Healthier Caramel Apple Cake Recipe
We cannot get enough baked apple treats in the fall! Inspired by the sweet-and-tart treat, this caramel apple cake also uses whole wheat and a hidden veggie – zucchini! Not only does the zucchini make the cake a little healthier, but it adds subtle green apple colored flecks.
You’re going to love this cake that tastes like a cross between a caramel apple and rich coffee cake – but with half the sugar and fat of similar recipes.
The quest to make a healthier cake that still tastes good
I really had my work cut out for me when I started this one. Could a healthier cake really be as delicious as the full-fledged cake I know? I was delighted to find that the answer is yes! That is, if you like rich, dense, caramel-y cake. I know I do.
Now remember – this cake is still dessert! So it has a bit of sugar and butter, but we reduce the sugar by more than half and added Greek yogurt in place of lots of butter. And the best part? It’s still delicious and tastes like caramel-y coffee cake with delicious bites of apple! But without unnecessary excess. Win-win.
Here are some healthy cake making tips I learned:
- Using white wheat flour in this cake works! It means we get a denser cake, more of a coffee cake consistency. But, personally, I prefer that.
- Zucchini is sometimes used to replace apples in healthy dessert recipes. Crazy right!? We didn’t want to cut out our apples, but we did add some zucchini to sneak in an extra bit of veggies! We just let the apples and zucchini sit in some cinnamon and sugar to soak up flavor before mixing it in to ensure maximum tastiness.
- Cutting sugar in baking often works – and you rarely miss it. I am in the habit of halving sugar in most quick breads and muffins, so I tried doing so here and it worked like a charm. Especially because of the caramel topping – no need to be overly sweet in the cake itself.
- Subbing Greek yogurt for half or more of the butter worked great! This won’t work for all recipes, but I’m glad to do so when I can.
- I also tried using coconut oil and applesauce in the cake (separately) instead of butter and both worked well, but the applesauce leads to a bit more of a spongy, wet texture. If you don’t mind texture change, it still tasted good and means you don’t have to use a fat!
So the next time you’re in charge of dessert, give this caramel apple cake recipe a go! Use the tips above to experiment and have fun. Just be sure you have lots of people to share it with so you don’t gobble it all up by yourself!
Healthier Caramel Apple Cake
- 3 medium apple
- 1 medium zucchini
- 2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup butter, unsalted
- 2/3 cup Greek yogurt, plain
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 large egg
- 2 1/3 cup flour, whole wheat
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup butter, unsalted
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350* F and pre-grease a 3 quart baking dish.
- In a small bowl, toss chopped apples, grated zucchini, cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon of sugar until apples and zucchini are coated. Set aside.
- Whisk together brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, yogurt, and vanilla. Whisk by hand or with mixer for a minute or so, until mixture is smooth.
- Add three eggs to the sugar mixture and again whisk well, until some bubbles form.
- Add flour, baking powder, and salt to the mixture and mix well. It should be a very thick consistency. Fold apples and zucchini into the mixture until evenly mixed.
- Pour mixture into pre-greased baking dish and smooth out evenly. Place onto the middle rack of the oven and bake for 45 minutes, or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool.
- While the cake cools, make the caramel glaze by heating a small saucepan over medium-high heat and melting 1/4 cup butter. Add 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1 tablespoon milk. Bring the mixture to a simmer and reduce heat to low. Keep at a low simmer for 10 minutes, stirring regularly to keep from burning. Remove from heat and add vanilla.
- Once the cake has cooled a bit (slightly warm is good, just not hot), pour the caramel mixture evenly over the cake and spread with a spatula if needed. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.
I'm a registered dietitian, mom of 4, avid lover of food and strong promoter of healthy habits. Here you will find lots of delicious recipes full of fruits and veggies, tips for getting your kids to eat better and become intuitive eaters and lots of resources for feeding your family.Learn More about Natalie
Awwwhhhhh… A cake with a lot of fruit and vegetable is perfect for Trixilie. It sounds and looks so delicious. We have to bake it 😉 (the vegan version of it 😉 ) Thanks for sharing this recipe.
Trixilie and Bea
No problem, Bea! Let us know how the vegan version turns out!
I made this cake for one of our wellness classes today and it was amazing! Even the skeptics loved it. However, it serves WAY more than four people, I say more like twelve; not that I mind the leftovers. 🙂 Thanks for the great recipe!
How happy! So glad it went over well, even with the skeptics. 😉 Thank you for letting us know!
And I’m not sure why I put that it serves 4, whoops! I’ll fix that now. Thanks!
How big is a medium zucchini?
Hi Tony, good question! Zucchini do vary in size a lot so I wasn’t sure how to describe it. The size I used were about 8 inches long and 2 inches wide, about the average size found in the grocery store (at least that I’ve experienced!). Sorry about the vagueness! Let us know how it turns out for you.
I just made this. Love the flavors but mine came out really wet even after 15 extra minutes in the oven. Some of that can be blamed on my location and dips and surges in the electric. But am wondering if I should have wrung the water out of the shredded zucchini? I would also like the recipe to say 2 cups chopped apple, 1 cup zuke. Sizes vary so much. All that said, my 3 year old and I devoured a few pieces even with the wet texture.
That is great feedback Mary! I agree, sizes vary – so next time I’ll add specific measurements. I didn’t ring out the zucchini so it must have been a combo of size variations and the dips and surges – but I’m sorry it didn’t work perfectly for you. Glad your 3 year old still liked it 🙂
If I use coconut oil instead of the butter, is all of the butter I replace or should I use 1/2 butter 1/2coconut oil
Very tasty! Reccomend using even less sugar, it can handle it, and blitz up the zucchini in a blender. We used chopped up tinned apples and it was a treat.
do you peel the apples?
Hi Trist! Good question. You can peel them if you like for a smoother texture, but we like to leave the peels on because they have so many nutrients.
Can you sweeten with honey instead of sugar, and if so, how much?
Hi Karin, you can try using honey and reducing the amount slightly. It should work! Just watch the bottom of the cake because honey browns/burns more easily than sugar.