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
    January 30, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    Hi, I was just wondering how many layers of Apple should it be? One,two? I’m using a different type of apples and sure how much 3 Granny Smith apples would yuel. Thanks!

    • Reply
      January 31, 2017 at 7:37 am

      I think if you use 3 good sized apples you’ll have a good amount, Jovana, I can’t recall how many layers, the slices just get piled in.

      • Reply
        February 7, 2017 at 5:59 am

        Thank you!

  • Reply
    January 18, 2017 at 7:11 am

    Do too have to use the custard? Does it taste okay without it?

    • Reply
      January 18, 2017 at 7:16 am

      No you don’t need the custard, Andrea, although it does add a nice extra element to it.

  • Reply
    Kayleigh | Whisks & Wooden Spoons
    November 23, 2016 at 5:27 pm

    This sounds amazing! Custard all the way – on anything/in everything.

    • Reply
      November 23, 2016 at 5:36 pm

      Haha!! I have to agree 🙂

  • Reply
    October 6, 2016 at 3:11 pm

    The ingredients for the custard call for 6 tbsp of butter; yet, the directions don’t include the butter when making the custard.

    • Reply
      October 6, 2016 at 3:12 pm

      oops that is sugar not butter my bad!!!

  • Reply
    Eden Passante
    March 15, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    This looks amazing! Love apple cake so much!

  • Reply
    March 11, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    Just a note that I almost forgot the cinnamon, bp, and salt because it isn’t mentioned in the instructions. Luckily, I double checked. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

    • Reply
      March 11, 2016 at 5:36 pm

      I reworked the recipe instructions to be more clear, thanks Dee!

  • Reply
    February 28, 2016 at 10:52 pm

    Hi. Is it absolutely necessary to use a springform pan? can we use a regular 9″ baking pan?

    • Reply
      February 29, 2016 at 7:05 am

      No I’m sure it’s not essential Michelle, but as I recall it’s a lot of batter, and comes pretty high up in the spring form pan, so just be sure your pan can accommodate it, and watch the baking time.

      • Reply
        March 2, 2016 at 10:34 pm

        Thank you. 🙂

  • Reply
    mary kathryn
    October 14, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    One thought about apples that I got from an American Test Kitchen recipe (for apple pandowdy). They recommend using a mix of apples, some for flavor and some for texture. So you might want to choose 2 granny smiths, for flavor, and one other that would give more juice. Just an idea.

    • Reply
      October 14, 2014 at 2:14 pm

      Great info!

  • Reply
    October 1, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    I adore that streusel topping, what a perfect apple cake for the fall!

  • Reply
    September 28, 2014 at 7:15 am

    I am all over anything apple these days even though we’ve been having a warm and gorgeous Indian Summer here in the Midwest. The leaves are turning and the crickets are chirping at night and it just smell like fall.

    What a gorgeous dessert and that custard sauce just pushes it to a whole new delicious level.

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