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. (Pickyourown.org 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
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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

Equipment

  • 9 inch spring form pan

Ingredients

cake

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.

Nutrition

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 theviewfromgreatisland.com tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

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209 Comments

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  • Reply
    Angel
    March 18, 2018 at 1:47 pm

    Made this for St. Patrick’s Day dessert. The cake turned out great. My husband doesn’t eat a lot of sweets so I know if he likes it we have a winner. I tried twice to make the custard sauce but after the second batch curdled I gave up and ate the cake with a scoop of French vanilla ice cream. I might try the sauce again some time but it’s fine without it. Thanks for this recipe it will be part of the rotation now.

    • Reply
      Anne-Marie
      March 4, 2020 at 12:58 pm

      Hi, regarding the custard… I have always made my custard with cornflour and fewer eggs, I was dubious about this way anyways I did as per the recipe and saw the custard start to separate and curdle so I quickly took it off the heat and mixed some of the almost curdled custard with some regular flour and whisked it into the mix and back on low heat. Saved in the nick of time. Yum.

      • Reply
        Sue
        March 4, 2020 at 1:17 pm

        Good to know, Anne-Marie. Custard made like this is very sensitive to heat, for sure. Glad you could save it!

  • Reply
    Maria Kanis
    March 18, 2018 at 10:28 am

    Hi there Sue, I’m Irish & hail from Dublin & for the last 18 years have lived with my English Husband in the Limousin region of France. Limoges, our capital city is renowned worldwide for it’s beautiful Pottery, our region is also famous for it’s Limousine Apples, hence the reason I’m always on the lookout for a nice apple cake, in fact, have a folder full of them & have worked my way through most of them. I’m looking forward to trying your recipe but was wondering if it’s at all possible to list in metric or imperial measurements for those of us this side of the Pond. I can convert, but it’s doesn’t always work out.
    Being St Patrick’s weekend my Husband is shouting for Irish Apple Cake so I would love to try yours.
    I’m not too sure if you will get this message or not but would love to hear from you.
    Meantime, I hope you are having a good St Pat’s weekend. Slainte, Maria

    • Reply
      Sue
      March 18, 2018 at 7:06 pm

      Hey Maria ~ I will try to get to that conversion this week, I’m traveling in Florida right now visiting my Dad and his wife, but I’m working remotely 😉 I wish I could find a reliable and easy converter, it’s such tricky business, as you note. I may have to get back to the kitchen and actually make this cake again to do an accurate job. Thanks for following along from such a distance ~ I would love to get to Limoges someday!

  • Reply
    Lily
    March 16, 2018 at 10:59 pm

    I am sad I did everything and looks like is not rising what did I do wrong? I used the right pan was I suppose to put the pan on cookies sheet cause that’s what I did maybe that’s it ?

    • Reply
      Sue
      March 17, 2018 at 6:20 am

      This isn’t a tall fluffy cake, Lily, but rather dense, almost like a tart, so it’s possible you did everything right.

      • Reply
        Teri
        March 17, 2018 at 1:03 pm

        Sue can you use a 8” cake pan instead of 9”?

        • Reply
          Sue
          March 17, 2018 at 2:31 pm

          Sure!

      • Reply
        Lily
        March 17, 2018 at 2:43 pm

        Thank you for letting me know that But it was Delicious ! So I know I did it right now thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Amanda
    January 21, 2018 at 3:45 pm

    Is the custard sauce supposed to be thick?

    • Reply
      Sue
      January 21, 2018 at 4:07 pm

      Not super thick, Amanda.

  • Reply
    Brenda
    December 12, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    If I am serving this at a dinner party, can I make it the night before?

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 12, 2017 at 4:42 pm

      Yes, that won’t be a problem, enjoy!

  • Reply
    Katie HG
    October 17, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    5 stars
    I’ve had a couple of apples knocking about in my fridge for a while and couldn’t decide what to make! I settled on this cake and boy am I glad! Delicious, soft, not too sweet and a wonderful crumble topping. Thank you!

    • Reply
      Sue
      October 17, 2017 at 2:00 pm

      Thanks for letting us know, Katie!

  • Reply
    joan
    May 16, 2017 at 10:05 am

    5 stars
    I made this cake for Saturday nite dinner, what a success. I did not peel the apples and I used almond flour, it came out perfect. thank you for your wonderful recipes..

    • Reply
      Julia Raudenbush
      March 22, 2019 at 9:25 am

      I know this comment is 2 years old, but I am intrigued by your use of almond flour. Was that completely in place of the all purpose flour? I am gluten free and always looking for good ways to alter traditional recipes. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Kelli Ann Wilson
    March 17, 2017 at 4:43 pm

    5 stars
    I just made this for our family’s St. Patrick’s Day dinner – it was amazing! I didn’t actually make the custard (time constraints) but the cake was incredibly delicious all on its own. I used Kerrygold Butter made in Ireland for that extra special touch. On an unrelated note: I live in New Hampshire but I had never heard of Great Island until I found your blog. Now I’m intrigued!

    • Reply
      Sue
      March 17, 2017 at 5:02 pm

      Oh I’m so glad you found me Kelli ~ I miss New Hampshire SO much, I’m determined to get back there to live someday 🙂 I’m really glad you enjoyed the apple cake!

      • Reply
        Nancy Marzilli
        April 7, 2017 at 3:04 am

        Sue where is the recipe for this Irish apple cake? I would love to give this a try .

  • Reply
    Steph
    March 14, 2017 at 7:57 am

    Has anyone added raisins to this? I’m thinking of soaking them in Amaretto first.

    • Reply
      Sue
      March 14, 2017 at 8:07 am

      I don’t see why you couldn’t, Steph, and the Amaretto soaking sounds pretty amazing 🙂

    • Reply
      Carrie
      March 29, 2017 at 3:06 pm

      I soaked my raisins in brandy first and it was amazing I also used 2 Granny Smith’s and a Rome Apple because down here in Va the Mac apples are very mealy not like back home in Mass but came out very good

      • Reply
        Sue
        March 29, 2017 at 5:21 pm

        Love the idea of soaking the raisins, how could that be bad? And don’t get me started on Macs, I miss my New Hampshire Mcintosh apples SO badly!!

  • Reply
    Cathie Kozachenko
    February 2, 2017 at 7:50 am

    Do you serve the custard cold? Can it be served warm? How would you warm it? Love the cake. The custard I’d eat every day for the rest of my days 😉

    • Reply
      Sue
      February 2, 2017 at 8:03 am

      I think it’s usually served cold, but you could warm it briefly in the microwave and that would be amazing.

      • Reply
        Victoria
        February 5, 2017 at 6:54 am

        When I lived in the United Kingdom custard was served warm over desserts such as this. Super yummy! Can’t wait to make this for Saint Davids day ( I married a welsh man) haha

        • Reply
          Jack
          February 10, 2017 at 9:11 am

          As a child I always had Birds Eye custard served warm over this kind of dessert, made, of course with full cream milk. Absolutely delicious.

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