Before PSLs took over the world, a different fruit took center stage when summer turned to fall. And as much as I love pumpkin spice everything (heck, I even got the Pumpkin Spice Chapstick)– there comes a point when enough is enough. It’s time for a throwback.

Welcome to 1973, when apples were the autumnal star. This recipe is my adaptation of Food 52’s adaptation of a New York Times cake that debuted that year. Familiar spices combine with apples, raisins, and walnuts to create a cake you’ll make again and again, no matter the season. It’s got a bit of crunch on the outside with a perfectly moist interior. (Yes, I had to use that word. I hate it too. But it IS moist.) And there’s no layer-stacking or buttercream-making involved in this one– trust me, you can’t screw this one up.

Apple Spice Cake 1
Here’s what you need:

  • Butter and flour for the pan
  • 3 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 C vegetable oil
  • 2 C brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 t salt
  • Spice mix: 1 t cinnamon, 1 t nutmeg, 1/2 t mace, 1/4 t cloves
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 3 C peeled, cored, and thickly sliced apples
  • 1 C chopped walnuts
  • 1 C raisins
  • one shot of rum
  • Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream (optional)

Butter and flour your pan, or use that flour spray I love. If you use regular cooking spray you WILL be sorry. Trust me. Turn the oven on to 350 and get your sugar and oil mixing.

Apple Spice Cake 2

I didn’t have enough brown sugar, so I subbed in white and some molasses for half of it. Because I like to live DANGEROUSLY. Also I did not want to go to the store.

While your sugar and oil is mixing together, measure out a cup of raisins and add the rum shot to them, letting them soak while you do the rest. Next: peel, core, and slice your apples.

Apple Spice Cake 3

By this time, your oil and sugar should have been mixing about five minutes. Unless you are freakishly fast at apple prep. I can’t imagine it taking LESS than five minutes. I mean, you’re using a KNIFE. CAUTION.

You can add the eggs and vanilla now, and beat it for a couple minutes, until it lightens a touch. Then dump in the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices, and mix until it’s incorporated, like a new business.

Apple Spice Cake 4 Apple Spice Cake 5

I drain about half the rum off the raisins, then dump them into the bowl along with the apples and walnuts. Stir it up with a spatula. Do not complain about one step that requires arm-use, the pioneers used to make this with ONLY A SPOON. Dump it in your prepped pan and pop it onto the middle rack of your oven.

Apple Spice Cake 6 Apple Spice Cake 7

The cake needs about an hour and fifteen minutes to cook. It has a naturally brownish color, so make sure you’re not taking it out too soon. Stab it with a toothpick if you’re unsure. Batter on the toothpick means you need more time; crumbs on the toothpick mean you can take it out. Let it cool about 15 minutes in the pan.

Apple Spice Cake 8

OK, at this point you are thinking “Wow, she finally did it! No screw ups at all! Catastrophe averted! Everything is perfect!” Well, let me disabuse you of that fanciful notion right now. I was too lazy to flour the pan, and I didn’t have any of the flour spray, so I used regular cooking spray. Also, I was impatient, and did not wait for the cake to cool fully. BOTH OF THESE ARE BAD IDEAS.

Apple Spice Cake 9

BAM. A third of the cake stayed in the pan when I turned it out. Yes, it looks SO GOOD, taste-wise. You can see all the chunky apples inside and you want to just put your face in it. But it is HIDEOUS!! LOOK AWAY!!

Apple Spice Cake 10

Wait– I said you can’t screw this up. Let’s see what some powdered sugar can do.

Apple Spice Cake 11

Aside from the Mariana trench, and that one tattletale apple, it looks entirely passable! Those could be cracks of DONENESS. No one needs to know…this will be our little secret.

Apple Spice Cake 12

I prefer it warm, with whipped cream. And just like that, apples are at the top of your list again.

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