This post is brought to you in partnership with California Grown. Learn how to Eat the Season with CA Grown.
This delicious apple cake with pistachios is full of Granny Smith and Fuji apples and crunchy pistachios. The cake is moist and dense with a hint of lemon that pairs really well with the sweetness of the cake and the tart apples. If you're looking for a recipe for all those apples you just bought or picked this is the one you need.
When California Grown asked me to partner with them to create a dessert featuring California Apples this apple cake with pistachios immediately came to mind. For some reason, this combination just appealed to me and the final cake was better than expected. And the best part? The cake tasted better on the 2nd and 3rd days.
Why This Recipe Tastes So Good
This Apple Cake is based on my coffee cake recipe, with the right amount of butter, eggs, sugar, and flour to produce a moist cake that is full of apples. Apples are cut into small dice to ensure they mix well with the batter. Cinnamon is the perfect pairing with apples and the lemon zest adds a floral note and tartness that is perfect with the apples.
About California Apples
When you think of apples you may think of Oregon and Washington, but California is the 5th largest producer of apples in the United States and the 2nd largest exporter.
California focuses on four apple varieties: Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, and Cripps Pink. Granny Smith is my favorite. It's perfect for just eating and it's perfect in baked goods. Gala and Fuji are my other two favorite apples and I look forward to trying the Cripps Pink.
Fresh from the tree California apples are in season July to January. If you like to eat seasonally like I do, use this Californa In Season Food Chart to find out when your favorite foods are available.
About California Pistachios
Growing up my mother loved pistachios. They used to be sold in food section department stores and she bought them almost every time she went shopping. At that time pistachios were dyed a bright red and I didn't realize they were green until I was in college.
Pistachios have been grown in the Middle East for thousands of years, but first came to the United States in the 1880s. The first trees were planted in the 1930s and the first nuts were harvested almost 10 years later.
Most pistachios are grown in the Central Valley of California where 99% of U.S. pistachios are grown. What you may not know is that when you buy pistachios you are supporting a community of family-owned farms. Read more about how to support California farmers.
Apple Cake Recipe Ingredients
Below are the ingredients for this easy apple cake
- Fresh Apples. Apples are the star of this delicious cake and are amazing this time of year. My favorite are Granny Smith apples. For a list of apples see my recipe of Apple Hand Pies
- Pistachios. Pistachios add flavor and crunch to this cake. For this recipe buy shelled or unshelled raw pistachios and toast them in the oven. Don't buy shelled pistachios that are already toasted, because they may be over toasted and have a slight bitter taste.
- All-Purpose Flour. All-purpose flour provides the structure for the cake.
- Granulated Sugar. Sugar adds sweetness and moisture
- Light Brown Sugar. Adds sweetness and a hint of molasses flavor.
- Whole Eggs. Large eggs are used in this and all my recipes. The eggs weigh approximately 50 grams each, so if you have different size eggs weigh them. You may need more or fewer eggs depending on their size.
- Buttermilk. Buttermilk contributes to the moisture and tang of the cake. Because I like the tang that buttermilk adds, I don't add baking soda to diminish it.
- Baking Powder. Is the chemical leavener for this recipe and provides the lift for this cake.
- Unsalted Butter. The butter provides , flavor, moisture and fat.
- Lemon Zest. The lemon zest provides some tartness and a nice floral taste.
- Ground Cinnamon. Ground cinnamon goes perfectly with the apples in this cake. Other spices that you can try are nutmeg, ginger and cardamom.
How to Make This Easy Apple Cake
This recipe works best with a 9-inch springform pan or a 9x3-inch round cake pan.
Place the flour, toasted pistachios, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt in a medium-sized bowl and whisk for 30 seconds to combine.
Zest the lemon into the white sugar and brown sugar and rub it into the sugar. Place the butter and lemon zest-sugar mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat the contents on medium-high until the sugar and butter are light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating on medium after each addition. It's important to add the eggs one at a time to ensure they emulsify into the batter.
When the flour is added, mix at low speed just until the flour is incorporated. Mixing at a low speed will help prevent the formation of too much gluten, which can result in a tough cake.
After all the flour and buttermilk are added add the chopped apples and mix in by hand. Remember to scrape the sides and bottom to incorporate all the matter. Scrape the batter into the prepared springform pan and use an offset spatula to smooth the batter.
Peel and slice an apple into 24 slices. Arrange the slices on top. Bake the cake for 65-70 minutes or until the center is at 200°F degrees. If using a cake tester a few crumbs will cling to the cake tester when you pull it from the cake.
Remove the cake from the oven. Run an icing spatula around the outside edges of the cake to loosen it. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes and then remove the outer ring of the springform pan.
When the cake has cooled and is just barely warm, brush it with warm apricot jam and then sprinkle it with the remaining pistachio nuts.
If you're serving this cake the next day for a special occasion wait until the day you're serving it to brush it with the apricot jam and sprinkle with pistachios. That way your cake will still have a nice shine to it and the nuts will keep their crunch.
How to Serve the Cake
This easy apple cake is delicious all by itself. It's moist, tender, and full of apples. The perfect mouthful especially if you love apples. But if you want to decorate it for a special occasion I recommend a light sprinkle of powdered sugar.
You can also serve it with butter pecan or pistachio ice cream. Two ice cream flavors I think would be delicious for this cake.
How To Store This Cake
The apple cake can be stored at room temperature for two days in a covered cake container. After two days store the cake in the refrigerator in an airtight container or wrapped in two layers of plastic wrap.
If you're in a warm climate, store the cake in the refrigerator after it has cooled.
The cake tastes best at room temperature. So if baking this cake and storing it in the refrigerator, let it sit at room temperature for 90 minutes before serving.
Pro Tips for Making This Recipe
- Use a tart apple for the cake. The tart apple is the perfect combination with the sweet cake. Don't use apples that have become mushy or overripe. They won't hold their shape as the cake bakes.
- Measure out all the ingredients before starting to make the cake. This step will ensure that you don't forget anything. Use a scale for measuring the flour to ensure the best results.
- The eggs, butter and buttermilk should be at room temperature. Room temperature is 65 to 68 degrees F.
- Don't skimp on creaming the butter and sugar together. This step aerates the butter and ensures a fine crumb.
- After the flour is added, mix on low speed to avoid over mixing the batter and making the final cake tough.
- Use a springform pan to ensure that you can remove the cake from the pan with messing up the topping. If you don't have a springform pan, create a sling the pan by folding parchment paper into a 4-inch wide sling to lift the cake when it's done.
Recipe - Frequently Asked Questions
If you don't have buttermilk you can make your own. Combine 3/4 cup of whole milk with 2 teaspoons of lemon juice or vinegar and let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes until it appears curdled. You can also replace the buttermilk with an equal amount of sour cream.
Some of the best apples for baking are Granny Smith, Fuji, Golden Delicious, Honey Crisp, and Gala.
You can serve the cake with our favorite ice cream, but I think it tastes best all by itself.
Yes, you can freeze an apple cake. Wrap it in two layers of plastic wrap, store in a freezer bag. When ready to eat, let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight and then let it sit at room temperature for 90 minutes before serving.
For the occasional snack, cut the cake into individual servings, wrap each piece in plastic wrap and thaw the refrigerator or warm in a 300F oven.
This apple cake is perfect for any occasion and is the perfect fall and early winter dessert with the varieties of apples that are available. If you make this cake please leave a comment below or let me know if you have any questions. Share this recipe with friends and family and if you're on social media connect with me @bakesbybrownsugar.
More Delicious Apple Recipes
If you love apple desserts here are more apple recipes you might light to try:
Apple Cake with Pistachios
- 1-3/4 cups (248 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 3/4 cup (120 grams) toasted pistachios roughly chopped and divided
- 3/4 cup (150) grams granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup (125) grams light brown sugar, packed
- 12 tablespoons (170 grams) unsalted butter room temperature
- 3 large (150 grams) eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk room temperature
- Lemon zest from one medium-sized lemon
- 3 (700 grams) Granny Smith apples
- 3 tablespoons apricot jam
- 2 teaspoons water
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper.
- Toast the pistachios for 8 minutes until the pistachios are just beginning to brown. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool. Roughly chop 1/2 cup (80 grams) of the toasted nuts
- Place the flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and salt in a bowl and whisk for 30 seconds to combine the dry ingredients. Add the chopped pistachio nuts and whisk to combine.
- Peel and chop two of the apples into 1/2-inch dice. You should have about 3 cups or 300 grams of chopped apples. For the third apple, peel it and then cut into quarters. Cut each quarter into 6 slices for a total of 24 slices. These slices will be used to decorate the top of the cake.
- Place the white sugar and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Zest the lemon directly onto the sugar. Use your fingers to rub the lemon zest into the sugar and break up any clumps in the brown sugar. Beat the sugar and butter on medium speed for 4-5 minutes until it looks fluffy and is lighter in color.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating on medium speed until the egg is incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- Add half the flour-nut mixture and mix on low speed until the flour mixture is incorporated. Add all the buttermilk and mix on medium-low speed to incorporate. The batter will look a little curdled but that’s okay. Add the remaining flour and mix on low speed until incorporated. Any flour left on the sides of the bowl will be mixed in by hand.
- Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the chopped apples all at once. Use a silicone spatula to mix in the chopped apples into the cake batter. Scrape the batter into the prepared springform pan and use an offset spatula to smooth the batter. Arrange the sliced apples on top.
- Bake cake in the oven 60-70 minutes until the center of the cake registers 200°F or a cake skewer comes out clean or with just a few crumbs clinging to it.
- Remove the cake from the oven. Let it cool for 10 minutes in the springform pan and then remove the sides.
- Once the cake has come out of the oven place the apricot jam and water in a small saucepan. Place the pan over medium heat and cook the jam just until it starts to bubble.
- Strain the jam in a fine-mesh strainer. Once the sides of the springform pan are removed and brush the top of the warm cake and apples with the apricot glaze. Sprinkle the top with the remaining pistachios.
- Allow the cake to cool completely and then serve.
- Store the cake at room temperature in a covered container. Or store it in the refrigerator in an air-tight container for up to 7 days. The cake will still be good after 7 days but it will start to dry out.