Louisa Shafia

The Best Gluten-Free Apple Cake for Apple Picking Season

There’s a chill in the air and the leaves are starting to fall, which means it’s time to go apple picking. If you have kids, this is a great way to get them out into nature for a day. In a time when so much of our food is packaged and processed and disguised, a good old-fashioned apple-picking trip is a fun way to give them a sense of where real, fresh food comes from.

Across the country there are “you pick” or “pick your own” farms where you can go and fill up baskets and bags with fruit and pay for them by weight. It’s a good, cheap way to spend a day, and everyone gets to stretch their legs in the fresh air. You can find your local “pick your own” farm at


Once you’ve gotten all of those beautiful apples back to your kitchen, you’ve got the happy dilemma of how to eat all of them. There are only so many apples you can eat raw—or, my favorite way, sliced and spread with peanut butter—so be prepared with some apple recipes. Apple pancakes and apple pie are two classics, but I’m a big fan of a grated apple cake. It’s so easy and with the small amount of sugar called for in the recipe, this cake is good not only for dessert, but for breakfast, too.

shredded apples

Because so many people are gluten free these days, this recipe uses gluten-free flour mix instead of regular flour. It’s widely available in natural food stores or can be found online.

Depending on what part of the country you live in, you may find several different varieties for sale in all shades of red, pink, yellow and green. What kind of apples should you get for this cake? Any variety will do, but if you choose a tart apple, add an extra quarter cup of sugar to the recipe.

Get picking and have fun!

Grated Apple Cake (gluten-free)

Makes 1 9 x 13-inch quarter sheet pan or baking dish, 24 2-inch squares


2 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour

1 cup organic cane sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

3 eggs

1 cup coconut oil, at room temperature

3 cups grated Honeycrisp or other sweet apples (about 4 medium apples)

Zest of one lemon

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 cup ground walnuts, or chopped dried fruit

Confectioner’s sugar, for garnish (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Oil and flour a 9 by 13-inch quarter sheet pan.

gluten free apple cake mix

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, coconut oil, apples, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry and mix just until the flour is no longer visible. Gently fold in the walnuts.

gluten free apple cake image3. Transfer the batter to the prepared baking sheet and smooth with an offset spatula. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack, and cut into squares. Sift confectioner’s sugar over the top if desired.

sliced gluten free apple cake image

4. Enjoy!

Louisa Shafia is the author, most recently, of The New Persian Kitchen, a book of healthy Mediterranean and Silk Road-inspired recipes. See Louisa’s cooking videos and her schedule of upcoming events at

17 Responses to “The Best Gluten-Free Apple Cake for Apple Picking Season”

  1. Diane Dean says:

    thank you for the gluten free recipe. About a year ago I learned I must leave the gluten for others. I like apples and this will be a great desert for me this fall.

  2. DeBorah Gonzalez says:

    I can’t wait to try this out I am only been gluten free for 3 months and haven’t found enough recipes so thank you

    • Sandi says:

      Deborah, feel free to email me privately at sandra.barber at

      I’ve been GF for two years now and have developed some tasty recipes of all types that I would gladly share with you. My secret: understanding how to mix the different kinds of GF flours based on what kind of product you are making. GF needs to go beyond allpurpose if you are really in love with baking.

      I learned most of this from a well known (old timer) cookbook who recently came out with GF.


  3. Bonnie says:

    What can I use as a substitute for the coconut oil?

  4. Bonnie says:

    Was very disappointed in this. I did use the olive oil because I could not find the coconut oil. It was so dense, and the top was not smooth like the picture on here. It looked so bad, I put a light layer of cream cheese frosting on it. Needless to say, no one took more than a bite or two. Not sure what I did wrong/

    • Hi Bonnie,

      I’m so sorry the cake didn’t work for you! I just made it again last night following the recipe as written and it came out as it’s supposed to. Covering the top with confectioner’s sugar would be a good way to disguise a bumpy top. Coconut oil can be found at any natural food store, including Whole Foods, and I think it’s the best option for this recipe because of its natural sweetness. If you still can’t find it, you could try half olive oil and half apple sauce, which is often used as a substitute for oil. I hope that helps!

  5. Michelle Dunn says:

    Just made the cake and it is delicious. I did not have any coconut oil so I used a half a cup olive oil and half a cup of applesauce. I also added a 1/4 cup of brown sugar and a 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves.

  6. Katee says:

    Have you made this in any other pans? I am looking for a GF recipe for my daughter’s upcoming “apple of my eye” themed birthday party and would love to do an 8″, 6-layer cake. Does this freeze well? I freeze the layers once they are cooled to aid in stacking and frosting. Thank you!

    • Hi Katee,

      This cake will freeze just fine. I haven’t made it in a different pan, but I think if you make one batch as a “practice run,” you’ll have a good sense of how it will work in an 8-inch pan, and how many times you’ll need to multiply the recipe to get all six layers.

  7. Julie says:

    Isn’t the time supposed to be 40-45 min., not 4-45? :)

    • Jenn Giacoppo says:

      Nice catch, Julie! Change made. If we could make you one of these cakes and send it as a thanks, we would ;) – Jenn,

  8. Linda Church says:

    How does this work without the use of either guar gum or xanthan gum? Still learning about gf baking…

  9. Linda says:

    Can I use coconut or almond flour for this cake? I have both. Also I can eat regular flour. Can I use that? Thank you!

  10. renee says:

    This cake is FABULOUS! I added poppy seeds since I have lots in my freezer and I used only 3/4 of a cup of coconut sugar. Otherwise I made as directed. I had to use my hands to get all well mixed and I was a bit leery of the globs of coconut oil. But it came out wonderfully!

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