Wonderful Apple Cake With Cardamom and Coffee


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Moist Delicious Scandinavian Apple Cake Recipe

apple cake

This Scandinavian apple cake is synonymous with fall. My husband’s Grandma Frieda Haeker brought an amazing apple cake to a family get-together many years ago. I chased her down afterward to get her special recipe. I look back fondly to the days when families gathered more often.

Depending on the time of year, the dessert table would feature whatever fruit was in season. When fall rolled around, there was invariably some amazing apple creation on the table, and this cake is one of them!

Grandma Frieda’s recipe called for strong coffee as one ingredient. But, like anyone who loves to cook and bake, I made a few changes of my own! I decided to try freeze-dried coffee granules instead, and I love the subtle flavor it gives this simple cake.

The fragrance of cardamom brings back happy childhood memories for me, so I used it instead of the more traditional cinnamon and nutmeg in this gorgeous apple cake. I fondly remember the cardamom-scented sweets we ate when my Danish cousins gathered back in Iowa. The old Danes washed down all the goodies with gallons of hot coffee, so I consider this combination of flavors a very good marriage!

Scandinavia’s Favorite Spice The Fascinating History And Origin Of Cardamom

Cardamom is a staple in baking throughout Scandinavia, but it originated in India. The flavor of cardamom is unlike any other spice. The Vikings brought cardamom back with them when they sailed into what was then Turkey. It is a relatively expensive spice. If you buy ground cardamom, be sure to keep it in the freezer, tightly sealed because the flavor dissipates rather quickly.

When I was a little girl, my brothers and I would break open whole cardamom pods, and our mother would grind the seeds in a special brass grinder—such wonderful memories. You can still buy whole cardamom pods, and a coffee grinder works perfectly!

I sincerely hope you’ll give cardamom a try! But if you must substitute something for cardamom (I will be sad), mix equal parts ground cinnamon and nutmeg and use that in place of the cardamom. No nutmeg? Then try equal parts cinnamon and ginger or equal parts cinnamon and ground cloves instead.

How To Make This Gorgeous Apple Cake From Scratch

It starts with some beautiful tart apples. I used Jazz apples in this recipe, but Granny Smith, Braeburns, or your favorite tart apple will work great too! Here’s a very informative guide to the best apples for baking.

I peeled the apples and cut them into wedges, then chopped them in my food processor, pulsing as I went along. You can chop them any way you like, but stop when you get to chunks about the size of a raisin. 

tart apples, chopped

The gorgeous apple cake goes together easily. Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Cream together the sugar and eggs until fluffy, then add the oil and the vanilla. Continue beating until thick and smooth.

Next, add the dry ingredients alternately with the chopped apples and mix just until it’s all blended well.

Bake at 350 degrees in a greased 9″ x 13″ pan for about 40-45 minutes. The cake will pull back slightly from the sides of the pan, and a toothpick or cake tester should come out clean.

Once the cake is completely cool, slather on the easy cream cheese frosting. The bit of tang in the cream cheese plays nicely with the dense, moist cake.

cream cheese frosting

You don’t need to get too stylish with the frosting application because we’ll add a fun garnish: one part Fancy Nancy and one part Simple Simon!


autumn apple cake

All you need to make this pretty garnish is caramel ice cream topping in a squeeze bottle and a handful of chopped pecans. Toast them if you like! (Toasting pecans always makes them better!)

Starting in a corner, drizzle the caramel topping diagonally from left to right and back again until you’ve covered the whole cake. Now, take a table knife and pull through the caramel lines in the opposite direction.

While everything is still soft and hasn’t formed a crust, sprinkle about one-half cup of chopped pecans over the top. Ta-Da!! Pretty enough for the Thanksgiving table!

This is a dense, rich cake and very moist. Cut it into smaller pieces than you would cut an average cake. And, my old Danish relatives were right. Hot coffee is the ideal accompaniment to this delightful cake!

Yield: 16 servings

Gorgeous Apple Cake

apple cake

A dense, moist cake with subtle notes of coffee and cardamom.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes



  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 4 cups peeled tart apples, chopped fine
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 Tbsp freeze-dried coffee granules


  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup salted butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tsp vanilla

Garnish (optional)

  • Caramel ice cream topping in a squeeze bottle, about 1/2 cup.
  • Chopped pecans, about 1/2 cup. Toast them if you like.


  1. Grease a 13" x 9" pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Peel and chop apples medium fine. A food processor makes this step easy! Set aside.
  3. Combine dry ingredients. Set aside.
  4. Beat eggs and sugar until fluffy.
  5. Gradually add oil and vanilla and continue beating until thick and smooth.
  6. Alternately add the dry ingredients and apples to the egg mixture and beat until all ingredients are blended.
  7. Put batter in a greased pan and bake about 45 minutes or until cake pulls back slightly from the sides of the pan and a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean.
  8. Let the cake cool completely.
  9. Beat butter, cream cheese, and vanilla together until light and fluffy.
  10. Add powdered sugar and beat at low speed, and when all the ingredients are well blended, turn up the speed and continue beating until light and creamy. (Hint: Wrap the bowl with a clean dishtowel until the powdered sugar and the cream cheese mixture are completely blended, then beat until light and creamy.)
  11. Spread frosting evenly over cooled cake.
  12. For garnish, starting at one corner of the cake, drizzle caramel topping in diagonal lines about 2" apart until you reach the opposite corner. Next, use a table knife to pull through frosting in the opposite direction. See picture.
  13. Before frosting sets, sprinkle with chopped pecans.

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