The best 3-ingredient apple cake

Some of our favorite fall desserts are apple-themed. We love apple pie's dense pie crust, the sweet biscuit topping on apple cobblers, and how crunchy the exterior gets on an apple crisp. But, sometimes, we don't want to fuss around with making dessert. That's where 3-ingredient dessert recipes come into play. They make desserts easy to pull together with a handful of pantry staples, and they taste every bit as good as more complicated recipes.

We already discovered how easy it is to make a 3-ingredient apple cobbler, but we wanted to see if it was possible to create a soft, fluffy cake recipe. So we went to work creating a recipe that joined the delicious flavors of cinnamon apples with our favorite French vanilla cake. The result was a 3-ingredient apple cake recipe that's not only delicious, but it's also easy to customize. Read on for instructions about how to make this apple cake with fresh apples instead of apple pie filling, or how to swap-in your own homemade yellow cake mix (including a gluten-free version). And if pumpkin desserts are on your mind, you can also change this recipe to make it with a pumpkin pie filling.

Gather the ingredients for the best 3-ingredient apple cake

The ingredients list for the best 3-ingredient apple cake recipe is short and sweet. Pick up a 21-ounce can of apple pie filling, four eggs, and a box of yellow cake mix. Seriously: That's it! The cake mix contains everything you'll need to make a light and fluffy cake, and the apple pie filling already contains sugar and spices. The eggs give the cake structure and rich flavor, and they also work to keep the cake moist as it bakes.

If you're not feeling the apple pie vibes, feel free to swap-in your favorite pie filling instead. Canned peach pie, cherry pie, mixed berry, and pumpkin pie mix all work really well in this recipe. You could even try it with canned pineapples to make a pineapple cake. The possibilities are endless with this simple, easy-to-make 3-ingredient recipe base.

Scroll down to the directions section for the full list of ingredient quantities and step-by-step instructions.

Can you make the best 3-ingredient apple cake without a box of cake mix?

If you don't have a box of cake mix on hand, don't fret. Cake mix makes it easier than ever to pull together the best 3-ingredient apple cake, but it's not a required ingredient. You see, cake mix is simply a pre-mixed blend of flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Bon Appetit explains that they also add hard-to-pronounce ingredients to keep the boxes shelf-stable, so it's almost better to make your own.

It's easy to whip up a homemade version of yellow cake mix. Simply combine 2-1/4 cups of all-purpose flour, 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar, 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Whisk the ingredients together and store them in a quart-sized mason jar until you're ready to bake. Feel free to double or triple the recipe, and you'll always have homemade cake mix on hand.

Making your own cake mix is the easiest way to adapt this recipe for a gluten-free diet, too. Simply use a gluten-free all-purpose flour when making homemade yellow cake mix (like Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour).

How to make the best 3-ingredient apple cake without apple pie filling

Stash a few cans of apple pie filling in the pantry, and you'll always have what you need to make the best 3-ingredient apple cake. But, if you run out or can't find any at the grocery store, it's surprisingly easy to make homemade apple pie filling with a handful of ingredients.

Start by peeling, coring, and slicing four medium apples. We like using a mixture of tart Granny Smith and sweet honeycrisp apples, but feel free to choose any apple varieties you like. Simmer the apples in a small saucepan with a few tablespoons of water, butter, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1/3 cup sugar. After about five minutes, the apples will start to soften. Add one tablespoon of cornstarch (mixed with two tablespoons of water) to the saucepan, simmering for an additional five minutes until the apples are soft and the mixture is thickened.

Let the homemade apple pie filling cool before using it in our best 3-ingredient apple cake recipe.

Mix the ingredients to create the best 3-ingredient apple cake

Now that you've decided on the ingredients to use, it's time to make the best 3-ingredient apple cake. Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray or butter and set aside.

It's best to mix the apple pie filling and eggs with an electric mixer — either a handheld one or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. This helps break up the apples into bite-sized pieces. In a pinch, you can mix the eggs and apples by hand, but be sure to break up the apples using a large spoon. Add the cake mix to the eggs and apples and stir to combine. You only need to stir until there are no visible chunks of dry flour. Overmixing can lead to a dense cake!

Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and bake for 35 to 45 minutes. When it's finished, the crust should be golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake will come out clean. Let the cake pan cool on a wire rack before slicing and serving.

How to serve the best 3-ingredient apple cake

You have a few options when it comes to serving the best 3-ingredient apple cake. This cake is sweet enough to serve for dessert but light enough to serve for breakfast or a quick snack. For starters, the size of the slice matters. To serve this dessert for a crowd, create 24 brownie-sized servings. Start by using a knife to make four lengthwise slices, cutting the cake in half and then each section in half again. Then, use a measuring tape or ruler to cut the cake into six pieces at two-inch increments. That will leave you with 24 two-inch square pieces. Of course, you can always make larger or smaller pieces. Instead of cutting the cake into squares, try making snack-sized strips by cutting the cake in half lengthwise. Create 1/2- to one-inch strips by cutting the cake along the short edge.

The cake tastes great on its own, but it's not too sweet that you can't serve it with ice cream or whipped cream. Try spicing up whipped cream with a dash of cinnamon. You can also use apple pie spice or pumpkin pie spice, if you prefer. If you're serving the cake warm, a scoop of ice cream is perfect. The cold ice cream melts into the hot cake, creating a custard-like coating that's unforgettable.

How did our 3-ingredient apple cake turn out?

We couldn't think of a single thing to complain about with this recipe. The cake itself was soft, fluffy, and airy, and the little pockets of cinnamon apples were sweet and gooey. Overall, it had the perfect balance of sweet and tangy flavors, and it tasted fantastic when served with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. It turned out just as good with the canned apples and boxed cake mix as the more homemade version, so we recommend making it whichever way is easiest for you.

The 9x13 cake made a ton of servings — about 24 — which makes this recipe perfect for serving a crowd at a backyard barbecue or potluck event. It will last for four to five days in the refrigerator, so don't be afraid to make it for the family and provide dessert all week long. It tastes great right out of the fridge, but you can also pop it into the oven or microwave to reheat it before serving. If you still find yourself with leftovers, place the remaining cake in an airtight container, and freeze it for up to three months.

The best 3-ingredient apple cake
No Ratings
Apple pies are great, but sometimes you want an apple dessert without all the fuss of making a pie. That's where 3-ingredient dessert recipes come into play and this 3-ingredient apple cake is the perfect fall treat. Read on for step-by-step instructions on how to make a 3-ingredient apple cake.
Prep Time
5
minutes
Cook Time
35
minutes
Servings
0
One 9x13 cake (about 24 servings)
3-ingredient apple cake directions
Ready in 40 minutes
Ingredients
  • 1 (21-ounce) can apple pie filling*
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 (16.5-ounce) box yellow cake mix**
  • Whipped cream or ice cream, for topping (optional)
  • 4 medium apples (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons water (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons butter (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/3 cup granulated white sugar (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch, mixed with 2 tablespoons water (optional)
  • 2-1/4 cups of all-purpose flour or gluten-free all-purpose flour (optional)
  • 1-1/4 cups white granulated sugar (optional)
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
Directions
  1. If you're making homemade apple pie filling, peel, core, and slice the apples. Place the apples in a small saucepan with the water, butter, cinnamon, and sugar. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, until the apples are slightly softened. Stir in the cornstarch slurry and cook until apples are soft and the filling is thickened, about 5 minutes. Let cool before using.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray or brush with butter. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or a medium bowl, combine the eggs and apple pie filling. Use an electric mixer to stir until the apples are slightly broken up. Alternatively, you can mix by hand, using a large spoon to break up the apple chunks.
  4. Add the cake mix (or homemade cake mix, pre-mixed in a separate bowl) and stir until there are no visible chunks of dry flour. Take care not to overmix, or the cake will turn out dense.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared dish and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack before slicing.
  6. Store leftover apple cake in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days, or freeze in an airtight container for up to three months. It tastes great cold, but you can also reheat it in the oven or microwave before serving.
Rate this recipe