What do you like most about autumn?
Is it walking on the crunchy red, orange, and yellow leaves? The beautifully themed decorations of scarecrows, burlap, and corn? Or the chilly air that makes you reach for a comfy flannel?
Or is it all the FOOD?! The cinnamon-scented, apple-picking-crazed, buy-out-the-whole-grocery-store-of-pureed-pumpkin FOOD?!?!
Take a wild guess what I like out of everything. Go on, guess.
Now, I certainly won’t be a seasonal Scrooge throughout fall. It’s not just about the food for me – I bought a wreathe for the front door! And my mom is forcing me to display on my shelf her fall-themed fairy garden she made as a gift!
So I’m trying.
But, alas, try as I might to extend my fall festivities beyond the feast, there is still no denying that the food will always reign supreme in my cold, shriveled heart.
How could it not, when, right at this very moment, there is a cinnamon and vanilla apple tart cake baking in my oven?
This special dessert features a pleasantly crisp, cookie-like cake layer on the bottom with thinly sliced apples on top encrusted in a thin, cinnamon-sugar coating.
It’s perfect for anyone who wants the simplicity of an apple cake, but the stunning look of a beautiful apple tart. The easy-to-make base layer replaces a pie dough, and therefore the typical struggle that naturally comes with making homemade pie dough!
It’s so pretty I might just hang this on my door…
The little gnome sitting on a mini bench holding a silly yellow flower in Mom’s fairy garden doesn’t stand a chance.
Looking for that perfect apple tart? This recipe has the beauty of a tart, but with an easy cake base that is sweet, crisp, and firm.
For the Cake:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into large cubes
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 3 large Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, or Fuji apples, peeled and thinly sliced
For the Topping:
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 large egg
For the Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan.
- Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Blend until mixed together.
- Add the pieces of butter, and mix on low speed until the butter chunks are distributed throughout the flour, with small, pea-sized pieces remaining.
- Add the vanilla and egg, and blend well until the mixture resembles chunky cornmeal. Evenly spread the dough on the bottom of the prepared springform pan, gently pressing the dough on the bottom and slightly up the sides.
- Starting from the outside edge of the pan, arrange the apples in a tight, circular pattern.
- Transfer the pan to the oven, and bake for 25 minutes.
For the Topping:
- While the cake bakes, make the topping by mixing together the granulated sugar, melted butter, cinnamon, and egg with a whisk or fork.
- Once the cake has baked for 25 minutes, remove from the oven and spread the topping evenly over the top of the apples.
- Bake for another 25-30 minutes, until the topping appears dry. Transfer the pan to a wire rack, and cool for 10 minutes.
- Run a thin knife around the edge of the pan, and remove the sides of the pan.
- Serve while still warm, or cool completely and serve at room temperature.
Adapted from Molly Wizenberg of Orangette
- Category: Cake
- Method: Oven
- Cuisine: Baked Goods
Keywords: apple, cake, tart, cinnamon, fall
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep
To prevent them from browning excessively, you have the option of brushing the slices with lemon juice.
And speaking of apples… you can use so many different kinds! I like Fuji or Honeycrisp for their sweetness, but go for Granny Smith you want a bite of tartness.
Measure and prep the rest of the ingredients.
Step 2 – Make the Cake Base
Add the pieces of unsalted butter, and mix on low speed until the butter chunks are distributed throughout the flour, with small, pea-size pieces remaining.
Add the vanilla and the egg, and blend well until it resembles chunky cornmeal. Don’t mix too much, in order to prevent the dough from becoming tough and chewy.
Evenly spread the dough on the bottom of the prepared springform pan, gently pressing the dough on the bottom and slightly up the sides. You may need to flour your hands as you are pressing the dough to minimize sticking.
Step 3 – Layer with Fruit
Starting from the outside edge of the pan, arrange the apples in a tight, circular pattern, shingling them slightly on top of each other.
You will feel like there are way too many apples to fit, you really will – but just fit them in there as tightly as you can. It will work!
Step 4 – First Bake
Transfer the pan to the oven, and bake for 25 minutes. The batter around the apples will still appear a little on the lighter side, but you will continue to bake in a later step.
Remove from the oven.
Step 5 – Make the Topping
Step 6 – Spread the Topping
After removing the cake from the oven, immediately spoon the cinnamon topping all over the top of the apples – it will be thin enough for you to gently spread it over the top to evenly coat each apple.
Just be careful, as you don’t want to press down too firmly and risk messing up the shingled fruit!
Step 7 – Second Bake
Bake for another 25-30 minutes, until the topping appears dry, and the edges of the cake are a golden brown color.
Step 8 – Cool and Serve
Transfer the pan to a wire rack, and cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tart pan. You might need to run a paring or butter knife around the edge of the pan to release the cake.
Serve while still warm, or cool completely and serve at room temperature. Both options will yield equal amounts of deliciousness!
Make Ahead for Future Fall Fun
After you are done swooning over how beautiful this tart/cake fusion looks, you can choose to wrap it all up, and save for later!
This dessert is a perfect make-ahead recipe, which is what I did the other night, planning for dinner and dessert with a friend who shares an equal amount of enthusiasm for the food of fall.
Once baked and cooled, you can wrap it up tightly in plastic wrap, or place in an airtight container, and leave it at room temperature until you’re ready to eat and enjoy.
Oh, and, by the way… it is wonderful with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on top!
Want more amazing apple recipes that are best enjoyed around this time of the year? We have a bushel more to share:
- Rustic Tartlets
- Apple Pear Pie with Cardamom and Ginger
- Hand Pies
- The Perfect Strudel
- Apple Cream Cheese Pie with Streusel
Photos by Nikki Cervone, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on October 5, 2009. Last updated: March 6, 2020 at 17:34 pm.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Nikki Cervone
Nikki Cervone is a full-time cheesemonger and specialty foods buyer living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.