to use up a lot of fresh apples. This cake is very thick and simply loaded with them.
If baked as written in the recipe card, you'll discover it is more fresh apple than cake but the frosting keeps it utterly decadent.
If you prefer more cake to apple, cut the fresh apple quantity in half.
This will reduce the thickness of the apple cake and give you more cake texture.
Best Frosting for Apple Cake
Are you familiar with browned butter?? Regular butter is melted and then cooked until warm and toasty brown. It takes the deliciousness of butter and doubles it.
The nutty flavor of the frosting pairs absolutely amazingly with the tart granny smith apples and salty pecans. I can't think of a more perfect frosting for the apple cake.
I've got a separate post with additional instructions just for the frosting that you can check out. Once you taste how delicious it is, you may want to use it with other desserts too.
You can print the brown butter frosting recipe all by itself.
If that one looks like too much effort, you could always make a batch of my very easy cream cheese frosting. It would be the perfect alternative.
Slice The Apples
This is not an apple cake where chunky apples would do very well. You really want apples that are sliced thinly.
I bought this apple peeler-slicer spiral tool years ago and it has been WELL worth every single penny and the cabinet storage space.
I just ran the apples through the machine and then used a paring knife to cut each apple into quarters. The slices just simply fell apart.
If you don't want to get the spiral tool, just be sure to cut the apples into ¼-inch slices.
Make the Cake Batter
Place the butter in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 30 seconds or until melted.
Add the sugar and stir to combine.
Add the eggs and vanilla and stir them until completely incorporated.
Add the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda, and salt to the bowl and stir them into the sugar mixture.
The batter will be extremely thick like play dough. Continue to fold and flip the dough to ensure no dry spots of flour remains.
Tips for Combining the Apples and Cake Batter
You'll immediately notice that it might be a bit tricky to combine the apples and thick cake dough.
The apples will soften the dough.
If you're having trouble mixing in the apples into the batter, try to mix them in a little bit and then let it all sit for a few minutes.
The juices from the apples will release and moisten the dough making it much easier to stir and mix until fully incorporated.
Stir in the pecans at the end so they don't break up too much.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray or grease it with softened butter.
Spread the apple cake batter into the pan and smooth it out into an even layer.
Bake the cake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Frost the Cake
Cool the cake completely before trying to frost it.
The brown butter frosting especially, is very smooth and soft when you first whip it up but then firms up once the cake has been chilled in the fridge.
You'll want to be extra careful to ensure your cake is thoroughly cooled before frosting or the browned butter frosting will just melt right over the cake.
Smooth your frosting of choice over the top of the cake and make a pretty pattern with your knife.
Make Ahead Tips
I really believe the cake is far more delicious the next day.
The apples get a chance to mingle with the other flavors overnight, the frosting gets to chill and thicken.
It was still super tasty the day I made it, but if you need a great make-ahead Thanksgiving dessert, this is totally it!
Store the fresh apple cake covered with aluminum foil in the fridge for up to 2 days in advance of a holiday.
It will actually keep for several more days, but the juices from the fresh apples may start to affect the texture.
This fresh apple cake makes an incredible make ahead dessert for a holiday or family dinner.
If you skip the frosting, you might even be able to call it a decadent breakfast since there are so many fresh apples in the cake!
I love to serve my fresh apple cake with the brown butter frosting and tons of salted chopped pecans on top.
We eat it cold, straight from the fridge, So Yummy!
Fresh Apple Cake
- 8 tablespoon (1 stick) butter
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon cloves
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 ½ lb Granny Smith apples peeled and cut into ¼-inch slices
- 1 ½ cups chopped pecans toasted and divided
- 1 batch browned butter frosting or cream cheese frosting See Notes
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the butter in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 30 seconds or until melted. Add the sugar and stir to combine. Add the eggs and vanilla and stir them until completely incorporated.
- Add the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda, and salt to the bowl and stir them into the sugar mixture. The batter will be extremely thick like play dough. Continue to fold and flip the dough to ensure no dry spots of flour remains.
- Peel and slice the apples. If your mixing bowl with the dough isn’t large enough, transfer it to a large pot. Carefully stir and combine the apples with the dough until everything is evenly combined. If the dough is still too thick, wait a few minutes for the apple juices to moisten and soften the batter. Add 1 cup of the chopped pecans and stir to combine. (Save the remaining pecans for the topping.)
- Coat a 9 x 13-inch cake pan with cooking spray. Transfer the cake batter into the pan and use your spatula to even it out. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Let the cake cool completely before trying to frost it.
- Once the cake has completely cooled, spoon large dollops of frosting over the top and spread with a knife to cover it. Sprinkle the reserved pecans over the top. Store it in the refrigerator until serving.
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