Once apple season is here, I have the undeniable need to bake the cosiest apple desserts (of course usually incorporating cinnamon somewhere along the way!). This idea of making this cake came after I saw a photo of those ‘cinnamon roll pastry‘ pies which have taken various forms over the years. I’m not the biggest pie fan so I was wondering how I could get a similar effect into a different dessert. Then it came to me – streusel! This crunchy, crumbly topping is common on coffee cakes and humble fruit cakes so would be an obvious thing to add to an apple cake. Swirling cinnamon sugar into streusel dough and slicing into perfect pinwheels was the perfect way to use this super cute technique. It’s such an impressive and delicious extra touch to elevate a simple cake like this.
Other cosy apple dessert recipes
- Apple Salted Caramel Layer Cake
- Single Serving Skillet Apple Crumble
- Eve’s Pudding
- Simple Apple Tart with Tahini Caramel
- Apple Ginger Upside Down Cake
- 75 g unsalted butter vegan block butter is fine
- 90 g caster sugar
- 1 medium egg (see notes for vegan sub)
- 80 g milk non-dairy is fine
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 150 g plain white flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/8 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1/4 tsp fine table salt
- 1 small eating apple peeled, cored, roughly chopped
Cinnamon roll streusel
- 100 g plain white flour
- 50 g unsalted butter vegan block butter is fine
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- a pinch salt
- 2 to 3 tbsp cold milk non-dairy is fine
- 45 g dark brown sugar
- 25 g unsalted butter, very soft vegan block butter is ifne
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 small eating apples cored and thinly sliced
Make the cake batter
- To make by hand: Cream the butter and caster sugar together until smooth. Mix in the egg, milk and vanilla. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and stir together to get a smooth, thick batter. Fold the chopped apple into the batter.
- OR To make in a food processor: Blitz the butter and sugar in a food processor until smooth. Add the egg, milk and vanilla, blitzing to combine. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and blitz until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the chopped apple and fold into the batter (don't blitz) until just combined.
Make the cinnamon roll streusel dough:
- To make by hand: Combine the flour, 50g butter, caster sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until you get a fine, mealy texture. Add the milk a little at a time and mix, kneading gently with your hands in the bowl as needed, until you get a smooth dough.
- OR To make in a food processor: Clean out the bowl of the food processor. Combine the flour, 50g butter, caster sugar and salt. Blitz until you get a fine, mealy texture. Add the milk a little at a time and pulse until the dough comes together. Remove from the food processor and set aside.
Fill the cinnamon roll streusel dough:
- Take the cinnamon roll streusel dough you just made and roll it out on a piece of floured baking paper, dusting on top of the dough lightly with flour to prevent it sticking to the rolling pin. Roll out into a roughly 16 x 30 cm rectangle.
- In a small bowl, mix the dark brown sugar with the very soft butter and cinnamon. Spread this mixture out over the surface of the dough in an even layer.
- Starting at a long edge of the rectangle, roll the dough up into a log. Freeze the log for 10-15 minutes until firm. Slice the log into ~5mm thick slices.
Assemble & bake:
- Spoon the batter into a lined 7-inch cake tin. Top with the sliced apples and decorate with the cinnamon roll streusel slices.
- Bake for 35-45 minutes, covering the cake with foil if it looks like it's browning too quickly, until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before slicing and serving.
Cinnamon Roll Streusel Tips
- You may not need all of the milk for the dough – you just need it to come together into a ball. If you add too much milk it can get a bit sticky which can be a little harder to handle.
- Freezing the dough before slicing is important as it firms up the cinnamon roll filling meaning it doesn’t smear when you slice through the log.
- If the pinwheels are getting a bit deformed when you slice, you can either pop it back in the freezer for a few minutes to firm it up again, or just gently coax the shape back into a circle with your fingertips.
- I like to scatter the pinwheels around the edges of the cake so that they frame the pretty apple slices in the middle. If you want to MAXIMISE the streusel coverage, you can place them all over the top of the cake instead.
- If you have any leftover slices of cinnamon roll streusel, you can bake them on a lined tray alongside the cake for around 5-10 minutes until golden – they make a delicious snack (basically a tiny cinnamon roll cookie!!).
The best type of apples for this cake
Right, my dad always wants Bramley apples in desserts like this as he says they have the best flavour and I think he likes the tartness of them. I’ve never been hugely into Bramleys as the acidity is TOO MUCH for me. I did try this cake with Bramleys but I found that they really release a lot of liquid and break down in a different way to eating apples which I didn’t like here. I tried Granny Smith apples too because I thought their tartness would be nice, however I really didn’t like the look of the green apple skin on the top of the cake (especially post-bake). I settled on some mottled Cox apples which have a nice texture once baked and aren’t too tart. If you have a favourite eating apple to bake with, give it a go! But I do think that the Bramleys should stay out of this one.
Tips on decorating the cake with apples
To get this fun effect of the fanned apples on the top of the battter, I cut the apple in half and scooped out the core with a teaspoon. Lay the apple halves cut side down and thinly slice with a sharp knife. Take a group of around 8 or more slices of apple and pick them up together, slightly fan them apart and then push into the batter so they’re slightly submerged. Repeat this with the rest of the apples, varying the angles you lay them at to create a more rustic finish.
Variations with other fruit
I haven’t tested this recipe with other fruits in the batter but I would imagine that pears would be an easy one to swap in without having to make any adjustments to the recipe. I also think something like blueberries or raspberries would be great here. When it comes to stone fruit like plums or apricots, they would probably need to be halved and roasted for 15-20 minutes (and then left to cool) first so they wouldn’t be too wet! Let me know if you’ve tried this with any other fruits, I’d love to hear about it!