Apple Cake - gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free

For the last few days I've been recipe testing a healthy cookie--no butter, no added sugars, lots of fiber, healthy fats, and nutrients. Oh, and grain free and vegan. It hasn't been going well. It later dawned on me that what makes a cookie a cookie is the starch, fat, and sugar. Taking them out simply produced something more cake/biscuit like which is not what I was going for (although still rather tasty given its components). Though I haven't given up just yet, it made me wonder why I was trying to make something with so many restrictions. I'm not vegan, I don't have a gluten intolerance, and I don't follow a "paleo" diet. Part of it is because I enjoy a good challenge, but mostly it's because I believe the best diet is a varied diet. It's easy to get stuck eating the same vegetables or even the same meals day after day. Go on instagram and see how many #mealprepmonday photos are filled with chicken breast, tilapia, brown rice, broccoli, and sweet potato. Eating "clean" (don't get me started on that term either, but that's another story for another day) is definitely healthier than fast food, but there are so many varieties of grains, vegetables, fruits, and nuts that offer more than just sustenance. Varying the types of foods you eat offers you a wide range of nutrients you might otherwise not be getting, and sometimes restrictions encourage you to seek out new ingredients rather than relying on old favorites.

Since the cookie recipe has yet to be perfected, I thought I'd share something more up my alley: a cake, of course! Last night I came across a dessert called an apple sharlotka, a Russian/Polish cake that has a large proportion of sliced apples to actual cake batter. The structure is mostly from eggs so I thought it would be a good candidate for gluten free flours. Along the way I came across something similar from Leite's Culinaria, the drunken apple cake. Still a large proportion of apples but this time with butter creating a richer cake. I made a combination of the two and ended up with a gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free apple cake. No, not as indulgent as the others but delicious nonetheless!

A combination of almond flour and oat flour was used for this recipe, mostly because it's what I had on hand. I originally planned to use a bit of brown rice flour but that was nowhere to be found. For sweetness I used a combination of brown rice syrup and maple syrup, but I am sure honey would be fine as well. I should really call this an almond maple apple cake instead. The maple really shines so make sure you use a good quality syrup. As soon as the cake came out of the oven I brushed it with a tablespoon of maple syrup then garnished with chopped almonds. The almonds aren't necessary but it dresses up an otherwise plain cake and adds some nice texture. Next time I might try adding a few tablespoons of rum like drunken apple cake to deepen the flavor.

I'm pretty happy with how it came out. The fat from the almonds, fiber from the apples, plus a hit of sweetness from the maple syrup keep my sweet tooth in check with the tiniest of slices. An unfussy cake fit for a weeknight dessert, I'd say.

Sliced Apple Cake - GF, DF, SF
Author: Sara Tso / Matchbox Kitchen
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6-8
gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free
  • 2 apples, peeled and thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 1/2 c almond flour
  • 1/2 c oat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 c oil
  • 1/4 c + 2 tbsp (6 tbsp) honey or maple syrup
  • 2 large eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F and grease a 6" round pan, 3" tall.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (flours, baking powder, salt).
  3. Using a hand or stand mixer, whisk together in a separate bowl the oil, honey/maple syrup, and eggs until aerated and slightly frothy, about 5 minutes. Add dry ingredients and fold until combined. Batter should be slightly thick.
  4. Portion one third of the batter into the prepared pan, then lay half of the apple slices in a concentric circle. Add a third more batter, and repeat with the remaining apples. Finish off with the last of the batter.
  5. Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer comes out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes inside pan, then invert on stand and let cool until room temperature.
  6. Slice with a sharp knife and serve with coconut cream, a drizzle of honey, or a dusting of powdered sugar.