Gladys Langford’s Apple Cake

On occasion in this space, I have mentioned the inspiration for The Fountain Avenue Kitchen–my maternal grandmother, Gladys Langford. Amazing aromas continuously wafted from her narrow kitchen, but it was her spunk and zest for life that made people want to sit down in that cozy space and stay a while.

Day in and day out, cooking was my grandmother’s way of caring for those around her. Her joy was palpable as she provided the meals that brought family and friends together. After a full day’s work, she filled empty stomachs and, in the process, nourished her own soul.

After my grandmother died, I realized that memories really do keep our loved ones alive. So often, these memories have something to do with food.

When I stir a hearty tomato sauce with my grandmother’s old wooden spoon, I think of all the meals she lovingly touched with that spoon. I also have other memories—like spilling a full plate of spaghetti on my grandparents’ brand new, bright green carpet. I cried, but my grandmother showed no anger. We cleaned it up and, remarkably, it left no stain. I still chuckle every time I think of that green carpet.

When I bake the following recipe–her family-favorite apple cake–I imagine her deftly paring the apples in a way I still cannot manage. Somewhere along the way, I decided to simply leave the skin on.

As a newlywed, this was my go-to dessert. I frequently whipped it up after work, as the ingredients are easy to have on hand. This simple cake was also the first baked good I successfully converted to gluten-free for my dad.

Several years ago, my family hosted an exchange student from Norway. The first time he ate this cake, he asked seconds, and then thirds. Then he asked for this fall treat almost every night thereafter. I made a lot of apple cake that year. And every time I chopped the apples and the sweet aroma filled my kitchen, I thought of my grandmother.

With most of my recipes, I limit the sugar or use a natural sweetener when possible. I have made low-sugar versions of this humble but irresistible cake, but the original is truly my favorite. The cake tastes perfect without a hint of icing so, realistically, that’s a whole lot of sugar we’re not eating, right?

Gladys Langford’s Apple Cake
My grandmother often served this cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, although it truly requires no adornment. The recipe generously fills a 9×13 cake pan. As an option, you may bake in two 8-inch square pans or two 9-inch round pans. The cake freezes well and is sure to delight as an unexpected gift. Alternatively, the recipe may be cut in half. To “split” the odd egg, crack it into a small bowl, beat lightly, and add 2 tablespoons of it to the batter. Discard the other half or save for scrambled eggs.

Yields 16 servings.
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Ingredients
  1. 3 eggs
  2. 1 1/2 cups canola oil (see notes for substitution options)
  3. 3 cups sugar
  4. 3 cups all-purpose flour
  5. 1 teaspoon salt
  6. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  7. 3 cups diced apples (tart and/or sweet according to preference; I leave the skin on)
  8. 2 teaspoons vanilla
  9. 1 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and oil.
  3. Mix in remaining ingredients and spread in greased pan(s).
  4. Bake one 9×13 pan for approximately 1 hour; bake two 8×8 square or 9-inch round pans for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Always check a little early since oven temperatures very. This will ensure a moist cake.
Notes
  1. *Substitution Options:*
  2. *Oil:* You may swap up to half of the oil with unsweetened applesauce to lower the fat content; I typically use one cup of oil and one 4-ounce, single-serve cup of applesauce (these can be conveniently stored in the cupboard). Also, grape seed or another neutral-flavored oil may be used.
  3. *Flour:* I have baked this cake with all whole wheat flour and a 50-50 mix. Both options result in a very good cake, although the 50-50 mix produces a lighter cake. Likewise, I have often made it with my gluten-free flour blend and no one can tell the difference.
  4. *Sugar:* Lastly, if you are watching sugar content, you may reduce the sugar by 1/2 cup with no adverse effect. Although the total amount of sugar may seem high, the full recipe yields quite a large cake and requires no icing to be delicious!
The Fountain Avenue Kitchen http://fountainavenuekitchen.com/
IMG_6965

And some older pictures….

Full of fruit, moist and delicious, this recipe uses ingredients you are likely to have on hand. It may be prepared as one big cake or two smaller ones.

These are my grandparents. Though my Fountain Avenue Kitchen may be virtual, their Fountain Avenue Kitchen was the real deal!

This is one of the first food photos I ever took. In the background is an art project made by one of my kids!  The color of this cake is darker than the one shown above because of both the lighting difference and the flour used.  This cake used half whole wheat flour, the photos at the top of the page used my gluten-free mix.

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Comments

    1. Ann

      Hi Mary Lee,
      I have used a half cup less sugar and the results were very good. This recipe does contain a good amount of sugar, but the full recipe does make a rather large cake. Since this was my grandmother’s recipe and very popular in our family, I wanted to present it as she made it. I like to think that the upside is that there is no need for icing which would normally contribute more sugar: ) Some of my friends have used the Splenda baking mixes with good results, although I have not tried them. I hope this helps!

      Reply
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  3. Mary Lou Keller

    What a delight to see this Ann! and what wonderful happy memories you have. So happy I found this site (and the whole wonderful world of recipe blogs!!) and congrats on one year anniversary!

    I am going to make note of your recipe.. my mom also made a “fresh apple cake” as she called it and it was so good.

    Reply
    1. Ann

      Thank you for your sweet comments, Mary Lou! It has been a pleasure to share both the recipes and the memories over the last year. It would be interesting to compare your mother’s and my grandmother’s apple cake recipe. Perhaps they are similar! I adore this recipe and almost always have the ingredients on hand.

      Reply
  4. Astrid

    2 1/2 – 2/3 cups sugar for the full recipe is it for me–not using apple sauce either but substituted half of the oil (grape seed, never canola) with 3/4 cup milk. Comes out beautifully! New favourite cake for the whole family!

    Reply
    1. Ann

      Thanks so much for the feedback and for sharing your adaptations, Astrid. I think we probably prefer our cake a little sweeter, but it is so nice to know that this recipe is so flexible. (There will be some difference in final sweetness based on sweetness/tartness of apples used, too.) I am sure your suggestions will be appreciated by many. Thanks for commenting!

      Reply
  5. Rila Hackett

    Ann, what a lovely tribute to the woman who not only inspired your website, but your calling in life. I’ve been looking for an apple cake recipe so your timing (on my behalf) is perfect. Thanks for a year of sharing your time-tested recipes with all of us AND for sharing the stories behind many of the recipes (which draws us into wanting to try something new). Happy One Year Anniversary!

    Reply
    1. Ann

      Thank you very much, Rila! She sure was a wonderful woman and an inspiration on so many levels. This website has been a daily reminder of her and all the wonderful memories. That–combined with people like you–makes it a true pleasure!

      Reply
  6. Molly

    I have made this several times and love it! I use your gluten free mix and no one ever knows. I get rave reviews and requests to make more!

    Reply
  7. Fran

    Yum!!! I used milk instead of oil and shredded coconut instead of walnuts and it was a success. I was afraid I might have to make other adjustments because of altitude (I live in Mexico City) but no other changes were required. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Ann

      Thank you for the great feedback, Fran, and I am so glad you enjoyed. Your adaptations sound wonderful. I would particularly enjoy the addition of coconut!

      Reply
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  9. Terry Mosher

    Ann, I cherish those vintage family recipes and I don’t change a thing. Thanks for sharing your story and recipe.The recipe that I just made for Apple Cake belongs to a friend of ours that she got from her Grandmother and I do not have permission to post it. We just returned from Kansas and came home with Apples, now I have to get baking. I have a great recipe for Scalloped Apples that are made in the microwave, and my Apple Pie without a Crust…… I will have to make your cake too!

    Terry

    Reply
    1. Ann

      Scalloped apples remind me of a childhood friend. Her mother would make them for us as an after-school snack…so good! I haven’t had them in years. Might need to try your recipe!

      Reply
  10. Terry Mosher

    I just discovered that this Apple Cake recipe is the same as my friend’s Grandmother’s that I just made. She has asked me not to post it on my blog and I respect that. I know that there were probably many grandmothers that had this recipe. I must add , for your readers, this is the best Apple Cake recipe we have ever tasted. We make it in the traditional Kugelhof pan.

    Reply
  11. Terry Mosher

    Ann, I just made my scalloped Apples yesterday. You can find the recipe on my blog. They are so simple and they remind me of Luby’s Cafeteria apples that are a childhood memory for me.

    Reply
  12. Mys Angel

    Made and loved this! I used half applesauce and half melted butter in place of the oil and served it warm with fresh whipped cream.

    Reply
  13. Christie Twentier

    Great cake! I used half cup less sugar and half whole wheat flour and regular flour. I made two 9 inch rounds, wanted to add raisins to one of them and forgot!! Next time for sure. My kids loved this and the one cake is wrapped and in the fridge. Love recipes that you can split and have now and later!

    This was fantastic and a great way for me to use my CSA apples!!

    Reply
  14. Julia

    Dear Ann
    It was a first time for me to make an apple cake and had a strong feeling I was really going to like this recipe. Well I was right! I made 2 small ones and my husband and the rest of the family also loved. I even shared the recipe with a friend from church. We loved it so much I already have all the ingredients to make it again. I made it just the way it was written only a little less sugar and it came out great!!!!!

    Reply
  15. Shawna

    I found your site looking for gluten free pizza dough that would work on the grill as I make great grilled pizzas but have found my MS is much better without gluten. But I love that you have this story about your Grandmothers Apple cake as my Italian Grandmother who has been gone for sometime used to make a apple cake like this and it was my dads absolute fav and she would bring him tons of it but he’s now allergic to wheat. I will try this for sure!

    Reply
    1. Ann

      Thanks for your comment, Shawna. Coincidently, I am getting ready to make another apple cake for my dad who cannot eat gluten. It tastes just like the regular wheat flour version when I use my gluten-free flour blend, and he likes it as coffee cake on Christmas morning. I hope you enjoy as much as we do!

      Reply
    1. Ann

      You can absolutely add cinnamon, Anita. The flavors work well together. My grandmother just never included it in this recipe, so I usually don’t either. Also, I have not used brown sugar but, again, I don’t think it would change the recipe too much if you swapped out half of the granulated sugar.

      Reply