Apple Pie Cake (Romanian Apple Cake)

by Hanelore Dumitrache

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Soft and moist apple pie cake with a light sponge and a sweet cinnamon apple filling. This layered cake recipe is incredibly easy to make and only uses one tray. Quick to make and delicious served with ice cream or vanilla custard.

Slices of apple cake traybake stacked on top of each other

This is such a wonderful dessert all year round, but especially throughout summer and autumn. The sponge is incredibly soft, yet moist, and the apple filling is naturally sweet, with a hint of fragrant cinnamon. This apple pie cake is a Romanian favourite, and definitely a family favourite. Coming straight from my grandmother, this recipe is authentically Romanian and 100% delicious.

WHY THIS RECIPE IS AMAZING

In addition to its delicious taste, this apple pie cake is amazing because it’s so easy to make. This recipe requires minimal technical skills and is pretty hard to mess up. However, the cake is super soft and light, making it ideal to have as a snack with your lovely cup of tea. Also, let’s not forget another important aspect – a slice of this apple cake is only 240 Kcals!

The apple cake has only two components:
1. The sponge cake
2. The cinnamon apple filling

Closeup of apple cake traybake slice with fork

THE INGREDIENT ROUND-UP

This apple pie cake recipe is very simple in terms of ingredients, so the flavours need to pop. To do this, we need to use good quality ingredients, combined with lots of love and care.

The Romanian apple cake is made from two main parts: the sponge cake and the apple filling. I like to use a LOT of apple in this cake, but that’s just a personal preference. Here’s what you need for this recipe:

Flatlay image of ingredients needed to apple cake traybake

Flour – Plain white flour works best, but you can also use self-rising. If using self-rising flour, leave out the baking powder indicated in the recipe. I prefer to use plain flour because I can easily control the rise by limiting the amount of baking powder.

Lemon zest – The sponge cake is quite simple, so lemon zest gives it a tangy kick. Moreover, the lemon perfectly complements the sweet apple flavour. Make sure to properly wash the lemon and preferably soak it in vinegar water to remove any wax or impurities.

Eggs – Using a combination of 2 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks, the eggs are the ‘glue’ bringing everything together and keeping the cake sponge light and aerated.

Sugar – A minimal quantity of sugar is used in this recipe, as the apples are already quite sweet. Also, I wanted to keep this cake light and not too sweet, perfect for summer. If you do, however enjoy a sweeter cake, feel free to add more sugar.

Sour cream & milk – These two magical ingredients make the sponge super moist and light. Sour cream can be replaced with either heavy (double) cream or buttermilk. For lactose intolerances, replace them with coconut cream or yoghurt and plant-based milk.

Spices – In my humble opinion, the best combination of spices is nutmeg, cardamom and cinnamon. This traditional spice combination is a match made in Heaven with apples.

Apples – The main flavour of this Romanian cake, apples are really important. Go for apples that are naturally sweet to avoid having to add unnecessary sugar.

What kind of apples to use for apple cake

This Romanian apple pie cake recipe uses minimal sugar, so it’s important that the apples you choose are naturally sweet. Although you can use any apples, I recommend red apples such as:

  • Gala – one of the sweetest apples, perfect for this recipe. They are also very crisp, so they don’t go too mushy when baked.
  • Fuji – super sweet, and crunchy. I love snacking on these apples, but they’re also great when baked.
  • Envy – crisp and sweet, with a little tangy. Not only are these apples amazing for snacking (as they don’t brown as much as other varieties), but they are ideal for use in cakes.
Closeup of red apples

HOW TO MAKE APPLE CAKE

1. First, we need to whisk the eggs with sugar. Use a hand mixer to whip up air into the eggs, and continue mixing until they turn pale and frothy. This step is important for making the sponge light and aerated. Add in the lemon zest, butter, milk and sour cream and whisk well until combined.

2. Separately, combine the flour with baking powder and spices. Make sure they are evenly combined before adding into the wet ingredients. Use a spatula to slowly fold in the flour, careful not to deflate too much air.

Whisking eggs and sugar with hand mixer
Adding flour into egg mixture

3. Line the baking tray with baking paper and grease with butter. Pour in half of the cake batter, then level it with a spatula. Make sure it’s as even as possible, to get the best rise when baked.

4. Bake the sponge at 180C (360F) with fan for 15 minutes, or until it starts to brown on top. Use a toothpick or skewer to make sure the sponge is cooked through. If needed, leave in for an additional 2-3 minutes.

Levelling cake batter with spatula
Baked sponge in tray

5. Remove the skin and core the apples, then grate then using a box grater or food processor. Combine the grated apples with the cinnamon and sugar, then add them over the baked sponge. There is no need to cook the apples before, add them in raw. However, make sure you drain any excess juice from the apples to avoid a soggy bottom.

6. Pour the rest of the batter over the apples, then level it with a spatula until completely flat. Bake for 40 minutes at the same temperature, checking the cake at the 25 minute mark. If the brown starts to brown too quickly, cover the tray with some aluminium foil. Once baked, let it cool in the tray for 30 minutes, then remove and slice. I like to eat the apple cake warm, but you can also chill it in the fridge for a few hours before slicing for more sharp cuts.

Grated cinnamon apples added over sponge cake
Pouring remaining batter over the grated apples

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Which tray should I use for this apple cake?

The recipe below is enough for the following types of trays:
11 x 9 inch rectangular tray for a taller cake with thicker sponge layers
13 x 9 inch rectangular tray for a thinner cake
12 inch round cake tin for a more traditional round shape

Is apple pie cake healthy?

Yes and no. Apple cakes typically contain sugar and fat, which makes them not exactly healthy. However, this apple pie cake recipe uses minimal sugar, which makes it healthier than other options. If desired, you can also completely leave out the sugar and rely on the sweetness of the apples. Alternatively, you can replace the sugar with erythritol or stevia for less calories and sugars.

How long will apple cake stay fresh?

Apple cake will stay fresh for up to 3-5 days, depending on how you store it. Once baked, apple cake can be kept in a cool place at room temperature, provided it’s not extremely hot where you are. To store at room temperature, place the apple cake in an airtight container in a cool place, away from moisture. The cake will stay fresh for up to 3 days. Alternatively, you can store it in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Can apple cake be frozen?

Yes, apple cake is suitable for freezing. After the cake has baked and is completely cold, wrap it in a few layers of plastic wrap and one outer layer of aluminium foil. For extra protection, you can also place it in an airtight container. If stored like indicated, the apple cake will last in the freezer for up to 5-6 months. To thaw it, place it in the fridge for a day.

Apple cake traybake slices

HOW TO SERVE ROMANIAN APPLE CAKE

The best way to serve it is either at room temperature or my favourite – warm. Once baked, the cake can be sliced after cooling for 30 minutes and it will still be warm. Otherwise, you can heat it in the oven or grill at 160C (340F) for a few minutes.

To serve, you can either dust it with icing sugar or cinnamon. My favourite serving method is with some freshly made vanilla custard or pastry cream. Check out my full guide on how to make it. Make sure to add half the quantity of corn starch in the recipe to get a runnier consistency.

You can also enjoy it with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream, perfect for warm cake. And let’s not forget about the lovely combination apple – caramel. Drizzle some caramel sauce over the apple pie cake for maximum flavour.

Drizzling pastry cream over slice of apple cake

If you enjoyed this recipe, you will love these too:

Apple Meringue Cake with Vanilla Custard

How to Make Creme Patissiere (Vanilla Pastry Cream)

Milk Brioche with Chocolate Walnut – Romanian Cozonac

Fluffy strawberry and lemon sheet cake

If you’ve tried this recipe out, please don’t forget to rate and comment on this recipe. I love hearing from you, so feel free to reach out to me on social media as well and tag me in your posts!

Slices of apple cake traybake stacked on top of each other

Apple Pie Cake Recipe (Romanian Apple Cake)

Hanelore Dumitrache
Soft and moist apple pie cake with a light sponge and a sweet cinnamon apple filling. This layered cake recipe is incredibly easy to make and only uses one tray. Quick to make and delicious served with ice cream or vanilla custard.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 55 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine Romanian
Servings 12 slices
Calories 243 kcal

Ingredients
  

Cake sponge

  • 200 g plain flour (1 ⅔ cups)
  • 140 g sugar (⅔ cup)
  • 2 eggs, large
  • 2 egg yolks, large
  • 125 g melted butter, cooled (½ cup)
  • 100 ml milk, warm (⅓ cup)
  • 30 g sour cream (2 tbsp)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp cardamom
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 lemon zest

Apple filling

  • 1.5 kg sweet apples (6-7 medium apples)
  • 50 g sugar (¼ cup)
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon

Instructions
 

  • Peel and core the apples, then grate them using a large box grater or food processor. I prefer the food processor as it’s much quicker. Combine the apples with the cinnamon and sugar. Optional: you can also add in chopped walnuts for extra crunch. 
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180C (360F) with fan. Prepare your baking tray by lining it with baking paper and greasing with butter. Make sure you use a larger sheet of baking paper so you can easily remove the cake from the tray.
  • In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until light and pale. Add in the melted butter that has been cooled down to room temperature, as well as the warm milk, sour cream and lemon zest. Mix well to incorporate.
  • Separately, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and spices. Add the dry ingredients over the wet, folding them in with a spatula. Do not over-mix to avoid making a dense batter.
  • Pour half of the batter into the lined baking tray, then bake for 15-20 minutes until it turns golden and firm. Use a toothpick or skewer to check if it's cooked.
  • Once the bottom layer has baked, place the raw grated apples on top, in an even layer. Even out the layer with a spatula or knife, then pour the remaining batter on top of the apples. Bake the apple cake for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Check at the 25 minute mark, and if the top layer begins to brown too much, cover it with aluminium foil.
  • Let the apple tray bake cool down for 30 minutes, then take it out of the tray and slice it. For serving, you can either dust it with icing sugar and cinnamon or serve it with warm custard or vanilla ice cream – YUM!

Notes

  • I recommend using a kitchen scale in grams for more accuracy. The cups used for the conversion are standard US customary cups (1 cup flour = 136g). There are many different types of cups across the globe, which is why I strongly recommend using grams instead. 
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