This apple cinnamon bread is buttery moist and cake-like with plenty of apples dotted in each slice. Tossing the juicy apples in brown sugar and cinnamon before layering and swirling in the loaf pan is an important step. Assembling the loaf this way adds pockets of sweet cinnamon swirl and keeps the batter light. There’s so much flavor from swirling in the brown sugared apples that you really don’t need icing or a crumb topping. Still, if you want to try either, I recommend the crumb topping from peach bread and the brown sugar icing from these pumpkin donuts or even a salted caramel drizzle.
1 loaf disappears FAST!
Let me teach you how to make your next favorite recipe. I’ll walk you through what to expect before explaining my recipe testing trials and tribulations. (All very worth it!)
Apple Cinnamon Quick Bread Details
- Flavor: The notable stars of this quick bread recipe are, you guessed it, cinnamon and apples. The bread’s crumb tastes like buttery cinnamon nutmeg spice cake, so you get a flavor punch even without the apples. Toss the apples in brown sugar and more cinnamon before layering into the loaf pan. These brown sugared apples add sweet, spiced, and moist swirls throughout the loaf as if we were indulging in apple cinnamon babka. (If you have the time and are up for a challenge, that recipe is a must make!)
- Texture: Have you ever tried this blueberry muffin bread? The texture of today’s apple cinnamon bread is similar—soft and moist, yet sturdy enough to hold a slice with your hand when you take a bite. And thanks to the liquid from the brown sugared apples seeping to the sides, the bread’s edges crisp up beautifully in the oven. (The top of the loaf stays pretty soft.)
- Ease: This apple bread recipe comes together with basic baking ingredients like butter, sugar, flour, and eggs. Applesauce is likely the only “special” ingredient, but if you don’t have any, sour cream makes a fine substitution. Just like banana bread, creamed butter + sugar is the base, so an electric mixer is certainly helpful. Overall, this is an easy fall baking recipe that bakers of any skill level can manage.
Why This Apple Cinnamon Bread Recipe Works
When I first visualized this recipe, I pictured an apple cider bread—sounds good right—almost like apple cider donuts baked in a loaf pan. I reduced the apple cider and added shredded apples to the batter. The loaf was good, but it ended up tasting exactly like harvest spice bread. I added more spices, used more apple cider, but I closed the book on my efforts because the apple and apple cider flavors were slight. Feeling determined, I tried again with creamed butter + sugar as the base of the bread. Chocolate chip loaf cake was my starting point and I swapped chocolate chips for cinnamon-tossed apples. Sadly, the loaf was squat, pale, and wet.
About to throw in the towel—are you even still reading this?—I tried 1 more time. Forget determination, I was just plain stubborn at this point but we can call it strong-willed. I reduced the butter, added some baking soda for color and lift, added more apples, tossed them in brown sugar, closed the oven and crossed my fingers.
IT WORKED! So about 14 loaves and 200 words later, here we are. The recipe ended up being a cross between the chocolate chip loaf cake mentioned above and blueberry muffin bread. It’s tested and tight with flavorful and delicious results. And it certainly speaks volumes that I’m willing to make this bread on repeat after quite the journey getting here!
Overview: How to Make Apple Cinnamon Bread
Let me show you how to make this apple cinnamon bread. Despite the saga above, it truly is an easy recipe. First, chop 1-2 peeled apples into 1/2 inch chunks and then toss them in brown sugar and cinnamon. Do this step first so the apples have time to absorb some of the brown sugar and cinnamon flavors. We’ll layer and swirl them into the loaf pan soon.
I really want to show you the next two photos so you don’t get nervous when it’s your turn to bake the bread. On the left, you can see that the batter looks curdled. This is normal and expected. At this point, you’re trying to combine creamed butter + sugar with eggs, applesauce, and vanilla extract. Even though they are all brought to room temperature, these wet ingredients have different textures. Once you add the dry ingredients and begin mixing in the milk, the batter comes together. Have no fear!
Why Layer & Swirl the Apples? Instead of folding the fruit right into the batter, layer and swirl them in the loaf pan. We do this same step in peach bread and there’s a few reasons why. (1) By doing this, you get pockets of sweet cinnamon and apple swirl inside a cinnamon spiced bread. (2) You also have the chance to introduce brown sugar into the loaf. When using brown sugar as the base of the bread (creaming with butter), the loaf had a heavier texture. And (3) the test loaf made with apples directly folded into the batter was quite wet (not just moist).
It’s almost like we’re making cinnamon swirl banana bread or cinnamon swirl quick bread, but today’s recipe has a lovely buttery base! If you’d rather make muffins, use my apple cinnamon muffins recipe instead because it’s quite similar. (Would be hard to swirl apples into such a tight space!) Or try these healthy apple muffins for a wholesome option using whole wheat flour and no refined sugar.
And one more piece of advice before you start:
What Are the Best Apples to Use for Baking?
Firmer apples are ideal for baking so avoid soft, mealy, and mushy apples. If you’re baking a recipe that calls for many apples such as apple crisp or apple crumble pie, use a mix of tart apples and sweet apples. This apple cinnamon bread only needs 1 or 2 apples, so it’s fine to use tart OR sweet. I use Granny Smith because overall, its flavor and texture are the best for baking. I also love sweet apples in this bread like Honeycrisp, Fuji, and Pink Lady. For a more detailed list, I have a full post explaining the best apples for baking.
This apple cinnamon bread is buttery moist and cake-like with plenty of apples dotted in each slice. You can use tart or sweet apples in this loaf, but avoid soft and mushy apples. Feel free to turn this recipe into muffins or mini loaves. See recipe notes below.
- 1 and 1/2 cups (180g) peeled & chopped apples (1/2 inch chunks; you need about 2 medium apples)
- 1/3 cup (67g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 and 3/4 cups (219g) all-purpose flour (spooned & leveled)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (8 Tbsp; 113g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup (80g) unsweetened applesauce, at room temperature*
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk, at room temperature
- Adjust the oven rack to the lower third position (just below center) and preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan with nonstick spray.
- Apples: Stir the apples, brown sugar, and cinnamon together. Set aside.
- Batter: Whisk the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter and granulated sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and then beat on medium speed until combined. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. Beat in the applesauce and vanilla extract on medium speed until combined. Mixture will look chunky and curdled—this is normal and expected. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, turn the mixer on low speed and with the mixer running, slowly pour in the milk. Beat just until combined and do not overmix. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be sticky and slightly thick. You’ll have about 3 cups of batter.
- Pour and spread about 1/2 of the batter into the bottom of the prepared loaf pan. Spoon apples and any cinnamon/brown sugar juices leftover in the bowl evenly on top. Pour and spread remaining batter on top, making sure to scrape out every last drop of batter. Using a knife, swirl the batter down the center of the loaf pan.
- Bake for 60-75 minutes, loosely covering the bread with aluminum foil at the 30 minute mark to help prevent the top and sides from getting too brown. This is a large heavy loaf, so if your bread is taking longer, that’s completely fine. A toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf will come out clean when the bread is done. Begin checking at 60 minutes. Mine takes 70 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the bread to cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack.
- Once cooled or nearly cooled, cut into slices and serve. (Bread falls apart if you try to slice it when it’s warm.)
- Cover and store bread at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Freezing Instructions: Freeze baked & cooled loaf for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. If desired, bring to room temperature before serving. To learn more details about how to freeze quick breads, see my post called Make-Ahead Baking.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Apple Peeler | 9×5-inch Loaf Pan | Glass Mixing Bowls | Whisk | Electric Mixer (Handheld or Stand) | Cooling Rack
- Apples: This apple cinnamon bread only needs 1 or 2 apples, so it’s fine to use tart OR sweet. Avoid soft, mushy apples. I use Granny Smith because overall, its flavor and texture are the best for baking. I also love sweet apples in this bread like Honeycrisp, Fuji, and Pink Lady.
- Applesauce: If you don’t have unsweetened applesauce, use the same amount of plain yogurt or sour cream.
- Muffins: Use my apple cinnamon muffins recipe. The recipe is very similar to this one. Feel free to substitute the yogurt in that recipe with applesauce. If you love nutmeg, add 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg to that batter when you add the cinnamon.
- Mini Loaves: You can use this batter to make mini apple breads. Follow the recipe above as written, dividing the batter/brown sugared apples between your mini loaf pans. Swirl batter and apples together as instructed above. Bake time and yield depends on the size of your mini loaf pan. Use a toothpick to test for doneness.
Keywords: apple cinnamon bread