Authentic Irish Apple Cake

spooning custard sauce on an Irish Apple Cake

This is an authentic old fashioned Irish apple cake, the kind that would be made throughout the apple harvest season all over Ireland, where every farmhouse has its own prized version of the recipe. It’s delicious with or without the traditional custard sauce!

spooning custard sauce on a slice of Irish Apple Cake

a classic apple cake filled with juicy apples and warm spices

This easy apple cake recipe speaks to another era and another continent. But nothing beats a kitchen filled with the warm scent of apples and cinnamon, no matter what your particular spot in the baking universe. The cake is mildly spiced, with an inner core of thinly sliced tart apples, topped with a crumbly oat streusel. Tradition dictates serving it with some thick cream, or a luscious custard sauce. Choose to respect or flaunt tradition: you’re in charge.

Granny Smith apples

best apples for an apple cake

I used Granny Smith apples for this apple cake ~ they’re nice and tart and don’t get mushy in the oven.

Another good choice would be Honeycrisp apples. You can always experiment with other types, if you want, you can’t go too wrong here. ( has a pretty comprehensive guide to apple varieties.)  You’ll need about 3 good sized apples for this recipe, that’s the bottom line. Peel them, and slice them thinly. If you’re making them more than a few minutes ahead, be sure to toss them with a little lemon juice to prevent browning.

Irish Apple Cake just out of the pan and on a cooling rack

the crumble topping makes this cake especially appropriate for breakfast, brunch, or afternoon tea

This is a not-too-sweet kind of cake in the European tradition. It’s pretty perfect with a cup of coffee or tea in the morning or mid afternoon, though still definitely special enough to serve as dessert, especially with the custard. The custard sauce keeps well in the fridge, and can be served either warm or cold. The cake, however, is especially fabulous and fragrant warm from the oven.

a slice of Irish Apple Cake with custard sauce

love cooking with apples? (we do too.)

Reader Rave ~

“This was absolutely delicious and very easy and straightforward to make. This was my first time ever making an Apple Cake and now I’ve make it twice in 2 days!!!”     ~ Janice

Irish Apple Cake with Custard Sauce
3.87 from 895 votes

Irish Apple Cake

An authentic Irish Farmhouse Apple Cake ~ delicious with or without the traditional custard sauce!
Course Dessert
Cuisine Irish
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 35 minutes
Yield 10 servings
Calories 372.87kcal
Author Sue Moran


  • 9 inch spring form pan



  • 1/2 cup (or 113 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (or 100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 Tbsp (or 45 ml) whole milk or cream
  • 1 1/4 cups (or 150 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • about 3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and thinly sliced. Mine weighed a little over a pound after slicing.
  • confectioner's sugar for dusting

streusel topping

  • 3/4 cup (or 96 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (or 25 grams) old fashioned rolled oats
  • 6 Tbsp (or 85 grams) unsalted cold butter cut in small pieces
  • 1/2 cup (or 100 grams) granulated sugar

custard sauce

  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 6 Tbsp (or 76 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (or 375 ml) whole milk ~ you can also use half and half or cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla


  • Set the oven to 350F Grease a 9 inch springform pan.
  • Make the custard sauce ahead of time. Bring the milk to a simmer over medium heat. Meanwhile whisk the yolks and sugar until well combined. Drizzle a little of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking all the time. Drizzle a little more, then transfer that back into the pan of hot milk and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Do this slowly, over medium heat, and I like to use a silicone spoon or spatula to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan as it heats. The mixture will become velvety and thickend, but it will not be as thick as pudding. It will continue to thicken as it cools, so don't overcook or it can curdle. Stir in the vanilla.
  • Pour the custard through a sieve (to catch any stray lumps) into a heat proof jar or bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface so it won't form a skin as it cools. Put in the refrigerator until completely chilled.
  • To make the streusel topping, blend the bits of butter into the flour, sugar, and oats until the butter is incorporated and the mixture has a coarse crumbly texture. Put in the refrigerator.
  • Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
  • Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Fold the dry ingredients into the butter/sugar mixture, along with the milk or cream.
  • Spoon the batter into your prepared pan, and smooth out evenly. Top with the sliced apples, and then the streusel topping. Note: no need to arrange the apples perfectly, but try to get them in an even layer.
  • Bake for about 50 minutes to an hour, until the top is lightly browned and a toothpick comes out without wet batter clinging to it.
  • Let cool a bit in the pan before removing. Dust with confectioner's sugar before serving.


Calories: 372.87kcal | Carbohydrates: 49.8g | Protein: 4.66g | Fat: 17.7g | Saturated Fat: 10.67g | Sodium: 85.04mg | Fiber: 2.47g | Sugar: 26.94g
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

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    Leave a Reply

    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    Joan Gibson
    October 19, 2021 at 5:55 pm

    This sounds awesome, can’t wait to make it. I am a Brit whose Dad grew up in Ireland, and love everything Irish. I now live in the US and for those struggling with the custard, I have found Ambrosia Custard in the tins at World Market and Birds Eye Custard at Publix Supermarkets in their International Row. Hope this helps.

  • Reply
    Cherry Clark
    June 19, 2021 at 2:30 pm

    5 stars
    Oh my! I made this cake for friends moving to their retirement home and they say they demolished. Just made another for ourselves and the smells are heavenly as it cools on the rack. Definitely a fave from now on!
    When I made the first cake I had only two apples so grated them to ensure and even distribution, and I have grated them again this time. Just seems to me that the textures would meld into each other.

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      June 19, 2021 at 8:09 pm

      I like that idea Cherry, I’ll try it.

  • Reply
    May 9, 2021 at 6:22 pm

    5 stars
    I made this for Mother’s day yesterday (in Australia) and it was the best. A big hit with everyone and none left over. I ran out of time so bought custard instead of making the custard, but cake was DELICIOUS!!! I often worry about making a new recipe for a function, when I haven’t made it before……but no need to worry… was yummmmmy!!!! Many thanks for the recipe. Dee

  • Reply
    Kristie Ross
    April 15, 2021 at 12:20 pm

    An I make the cake and sauce and pack it well and take it to Arizona from Colorado

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      April 15, 2021 at 1:39 pm

      The cake should travel fine Kristie, but the sauce would have to be refrigerated. Have a nice trip!

  • Reply
    Shawn McInnes
    March 20, 2021 at 4:34 pm

    4 stars
    I made this for a belated St. Patrick’s Day celebration (3/19/21). I messed up on the custard sauce and overcooked it — had to throw it (the sauce) away. Thankfully we had some vanilla ice cream in the freezer, so we just had the cake with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream on the top. Yum! Will attempt to make this again and will be VERY careful not to overcook the custard sauce again. I know it would have been PERFECT with the custard sauce so that’s why I want to try making it again. I’m wondering if, in the directions for the sauce, you could maybe include what temperature you should cook it to (like on an instant read thermometer)? That would be easier to understand than saying that it should “coat the back of a spoon”. I couldn’t figure that part out and that’s why I messed it up when I was trying to make it.

  • Reply
    March 18, 2021 at 11:21 am

    5 stars
    This was outstanding recipe. I made this for St. Patrick’s Day and it was a hit. I did not make the sauce this time, ran out of time but will make this again soon with the sauce. A definite keeper!

  • Reply
    March 18, 2021 at 10:52 am

    5 stars
    Making this tonight for my family. So excited! My son (7) is studying Ireland for class and this is a easy recipe for him to help make. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  • Reply
    March 17, 2021 at 3:55 pm

    5 stars
    I can’t have dairy so I used almond milk and for the butter I substituted Country Crock Plant Butter. I had to use Gala apples also, all I had on hand. It is delish! Made it today for St. Patrick’s day. I lined my springform pan with merchandiser for easy removal.

    • Reply
      March 17, 2021 at 3:58 pm

      Should say parchment parchment paper.

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      March 17, 2021 at 4:09 pm

      I’m so glad it worked for you Doris, Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

      • Reply
        Christine Didlot
        March 16, 2022 at 3:57 pm

        Can I double this recipe and put in a rectangle cake pan for a larger group?

        • Reply
          Sue Moran
          March 16, 2022 at 6:47 pm

          I haven’t tried that but I think it should work fine.

        • Reply
          Sue Moran
          March 17, 2022 at 12:58 pm

          I haven’t tried but I think it should be fine.

  • Reply
    March 16, 2021 at 7:48 pm

    5 stars
    I was warry about how this would turn out given the texture of the batter, but, it pulled away from the pan beautifully! I had never made custard either, and that turned out velvety perfect! I’m so excited about this recipe and can’t wait to serve it to the family on st patrick’s day! Thank you!

  • Reply
    Barry Hickethier
    March 14, 2021 at 11:13 am

    5 stars
    Made this for a dinner with a few friends and it was a huge hit! Since 1 person has celiac, I substituted Bob’s Red Mill 1-for-1 gluten free flour. Worked just fine. I also did not have gluten free oats, so used only butter flour and sugar for the streussel topping. Ratio wasn’t quite right (not enough flour) so ended up with brule’ effect, which actually worked well.

    After straining, I added some Five Farms Irish Cream to the custard. The warm boozy caramel notes of the Irish Cream were a perfect compliment to the apples. This does thin the custard, so you may want to let the custard get a little thicker than you normally would for this desert.

    This desert is so versatile. Equally great for after dinner, afternoon tea or brunch.

    This was my first recipe from your blog. I’m excited to try more.

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