Apple snack cake with brown butter frosting from Our Best BitesAfter my daughter was born 6 years ago, we kind of found ourselves in a yucky job/living/education situation. My husband had to finish school that fall semester or we couldn’t survive financially, so he was taking 17 credit hours, working as a TA, and doing a paid internship every evening from 4:00-11:00. We had 1 car, 2 kids, and no money, so I spent my free time tutoring English, reading these new-fangled blog thingies, and using our meager grocery budget to experiment in the kitchen.

One of the recipes that I made that fall was an apple cake, and I distinctly remember it because a) it was a lot of work, b) it was a recipe from someone famous, and c) it was gross–big and heavy and rock-like and kind of flavorless. And I was just so mad that I had spent what little time and money I had on such a disappointing recipe.

So ever since, in the back of my brain, I’ve always meant to work on another apple spice cake, one that was delicious and not nearly so time consuming and also a delivery device for the most delicious frosting in ALL THE UNIVERSE. Yeah, I’m yelling again. It’s that good. I ended up adapting this age-old (okay, age of written-down recipes old) snack cake recipe and it came out amazing.

First, adjust the rack to the middle position (or the best position in your oven for baking; mine is NOT the middle position) and preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9×13″ baking pan and set aside.

Then you’re going to need to soften up the apples a little. You’ll need 2 cups of chopped, peeled tart apples (like Granny Smiths), 2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of butter, and 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice.

apples for cake

In a small skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat until the butter starts to bubble. Add the apples, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice and sauté

sauteeing apples

until the apples start to soften and the brown sugar/butter mixture becomes thick and syrupy, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

For the cake, you’re going to need all-purpose flour, baking powder, table salt, eggs, butter, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, buttermilk, and the sautéed apples.

caramel apple snack cake ingredients

Whisk the flour, baking powder, 3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, and salt together in a medium bowl. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar

caramel apple snack cake ingredients

on medium high speed for about 3 minutes or until light and fluffy (scrape the bowl as necessary). Add eggs one at a time, beating until just combined after each addition. Reduce speed to medium and add 1/3 of the flour mixture, mixing until incorporated. Mix in 1/2 cup milk. Repeat with another addition of flour, the rest of the milk, and ending with the final addition of flour.

cake batter

Add the apple mixture to the cake batter

sautéed apples added to cake mixture

and fold gently (you don’t have to completely incorporate the two mixtures–it’s kind of fun to have some cinnamon-y swirls in there).

apples folded into cake mixture

Spread the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 35-50 (I have a gas oven, so my times tend to be way off; I’m giving a lot of leeway here) minutes or until the cake is golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

While the cake is cooling, place 1/2 cup (that’s 1 stick) of salted butter into a small saucepan and heat over medium, stirring frequently, until it starts to bubble. When it begins to bubble, reduce the heat to low. Don’t go anywhere–things can go south quickly. Once the butter becomes very frothy, you’ll start to notice a caramel-like smell–that means the butter is browning. When the butter is golden brown (and before it burns), remove it from heat.

browned butter

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1/4 cup heavy cream, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, the powdered sugar, and the melted butter and mix on high speed with a stand or electric mixer. Add additional heavy cream in order to reach the desired consistency.

When the cake is completely cool, spread the frosting over the cake and cut into squares.

Apple snack cake with brown butter frosting from Our Best Bites

Makes 12-16 servings.

Apple snack cake with brown butter frosting from Our Best Bites



  1. 1
    Janet P says:

    Mmmmmmmm–This cake sounds amazing! I may have to do a test run before our Thanksgiving bake sale at church.

  2. 2

    I bet the brown butter frosting is out of this world! Looks delicious!

  3. 3
    Becky says:

    Ooooooo…looks amazing! I got my wisdom teeth out 5 days ago and I feel like I could eat this!

    Where did you get those cute white dish things that are holding the spices? So adorable!

  4. 4
    Jenna says:

    This looks so great! FYI, I tried to save the recipe a couple times and it says it saved “Southwestern Brown Rice Salad” instead…

  5. 5
    Linda says:

    You had me with apples and brown butter in the recipe! LOVE to use browned butter these days and what more perfect marriage than with apples and spice. Can’t wait to try this one. Thanks for a great new apple spice cake recipe!!

  6. 6

    Love apples. Love browned butter. Love cake. This sounds amaaaaaazing.

  7. 7

    yum! cannot wait to make this! i love apple cake, and i know that feeling when you waste your time and money on making a fail. that’s why i stick to OBB recipes now. i’ve never had a fail, ever using your recipes!

  8. 8
    Emily Murray says:

    That looks divine! Can’t wait to make it!! One question, of course my plan is to make that heavenly looking frosting. BUT, just in case I’m in a pinch, would my go-to cream cheese frosting work? Since it’s a spice cake, I figure that’s a frosting that could pair well with it. But what do you think?? THANKS! p.s. I wanna eat some of those apples out of the pan. Haha

  9. 9
    Donna Weber says:

    This sounds delicious! I just moved to Colorado (10,000 altitude) and am having a terrible time baking. Any idea how to convert this? Thanks!

  10. 10
    Jen says:

    Yum! Do you have a ratio of spices you like for your pumpkin pie spice? I know some use cloves and others use allspice.

  11. 11
    Toni says:

    Is there an alternative combination of spices that could replace the pumpkin pie spice? Any other apples you might suggest besides Granny Smith?

    • 11.1

      Is it that you don’t like pumpkin pie spice or that you’d like to make a spice blend like you’d buy at the store? As far as apples go, anything that isn’t overly sweet or soft will work; Galas, Fujis, maybe even Honeycrisps (although they’re so expensive that it would be kind of a shame to chop them up and put them in baked goods.)

  12. 12
    meredith says:

    I love your stories … that alone wants me want to make this cake for THANKSgiving :-) Also love that little grey patterned bowl you measured your brown sugar in … actually love that entire photo!! Thanks, again, for sharing.

  13. 13
    Melissa M. says:

    This sounds just lovely, and how you knew I needed to make a cake today just baffles me… you have exquisite timing!

  14. 14

    “a delivery device for the most delicious frosting in ALL THE UNIVERSE”

    I love you SOOO much 😀 In my world, even the best of cakes are: all about the frosting, baby.

    And last night I was wracking my brain trying to think of some snacky thing I could bake with my granny smith apples and brown sugar and cinnamon. This is perfect, thank you! I actually even have the buttermilk, too. Score!!!

    • 14.1

      NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM…I made the cake, it is FANTABULOUS! I even strayed widely from the recipe, and it still turned out. I didn’t peel my apples, I used bread flour, I used turbinado sugar and light brown sugar, and I mixed everything all up starting with creaming the butter and sugars together and just dumping everything else in. Yes, I’m lazy, but the cake is done, and yummy. So there 😉 Oh, and mine was cooked at about 38 minutes. Thanks tons!

  15. 15
    Karla says:

    You can also brown butter in the microwave. It’s easy peasy. Just put it in the microwave in a glass bowl that is covered either with plastic wrap or a plate. Nuke for like 3-5 minutes. I learned this in the Mamofuku Milk Bar cookbook (home of crack pie!).

  16. 16
    Patrice says:

    I have those same doily plates…love them! I will make this and hopefully it will look just as good as yours!

  17. 17

    This apple cake looks so moist and yummy! Thanks for sharing.

  18. 18

    Oh, this looks delicious. But seriously, how do you ever manage to not gobble up those sauteed apples?

  19. 19
    Heidi Hatch says:

    Oh. My. Goodness. This sounds so amazing! I have to make it, but I don’t have any cream. Shoot. I hope I can find a substitute cause I’m too lazy to go to the store right now.

  20. 20
    Elizabeth says:

    I would love it if you (or a helpful reader!) can give me an idea of what is in pumpkin pie spice mix. Doesn’t have to be ratios, I just need an idea. I live in Australia and we don’t get Thanksgiving-related/holidays season things that you guys have. We don’t get a lot of things you mention but I want to cook this one 😉

  21. 21
    Laurel says:

    Can’t wait to try this! It looks great. :)

  22. 22
    Lindsie says:

    What makes this a snack cake vs a regular cake? Do they differ?

  23. 23
    LIsa Weaver says:

    Yum! The frosting is amazing! Have you ever tried to freeze it?

  24. 24
    Andi says:

    Made this cake today – what turned out well was cooking the apples before hand – that is different from some of the apple cake recipes I make – and it left the cake softer and the cake cooked through better. It came out with a nice crunchy edge. The browned butter frosting is a nice touch – if you like nuts – you probably could toast some chopped pecans and sprinkle them on the frosting. Nice recipe! I think the flavor is really enhanced by use of buttermilk.

  25. 25
    Georgina says:

    I made this cake last night. The biggest change to the recipe that I made was halving it because a cake of that size would be a little large for two people. I didn’t have pumpkin pie spice so I eyeballed cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger and cloves until it smelled right. All in all a very successful recipe. My boyfriend said it was like apple pie in cake form. I think that the frosting may be gilding the lily a bit and the cake was delicious with and without the icing. I will definitely be make this in the future.

  26. 26
    KateEL says:

    This looks PHENOMENAL. I was looking for Thanksgiving stuff and saw this. And I couldn’t help but look at it.

    Also, just a guess on that original, disappointing cake from years ago: Martha Stewart? Her recipes never turn out for me. And they always call for exotic/expensive ingredients and lots of time. I’m so glad you decided to make a more accessible version. :)

  27. 27
    Kate E says:

    Is the butter in the cake portion salted or unsalted? Does it matter? Thanks!

  28. 28
    Capri Bird says:

    Yum! I want to make this for my husband’s birthday. Can I make them in a cupcake form?

  29. 29
    Joy says:

    I made this today for a linger longer after church. It came out AMAZING!!!! Thanks once again for another fabulous recipe! :-)

  30. 30
    Britlyn says:

    Would these work as cupcakes too? It sounds so good!

  31. 31
    Ellen Parlee says:

    Thanks for sharing- the pictures really add to the recipe and blog post! It’s apple season and it won’t be here for much longer so now is the time to try out a new recipe!

  32. 32
    Margaret says:

    I came across this recipe a few weeks ago and today is the day I’m trying it out. The cake is in the oven ….. so far so good!

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