Recipe: Apple Buttermilk Cake

I've been on a cleaning the pantry tear lately (dal, grain salads, pumpkin muffins, granola). 

At my mom's the other weekend we realized that we hadn't planned on dessert for Easter dinner, but we had buttermilk for the salad dressing and had a ton left over. I remembered the apple buttermilk cake I made this winter--a not too sweet, pantry cake that did well with coffee the next morning. My mom always has apples on hand, and so I raided her supply. She also only had a 10" springform pan and it worked just fine. (The cake was slightly dry, but that was my fault--shoulda removed it from the oven earlier). 

With this crew it's usually just 3 people--a whole cake seems like overkill, but this cake is not sweet and can easily transition into a snacking cake with tea, or a breakfast cake with coffee. 


slightly adapted from Brooklyn Supper


  • 6 tablespoons salted butter, room temperature (Tip: don't microwave your butter if it's not room temp--that changes it from solid to liquid and will destroy the baking chemistry. Instead grate it or cut it into tiny slices or cubes and it will come to room temp much quicker--in this recipe I use my KitchenAid and put my hands on the metal bowl to help warm the butter a bit--my mom keeps her house on the chilly side so at room temp it wasn't as maleable as usual room temp butter is)
  • 3/4 cup sugar, plus some for sprinkling on top
  • 1 egg, room temperature (Tip: my trick for bringing eggs to room temp quickly is to put them in a bowl of tap-hot water while you're getting everything ready for them, fyi)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • ~1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus more for grating on top
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • grated zest of 1 lemon (2 if you're extra into lemons, but 1 was great--my dad noticed the lemon with just 1 lemon's zest and he never notices that stuff!)
  • 2 (large)-4 (small) mixed apples--these will be peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices (Tip: I've used sweeter apples and granny smith, I'd stick to something that will get tender when baked rather than a granny smith that retains a bit of a bite, but if that's all you have on hand, it will work!)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

Liberally grease and flour a 9-inch springform cake pan. (a 10-incher will work, and a round cake pan or square would work if you plan to serve out of it.)

In bowl #1:
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or hand held beaters, beat butter on medium speed until light and airy. 
Add 3/4 cup sugar, and continue beating until everything is pale and fluffy--don't skimp on this step! The lighter and fluffier here, the better the batter will be in general. Scrape down the sides and mix a couple more times while mixing.
Add the egg, followed by the vanilla, and mix until fully incorporated

In bowl #2:
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sea salt, and nutmeg. I usually use a whisk for dry ingredients and did so here, too.

Switch mixer to low and add half the flour mixture, mix until just incorporated.
Scrape down the sides and add all of the buttermilk and mix again, until just incorporated.
Scrape down the sides and add the second half of the flour mixture and zest mix on low just until combined.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. 

Peel, core, and cut the apples into 1/2-inch thick slices. (I use a veggie peeler to peel the apples and an apple slicer to make quick work of the coring / slicing), do one apple at a time so you don't peel too many.
Arrange apple slices in a circle along the outer edge of the pan, so that slices are set straight down onto batter. Create a star pattern inside the circle, and add one final slice at the very center. 

Sprinkle top with 2 tablespoons sugar and several grates of nutmeg. Don't skip this step or the cake may not get toasty brown on top (you live, you learn).

Place on a rimmed baking sheet and slide into oven. 
Bake for 50 - 60 minutes, or until the top is a light golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached.

Set cake aside to cool for a few minutes, then remove the springform side and allow to cool completely.

Great with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or nothing at all.


Popular Posts