King-size apple cake keeps us intrigued, well-buttered

We have been enjoying this simple, old-fashioned apple cake from Susan Herrmann Loomis’ 1991 Farmhouse Cookbook for several days. Long before she began making everyone jealous with her tales of Rue Tatin in a small Norman town and rural French cooking, Loomis traveled across the U.S., interviewing farm wives and collecting their homey recipes. This “King-Size Apple Cake,” from one Alice Berner of Big Sandy, Montana, is a winner.

Apple Bundt cake with caramel icing

It may be the seasonally-appropriate mix of cinnamon and allspice bumped up with some nice quality cocoa, but it’s most likely the cake’s large amount of butter that makes it so delicious. The batter contains an entire cup of butter, which helps give the cake an excellent flavor and crumb. The butter gets an assist from grated apple (it’s a good way to use up a lot of late-in-the-season and not-so-great-looking fruit), currants and a goodly amount of chopped walnuts. And there’s a light slathering of caramel icing (yeah, with more butter).

Apple Bundt cake with caramel icing

Grating the apples takes a bit of effort, but overall the cake is not very difficult, as long as one has a 10-inch Bundt pan and a working oven. Toasting the walnuts and putting in a dash of vanilla adds even more depth to the cake’s flavor. Loomis claims the cake “will keep at least a week if it is tightly covered.” But we’re pretty sure that, due to constant snacking (mostly the fault of Steve), ours won’t last nearly that long.


  • Servings: makes a 10-inch cake
  • Print

(adapted from Susan Herrmann Loomis’ Farmhouse Cookbook)


  • 1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2-2/3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3 TB unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 c. hot water
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 c. grated, peeled, apple
  • 1 c. currants
  • 1 c. chopped toasted and cooled walnuts

Preheat oven to 350° F, with a rack in the center. Generously butter a 10″ Bundt pan. Sprinkle flour in the pan and shake to distribute evenly.

Sift flour, cocoa, salt, cinnamon and allspice into a small bowl.

Cream butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, stopping occasionally to wipe down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula. Beat until mixture is light and fluffy.

Mix baking soda and hot water and stir until soda is dissolved.

Add 1/3 of the sifted dry ingredients to the butter mixture, then 1/2 of the baking soda/water mixture, then 1/3 of the dry ingredients, then remaining baking soda/water mixture, then remaining dry ingredients. Stop occasionally to wipe down the sides of bowl with a spatula.

Stir in vanilla, apple, currants and walnuts.

Spoon the batter, which is quite thick, into the prepared pan and level off.

Bake for about 1 hour (and maybe 5 minutes more), until cake is dark brown and top springs back when touched. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then release from pan and allow to continue cooling on rack.

Caramel Icing:

  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 TB milk
  • 1 c. confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Melt butter in a heavy saucepan. When butter is melted, stir in brown sugar and salt. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, just until sugar melts.

Stir in milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and cool to slightly above room temperature.

Add confectioners’ sugar, about 1/2 cup at a time, whisking until the icing is smooth and spreadable. Whisk in vanilla extract.

Glaze cooled cake with icing. It will be a rather thin covering.



  1. This cake looks so good, Michelle and I’ve got a new, untested bundt pan looking for its raison d’être. (The last one ended up in the trash with an unbelievably recalcitrant cake. That will fix ’em both!) I can’t think of a better way to break it in than with a cake that calls for a cup of butter.

  2. This is one of my favorite cakes. Very easy and absolutely delicious! It is so good that it never lasts more than a few days in our home and there are only two of us.

  3. Delicious cake…this time of year is right for a cake like this. Funnily enough I’ve been in touch with Susan Loomis and we might put something together with her cooking classes and my photography…the contact came after my son had been shooting at Rue Tatin for “Jamie Magazine”.

  4. I’d never have thought of mixing cocoa with apples etc but now you’ve put this out there it seems like a brilliant idea. And caramel icing, yum. Thanks, Michelle, definitely one to try.

    • Thanks, Alice! Steve said the other night: “You know, there are some slices of that you put in the freezer for your parents. We could eat them and then you could just make another cake.” 😉

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