This healthy gluten-free apple cake is flavorful, moist, and easy to make with fresh fall apples. It's also dairy-free and topped with a delectable vegan maple cream cheese frosting!
Consider this the ultimate apple cake: it has fresh apples, apple butter, and applesauce for triple the apple goodness. And like any good apple cake, it’s super moist and full of cozy fall flavors thanks to a generous addition of cinnamon and an irresistible maple frosting. But this cake is different from other apple cake recipes because it’s gluten-free, dairy-free, refined-sugar-free, and made with wholesome, healthy ingredients.
Yep, this is a cake you can totally have for breakfast.
While the ingredient list might look a bit intimidating, if you bake gluten-free cakes and muffins on the regular, you’ll probably find that you have a lot of these items in your pantry already. And once you gather up all your ingredients, this fresh apple cake comes together lickety-split!
What You’ll Need
Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
For the apple cake:
- Almond flour – Be sure to use almond flour, not almond meal, which has a coarser texture.
- Quinoa flour
- Brown rice flour
- Arrowroot powder
- Coconut flour
- Coconut sugar – Coconut sugar is lower on the glycemic index than white sugar and it has a nice caramel flavor, which is perfect for this fresh apple cake.
- Baking powder
- Ground cinnamon
- Almond milk – Use unsweetened, unflavored almond milk, or any other plant milk you like or have on hand.
- Apple butter – Apple butter adds more depth to the flavor of this apple cake, but you can substitute this for more applesauce.
- Oil of choice – I like coconut or olive oil.
- Vanilla extract
- Shredded apple – You can shred the apple using your food processor or do it by hand with a box grater.
For the frosting:
- Vegan cream cheese – If you’re not vegan, you can use regular cream cheese.
- Vegan butter
- Maple syrup – Be sure to use real maple syrup, not breakfast syrup!
- Arrowroot powder – Cream cheese frosting is usually loaded with confectioners’ sugar to thicken it, but arrowroot powder will stiffen it without all the sugar.
Which Apple Is Best for Baking?
While Granny Smith is usually the traditional choice for baking, you can use any apple that’s firm and sweet-tart in flavor. Honeycrisp, Braeburn, Pink Lady, and Jonagold are all excellent choices for this apple cake recipe.
How to Make Gluten-Free Apple Cake
Like all of my cake recipes, this fresh apple cake is quite simple. It takes 5 steps to make and it will be ready in under an hour!
Prepare. Preheat your oven to 350ºF and line a square 9×9 baking pan with parchment paper.
Mix the dry ingredients. Whisk all of the dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.
Finish the batter. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, applesauce, apple butter, and oil. Pour these into the bowl with the dry ingredients and beat until a thick batter forms. Fold in the grated apple.
Bake. Transfer the batter into the pan and smooth it with the back of a spoon. Bake on the center rack of the oven for 35 to 38 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the apple cake comes out clean.
Make the frosting. Beat the cream cheese, butter, and maple syrup with an electric mixer or stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Once the mixture is smooth, beat in the arrowroot powder.
Frost the cake. When the cake is completely cooled, use an offset spatula to frost it. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon if desired.
If you want to switch things up and make this fresh apple cake recipe your own, here are a few variations to try:
- Soak raisins in apple cider (or spiced rum!) until they plump up and fold them into the cake batter.
- Add chopped walnuts to the batter or sprinkle them on top of the frosting.
- Swap the frosting out for a dollop of coconut whipped cream on each slice of cake.
Tips for Success
Here are some simple tips and hints for perfect gluten-free apple cake.
- Make sure there are no clumps in the dry ingredients. You don’t need to sift the flours, but check to see if your almond flour is clumpy and if it is, break it apart with your fingers.
- Toast the quinoa flour. Toasting your quinoa flour will mellow out the flavor a bit and get rid of the bitterness. Here's a tutorial on how to toast quinoa flour if you’ve never done it before.
- Cool the cake completely. Vegan cream cheese seems to have a lower melting point than regular cream cheese, so it’s super super super important to make sure the apple cake is cool before you frost it.
How to Store
This fresh apple cake should be stored in the refrigerator. Cover it in the pan or transfer any leftovers to an airtight container; it will keep for about 5 days.
Can This Recipe Be Frozen?
Yes, you can freeze your apple cake for up to 2 months. Store it in an airtight container and let it thaw in the refrigerator before serving.
More Gluten-Free Cakes
- Healthy Quinoa Carrot Cake
- Healthy Gluten-Free Gingerbread Cake
- Easy Chocolate Banana Mug Cake
- Gluten-Free Fig Cake
- Healthy Zucchini Coffee Cake
Gluten-Free Fresh Apple Cake
for the cake:
- 1 cup almond flour
- 1/2 cup quinoa flour (preferably toasted)*
- 1/2 cup brown rice flour
- 1/2 cup arrowroot powder
- 2 tablespoons coconut flour
- 1 cup coconut sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 organic eggs beaten
- 1/2 cup almond milk
- 1/4 cup applesauce (I like coconut)
- 1/4 cup apple butter (or more applesauce)
- 2 tablespoons oil of choice (I like coconut or olive)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup shredded apple (measured before pressing)
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a square 9×9 baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together your dry ingredients.
- In a separate bowl, combine your eggs, milk, applesauce, apple butter, and oil. Beat these into the dry ingredients until a very thick batter begins to form. Fold in the apple.
- Transfer all the batter into the pan and smooth with the back of your spoon.
- Bake in the center of your warmed oven for 35 – 38 minutes. Test with a cake tester by placing it in the center of the cake. If there is nothing on the stick when you remove it, the cake is ready!
- Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting.
- For the frosting, beat together the cream cheese, butter and maple syrup using electric beaters or stand mixer with the whisk attachment (my preferred method). Once smooth, beat in the arrowroot powder.
- Dollop the frosting on top of the cake and smooth it out with an offset spatula. Sprinkle with cinnamon if desired and enjoy!