This one-bowl, no-mixer, Ridiculously Easy Magic Apple Cake is super moist and ridiculously delicious. The fabulous caramel icing is the crowning glory!
When I read the 280 5-star reviews on this cake on the King Arthur website, I knew I had to try it. And when I tried this fabulous recipe the first time, I knew I had to change the name. Over at King Arthur, they call it an "old-fashioned apple cake", but that doesn't really do it justice. It's such a fun, easy recipe with a very unique preparation and such wonderful results - it seemed quite magical to me. So I took the liberty of giving it my own name. Without further ado, let me introduce you to this delicious Ridiculously Easy Magic Apple Cake!
Why would I call include the word "magic" in the title? The preparation technique really is quite magical, but when you take the first bite, you know that some kind of delicious magic has also happened in the oven. King Arthur describes it as "a cake where the whole is definitely more than the sum of the parts" and that's true. The ingredient list is simple. The final result is, spectacular, super moist and studded with juicy apples.
I call the recipe preparation technique magical because it's not like any other cake recipe I've ever made and probably nothing like the recipes you've prepared either. Just throw everything, except the apples, in a bowl and mix it all together. At this point, it looks like a crumbly, shaggy mess. Then to make things seemingly worse, you stir in a boatload (4 cups) of chopped apples.
But it's at this point, that the culinary magic begins. Walk away for 5 minutes, then come back and give a good stir. You'll discover that the juices from the apples have transformed the shaggy mess into a nice thick cake batter. You may still feel a bit dubious (I did!) but once the cake goes into the oven and the fantastic aroma fills the air, things will seem more hopeful. And when you peek in the oven and see "the mess", transformed into a beautiful, golden-kissed apple cake you'll become a believer! Oh yeah, and the first fabulous bite emphatically seals the deal!
Although King Arthur instructs to "Mix all of the ingredients except the apples in a large bowl", I did change the technique just a bit. My method may take a minute longer, but I think it helps ensure success. I simply stir together the soft butter and sugar in a bowl, then whisk in the eggs followed by all the other ingredients. Still super easy with super delicious results!
A caramel icing "to die for"
Then there's the icing... oh my!
Some of the reviews on this apple cake did mention that the icing could be a little tricky. When I looked at the recipe it seemed kind of fussy so I adapted a different recipe from Cook's Country, that just uses one pot and is made on the stovetop. It spreads easily and the caramel flavor is beyond delicious!
Another Ridiculously Easy recipe
In addition to being magical, this easy magic apple cake is so darn easy it definitely falls into our Ridiculously Easy Series. You can read more about these popular Café recipes here, but in a nutshell, Ridiculously Easy recipes are ones that take minimal effort, yet make you look like a cooking rockstar. Because they're so easy, they're perfect both for entertaining as well as casual weeknight cooking (or baking).
A super handy kitchen secret
One last little note. The only thing that takes a bit of time in this Ridiculously Easy Magic Apple Cake is chopping up 4 cups of apples. But I have an easy solution for that too! I use one of my favorite little kitchen tools, my Vidalia Chop Wizard. If you've followed The Café for any length of time you know I love this little kitchen workhorse.
The chopper is super easy to clean (in the dishwasher) and store (it's nice and small) and it makes chopping just about anything a breeze. It has two different size grates, so you can chop things tiny or bite-size. The apples don't need to be peeled for this cake so I can prepare the 4 cups of apples needed for this recipe in less than 2 minutes. As I said, I love this little gadget!
I hope I've convinced you to try this recipe. I promise you won't be disappointed. It's the kind of cake that gets even better as it sits for a day or two, but you may never have the opportunity to discover that if you have family and friends like I do. It will disappear in the blink of an eye! Try it, you'll see just what I mean!
Café Tips for making this Ridiculously Easy Magic Apple Cake
- Don't worry about removing the skins from the apples in this cake recipe. You won't notice them once the cake is baked and that saves a lot of time. Plus, since we're indulging in cake with a thick caramel icing, all those good nutrients in the skins will just slightly tip the scales. Maybe not, but it makes me feel a little better.
- When making one-bowl, no-mixer cakes it's important to have two tools, in addition to a mixing bowl. You'll want a rubber spatula, which works well for both stirring and scraping out the bowl when transferring batter to a pan. I like a silicone spatula with a wooden handle. You'll also need a sturdy whisk. Neither of these are expensive but will really help to ensure successful baking.
- With this being a one-bowl, no-mixer recipe, make sure your butter is very soft. You should be able to touch the butter with your finger and leave a nice indentation. Here are a few ways to soften butter quickly:
- You can leave it sit out overnight. But if your house is chilly, it may not soften enough so you may need to also use one of the tricks listed below.
- Boil a cup of water in the microwave for 3-4 minutes and get things nice and steamy. Leave the water cup in the microwave, add the butter and close the door. The warmth from the steamy water will help to quickly soften the butter. Sometimes I will even put a kitchen towel or several thicknesses of paper towels in the door so it won't completely close and the light will remain on. The warmth from the light will also help soften.
- Cutting the butter into small pieces helps it soften quicker.
- Place the hard butter on a small plate. Fill a bowl with hot water. Wait 5 minutes then discard the water. Put the warm bowl over the butter.
- Put the butter in the oven with the light turned on.
- Place the butter in the microwave for 1 minute on 10% power. If it's not soft enough microwave in 10-second intervals, checking after each one to see if it's soft.
- What kind of apples to use? I've used a variety of different apples, all with delicious success. Pink Lady, Gala, Braeburn, Honeycrisp, Golden Delicious all work great.
- Make sure your cake is completely cooled before adding the icing as it will melt and run off the cake if you try to ice a warm cake. (Still delicious but not so pretty!)
- The recipe will make one 9x13-inch cake or 2-8-inch round cakes. I like to make round cakes and remove them from the pan for a pretty presentation. I usually serve one cake and freeze the other so I have an easy dessert in a hurry.
- The icing recipe is for two 8-inch round cakes or one 9x13-inch cake. If you just want to frost one, halve the recipe.
If you enjoyed this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It’s so helpful to other readers to hear other’s results and ideas for variations.
- 8 tablespoons butter very soft
- 1 ⅔ cups granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 2 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 4 cups chopped unpeeled apples (about ¼-inch dice) (see Cafe Tips above for types of apples to use)
- 12 tablespoons soft butter
- 2 cups dark brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup cream heavy cream, half and half or whole milk
- 3-4 cups powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray two 8-inch round baking pans OR a 9x13-inch baking pan with baking spray. If using round cake pans and you want to serve the cake on a platter or plate, line the bottom with parchment paper.
Combine soft butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Stir together until well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition.
Sprinkle the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt over the top of the butter mixture and stir well until all of the flour is incorporated and the mixture is crumbly and a bit shaggy.
Add the apples and mix well. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes then stir until well combined. The apples will release some of their juice and the stiff mixture becomes a thick, creamy batter, somewhere between cookie dough and brownie batter in consistency.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan, smoothing it with wet fingers or an angled metal spatula.
Bake the cake for 40-50 minutes (for 9x13-inch pan) and 30-40 minutes (for the 2 8-inch cake pans) or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few wet crumbs clinging to it. The temperature at the center of the cake will be about 205°F.
If using at the round pans, you can wait 10 minutes then invert the cake onto a cooling rack. Either way, allow the cake(s) to cool completely before icing.
Heat 8 tablespoons butter, brown sugar, and salt in a large saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles appear around the perimeter of pan 5-7 minutes. Whisk in cream and cook until a ring of bubbles reappears about 1 minute. Off heat, whisk in vanilla.
Allow mixture to cool in the pot for 15 minutes (it should be warm but not hot), then add 3 cups of the powdered sugar and, using a whisk, stir until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add more powdered sugar, if needed and whisk to make a thick but spreadable icing. Add remaining 4 tablespoons soft butter, and whisk again until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.
If frosting both round cakes transfer icing to the center of the cakes and, working with an angled metal spatula or a knife, spread the icing outward, stopping at the edges and swirling the icing as desired. If frosting the 9x13-inch cake, transfer icing to the center and working with an angled metal spatula, spread the icing to the edges, swirling as desired. Work fairly quickly as the icing will harden once it reaches room temperature. If it hardens too much before you get a chance to spread it, simply warm it in the pot for 30 seconds to 1 minute over low heat.
The cake will keep well at room temperature for 24 hours. It can be refrigerated for longer storage. Bring back to room temperature before serving.
The frosting recipe is for two cake 8-inch round cake or one 9x13-inch cake. I often serve one cake and freeze the other. I just make half of the icing for the cake I'm serving and then I make fresh icing when I defrost the second cake
See Café Tips above in post for further instructions and more detailed tips.
Cake recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour
Icing recipe adapted from Cook’s Country
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