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Apple Crisp Cake: A Pennsylvania Dutch Dessert

Patty enjoys cooking for family and friends. She creates simple and satisfying treats from old family recipes.

This dessert is best served warm from the oven, but I also like it cold.

This dessert is best served warm from the oven, but I also like it cold.

A Crowd-Pleaser

One of my favorites, this apple crisp cake has always been my go-to recipe for family gatherings. It's super simple to make and a crowd-pleaser. There is always a competition for the last slice. It might be a good idea to make two pans.

Church Cookbook Recipe

I found this recipe one rainy afternoon while searching through a stack of old cookbooks that survived through three moves across three states. The cookbook, ragged but surprisingly still wearing a front cover, was filled with recipes gathered and printed in 1988 by a little church group from Johnstown, PA.

In my Google searches, I have yet to come up with a recipe like this one. Recipes for apple crisp are made with an oatmeal top layer or are denser, like a coffee cake. This recipe is light and moist, made with flour, egg, and oil.

The recipe, well stamped with oily smudges, reminded me of the countless hours I used to spend thumbing through cookbooks searching for a new recipe to try out for my family. This one was a keeper.

Over the years, I have revised the recipe by decreasing the salt, sugar, and oil to allow the natural apple flavor to come through. This is a more healthy version of the original fall dessert.

Honey Crisp, Cortland and McIntosh are good choices for this recipe.

Honey Crisp, Cortland and McIntosh are good choices for this recipe.

Choose Your Apples

Apple season in south-central Pennsylvania is always a good time. Orchards burst with flavorful varieties each of which have a distinct taste and texture remarkable to itself.

My favorite is the Cortland apple. The Cortland apple bakes well with just enough sweetness that if you want, in most recipes, you can decrease the added sugar a bit.

Because our grocery store does not carry the Cortland apple, I made this recipe with Honey Crisp and it worked well. The apples had just enough tartness and texture to hold up to the baking without going mushy.

But I have also made this fall dessert with whatever apples were hanging out in the refrigerator and I have never been disappointed.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

20 min

40 min

1 hour

9 x13 pan


  • 10 to 12 apples, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • cinnamon


  1. Mix all of the dry ingredients together except the cinnamon.
  2. Slice the apples and place them into a 9x13 greased baking dish.
  3. Put the eggs into the dry ingredients and stir until the mixture is crumbly.
  4. Pour the crumbly mixture over the apples and spread evenly.
  5. Drizzle the vegetable oil all around and over the top of the crumbly mixture.
  6. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes until the top is slightly brown.

Apple-Picking Season

This fall dessert rings true of autumn in south-central Pennsylvania where apple-picking season is in full swing. A crisp morning spent at the orchard selecting a bushel of apples to make apple sauce, pies, dumplings, and hot apple cider marks a season of preparation for the cold long winter ahead.

A little crunch and crumble

A little crunch and crumble

Who Gets the Last Piece?

"There's usually a competition for the last slice of this apple crisp cake."

The Pennsylvania Dutch Way

I attribute my cooking style to my Pennsylvania Dutch heritage. The recipes from this cuisine are unsurpassed in popularity. My grandmothers and my mother didn't actually teach me to cook, but I was always in the kitchen with a watchful eye on their doings—and I learned from their example.

© 2022 Patty Poet