Grandma’s Apple Cake with Cinnamon Browned Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

This quick and delicious sheet pan apple cake was a staple in our grandmother’s kitchen. Beyond being simple to prepare, it’s uniquely apple forward. We’ve had our fair share of “apple spiced cakes” that are basically cinnamon cakes with apple sauce mixed in. This is not one of those; it is truly apple forward with large chunks of apple scattered throughout the cinnamon scented batter. When it bakes, the batter and apple bake up together leaving lightly sweetened, juicy, bright chunks of apple in every bite.

The apple chunks are intentionally left on the larger side to ensure juicy apple bits in every bite. The delicious brown sugar batter envelopes the apple chunks as it bakes leaving the most delicious combination. Although it’s great on its own, we love swirling on a browned butter cream cheese icing. The combination of toasty browned butter, tangy cream cheese, warm cinnamon cake, and juicy bright apples is a perfect bite. This sheet pan cake is so easy to make and seriously delicious.

The cake: to make the cake start by coring, peeling, and slicing the apples into half inch cubes. Add the diced apples, eggs, and vanilla into a bowl and stir until combined. Then add in the sugar, spices, and butter into the mixture. Finally add in the flour, salt, and baking soda until just combined. This produces a creamy batter that is very chunky with large apple pieces scattered throughout.

Cinnamon brown sugar topping: mix together cinnamon, brown sugar, and walnuts (if you are adding). Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the cake. The sugar mixture creates a crystallized, brown sugar spiced goodness that lightly seeps into the cake making it even more delicious.

Baking: bake the cake for around 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. This will produce a moist, tender, spiced cake with large, juicy chunks of apples throughout. It’s so delicious on its own but we love topping it with icing for an even more perfect bite.

Browned butter cinnamon cream cheese: for the icing start by browning the butter in a saucepan. Browning the butter will create a richy, toasty, uniquely delicious icing. It’s really worth the extra step of browning the butter because what doesn’t browned butter make better? Once the butter has come back to a solid, add it and the cream cheese to a mixing bowl. Whip them until they are light and fluffy. Add in the salt, vanilla and cinnamon until combined. On low, add in the powdered sugar a ½ cup at a time. It’s important to do this stage on low to avoid your entire kitchen getting dusted in powdered sugar. Once the sugar has been added, turn up the mixer to medium high and whip together until light and fluffy.


  1. Apples: these should be a variety that has notes other than sweetness. We like to use Honeycrisp or Pink Crisp as they have a balanced sweet and tart flavor.

  2. Nuts: we like adding nuts to the cake, but these are totally optional. Leave them out or use pecans instead of walnuts.

  3. Browned butter: you don’t need to use browned butter but this takes an icing that is already good and makes it even better. We could seriously eat this out of the bowl. It also pairs perfectly with the apple cake and cinnamon, so we strongly recommend this step!

Yield: 9x13 pan ~12 pieces

PREP TIME 15 minutes | COOK TIME 40-45 minutes | TOTAL TIME 60 minutes


Apple Cake:

4 cups apple (~4 large apples) peeled, cored, and diced into ½” cubes (don’t use too sweet of an apple—we love pink crisps)

2 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 ¼ cup sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon cardamom

½ teaspoon ginger

½ cup butter, melted

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

Cinnamon Walnut Sprinkle:

½ cup brown sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ cup walnuts or pecans (optional)

Browned Butter Cream Cheese Icing:

1 stick browned butter

1 stick cream cheese

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups powdered sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350

  2. In a large bowl, add diced apples, vanilla and eggs. Stir until combined

  3. Add sugar, cinnamon,ginger, cardamon and butter. Stir until combined

  4. Add flour, salt, and baking soda. Stir again until combined

  5. Grease a 9x13 pan and pour in the batter. Set aside

  6. For the topping: mix sugar, cinnamon, and walnuts with finger or a fork. Sprinkle evenly over the cake batter

  7. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Set aside to cool before icing

Browned butter cream cheese icing:

  1. In a small saucepan, add a stick of butter and place over medium high heat

  2. Stir and keep a close eye until little bits of golden butter form

  3. Once the butter gets golden, remove it quickly and move it to a new container to cool and ensure it does not burn. Wait for the butter to become solid again before using in the icing (you can pop it in the freezer to speed up this process)

  4. In the base of a kitchen aid or large bowl with a hand mixer, add cooled, browned butter and cream cheese

  5. On medium high speed, beat the cream cheese and butter until fluffy (around 2 minutes)

  6. Add salt, cinnamon, and vanilla. Whip until combined

  7. On low speed, add the powder sugar ½ cup at a time

  8. Once all the sugar has been added, turn up the mixture and whip on medium high until light and fluffy (around 2 minutes)

  9. Spread icing over the cooled, sheet cake in an even layer. This is a generous amount of icing, so add as much or little as you like

Entertainer’s Tip: Looking for something to serve at a brunch? You can also serve this without icing as a brunch apple coffee cake.