Ultra soft apple crumb cake is loaded with warm cinnamon apples and extra crumb topping. A homemade version of classic New York style crumb cake, this breakfast cake is moist, deliciously spiced, and drizzled with sweet maple icing.
If crumb topping is your love language, you’ve come to the right place. And if warm cinnamon apples make your mouth water, today’s your day. Finally, if soft buttery cake is your ideal breakfast indulgence, I’m your gal.
Because today we’re indulging in APPLE CRUMB CAKE!! It’s your morning fall indulgence and the smart answer for breakfast, but also very acceptable for lunch, dinner, or dessert. You’re probably familiar with a similar recipe– today’s homemade apple crumb cake is my apple crumb muffins in cake form. They’re definitely one of my favorite seasonal muffins to make (along with pumpkin crumb cake muffins), so a cake version is a no-brainer.
Apple Crumb Cake Ingredients
I tested this apple crumb cake a few times, changing things ever so slightly to land on this final recipe. Like my traditional crumb cake recipe, this is a butter and sour cream based cake AKA the best kind of cake and here’s what you need to make it:
- Flour: All-purpose flour is the structure of this cake. It’s sturdy enough to support the thick batter and multiple layers of this crumb cake.
- Baking Soda + Baking Powder: Baking soda and baking powder help the cake rise.
- Granulated Sugar: Granulated sugar sweetens the cake.
- Butter: Butter adds flavor and provides structure in the creaming process.
- Sour Cream: Sour cream gives us an extremely moist crumb cake that’s a little denser than, say, a fluffy vanilla cake. Tight crumbs, like pound cake, but with a much softer texture. Don’t remove the fat from this cake by using a lower fat alternative. Fat = flavor! We don’t want to skimp there.
- Eggs: Three eggs add moisture and bind the cake together.
- Salt + Vanilla Extract: Use both for flavor.
- Cinnamon: We can’t have crumb cake without cinnamon!
- Apples: The star of apple crumb cake, of course.
Best Apples for Apple Crumb Cake
Use any variety of apples you enjoy! You need about 1 and 1/2 medium apples for this recipe. Personally, I love tart Granny Smith apples paired with the sweet crumb cake.
- Tart apples I love: Granny Smith, Braeburn, Jonathan, and Pacific Rose
- Sweet apples I love: Jazz, Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, Gala, and Fuji
How to Make Apple Crumb Cake
When I first tested this recipe, I mixed the apples into the cake batter (just like we do in my apple crumb muffins recipe). This was tasty, of course, but the pieces of apples each held a soggy outline inside the baked cake. It just… didn’t look appetizing. I found that layering the apples on top of the cake batter was best. This gives us a soft and buttery cake, topped with soft and sweet cinnamon apples, and a TRUCK LOAD of crumb topping.
This crumb cake comes together easily:
- Make the crumb topping.
- Whisk the dry ingredients except cinnamon together.
- Cream butter and sugar together. Add the eggs, sour cream, and vanilla, then beat until combined. The mixture may look curdled– that is OK.
- Combine wet and dry ingredients.
- Toss apples and cinnamon together.
- Pour batter into pan. A 9×13 inch pan works perfectly for this volume of batter.
- Top with apples and crumb topping. Press the crumb topping tightly down into the cake so it sticks.
- Bake. If you find the top and/or edges of the cake are browning too quickly in the oven, loosely cover it with aluminum foil.
- Top with icing.
Crumb Cake with Extra Crumbs
You’ll notice A LOT of ingredients in the crumb topping. Not in the number of ingredients, but in terms of the volume of ingredients like more butter, sugar, and just as much flour as in the cake itself. Why? The crumb topping is the best part of a CRUMB CAKE.
You’re using the same ingredients in the crumb topping as you are in the cake, so it’s an extremely convenient recipe. The gang’s all here– granulated sugar, cinnamon, salt, melted butter, and flour, plus brown sugar because it’s not crumb topping without brown sugar. 🙂 Make sure some crumbs stay in larger chunks because those are the best bites.
The crumb layer is literally over half the cake and I see zero problem with this!
This apple crumb cake truly doesn’t need an accessory on top, but if the opportunity for sweet maple icing presents itself, we’d be fools to say no! Here are some icing options:
- Maple icing from my maple cinnamon rolls (what I used!)
- Vanilla icing
- Caramel icing from my apple cinnamon rolls
Delicious New York style crumb cake with warm cinnamon apples and DOUBLE the buttery crumb topping!
- 1 cup (200g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
- 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks; 230g) unsalted butter, melted
- 2 and 1/2 cups (310g) all purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
- 2 and 1/2 cups (310g) all purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks; 170g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 and 1/4 cups (250g) granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup (240g) full-fat sour cream, at room temperature*
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 and 1/2 cups peeled chopped apples (about 1 and 1/2 medium apples)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- maple icing, vanilla icing, or caramel icing
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) and grease a 9×13 baking pan or line with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Make the crumb topping: Mix the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and salt together in a medium bowl. Stir in the melted butter using a fork, then add the flour. Mix and crumble with a fork. Set aside.
- Make the cake: Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.
- Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and granulated sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the eggs, sour cream, and the vanilla. Beat on medium-high speed until combined. The mixture may look curdled; that’s ok. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients until smooth. Do not overmix. The batter will be thick.
- Toss the chopped apples and cinnamon together.
- Spread the batter evenly into prepared baking pan. Top evenly with cinnamon apples. Top with crumb topping. Using a rubber spatula or the back of a large spoon, press the crumb topping tightly down into the cake so it sticks.
- Bake for 45-55 minutes. Baking times vary, so keep an eye on yours. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If you find the top or edges of the cake is/are browning too quickly in the oven, loosely cover it with aluminum foil.
- Remove the cake from the oven and set on a wire rack. Allow to slightly cool for at least 30-45 minutes before slicing and serving.
- Top with icing, if desired. Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for 5 days.
- Make Ahead Instructions: Prepare cake through step 7. Cover the cake tightly and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze up to 3 months. Bring to room temperature, add icing if desired, and serve.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): KitchenAid Hand Mixer, Glass Mixing Bowls, Apple Peeler, and 9×13 Baking Pan
- Sour Cream: Sour cream is a key ingredient in this cake. I don’t suggest subbing the sour cream with a liquid– plain full-fat yogurt would work though. But don’t remove the fat from this cake by using a lower fat yogurt or sour cream alternative. Fat = flavor! We don’t want to skimp there.
- Room Temperature: All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information.
Want to make this recipe into muffins? Here is my recipe for apple crumb muffins.