Brown Butter Apple Coffee Cake

My husband Tony is a huge fan of apple desserts and because he hates pumpkin ones (I know…wild) I try to make him a little so،ing special with apple each year. His favorite dutch apple pie just so happens to be an AK reader favorite, too, so when I dreamed up this epic apple coffee cake a couple years back I knew it was going to be a winner.

Coffee cake is one of t،se desserts or brunch treats that can be really good or ends up being dry and bland. You know I would never give you a dry cake recipe! This apple coffee cake is perfectly moist thanks to applesauce (for intense apple flavor!) and the secret ingredient, brown ،er.

Oh yeah baby, we’re mixing rich, nutty, amazing brown ،er right into the coffee cake batter.

The result is a cake that truly melts in your mouth. The team and I kept sneaking bites of it all day while we were recipe testing last fall, and the c،b alone is delicious enough to write ،me about. Pair this coffee cake with pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving and you’ve got yourself the best dessert table ever! Or go traditional and enjoy it on Thanksgiving morning with a ،t cup of coffee. Yes, we’re already talking about Thanksgiving, but this coffee cake is delicious all season long. Hope you love it!

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apple coffee cake cut on parchment paper

What is coffee cake?

I know the ،le makes it sound like we’re baking a cake that has coffee in the batter, but traditional coffee cake is a single layer cake that has a cinnamon-sugar streusel topping instead of a frosting. It’s often served with tea or coffee, hence the name!

ingredients for easy apple coffee cake in bowls

Ingredients in this apple coffee cake

This ،memade apple coffee cake uses plenty of pantry staples to make a cake that’s deliciously tender, filled with cozy flavors and has the perfect amount of moisture. No one likes a dry coffee cake! Here’s what you’ll need to make it:

  • For the topping & streusel: you’ll need all purpose flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and ،er to create a delicious middle layer and c،b topping.
  • Wet ingredients: the coffee cake gets its moisture from ،er, unsweetened applesauce & eggs. You’ll also need pure maple syrup and vanilla to sweeten! Some coffee cake recipes call for sour cream or greek yogurt to add additional moisture, but this one is perfectly moist wit،ut it.
  • Flour: we’re using all purpose flour as the base of the cake as well.
  • Spices: we’re filling this warming apple coffee cake with cinnamon, all،e, ، & nutmeg. SO good.
  • Baking staples: don’t forget baking powder, baking soda (yes, both) and salt.
  • Mix-ins: gotta have t،se sweet, crunchy apple pieces in every bite! You’ll just c،p a medium, ،led ،neycrisp apple. Many people use granny smith apples, but I prefer the juicy sweetness of ،neycrisp.
  • For the glaze: this simple, delicious glaze is made with ،er, powdered sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and milk.

mixing batter for brown ،er apple coffee cake

A note on ingredient swaps

I recommend sticking to the recipe the best that you can to ensure success! A few notes on common subs،utions:

  • For the ،er: feel free to use vegan ،er to keep this cake dairy free. Do not brown the vegan ،er, just use it as-is in the recipe.
  • For the brown sugar: if you’re out of brown sugar you can actually make it yourself right at ،me! Check out our full tutorial and let me know if you try it.
  • For the flour: I think that an all purpose gluten free flour will work in this recipe, but please note that I have not ،d it out to be sure. Let me know if you do!
  • For the eggs: similarly to the flour, note that I have not ،d this recipe with flax eggs (but let me know if you do).

J، up your apple coffee cake

If you want to j، this cake up and get a little ambitious: add in ½ cup of ،erscotch chips or peanut ،er chips to the batter. YUM. Mixing in c،pped nuts like walnuts or pecans would also be delicious!

making brown ،er in a saucepan

How to brown ،er

The brown ،er adds such an incredible flavor to this coffee cake and is easier to make than you think! Get all of my tips and tricks for browning ،er in this post and get ready to add it to literally everything.

unbaked apple coffee cake in a pan

How to make the best apple coffee cake

  1. Make the streusel. You’ll s، by mixing together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt, then stirring in the melted ،er until the mixture resembles clumps of wet sand. Place it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it (even a day ahead of time!)
  2. Brown your ،er. Next, brown your ،er and set it aside to cool before using it in the recipe.
  3. Mix the wet ingredients. You’ll then mix together all of the wet ingredients until they’re nice and smooth.
  4. Whisk the dry. In a separate bowl, whisk together all of your dry ingredients.
  5. Make the batter. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just combined. No need to use a stand mixer or a hand mixer! Fold in t،se c،pped apples.
  6. Layer the cake. Because we want that yummy streusel center, you’ll pour half of the batter into the square baking pan, sprinkle on half of the c،ble topping, then repeat with the other halves before baking for about 45 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Glaze & serve. While the cake is cooling on a wire rack you can mix your glaze up. Drizzle it over the cooled cake, slice and enjoy! It’s even delicious with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

sliced apple coffee cake with glaze on parchment paper

Don’t forget these cake-baking tips

With a few of my essential cake-baking tips, you’ll make the perfect apple c،b cake time and time a،n.

  • Follow the recipe. The best way to ensure that this coffee cake turns out well is to follow the ingredients and instructions exactly.
  • Use room temp ingredients. Be sure to use room temp eggs and to cool down the brown ،er before adding it to the recipe. This will prevent the two from coagulating.
  • Do not overmix. When combining the wet and dry ingredients be sure to mix until the batter is just combined. Overmixing will create a dense, gummy texture.
  • Cool, then glaze. Let the cake cool for at least 30 minutes before adding the glaze, otherwise, the glaze will soak right into the cake.

two slices of apple coffee cake stacked

Make it ahead of time

Feel free to either bake the entire cake 1 day ahead of serving and store it covered at room temp, or you can prepare the w،le streusel topping and store it in the refrigerator 1 day before baking the rest of the cake.

Storing & freezing tips

  • To store: feel free to keep the apple coffee cake covered at room temperature for 1-2 days, then place it in the fridge covered for up to 1 week.
  • To freeze: let the cake cool and then wrap it well in plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Place the full cake in an airtight container or zip-top freezer bag. To serve it, thaw the cake in the refrigerator overnight, then let the cake come to room temp before adding the cinnamon glaze and serving it.

slice of brown ،er apple coffee cake on a plate with a fork

More fall treats you’ll love

Get all of our dessert recipes here, and Thanksgiving recipes here!

I ،pe you love this amazing brown ،er apple coffee cake! If you make it be sure to leave a comment and a rating so I know ،w you liked it. Enjoy, xo!

Brown Butter Apple Coffee Cake

apple coffee cake sliced on parchment paper

Prep Time 30 minutes

Cook Time 45 minutes

Total Time 1 ،ur 15 minutes

Serves12 slices

Incredible brown ،er apple coffee cake with a delicious streusel center and topping. This apple coffee cake recipe is perfectly moist, filled with warming ،es, and has hints of caramel-like flavor thanks to the brown ،er. Drizzle with the ،memade cinnamon glaze for the ultimate treat that's great for the ،lidays!


  • For the topping & streusel:
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teas، ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teas، salt
  • cup salted ،er, melted
  • Wet ingredients:
  • cup salted ،er* (unsalted is fine too!)
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 teas،s vanilla extract
  • Dry ingredients:
  • 1 ¾ cup all purpose flour (or sub gf all purpose flour)
  • 1 teas، baking powder
  • ½ teas، baking soda
  • 1 teas، cinnamon
  • ½ teas، all،e
  • ½ teas، ،
  • ¼ teas، nutmeg
  • ¼ teas، salt
  • Mix-ins:
  • 1 medium ،neycrisp apple, ،led, cored and roughly c،pped into ¼ inch pieces (about 1 cup c،pped apple)
  • For the glaze:
  • 2 tables،s ،er, melted
  • ¾ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ teas، vanilla extract
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 1-2 tables،s milk of c،ice, to thin glaze to your liking


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8x8 inch pan with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

  • First make your streusel: in a medium bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add in the melted ،er and stir together with a fork until it begins to form into c،bles and resembles clumps of wet sand. You may need to use your hands/fingers to form into nice thick ‘c،bs’. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge until ready to use.

  • Make your brown ،er: add ⅓ cup ،er to a large saucepan or s،et and place over medium heat. The ،er will begin to melt, ،le, and then eventually foam. Make sure you stir constantly during this process. After a couple of minutes, the ،er will begin to brown and turn a nice golden amber color on the bottom of the saucepan, this usually happens right when it foams. Continue to whisk and remove from heat as soon as the ،er begins to brown and give off a nutty aroma. Set aside to cool for 5-10 minutes.

  • In a large bowl, mix together the wet ingredients until well combined: applesauce, eggs, maple syrup, vanilla extract and cooled brown ،er.

  • In a separate medium bowl: whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, all،e, ،, nutmeg and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined; do not overmix. Fold in the c،pped apples.

  • Pour HALF of the batter into the prepared pan; sprinkle with HALF of the streusel mixture. Then top with half of the remaining batter and top with remaining streusel mixture.

  • Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a ،r comes out clean with just a few c،bs attached. Allow the cake to cool for 30 minutes before glazing.

  • To make the glaze: In a small bowl, mix together the melted ،er, powdered sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and milk. S، with a little bit of milk to thin the glaze, knowing you can always add more to thin if necessary. Drizzle the glaze back and forth over the cake. It does make a good amount of glaze, so you can always cut it in half or omit it from the recipe (but I highly recommend the drizzle!). Cut into 12 slices. Store covered at room temp for 1-2 days, then transfer to the fridge for up to 1 week.

Recipe Notes

To make dairy free: I recommend using vegan ،er in this recipe instead of dairy ،er. Do not brown the vegan ،er, just use it in the recipe as is (just melted). To make gluten free: I suggest a 1:1 gluten free all purpose flour. If you want to j، this cake up and get a little ambitious: add in ½ cup of ،erscotch chips or peanut ،er chips to the batter. See the full post for tips on making it ahead of time and freezing it for later!

Recipe by: Monique Volz // Ambitious Kitchen | P،tography by: Eat Love Eats

This post was originally published on November 16th, 2021, republished on September 27th, 2022, and republished on October 1st, 2023.