I’m so excited to share this easy vegan apple cake – it’s inspired by the one cake my Omi bakes, an apple rye. It’s a healthier spin on a traditional German apple cake and late-season apples and hazelnuts are in abundance at this time of year.
This cake is adapted from the fig cake recipe I shared just after we moved to Germany in 2016. I’ve replaced part of the coconut sugar with maple syrup and used lots of cinnamon in place of cardamom, giving more of a late autumnal flavour.
The texture here is definitely more of a coffee cake than a sponge. It’s not super light and fluffy because of the added hazelnut meal – not sticky or heavy but certainly on the edge of dense. And those chunky apples, so good.
You can easily make your own hazelnut meal if you can’t buy it in stores. More on this below, and substitutions if needed.
Why You Should Try This Recipe
It’s a flavourful, northern-style apple cake with loads of warm flavours and apple in every bite. If you like a lot of apple in your cake, you’ll love this.
- Lots of texture variation: with the crunchy nuts in the topping contrasting with the melt-in-your-mouth apples and soft cake crumb, every bite is different.
- It’s not too sweet: with slightly less sweet coconut sugar and maple syrup, the apples can really shine here.
- You can use windfall apples: while they’re not ideal for canning, windfall apples are perfect for baking, and good in this cake. Lots of people will have windfalls out on the curb at this time of year – grab a handful.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Hazelnut meal: sub almond meal or make sunflower seed meal for a nut-free option.
- Oat milk: use any non-dairy milk barring canned coconut milk. Make sure it’s unsweetened and unflavoured.
- Spelt flour: as usual, plain white flour can be used in place of spelt if preferred. I haven’t tried making this cake gluten-free.
- Cinnamon: use another spice or spice blend if preferred. Cardamom would be good, as would some added nutmeg or cloves.
- Olive oil: another light-tasting liquid oil can be subbed for olive oil. Don’t use coconut oil.
Step by Step
1. Prepare the apples by coring and halving them, then very thinly slicing partway through each half.
2. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients until combined.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined.
5. Transfer the batter to a greased spring-form pan and smooth.
6. Top with the prepared apples and a handful of hazelnuts, then bake until golden.
If you can’t see the recipe video, please watch it here on YouTube instead.
The way the apples are cut in this recipe are how you’ll often see them arranged on this type of German apple cake, almost like a hasselback potato. It means the apples cook all the way through without making them too soft. You get big pieces of apple in each slice and it looks beautiful. The baking time is long enough that the apples become soft enough to cut through with a fork, perfect for afternoon coffee.
Be sure to bake the cake on the centre rack of the oven. If it’s too close to the top element, the apples will brown too much and the hazelnuts might burn.
This is baked in a larger spring-form pan and I don’t really recommend using a smaller one, as it can cause a claggy crumb. While you can use a slightly smaller one please be aware that the cake will be dense.
Use a good baking apple that’s quite tart and solid. Avoid varieties like McIntosh (which used to be good but is now mealy). I prefer to use Boskoop for this and virtually any other baked apple recipe as it keeps its shape after baking and has a superior flavour.
How to Store
Storage: the cake will soften slightly as it’s stored due to the moisture in the apples. I recommend refrigerating any leftover cake in a sealed container for up to three days, as it doesn’t keep well at room temperature for more than a day.
Freezing: place the cooled cake in an airtight container and freeze for up to three months.
- Make your own hazelnut meal: you can do this very simply in a food processor or blender that’s approved for dry ingredients. Simply mix on high speed until a fine meal forms.
- Use a good apple type: while the apples don’t need to be absolutely perfect (bruises etc. can simply be cut out) it should be a good flavourful variety that doesn’t get too soft when cooked. I’m not a granny smith fan but if you like them they would work here.
- Don’t over mix: as with any spelt flour recipe, avoid over mixing or risk a tough bake. For a soft crumb, mix until just combined and no longer.
- Use a corer: if you have an apple corer, certainly put it to good use here, as it makes halving the apples and slicing as needed quite a bit easier.
More Apple Recipes
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Vegan Apple Cake
- 300 grams light spelt flour
- 100 grams hazelnut meal
- 100 grams coconut sugar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 300 ml oat milk
- 120 ml olive oil*
- 60 ml maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 6 medium apples halved, cored, and sliced**
- Chopped hazelnuts for topping optional
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and grease a 26 cm (10 inch) springform pan with coconut oil.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, hazelnut meal, coconut sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.300 grams light spelt flour, 100 grams hazelnut meal, 100 grams coconut sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, oil, maple syrup, and vanilla.300 ml oat milk, 120 ml olive oil*, 60 ml maple syrup, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Add the milk mixture to the larger bowl and mix until just combined. Transfer the batter into the prepared springform and top with the halved apples, pressing them lightly into the batter. You can add a handful of hazelnuts as well for extra crunch if you like.6 medium apples, Chopped hazelnuts for topping
- Bake the cake on the centre rack for 50-55 minutes or until golden.
- Cool the cake on a rack for 15 minutes before removing the outsides of the pan and cooling completely. Once the cake is almost cooled, you can remove the base of the pan. Serve at room temperature with nondairy yogurt or ice cream and more cinnamon.
* For American cup measurements, please click the pink link text above the ingredient list that says ‘American’.
Nutrition is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate. If this information is important to you, please have it verified independently.
This was first shared in November 2018. It has been updated with some very slight changes (improvements) to the recipe and new step-by-step pictures as of October 2022.