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Ria’s Apple Cake (Can be made Gluten Free)

Apple cake is a favourite for many and this versatile, unusual and easy to make apple cake is a great addition to your table. The recipe is easily adapted and is just as delicious as a gluten free option. There is a wonderful creamy layer of syrup on the top of the cake, that compliments apples beautifully and adds a little something. The cake and topping are not too sweet and can be served as a pudding with the addition of ice cream or whipped cream or served as is, with a beverage of your choice. The cake mixture is as thin as a pancake batter and as easy to make.

This is how I got this lovely recipe:

I was texting my cousin’s wife Ria and she and her daughter were heading out to say goodbye to her friends as they all scattering around South Africa to different universities. As Greeks, we always take something when we visit, we like to arrive with something in hand for the person we are visiting or for the host. Ria took this apple cake to the farewell. She kindly sent me the photo of the cake and the recipe. For me while I couldn’t pop in and hug my cousins or see them settling into their university life with friends, I could recreate the cake and enjoy a slice in a different hemisphere with my family and feel connected in that way.  As an immigrant, sometimes that is all you can have and is all your soul needs.

This recipe was passed from Nancy to Louki, Louki to Ria, Ria to me and now from me to all of you. I thank each of the wonderful women that have shared this recipe along the way and to Ria who always shares milestone with me to make me feel connected.

The recipe is flexible, and I do love a flexible recipe, it can be made with plain flour or with a mix of gluten free (GF) flour and almond flour if required. The result if you choose to make it GF is wonderful and it doesn’t taste like it is a GF cake. It is almost like a malva pudding (a South African sponge pudding) but not quite. The layer of butter, evaporated milk, sugar and caramel essence on top makes it lovely and moist. I sought out caramel essence, the flavour was subtle, I don’t feel like you would be missing anything if you used vanilla essence or vanilla bean paste.

This really is a wonderful simple and fuss free recipe, that I know you will make and enjoy.

Apple Cake (Gluten Free)
Preparation time
Cooking time
Total time
A very quick and easy apple cake with a lovely topping of decadent cream butter and sugar syrup.
Recipe type: Cakes
Cuisine: South African
Servings: 8
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain flour (or ½ cup ground almonds and ½ cup gluten free plain flour)
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 small tin of pie apples or 3 eating apples peeled and sliced
  • Optional
  • a handful of flaked almonds to decorate
  • Syrup
  • ½ cup evaporated milk or cream
  • 40g butter
  • 1 teaspoon caramel or vanilla essence
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • Optional Serving Suggestion:
  • Whipped cream or ice cream
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C
  2. Grease a round pie dish 25cm.
  3. Using an electric whisk cream the butter and the sugar together until light and thick.
  4. Add the eggs and beat well.
  5. Gradually add the dry ingredients, add a third at a time and incorporate and repeat.
  6. Then add the milk and mix well.
  7. Pour the batter (it will be quite loose) into the greased pie dish.
  8. Arrange the fruit, pushing the apples into the batter and evenly distributing them evenly around the pie dish.
  9. Scatter the nuts onto of the batter if using.
  10. Bake for 30 minutes for gluten free cake and 45 minutes if you are using plain flour.
  11. The cake is ready when a skewer inserted comes out clean and the top is a light brown colour.
  12. While the cake is in the oven, slowly heat the syrup ingredients together until the ingredients have mixed together.
  13. Add either the hot syrup to a cold cake or the cold syrup to hot cake.
  14. Let the syrup sit on top of the cake to form a glaze or layer of creamy interest.
Caramel Essence
The caramel essence gives a hint of background flavour ,so if you don't want to have an essence in your cupboard I would use vanilla essence instead.
Enjoy this easy to make dessert.

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Photo Credit: Ria Mouskides