This vegan apple cake with caramel is wonderfully moist and full of warm apple cinnamon flavour for the perfect Fall dessert.

Close up of a large square of apple spice cake from an angled view on a small plate. You can see bits of apple in the cake and it's topped with a thin layer of caramel.

About this Cake

This fluffy vegan apple cake is moist and tender yet completely oil-free! It’s also easy to make in one bowl and ready to enjoy in just 1 hour.

It goes well with coffee and tea or served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a special treat. It has a soft, spongy texture and is nice and moist thanks to the diced apples and applesauce.

Enjoy this lovely cake with friends and family, bring it along to a brunch get-together or serve it as part of a holiday meal. It’s an easy-to-make cake that’s sure to be a new go-to for any occasion and especially during apple season.

A piece of apple spice cake topped with caramel glaze with a forkful taken out of it on a small plate. A fork with a piece of the cake rests on the plate.

Recipe Highlights

  • Make with any fresh apples.
  • Heavenly cinnamon apple flavour.
  • Soft, moist texture.
  • Healthier oil-free & butterless recipe.
  • Easy to make in one bowl.
  • Enjoy in 1 hour.
  • Vegetarian and vegan (eggless and dairy-free).
  • Simple, budget-friendly ingredients.
  • Low in fat (if made without the caramel glaze).

Ingredient Notes

A visual ingredient list of the ingredients for vegan apple cake gathered in bowls and labelled with text.

This section covers a few notes on the ingredients and possible substitutions. Scroll down to find the printable recipe card with amounts and instructions.

  • Light Brown Sugar: Light brown sugar works best in this cake for flavour and moisture though you could substitute white sugar if needed. You’ll also need brown sugar to make the caramel glaze.
  • Applesauce: Unsweetened applesauce is recommended since there’s already quite a lot of sugar in the cake.
  • Milk: Any non-dairy milk is suitable. Unsweetened almond milk is recommended.
  • Vanilla: Pure vanilla extract or artificial vanilla both work.
  • Flour: Use all-purpose flour. You should be able to substitute a 1:1 gluten-free baking flour though it has not been tested.
  • Spices: The recipe calls for cinnamon and ground cloves. You could substitute 2 tsp apple pie spice if you like.
  • Leavening: You’ll need both baking powder and baking soda for this cake.
  • Apples: You can use any variety of apple. I like envy, Fuji, Honey crisp, ambrosia, Braeburn or gala. You can use Granny Smith apple if you like. The apples will soften in the cake once cooked so it doesn’t matter if it’s a soft or crunchy variety.
  • Coconut Cream: This is used to make the optional caramel glaze for the cake. Good quality thick coconut milk would also work.

Step-by-Step Photos

Prepare for making your cake by preheating the oven to 350 F and rubbing an 8×8-inch baking dish with oil.

Coconut oil, avocado oil or olive oil works or you can use a light coating of non-stick cooking spray.

Mix Sugar and Applesauce

Start by combining the applesauce and light brown sugar in a large mixing bowl until you have a smooth homogenous mixture.

You can use a wooden spoon, spatula or mix briefly with a handheld electric mixer.

Light brown sugar and applesauce in a glass mixing bowl. There are bowls of diced apple and milk beside the mixing bowl.

Add Milk and Vanilla

Add the non-dairy milk and vanilla extract to the bowl and whisk to combine.

Any dairy-free milk works such as cashew milk, oat milk, soy milk or almond milk.

I would suggest unsweetened milk but if it’s sweetened or vanilla-flavoured, that’s ok too.

Vanilla and milk added to a glass mixing bowl with applesauce and sugar.

Add Dry Ingredients

Add the flour to the bowl with the wet ingredients, then add the cinnamon, cloves, baking powder and baking soda.

While they’re sitting on top of the wet ingredients, carefully mix the dry ingredients up a bit to help distribute the baking powder and baking soda before mixing everything together.

Once you’ve lightly mixed the dry ingredients, fold them into the wet ingredients until just combined.

Flour, cinnamon and baking powder added to a glass mixing bowl with cake batter in it.

Add the Apple

Add the diced apple to the batter and gently fold to combine.

You can use diced apple or grated apple, peeled or unpeeled. I did not peel the apple for this recipe.

If you’d like to add something like crushed walnuts or raisins, add them now as well.

Raw apple cake batter with pieces of diced apple in a large glass mixing bowl.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared baking dish and shake or gently spread until it’s more or less in an even layer in the dish.

Raw apple cake batter with pieces of apple in it in a square glass baking dish.

Bake and Cool

Bake your apple cake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake.

If the toothpick has batter on it, bake the cake for a few more minutes. Do not check the cake before 35 minutes.

When it’s done it should be firm, have risen nicely and be light golden brown in colour. Let the cake cool for 20 minutes in the pan.

Overhead view of a baked apple cake in a square glass baking dish. You can see pieces of diced apple in the cake and the cake is a light golden brown colour.

Prepare the Glaze

When you’re ready, start preparing the caramel glaze. It can be made on the stovetop or in the microwave.

Whisk together the sugar and coconut cream then bring to a light boil over medium-low heat on the stovetop or in the microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring between intervals.

The caramel will be a bit runny at first but will thicken as it cools over the cake.

A brown sugar and coconut caramel glaze in a small white bowl.

Glaze the Cake

Pour the glaze over the cake. You can create a number of holes in the top of the cake with a toothpick if you’d like some of the glaze to seep into the cake.

Overhead view of an apple cake covered in a layer of caramel glaze.

That’s it! Slice and serve your cake right away while it’s still warm or let it cool at room temperature until the glaze is thicker.

A large wooden spatula with a square of caramel glazed apple cake on it held over the cake it was removed from in a glass baking dish.

Tips for Success

  1. Don’t over mix. Because the cake contains gluten, over mixing the batter will result in a dense, gummy cake. For a light and fluffy cake, stop mixing as soon as the flour is incorporated, no more.
  2. Be prepared. Be sure to preheat your oven and prepare the pans before you start. It’s important to get the cake into the oven as quickly after mixing the batter as you can to take advantage of the leavening power of the baking powder and baking soda.
  3. Measuring. Baking is a science so I always recommend using a digital scale to measure your ingredients for baking. This is the best way to ensure accuracy and therefore, success!
  4. Substitutions. It’s best to follow the recipe and not make substitutions unless you’re an experienced and confident baker. If you have specific questions about substitutions, please ask in the comment section and I’ll try to help the best I can.
  5. Use active leavening ingredients. Always store your baking powder and baking soda in a cool, dry place with their lids properly closed and make sure they’re not expired. We need them to be active to help the cake rise properly.
A large square of vegan apple cake on a plate. The cake is topped with a caramel glaze, there's a fork stuck in the cake and you can see some pieces of diced apple in the cake.

Variations & Serving

  • Skip the glaze and serve with a smear of apple butter, chia seed jam or coconut butter.
  • Date paste (just dates) or date caramel (dates, almond butter and a bit of milk) would make a good option for a sugar-free “frosting”.
  • Try this cashew cream cheese frosting or vegan cream cheese frosting instead of caramel.
  • For apple walnut cake, add up to 1/2 cup chopped walnuts when you add the apples. Pecans or raisins would also work nicely.
  • For another alternative to the glaze, sprinkle the cake with granulated sugar like demarera sugar, turbinado sugar or coconut sugar before baking. You could add some cinnamon to the sugar for a yummy cinnamon sugar topping.
  • A dusting of powdered sugar would also work as an alternative to the caramel glaze.
  • For a more Italian-inspired apple cake, omit the cinnamon and cloves.
  • Serve warm with or without the caramel glaze with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
A large square of caramel apple cake with a forkful taken from it on a plate. There are pieces of diced apple in the cake.

FAQs

How do I know if my cake is fully baked?

Baking time will depend on your oven size and temperature, pan size and the exact ingredients, so your cake make take more or less than the suggested 40 minutes to bake.

The best way to check for doneness is with a clean toothpick or skewer inserted into the center of the cake. If the toothpick comes out wet with batter on it, bake the cake for a few more minutes and check again.

You can check the cake at 35 minutes if you think it may be done but avoid opening the oven before that.

Can you freeze apple cake?

Yes. You can freeze apple cake just make sure it’s completely cool before storing. Wrap the whole cake tightly in plastic wrap or foil or freeze individual slices in a freeze bag or sealed container.

What kind of pan can I use?

You can use an 8-inch square pan, 8-9-inch deep pie tin, bundt cake pan or springform pan.

Can I make gluten-free apple cake?

You should be able to use a 1:1 gluten-free baking flour blend but I haven’t tested it so I can’t guarantee results.

What kind of apples should I use?

Any variety of apple works in this cake so I’d suggest any kind you prefer! Some of my favourites are gala, honey crisp, Fuji, envy and ambrosia.

For more tartness, you can use Granny Smith or any other tart green apple. A mixture of apples also works for more depth of flavour.

A fork with a piece of caramel apple cake on it held over a square of apple cake on a small plate.

Storing

  • Let the cake cool before storing.
  • The cake will keep in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 4 days.
  • Store in the fridge covered for up to 6 days. Just note the glaze will harden if stored in the fridge.
  • Freeze in a freezer bag or freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature or in the fridge before serving.

Did you try this recipe? I’d love to hear about it! Click here to leave a review.

Print
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Close up of a large square of apple spice cake from an angled view on a small plate. You can see bits of apple in the cake and it's topped with a thin layer of caramel.

Vegan Apple Cake

  • Author: Deryn Macey
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 40 mins
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

The perfect Fall dessert! This moist and tender vegan apple cake features plenty of warm cinnamon flavour and soft bites of apple throughout. 


Ingredients

Scale

For the Apple Cake

  • 1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed (150 g)
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce (118 g)
  • 1 cup almond milk (150 g)
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups white flour (400 g)
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 large apples, diced (about 2 ½ cups, 350 g)

For the Caramel

  • 1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed (150 g)
  • ¾ cup coconut cream  (130 g)

Instructions

  1. Prepare: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and rub down an 8×8 inch baking dish with coconut oil.
  2. Mix Sugar and Applesauce: In a large mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar and applesauce. Stir the ingredients together until homogenous.
  3. Add Milk and Vanilla: Whisk in the almond milk and vanilla until the batter is runny and free of any clumps.
  4. Add Dry Ingredients: Gently whisk in the flour, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda, and baking powder until no clumps of dry ingredients remain in the mixture.
  5. Fold in Apples: Gently fold the apples into the batter until they are evenly distributed.
  6. Bake: Pour the batter into the baking dish and bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick can be cleanly removed from the center of the dish. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 20 minutes.
  7. Prepare Glaze: Make the glaze by whisking together the brown sugar and coconut cream. Whisk together the brown sugar and coconut cream in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat the mixture in 30-second intervals in the microwave until the caramel begins to bubble or on the stovetop by constantly stirring over medium-low heat until the mixture begins to bubble. The glaze will initially be a little runny but will thicken as it cools.
  8. Glaze Cake: Pour the caramel glaze over the still-warm cake, serve, and enjoy!

Notes

Please see the Ingredients Notes section in the post for any possible substitutions. If I haven’t listed a substitution, it’s because I haven’t tested it and can’t guarantee results. If you’re confident with baking substitutions you can certainly make them, I just can’t guarantee how it will turn out.

Let the cake cook completely before storing. Store at room temperature wrapped in the pan or in a container for up to 4 days or in the fridge for up to 6 days. Note the caramel will harden if stored in the fridge. See the post above for freezing instructions.

Nutrition facts for the cake without the glaze, per square, are as follows: 302 calories, 1 g F/69 g C/5 g P.


Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 square with glaze
  • Calories: 414
  • Sodium: 195 mg
  • Fat: 5 g
  • Carbohydrates: 88 g
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Protein: 6 g

Keywords: vegan apple cake, vegan apple spice cake