Whole-Wheat Apple Cake

whole wheat apple cake

Desi loves himself some apple pie and each time we go grocery shopping together he will stop by the apples and wonder how long it has been since he had some. But the last time I gave in, I was not too sure I wanted to bake a pie. Because I am on a healthy bender right now and flaky, melt-in-the-mouth pie crusts– my favorite part of any pie– are not exactly health food.

So the apples sat around a little longer than I will admit, with Desi dropping broad hints ever so often about how he was going to have to throw them away soon. This past weekend I decided to surprise him. But instead of a pie, I baked up this rather low-on-guilt, delicious cake.

I worked from a recipe I found in the Fannie Farmer Cookbook, veganizing it and making it healthier than the original. My Apple Cake is made with whole-wheat pastry flour, one of my favorite baking flours because it virtually eliminates the need to use all-purpose flours in most baked-good recipes, and it is tender and moist with the delicious juiciness of the apples and the crunch of walnuts baked right inside. If you are looking for a kid-friendly and adult-friendly recipe, you couldn’t do better.Vegan Whole-Wheat Apple Cake

This cake contains a cup of sugar, but I found that because my apples were already sweet, I could have used less. If you want to, use 3/4 of a cup and add 1/4 cup of applesauce to add some moisture back in. This is a useful tip for anyone who wants to cut down on sugar in a recipe. Sugar acts as a “wet” ingredient in baked goods, because when it melts it becomes liquid. When you remove sugar from a recipe, you remove moisture and your baked good can turn out dry. Applesauce provides a great option when substituting some of the sugar because it adds tenderness and moisture to a recipe. Don’t overdo it, though. Replacing one-fourth of the sugar with applesauce is fine, but replacing three-fourths of it is not and is going to show in your results.

This Apple Cake is going to be one I make again and again. Enjoy, all!

Vegan Whole-Wheat Apple Cake
5.0 from 1 reviews
Whole-Wheat Apple Cake
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Dessert
  • 1½ cups whole-wheat pastry flour (sub with half regular whole-wheat and half all-purpose if you can't find whole-wheat pastry flour)
  • 2½ cups very finely chopped apples (about 1½ medium apples. I used Granny Smith which is perfect in this recipe)
  • 1 cup sugar (if you want to cut down, substitute a quarter of the sugar with an equal amount of applesauce)
  • ⅓ cup of canola or other flavorless oil
  • 2 tbsp flaxmeal + 6 tbsp warm water. Mix well.
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp of mixed powdered spices-- I ground up some cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg in my coffee grinder.
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted lightly and chopped
  1. Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder.
  2. Beat together the oil, sugar and vanilla for about a minute to aerate.
  3. Add the flaxmeal mixture, beat for a few more seconds to mix, and then add the flour mixture.
  4. Stir with a spatula to get the ingredients well-mixed. The dough will be very stiff. Add the apples and the walnuts and mix well.
  5. Pour the batter into an 8-inch oiled and floured square pan (or use a round cake pan if that's what you have). To make the cake easier to unmold, line the pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil and then oil and flour. I didn't, and trust me, unmolding this cake from the pan was a small battle.
  6. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes. Unmold and continue cooling.
(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

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    • says

      Hi Sowmya, yes, you can definitely use maple syrup. I’d just substitute cup for cup, although since maple has a richer taste, you should try substituting the 1 cup of sugar for 3/4 cup maple syrup and 1/4 cup applesauce.

      • renee says

        substituted maple syrup for the sugar and it is definitely sweet! next time, I will use 3/4 +1/4 apple sauce or banana. I used regular 100% whole grain whole wheat flour.

        • renee says

          Forgot to mention that it is the best whole wheat cake recipe that I’ve tried so far. 2 granny apples barely made the 2+1/2c so I topped off the apple with some fresh blueberries & raspberries to make the full measurement. AWESOME! Thanks for sharing your recipe!!!

  1. Melina says

    This looks great! I’ve been a vegetarian many years now, but not a ‘good’ one. I’ve been trying to eat healthy for months now and was so excited to find your site! I’ve already tried a couple of recipes, I’ll leave comments on those. I just read today a post on the 20 foods we should avoid, and canola oil is in that list. I would have never thought! Just telling you in case you want to look into it. I’ll try posting a link but I don’t know if that’s acceptable here: http://ybertaud9.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/20-ingredients-to-memorize-and-avoid-in-any-food-you-consume/

    • says

      Hi Melina, welcome, and happy you’ve liked the recipes you tried. Thanks for the canola oil information. I hadn’t heard about the health concerns over canola although they seem to be all over the web, and this was very informative. But I also found a number of credible sources that say the fears are unfounded. I have been moving more toward olive and coconut oil– both of which I already used a lot of in my cooking– and I guess I will do even more so in the future. Refined coconut oil particularly is a good substitute for canola because it doesn’t have the strong coconut flavor which I love in Indian food but might not be great in cakes.

    • Melina says

      I’m glad to hear it- I had just read one article before I saw it in your ingredients but hadn’t looked further, just thought I’d let you know to make your own decisions. I’ll read up more too! I too have been trying coconut oil. I am already using olive oil wherever I can (I live in Greece so it would be a shame not to!). It works well in cakes also, if the cake can handle the flavor. I will try this recipe too! thank you!

  2. says

    I love Applepie with dollop of good old vanilla ice cream. I know not healthy but so worth the guilt trip. I am bookmarking the recipe and will use applesauce as it makes all baked caked taste good. I started baking with applesauce to cut down the eggs but then found that it cuts sugar portions also.
    Love Ash.

  3. says

    For some reason apple is one fruit I’m not a big fan of. But this cake sounds amazing. I’ll buy some apples to try this cake. Thanks for sharing this yummy cake!!

  4. Anonymous says

    Using cooked pumpkin instead of apple sauce might work well too, although it is less liquid. Lovely recipe!


  5. says

    It looks delicious and the recipe sounds great! I’m not much of a sweet tooth but I am rather fond of apples in baked goods.

  6. says

    I made applesauce cake following your recipe, and it was great!

    This apple cake also looks so YUM, and I will try sometime…

    Thank you so much for inspiring people across the world to try vegan fare…

  7. says

    Having apples, apple sauce at home and hubby giving me very similar hints on good fruits going waste – so this is a recipe that is a timely send to me!
    Pastry flour same as ‘atta’ used for making chapati? Noticed baking powder and soda in the recipe too – so atta can be used instead of pastry flour?
    Appreciate your help in this clarification!

    • says

      Rajani, atta isn’t quite the same as whole-wheat pastry flour although it is lighter than regular whole-wheat and can be used as a substitute. For the best texture I’d advise mixing the atta with some all-purpose flour–1 cup of atta and 1/2 cup of all-purpose should work very well.

  8. says

    We are actually making this cake right now using 100% whole wheat flour from the grocery store. We used 2 Granny Smith apples — puréed one with a little water, and finely chopped the other. Our batter turned out more fluid than the recipe specified. Will post how it turns out.

  9. Gayatri says

    Hi Vaishali,

    I made this cake last night for a few friends and it was absolutely wonderful! Everyone loved it! Thanks for the wonderful recipe and this fantastic site!


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