sticky apple cake

Home Movies Tuesday!

Hello and welcome back to Home Movies Tuesday!

If you’ve been subscribing to this newsletter, then you will be familiar with this week’s Home Movies celebrity guest: Sticky Apple Cake.

This delight of a treat is a quick one-bowl cake that kind of tastes like a giant pancake with a little upsidedown cake energy to it (i.e. yellow cake with juicy, jammy fruit on the bottom). You don’t need anything special to make this other than a cake pan, and even then, you can improvise (see below). If you are not a baker, then I am pleased to report that this cake is most definitely for you.

It’s simple enough to where I thought: Does this honestly need a video? But also, popular enough to where I thought: Yes.

Here, you’ll find some FAQ about this beauty, along with the recipe for those of us just joining. And, of course: a video, including a very important buttermilk PSA. For the original post including a story from my youth taking place at a Bath & Body Works, head here (I was a cucumber melon girl, for those wondering!).


What kind of apples are best to use in this cake?

I like to use Honeycrisp or Pink Lady—they are large, juicy, tart and while they definitely soften, they don’t totally turn to mush when baked (like Granny Smith apples tend to do) which is great since I like a bit of texture in the cake. Flavor-wise, they are closest to tasting like my favorite Japanese apple gummy candies, which of course is a compliment.

What kind of cake pan can I bake this in?

I like a standard 9” aluminum cake pan—a springform will also work well. I say you can bake in an 8” cake pan, just know that you might hold back a little bit of the batter or be prepared to bake a bit longer (more cake batter in the pan = more time to bake). 9” glass pie plates and 1.5qt. oval baking dishes also work here! I have also seen this cake baked in an 8x8 square. I do not recommend bundt or loaf pans for this cake.

I don’t eat dairy, what can I substitute the butter and buttermilk here for?

I am not a dairy-free baking expert, but many people have made this cake using butter substitutes (the most popular recommendation has been Miyokos vegan butter)—the buttermilk, however, I’m guessing a nut/oat milk with lemon juice or Kite Hill dairy-free yogurt thinned with a bit of lemon juice.

How do I make this cake gluten-free?

I am not a gluten-free baking expert, but many people have made this cake using their favorite GF flour blend to great success, it seems. If you have experience doing this and have found one type of gluten-free flour works well, plz let me and other readers know in the comments below 😇

I don’t have buttermilk, what can I use instead?

In order of preference: yogurt thinned with a little milk or water to the consistency of buttermilk, milk with a few tablespoons of lemon juice. Sour cream almost has *too much* fat here, but I’ll bet in a pinch, thinned out similarly to yogurt, it would work.

My cake isn’t baked through after the time you said/I cut into the cake and it still felt underdone!

Every oven is different! Isn’t that beautiful? Sort of, I guess. If your cake doesn’t feel done by the end of the time range I’ve given, let it bake an additional 5–10 minutes. Your oven could be running low, or maybe you’ve been opening it a lot, or maybe something else is baking at the same time—lots of variables! As always, bake to the indicator (golden brown, springs back, pulling away from the sides of the pan), not the time.

I’m worried about my cake sticking! Should I line with parchment?

I only use non-stick spray, but as you’ll see in the video below, sometimes the apples do stick (which I don’t mind, because they come out easily and nobody will ever know they were stuck to the bottom of the pan). If you’re worried at all, you can absolutely line with parchment paper.


serves 6 to 8

This cake can best be described as a sticky toffee pudding meets vanilla birthday cake meets apple pie meets a pancake with apples on top. It’s a soft cake without much texture (you bake it until the apples fall apart and become jammy), which is usually something I’m against but here, I’m actively seeking that custardy, soaked cake energy. 

½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick) 
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped (or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract)
Non-stick spray (optional)
⅔ cup light brown sugar, divided 
2 large, unpeeled apples, cored and sliced (not too thin- you want some texture here)
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour 
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon 
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs 
¾ cup buttermilk 

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Melt the butter in a small pot over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring or whisking occasionally until the butter starts to brown and foam, 2 to 3 minutes. It should smell like toasted nuts and be the color of caramel; add the vanilla bean if you’re using it and remove the pot from heat to cool.  

2. Spray an 8”–9” cake pan (springform or regular), pie plate, 1.5qt baking dish, etc. with non-stick spray (you can use softened butter to grease, too). If you are less confident in your upside-down cake flipping skills, line the cake pan with parchment (leaving some hanging out of the pan for easy lifting after).

3. Scatter half the brown sugar (⅓ cup) on the bottom of the cake pan and top with sliced apples; set aside. 

4. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and remaining ⅓ cup brown sugar together in a medium bowl.

5. Whisk eggs and buttermilk together in a small bowl (or, just add the eggs to the measuring cup you’ve measured the buttermilk in and whisk in there). Add the vanilla extract, if using. Add buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients, mixing just to blend. (Don’t overmix here, or the cake will become tight and tough.) 

6. Remove the vanilla bean if it’s in the butter. Whisk in the vanilla-y browned butter until the batter is smooth and streak-free. (Again, don’t overmix it, just until everything is well blended.).

7. Pour batter over the apples, smooth the top (although the batter is pretty viscous, almost like pancake batter and should smooth itself), and bake until cake is golden brown on top, pulls away from the sides of the pan, and springs back lightly when pressed in the center, 25–30 minutes. 

8. Almost immediately (but without rushing or panicking), place a plate on top of the cake pan. With a towel under the pan, flip it over (this isn’t as scary as you think it might be, I swear) and remove. Alternatively, if you’ve got parchment under it, lift the cake up and out of the pan and uh, flip it onto a plate. I can’t honestly tell which method might feel more complicated to you but wanted to give two options to decide for yourself. 

Click here for a printable/saveable PDF.

Thank you for baking, for reading, for tuning in! See you next Tuesday!