Spiced Apple Cake With Brown Butter Buttercream

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I’m starting to think I have a tendency to overdo things just a wee bit. I really just wanted to make an easy, one-layer apple cake. I was picturing a light dusting of powdered sugar over the top. A snack cake. We could eat it for breakfast…lunch…dinner…snacks in between. Nobody would judge us because the name implies (insists?) we eat it between meals and often. That’s how we do with delicious snacks.

But then I couldn’t stop thinking about how glorious a super thick layer of brown butter buttercream would be. I mean, I know you agree with me. And then my simple spiced apple cake suddenly had jazz hands. Mega jazz hands. And nobody, and I mean, NOBODY, was sad about it.

The crumb on this bad boy will have you coming back for more, no doubt. It’s moist. Yep, we refer to cakes as moist around here. And it’s loaded with a whopping two cups of apples with just the right amount of spices, nothing excessive.

So you’re wondering what sent me on the spiced apple cake train? Fall? Yes. Apples on my trees? Yes, indeed. But more importantly and to an extremely superficial point, I had just purchased the most exquisite straight edged, square 9X9 pan. It’s by Nordicware (this isn’t an ad…just sharing) and it distributes temperature like a dream. So basically I wanted to see a square, straight-edged spiced apple cake. And that’s what consumes my days folks, in a nutshell.

Before We Get Started

  • Apples. My two favorite baking apples are Gala and Granny Smith. There are a host of other good baking apples. You want something crisp and flavorful that won’t become mealy and too soft while baking. I also didn’t peel my apples for this and I swear you can’t even tell. The apples are cut in a small dice. But you do you.
  • Nutmeg. Fresh grated nutmeg will change your life. Ditch the pre-ground stuff and start grating it as you bake. The smell is sublime.
  • Simplify. This is the ultimate snack cake. The brown butter buttercream makes it especially decadent. But if you’d like to take it down a notch, make it a wee more casual or just can’t bear the thought of whipping up some buttercream before you take a bite, then just sift some powdered sugar over the top and call it a day.

Let’s make some jazzy spiced apple cake, shall we?

Spiced Apple Cake With Brown Butter Buttercream Recipe by Rebecca Firth | DisplacedHousewife
Spiced Apple Cake With Brown Butter Buttercream Recipe by Rebecca Firth | DisplacedHousewife
Spiced Apple Cake With Brown Butter Buttercream Recipe by Rebecca Firth | DisplacedHousewife
Spiced Apple Cake With Brown Butter Buttercream Recipe by Rebecca Firth | DisplacedHousewife

Spiced Apple Cake With Brown Butter Buttercream

Makes One 9X9 Cake


For the Apples

  • 2 cups apples, unpeeled and small dice
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • ½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg

For the Cake

  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup veggie oil (I prefer sunflower seed oil)
  • 3 teaspoons real vanilla extract
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup low-fat milk

For the Brown Butter Buttercream

  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoon milk or more to thin


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease, flour and line a 9 X 9 baking pan with parchment paper letting the excess fall over the sides of the pan.
  2. In a medium bowl add the diced apples, brown sugar, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon and nutmeg and stir to coat.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Continue whisking and add in your sour cream, oil and vanilla extract.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, sea salt and nutmeg.
  5. Add the flour mixture and milk alternately to the sugar-egg mixture, ending with the milk. Fold the apple mixture into the batter in as few strokes as possible. Pour of the batter into the prepared pan. Gently tap the pan on the counter several times to release any trapped air bubbles.
  6. Bake for 35-40 minutes in the center of the oven or until a toothpick pressed into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool for 50 minutes in the pan then remove (using the excess parchment paper to pull it out of the pan) onto a rack to finish cooling.
  7. While the spiced apple cake cools, prepare your buttercream. Place the butter in a medium saucepan and melt over medium low heat. Once melted, crank up the heat to medium high. Stand by, stirring and watching. Small golden bits will start to settle on the bottom of the pan and it will start to smell delicious and nutty. Once this happens, take it off the heat and pour into a medium, heat-safe bowl to cool a bit.
  8. In an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment add the cooled brown butter and powdered sugar and mix on low until fully blended. Add in the cinnamon, nutmeg and the milk until thinned to the desired consistency. Mix until smooth. Spread over the top of the spiced apple cake…I like to leave a ½-inch gutter around the edge of the cake so that you can see it when looking over the top. But you do you! Enjoy!! xo

 On My Mind

  • Bake From Scratch did a Q&A with me about mooncakes, posted my original recipe AND they’re doing a mooncake mold giveaway. I hope you’ll check it all out!!!
  • Charleston. You guys, it’s so soon! I’m so excited to get on an airplane and have some delicious food and enjoy good conversation with people I’ve only admired from afar. So I’ve mentioned before that my dad’s family is from South Carolina. Specifically it’s Clover, South Carolina. I’ve emailed the town’s unofficial historian to see if they can find my great grandfather (a cotton farmer), Aunt Martha and Uncle Boyce’s (a bootlegger…naturally) homes. Wish me luck. And if by chance any Clover, South Carolina folks follow me, drop me a line!
  • Last year’s apple cake. This is last year’s apple cake. Will I make one in 2018? I’m already thinking about it…
  • Sinner. Have you guys watched this series? It just concluded last week. Very creepy, weird, binge-watchable.
  • Sending lots of love + light!

Rebecca xoxo


Leave a Comment


  • Stephanie October 13, 2022 at 10:56 AM

    Thank you so much for this recipe, my family requests it every year. My husband even requested it as his birthday gift. It is amazing, delicious, and perfect in every way.

    • Rebecca Firth October 18, 2022 at 2:22 PM

      Aww, thank you so much Stephanie! Happy birthday to your husband!!! xox

  • Samantha November 8, 2020 at 1:48 PM

    Do you put ALL of the brown bits into the powder sugar or just the liquid part?

    • Rebecca Firth November 8, 2020 at 3:06 PM

      Hi Samantha! I put all of it in there—makes it taste delicious!!! xox

  • SJ October 9, 2020 at 4:07 AM

    Hi! I was thinking of making it with your bourbon brown butter cream, do you think I should also incorporate the simple syrup like you did with the pumpkin cake or just do the buttercream?

    • Rebecca Firth October 9, 2020 at 3:48 PM

      Hi SJ,
      I think that would be really fabulous — I love the combo of apples, bourbon and brown butter. Let me know how it goes!! xox

  • Angela December 30, 2018 at 4:33 AM

    I have recently subscribed to your blog, and this cake was listed as in the top recipes of 2018.
    I am from Australia and am a little confused by your pan measurement, a “9 x 9 loaf pan”. This would be a square pan, however in Australia a loaf pans is long and rectangular.
    Could you please advise?
    Looking forward to making the cake as the ingredients seem delicious.
    Regards from Australia,

    • Rebecca Firth December 30, 2018 at 4:11 PM

      Hi Angela!
      I hate when there are mistakes, but I love it when people point them out!! I just edited that to be a 9X9 baking dish and yep, it’s square. I’m guessing I started testing it as a long, narrow tea cake and then went for the square. Thank you so much for asking. Happy New Year!! xoxo

  • Coco in the Kitchen April 17, 2018 at 7:26 PM

    Apple cake is all I think about lately and this one is tops.
    I can’t wait to bake it tonight, Rebecca! xo

  • Tamara November 12, 2017 at 1:40 AM

    I just made this cake for a family dinner and it was devoured!!! That brown butter icing was nothing short of amazing and the cake had the perfect amount of spice. I used ambrosia apples and they were perfect in this cake.

    • Rebecca Firth November 12, 2017 at 1:59 AM

      Hi Tamara!! This sweet note just made my night! I am so glad that you loved it!!! Brown butter makes EVERYTHING better!!!!! Sending lots of love!! xoxo

  • Andrea October 31, 2017 at 6:03 PM

    Oh my goodness! Good thing the kids are at school. I licked the bowl clean twice! Delicious cake, even better icing! This was supposed to be dessert tonight…hope it makes it!

  • Maegen October 23, 2017 at 1:47 AM

    I made this a couple weeks ago and I was unbelievably good!! Do you think it would hold up well as a tiered event cake?? Thinking about making it for a fall christening cake. The flavors are just perfect!

  • Arvan Achmad October 14, 2017 at 4:32 PM

    this looks so amazing! i should try it someday and of course i’ll tag you on instagram :D

  • Jaymina October 12, 2017 at 1:50 PM

    This looks amazing…I can not wait to try it! We went to the apple orchard a couple weekends ago and I still have about ten honeycrisp apples. Would honeycrisp work?

  • amy October 2, 2017 at 4:53 PM

    This looks so amazing, really excited to make this, esp. since I just went apple picking :) Question…am I able to sub greek yogurt and almond milk for sour cream and low fat milk? And is it possible to use whole wheat pastry flour over regular flour? Let me know, those are just what I have handy! Thank you!!

    • Rebecca Firth October 3, 2017 at 7:08 PM

      Hi Amy!!! I haven’t tested it with those swaps…but the yogurt and almond milk should be fine. The whole wheat pastry flour could make it a wee denser, but it should be fine as well. Please come back and let us know how it goes!!! xox

  • Kate September 26, 2017 at 10:25 PM

    I made this today and it is amazing.

    • Rebecca Firth September 27, 2017 at 12:39 AM

      I love this!! I’m so glad you enjoyed it Kate!!! xoxo

  • Amisha September 25, 2017 at 9:20 PM

    I love tea cakes as you already know! I make too many of them! Love your spiced apple cake , it looks so delicate and moist seriously! and that brown butter buttercream looks divine! Love a thick layer! And freshly grated nutmeg?! I do not get the bottled stuff! Love the smell! :D Best of luck with the awards Rebecca! Rooting for you xo

    • Rebecca Firth September 27, 2017 at 12:45 AM

      Yessss, my tea cake loving twin!! Thank you for all of your sweet words Amisha!! I hope to see you soon. xoxo

  • Ruby September 25, 2017 at 7:01 PM

    I would definitely say you made a good call with that buttercream- sometimes simplicity is unnecessary. What a gorgeous and delicious looking cake! Definitely need to make it sometime this fall :) xx

    • Rebecca Firth September 27, 2017 at 12:44 AM

      “…sometimes simplicity is unnecessary.’ That might be my new life motto. xoxo

  • Ali M September 25, 2017 at 4:09 PM

    I made this lovely, light and moist cake yesterday evening. Do to what I had on hand, I made the following adjustments (although I am sure the original recipe is just as glorious if not more so!):
    – Subbed siggi’s vanilla skyr for the sour cream
    – Decreased granulated sugar by 1 tbsp to compensate for sugar in the yogurt
    – Subbed 1/2 tsp of ground cardamom in for some of the cinnamon in the dry ingredients
    – Baked in a 8×8 pan since I didn’t have a 9×9 and baked for 47 minutes.

    I used honey crisp apples FYI

    • Rebecca Firth September 25, 2017 at 5:27 PM

      I love these notes Ali — thank you so much for putting them here!!! I’m sure other people will find them so helpful!! Enjoy your cake!! xoxo

  • Laura | Tutti Dolci September 25, 2017 at 12:49 AM

    You can never go wrong with a great apple cake and the brown butter buttercream makes this one a keeper! Basically, I want to make this cake this instant! :)

    • Rebecca Firth September 25, 2017 at 2:47 AM

      I couldn’t agree more — thanks Laura!!! xoxo

  • Mary Ann | The Beach House Kitchen September 24, 2017 at 5:15 PM

    I’m totally with you Rebecca! The mega jazz hands version of anything is always best! That brown butter buttercream sounds amazing! And a nice thick layer too. And how lucky are you to have your own apple trees? I’ve got a great square pan too that always inspires me to make something yummy! I think I hear it calling right now! I’m getting so excited for you for your trip to Charleston!!

    • Rebecca Firth September 24, 2017 at 5:20 PM

      Me too Mary Ann! I love visiting new places. And I’m so loving the square, straight-edged pan — what took me so long?!?! xox

  • Kelsey September 24, 2017 at 2:18 PM

    What kind of apples did you use?? Looks great! :)

    • Rebecca Firth September 24, 2017 at 3:38 PM

      Hi Kelsey — Thank you so much for your question. I will add that to the notes above. My favorites for baking are Gala and Granny Smith. Enjoy!! xo

  • Kate September 24, 2017 at 2:41 AM

    Me likes the look of this.

  • fatimah September 23, 2017 at 10:11 PM

    THIS. i thought i couldn’t take the gorgeousness yesterday but here we go . also, loved reading your interview and thanks in advance for our after school snack for monday xo

    • Rebecca Firth September 23, 2017 at 10:15 PM

      I wish I could just set aside a month and re-photograph my old stuff — it was so much fun!!! And thank you so much for reading the interview!! Happy snacking Fatimah! xoxoxo

  • Kenny September 23, 2017 at 9:28 PM

    Wow!! This looks great. I can’t wait to make the recipe. Great job.