Estonian Apple Cake

A simple, rustic apple cake from my Estonian friend Pille, made from scratch in just one bowl with so many fresh apples, you'll be wondering if they're too many. The old-fashioned cake itself is moist and scented with cinnamon, the topping is thin and crackly-sweet.

Fresh & Seasonal, Perfect for Fall & Apple Season. Mix In One Bowl, No Mixer Required. Fits an 8x8 Pan, a 9x13 Pan, a Round Cake Pan, Even a Sheetpan. Rave Reviews!
Estonian Apple Cake, a rustic apple cake ♥, moist and cinnamon-y with a crackly top. Fresh & Seasonal, Perfect for Fall & Apple Season. Mix In One Bowl, No Mixer Required. Recipe, baking tips, nutrition and WW Weight Watchers points included.

  • "... yum!" ~ LeAnne
  • "... my family inhaled it.....very good." ~ Maria via Facebook
  • "... it was delicious. ... It was super simple to put together. I can see what you mean about it feeling like too many apples but it was perfect!" ~ Anonymous
  • "... my bridge club loved it! It's a keeper and I've rejected other apple cakes." ~ Carole

How We Put Names on Recipes

If our apples are local, let our inspiration be global.

Three decades ago, my friend Pille grew up in the Baltic nation of Estonia behind the Iron Curtain, imagining lives on the other side through a cookbook called World Dishes. Her favorite recipe became a simple apple cake called Kanada õunakook, Canadian Apple Cake.

Pille wrote about her Canadian Apple Cake back in the early days of food blogging, many early food bloggers were instantly smitten and adopted apple cake.

Last fall, I made Pille’s cake for a bake sale in my hometown on the Minnesota-Ontario border. Knowing locals would yawn at a Canadian apple cake, I renamed Pille's apple Estonian Apple Cake".

Sure enough, it sold fast!

So is this simple apple cake a Canadian Apple Cake? or an Estonian Apple Cake???

The funny thing is, Pille herself doesn't see how her Canadian apple cake is authentically Canadian and my version perhaps originated in Estonia but is only loosely Estonian. It is, however, much similar to omenakakku, the Finnish apple cake I learned to make while living in nearby Finland as an exchange student.

What I do know is this: this apple cake has been a favorite since 2005. It calls for so many apples, you'll wonder if they're too many. (They're not.) It's rich with cinnamon. It's easy to make on a whim.

In my book, that makes this a world apple cake, a global apple cake, one to share with family and friends and neighbors all across our world, wherever we live.

What's In Estonian Apple Cake? Pantry Ingredients!

In all my recipes and most well-written recipes, every ingredient serves a purpose. Each one matters. Each one contributes to the overall dish. It's not that an ingredient can't be substituted by something else but when choosing the substitute, it's important to understand why the original ingredient was present in the first place.

Estonian Apple Cake almost ready for the oven, a rustic apple cake ♥, moist and cinnamon-y with a crackly top. Fresh & Seasonal, Perfect for Fall & Apple Season. Mix In One Bowl, No Mixer Required. Recipe, baking tips, nutrition and WW Weight Watchers points included.

  • Egg Just one egg, it helps give the cake structure. It's listed first in the ingredient list so that it can be whisked really well before adding the remaining ingredients.
  • Milk Milk adds moisture. Skim milk works, so does 2% milk, whole milk, etc. You can easily substitute buttermilk or keffir or yogurt for milk, just add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and if needed, enough milk to match the consistency of milk.
  • Salted Butter For flavor, I really prefer cakes that use butter rather than vegetable oil. Like many European bakers, I use salted butter 100% of the time. I just find that it works better for me, especially with old-fashioned recipes like this. And besides, I'd rather buy one kind of butter versus two or more!
  • Sugar Sugar adds sweetness but also helps give the cake structure and helps give it a pretty color.
  • Flour + Salt + Baking Powder I use unbleached all-purpose flour. Bread flour has a tiny bit more protein but makes a good substitute in nearly all baked goods but especially ones with a rustic texture like Estonian Apple Cake. Don't skip the salt, which flavors the cake. Don't skip the baking powder, it helps the cake rise in the oven.
  • Cinnamon Estonian Apple Cake is definitely cinnamon-y, that's because there's cinnamon in the cake itself but even more importantly in the crisp topping. Instead of cinnamon, you might use ginger (it's good with pears) or two long-time favorite Penzey's spice blends, one called "baking spice" and another called "cake spice".
  • Apples Estonian Apple Cake uses an entire pound of apples, so much apple you might wonder if it's too much. It's not! Do peel and chop the apples into small bits. Could you use a mix of apples? Of course, that's a favorite trick when making American Apple Pie. I've also baked Estonian Apple Cake with ripe pears, very good!
  • Crisp Topping (Butter, Flour, More Cinnamon and Cold Butter) The topping is crisp and crackly, I just love it! Be sure to start with cold butter. If you start with warm butter or yikes, melt it, you'll end up with a greasy mess on top instead of a crisp, cinnamon-y crumb topping.
  • That's it! You could make this right now, am I right/!

Which Apples Are Best in Apple Cake?

Estonian Apple Cake, a rustic apple cake ♥, moist and cinnamon-y with a crackly top. Fresh & Seasonal, Perfect for Fall & Apple Season. Mix In One Bowl, No Mixer Required. Recipe, baking tips, nutrition and WW Weight Watchers points included.

  • WHAT'S ON HAND The best apples for apple cake are the ones you have on hand so that can move to the kitchen to start baking this very minute. Delicious apples (that's a capital D Delicious, the bright-red eating apples) are a possible exception but hey, if that's what you've got, that's what you've got. Estonian Apple Cake is a rustic, adaptable cake, it can take pretty much anything you throw at it.

  • CHOOSING BAKING APPLES AT THE GROCERY STORE The pretty green Granny Smith apples are good for baking, they are less sweet and keep their structure during baking. I also like Jonathan apples, Golden Delicious apples and their hybrid called Jonagold. Also look for Braeburn apples, Gala apples, Empire apples (my favorite eating apple) and Cortland apples. Honeycrisp apples bake well but, well, they're more expensive so we eat honeycrisp apples more than we bake with honeycrisps. That said? Please see #1, What's On Hand.

  • BONUS APPLE-SHOPPING TIPS The apple labels at the grocery store will give you tips on whether an apple is a better eating apple or a better baking apple. Unless you're speaking to the actual apple grower, don't count on the salespeople at farmstands, fruitstands or farmers markets to know much about which apples are best for what. Apples are often more expensive when purchased individually, instead look for less expensive bags of apples. But do check the bags for dates. One September, I saw bags of apples at a local grocery store, right up front and for a good price. The problem? They were year-old apples and were from freaking-New Zealand! Just when local Missouri and Illinois apples were at their very best. The produce manager just shrugged when I mentioned it. Arrrgh.

What Pan Is Best for Estonian Apple Cake?

Estonian Apple Cake, a rustic apple cake ♥, moist and cinnamon-y with a crackly top. Fresh & Seasonal, Perfect for Fall & Apple Season. Mix In One Bowl, No Mixer Required. Recipe, baking tips, nutrition and WW Weight Watchers points included.

  • 8x8 Square Pan I love the casual, everyday feel of Estonian Apple Cake cut into easy squares. Over time, I use an 8x8 pan for this cake more often than other pans.

  • 9-Inch Round Cake Pan A round pan makes for more elegant pie-shaped slices, the kind you'd put on a dessert plate to serve with vanilla cream sauce or whipped cream or even a scoop of ice cream. If you'd like to lift the cake out after baking to display on a cake plate, spray the bottom of the pan with baking spray, line with parchment, then spray the parchment too.

  • 9x13 Rectangular Pan A 9x13 pan is almost double the area as an 8x8 pan. That means it's easy to just double the recipe. Do know, the baking time may vary.

  • Sheet Pans A half-size sheet pan has four times the area of an 8x8, so quadruple the recipe to serve a crowd. A quarter sheet pan has double the area of an 8x8, so double the recipe. Please know, the baking time may vary and I haven't tested these options.

  • RESOURCES [affiliate links] Here are the sheetpans I use for baking, a large sheet pan (half) plus a lid for half sheet pan (very handy) and a sheet pan (quarter) with lid.

You'll Love Estonian Apple Cake If You ...

  • appreciate simple cakes made in one bowl, no mixer required
  • love cinnamon, here it's in the cake and especially in the topping
  • like a cake that can be rustic and casual or dressed up for a special dessert
  • live for barely sweet coffeecakes for weekend breakfasts and brunches
  • like my mom, collect dessert recipes for when "supper is a little skimpy"

Estonian Apple Cake, a rustic apple cake ♥, moist and cinnamon-y with a crackly top. Fresh & Seasonal, Perfect for Fall & Apple Season. Mix In One Bowl, No Mixer Required. Recipe, baking tips, nutrition and WW Weight Watchers points included.

Ready to get started? Here's your recipe!

Just updated, first published way back in 2008


A worldly, neighborly cake
Hands-on time: 25 minutes
Time to table: 90 minutes
Makes 1 8x8 square pan or 1 9-inch round pan, about 9 squares or slices

Double the recipe for a 9x13 pan or quarter sheetpan. Quadruple the recipe for a half sheetpan.
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup (115g) milk (skim is fine)
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick, 60g) salted butter, melted (see TIPS)
  • 1/2 cup (100g) sugar
  • 1-1/4 cups flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring or 155g
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon (see TIPS)
  • 2 large baking apples (about 1 pound/450g), peeled, quartered, cored and chopped to yield about 3 cups chopped apple
  • 4 tablespoons (50g) brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour, fluffed to aerate or 15g
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons (30g) cold salted butter

Heat oven to 400F/200C. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan or an 8x8-inch square cake pan with baking spray.

CAKE In a large bowl, whisk the egg well on its own, then whisk in the milk, butter and sugar. Scoop the flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon onto wet mixture without mixing in. With whisk’s tip, lightly combine without mixing in. Now whisk the dry mixture into the wet mixture until just combined. Stir in the apples. Spread the batter evenly in the baking dish.

TOPPING In a bowl, mix topping ingredients with your fingers until mealy, spread evenly atop the batter.

BAKE & SERVE Bake for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 15 – 30 minutes. Serve alone, with Crème Anglaise/Vanilla Cream Sauce (recipe below), simple whipped cream or Swedish Cream.

HOW LONG DOES APPLE CAKE LAST? Estonian Apple Cake keeps 2 - 3 days. With so many apples, after the first day, cover and store in the fridge.

ALANNA's TIPS This simple apple cake is mixed by hand so is especially good for new cooks. Besides, not everyone has (or wants) even a simple hand mixer, so I collect dessert recipes, no mixer required. Melt the butter in the microwave in a small bowl, using 10 - 15 second zaps so not to spatter. Cinnamon is cinnamon, right? Wrong. Cinnamon is harvested all over the world, some are spicier, some sweeter, some mellower. My favorite is Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cinnamon from Penzeys whose collection is a spice ‘n’ herb marvel. For baking apples, use Granny Smith apples, Braeburn apples, Jonathan apples, Golden Delicious apples, Jonagold apples, Gala apples, Empire apples and Cortland apples – or whatever apple you happen to have on hand. Estonian Apple Cake is superb served warm but the slices or squares are slightly messy.
SO ADAPTABLE! For a delicious change from the apple original, try a Pear & Ginger Cake. Just substitute ripe pears for the apples and ground ginger for the cinnamon. For a lower-carb cake that still remains a "dessert", it is possible to adapt this cake to use less sugar and for whole-grain flours. In the cake itself, substitute 6 tablespoons of agave nectar for the sugar and use whole grain flour (I had good luck with 3/4 cup whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour.) Finally, use demerara sugar, an unrefined sugar made from sugar cane, for the topping instead of brown sugar. Once I was short on apple so added a few golden raisins, wonderful! Once I substituted grated coconut for flour in the Topping, wonderful! On occasion, the Topping gets a little dark and just isn't pretty. So I make a drizzle to distract the eyes. Just mix 2 tablespoons melted butter with a tablespoon of apple cider (or milk), 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon; stir in powdered sugar to thicken. Add a few nuts! We especially like Estonian Apple Cake with black walnuts but English walnuts work, so do toasted pecans.
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Serving, assumes 9: 233 Calories; 8g Tot Fat; 5g Sat Fat; 44mg Cholesterol; 308 mg Sodium; 37g Carb; 1g Fiber; 21g Sugar; 3g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 5 & PointsPlus 6 & SmartPoints 11 & Freestyle 9 & myWW green 9 & blue 9 & purple 9

CRÈME ANGLAISE (Vanilla Cream Sauce)

Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Time-to-table: 15 minutes
Makes a generous cup, 18 tablespoons

To fancy up a notch, serve Estonian Apple Cake in a pool of crème anglaise (pronounced krem-ahn-GLEHZ), that's French for "English cream" or "vanilla cream sauce", the runny custard.

Bring 1 cup half & half just to a boil. Meanwhile, separately whisk 2 large egg yolks with 2 tablespoons sugar. Slowly whisk the hot liquid into the egg mixture, then return it all to the saucepan. Cook on medium heat, stirring continuously, until it just thickens. Stir in a splash of vanilla. Serve warm or cold. Makes 18 tablespoons.

NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Two Tablespoons: 29 Calories; 2g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 28mg Cholesterol; 6mg Sodium; 2g Carb; 0g Fiber; 1g Sugar; 1g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS Old Points 1 & PointsPlus 1 & SmartPoints 1 & Freestyle 1 & myWW green 1 & blue 1 & purple 1

What To Make with Lots of Apples

(hover with a mouse for a description; otherwise click a photo to view the recipe)

Easy Baked Oatmeal with Apples & Walnuts Healthy Waldorf Salad Naturally Sweetened Apple Butter
Apple Pudding Cake with Cinnamon Butter Sauce American Apple Pie Roasted Applesauce with Raspberries
~ Favorite Apple Recipes ~
~ more apple recipes ~

Apples + Vegetables, Favorites from A Veggie Venture

~ Kohlrabi & Apple Slaw ~
~ Swedish Red Cabbage ~
~ Celery & Apple Salad ~

If you like Kitchen Parade's recipes, you'll love A Veggie Venture, my food blog about vegetables with more from-scratch recipes using whole, healthful ingredients, home to the famous Alphabet of Vegetables and vegetables in every course, seasonal to staples, savory to sweet, salads to sides, soups to supper, simple to special.

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

~ apple recipes ~
~ All Recipes, By Ingredient ~
~ How to Save Money on Groceries ~

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

© Copyright Kitchen Parade 2008, 2010, 2015, 2019 (repub) & 2020

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. What a lovely cake. Had it not been for blogs, I would have never known that Estonia has such a rich cuisine.

  2. I hope many of your readers will try that cake, Alanna, as it truly is lovely (Canadian or Estonian) :)

  3. Anonymous9/25/2008

    Oh, oh, OH, is this the one you made for us? I knew I'd forgotten to get a good one.

  4. Anonymous9/29/2008

    Tried the apple cake yesterday ... yum!

  5. So cool to see this pop up in my mailbox again. I still make this cake every year, if not two or three times. I fills my heart with so much joy to see it's still popular across the pond as well :)
    Much love from Estonia!!!

  6. Anonymous11/18/2019

    I tried this cake tonight and it was delicious. I was going to take the whole thing to work tomorrow but my husband insisted we taste test it first. It was super simple to put together. I can see what you mean about it feeling like too many apples but it was perfect!

  7. Carole1/20/2020

    Just to let you know, my bridge club loved it! It's a keeper, and I've rejected other apple cakes. Keep up the good work!


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna