Apple Cinnamon Cake (a.k.a. Harvest Cake)

There’s nothing better than a fresh apple cake recipe in the fall and winter months. We love this apple cinnamon cake because it’s quick and easy, mixes up in one bowl, and you don’t need to break out the beaters. It’s loaded with grated apples, golden raisins, toasted walnut, cinnamon, spices, and a splash of rum, and it’s so moist you don’t need to bother with frosting.

This post has been udpated for content and photos since its original publication in 2015.

Fresh apple cake recipes are an obsession of mine. It started with my grandmother’s homemade apple sauce, which became her applesauce snack cake. From there, it morphed into applesauce muffins, then an apple bundt cake (with maple glaze). So many treats, so little time…

This apple spice cake is a simple single-layer cake that’s super moist, dense with fruit and nuts, and richly spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice.

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The flavors of this harvest cake remind us of the fall farmers’ markets with baskets of every type of apple imaginable and heady cinnamon-spiced apple cider.

I’d liken this apple cinnamon cake to a fruit cake more than a regular layer cake, though it’s not that dense. (And I’d recommend eating it within a few days rather than holding on to it for several months.)

Why you’ll love this apple cinnamon cake:

  • It’s a quick and easy apple spice cake recipe.
  • The recipe makes a single layer of cinnamon apple cake.
  • You don’t need to worry about frosting or decorating.
  • Works as a morning coffee cake or after-dinner dessert.
  • There’s no oil or butter, so it’s naturally lower in fat than most cakes.

Ingredients for an easy apple cake recipe:

  • Buttermilk
  • Applesauce
  • Eggs
  • Dark Rum
  • Vanilla Extract
  • All Purpose Flour
  • Light Brown Sugar
  • Baking Soda
  • Baking Powder
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Nutmeg
  • Allspice
  • Salt
  • Walnuts
  • Apples
  • Golden Raisins
  • Powdered Sugar

It might look like a long list of ingredients, but they’re probably already lurking in your pantry and fridge.

Best fruit for apple cinnamon harvest cake recipe:

I’ve found this easy apple cake recipe works well with most types of apples. We’ve made it with Granny Smiths, Gala, Fuji, Honeycrisp, and Jonagold to excellent results. You could also use Cortland, Braeburn, or Jazz apples.

How to prep apples:

Most fresh apple cake recipes chop or slice the apples, but this one uses grated apples so that the bits of fruit become part of the crumb of the cake.

It’s one of the reasons that this cake has a compact, even look without the typical domed center. The grated apple makes this cinnamon-scented cake super moist and gives it a satisfying chew. It’s got more heft than a melt-in-your-mouth type of bake.

How to make apple cinnamon cake:

  1. In a 2-cup liquid measuring cup or bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, applesauce, egg, rum, and vanilla.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, and salt.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until no dry bits are left in the bowl. You don’t need an electric mixer.
  4. Stir in the chopped walnuts, grated apple, and golden raisins.
  5. Pour the batter into a prepared cake pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean.

Isn’t that easy? Just mix and bake. As a self-proclaimed “lazy baker,” I love the no-fuss nature of this simple cake.

You don’t need a pastry degree from Le Cordon Bleu to make it- and because it’s an all-in-one dessert with no special frosting required, you don’t even need to break out the offset spatula or piping tips.

Variations and swaps:

  • You can use any variety of apple in this easy cake recipe, or change it up and use grated pears instead.
  • Swap golden raisins with dried cranberries or currants.
  • If you’re short on baking spices and don’t want to invest in more, substitute 1 3/4 teaspoons of apple pie spice or pumpkin spice in place of the individual spices for the apple cake.
  • For a lighter-colored cake, use granulated sugar instead of brown sugar.


This cake is so moist and dense that you’ll want to ensure it pops out of the pan easily.

My recommendation is to cut a piece of parchment paper the size of your cake pan, spray the pan with vegetable spray, place the parchment in the bottom and spray it again. This will ensure that the cake doesn’t stick.

When you turn out the cake to cool, just peel the parchment off. Easy peasy.

I know, this cake doesn’t look like much. It’s just a simple, but richly flavorful apple spice cake loaded with fruit, walnuts, and plenty of cinnamon flavors. And it’s so good; you’ll want to make it again and again.


Can I make the apple cinnamon cake in advance?

Yes. Make it a day or even two in advance. The cake gets moister as it rests.

Can I freeze the fresh apple cake?

Yes. This recipe is well suited to freezing. Just make sure your cake is well wrapped (I like two layers, the first plastic wrap and then freezer paper). It will freeze well for up to two months.

What if I want to add frosting?

If you want to, I recommend either this cream cheese frosting or this light, fluffy, and not-too-sweet ermine icing.

What to serve with cinnamon apple cake

A sprinkle of powdered sugar is all you need, but if you really want to dress it up, here are a few suggestions:

More fruity cake recipes:

More apple recipes:

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harvest apple cake on a plate with powdered sugar.
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4.25 from 8 votes

Apple Cinnamon Cake with Raisins and Walnuts

Dense and moist, this fresh apple cake recipe is filled with fruit! Dollop with a spoon of whipped cream or simply sprinkle with powdered sugar for a moist, rich cinnamon spiced apple cake that’s grandma-worthy.
Author: Lisa Lotts
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword apples, christmas, raisins, thanksgiving, walnuts
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings 8


  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup applesauce
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • teaspoon cloves
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup walnuts chopped
  • 1 apple peeled, cored, shredded
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • powdered sugar optional


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan. Spray pan liberally (bottom and sides) with vegetable spray. Place the parchment in the bottom of the pan and spray the parchment with vegetable spray. Set aside.
  • In a 2 cup glass measuring cup add the buttermilk, applesauce, egg, rum and vanilla. Whisk to combine. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice and salt. Whisk until well combined then stir in the liquid ingredients, shredded apple, walnuts and raisins. Stir several times to assure that dry ingredients are blended into the wet and that the solids are evenly distributed throughout the batter.
  • Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  • Cool on a wire rack to room temperature and dust with powdered sugar if desired.


Calories: 346kcal | Carbohydrates: 60g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 26mg | Sodium: 332mg | Potassium: 287mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 37g | Vitamin A: 95IU | Vitamin C: 1.7mg | Calcium: 95mg | Iron: 1.9mg

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  1. Kathie Johnson says:

    What quantity of raisins? Can’t wait to bake this!

    1. Nice catch, Kathie! 1/2 cup of golden raisins.

  2. I served this at a dinner party for relatives visiting from Martinique. I wanted something typical of American fall flavors (plus I had some beautiful apples I wanted to use up). It was a huge hit! Dense, super moist, and slices beautifully. This cake will definitely be a permanent part of my dessert repertoire! Thank you Lisa!

    1. I’m so happy everyone enjoyed it! Thanks for sharing your experience!

  3. 5 stars
    Light and delicate cakes have their place, but sometimes all you want is a dense and intense piece of cake. And I think this apple harvest cake would fit the bill! I could definitely see having this for breakfast or as an afternoon snack.

  4. Hi Lisa
    Could I use wholemeal flour instead of white flour?
    Is the cake sweet ? Could I omit white granulated sugar?
    Thank you

    1. Sorry made a mistake with sugar. Iknow it only has brown sugar.oops!

    2. Hi Jo! I would think you could use whole wheat flour instead of white, but it may make it a little more dense and this is already a hefty cake. If you do it, let me know how it turns out.

  5. 5 stars
    I love a good spice cake and this one sounds delicious!
    It is officially on the must try list!