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Celebrate St. Patrick’s day with Irish apple cake with custard sauce! Baked in a round cake pan, this simple apple cake gets drizzled with a vanilla custard sauce before serving.
So if you follow along, then you know last week I introduced some new Irish bread recipes to the blog – like this classic Irish soda bread recipe, my fun twist on it with this Cheddar Irish soda bread, and this hearty Guinness brown bread. And you might remember my story about one of my favorite memories is when I visited Ireland a few years ago. I was taking a graduate program in Galway. I fell in love with Galway while I was there. And went up and down the coast visiting as many places as I could for the month I was there.
And one of the treats I had there at this adorable tea shop was this apple tray bake. I had no idea that “tray bake” simple meant they are baked in a “tray” aka a 9×13 or smaller square pan. But I fell in love with this tender vanilla cake studded with fresh apples and served with a vanilla custard sauce.
So I decided to recreate this cake at home! I used inspiration from a recipe I found in my favorite magazine, Bake From Scratch. I played around with the spices and the flours to create own version and I think it’s a winner. And I think you’ll agree.
Why This Irish Apple Cake Is A Keeper
- Perfect Size – This bakes in a 9-inch pan, so it’s the perfect amount of cake if you ask me!
- Elegant Enough To Serve To Guests – Any time you can drizzle a sauce over something your guests are going to be impressed!
- Make Ahead – You can make the cake a day ahead and then store at room temperature, covered. And the sauce can also be made ahead of time. So great dessert to serve since it’s already done the day before! And the sauce can be served hot or cold!
Ingredients For This Irish Apple Cake With Custard Sauce
For the Irish apple cake:
- Butter – If you don’t have unsalted butter, then you can substitute salted butter, but reduce the salt in the recipe. You can read more here about Unsalted Butter Vs. Salted Butter In Baking.
- Granulated sugar – This will be to sweeten the cake but also to help aerate the mixture as it gets creamed together with the butter.
- Eggs – You need four large eggs, at room temperature to help bring the batter together and to help tenderize. You can add your eggs to a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes before starting. When you add the eggs the batter may curdle but will come back together once the flour is added.
- Vanilla – I used vanilla bean paste, but vanilla extract also works.
- Cake flour – I used cake flour to lighten up the texture of this cake. If you don’t have any, you can use regular all purpose flour but it won’t be quite the same texture. Or you can make a diy Cake Flour. For best results I suggest weighing your flour with a scale. If you do not own a scale, then make sure to give this post a read on How To Measure Flour.
- Baking powder – This will help the cake rise. Don’t mix it up with baking soda as it won’t react the same. You can read more here about baking powder vs. baking soda.
- Salt – Salt is always needed to help balance all the flavors. I love kosher salt as I think it has a more pure salt taste than regular table salt. You can read more here about The Role Of Salt In Baking.
- Cinnamon – Of course when we are baking with apples I have to add some cinnamon to the cake!
- Nutmeg – I love a little bit of nutmeg as well to pair with the apples and cinnamon.
- Apples – I used Honeycrisp apples, but Granny Smith would be another great option. You can read more here about What Are The Best Apples For Baking?
- Lemon juice – You will toss the apples with the sugar and fresh lemon juice to keep them browning.
- Turbinado sugar – I like to top the cake with a little coarse, raw sugar right before baking to help give the cake a little texture.
For the vanilla custard sauce (aka creme anglaise):
- Granulated sugar – You will mix this with the egg yolks and salt, and it will sweeten the sauce.
- Egg yolks – This creates a thick, beautiful sauce. You want to add the milk mixture gradually to the egg mixture, which is called “tempering”, so as not to cook the egg but to bring them up to temperature slowly.
- Salt – Kosher salt is best for a pure salt taste without additives.
- Milk – I used whole milk for this recipe. I haven’t tried it with low-fat milk or plant-based milks.
- Heavy cream – I love the richness of making this with part milk and part heavy cream.
- Vanilla – I loved using vanilla bean paste because you get the real flecks of vanilla bean in the sauce!
Let’s Make Some Cake!
Start with preheating your oven and preparing your oven. I used a 9-inch springform baking pan to make this Irish apple cake with custard saue and coated with a non-stick cooking spray. I also lined it with parchment paper on the bottom. And then another quick spray.
Make your apple mixture. I peeled and diced my apples and then combine them with the sugar and lemon juice. Then set the bowl aside.
Combine your dry ingredients. You want to whisk together your flour, baking powder, salt, and spices together. And then set it aside. Easy peasy…let’s move on.
Cream butter and sugar. Next in your stand mixer, go ahead and beat the butter and sugar together at medium speed for about 2 minutes. You want to make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl as sometimes some butter can be hanging out that hasn’t been mixed in.
Add the eggs and vanilla. Then it’s time to add the room temperature eggs, one at a time, making sure they are incorporated before adding the next. Then add your vanilla. I used vanilla bean paste, but vanilla extract also works.
If your mixture curdles at this point, don’t panic! This is normal and the batter will come together once the dry ingredients are added.
Add your dry ingredients. You want to add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and make sure to stop mixing once it’s just combined. It’s important to not overmix at this point, so the gluten in the flour doesn’t form and you end up with one tough cake.
Arrange the cake. Now you want to spread 1/2 of the batter into the prepared pan and smooth into an even layer. Arrange your apple slices, flat side down on top. And then top with the remaining batter and spread it to make it smooth. Easy peasy, let’s bake.
Baking the cake. You want the cake to bake in the center of your oven until the a cake tester (or toothpick works just fine!) or the insides read a thermometer 200F, about 1 hour (to 1 hour 15 minutes). You want to cover the cake after 30 minutes with foil to keep it from overbrowning. Once the cake has cooled for 10 minutes, go ahead and release the cake from its pan.
Let’s Make Some Custard Sauce…
Prepare your bowls. You want to place a fine-mesh sieve over a medium metal bowl. And then fill a large bowl with ice water. Get those ready now!
Combine your wet ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, egg yolks, and salt. This will be yellow, ribbony, and pretty.
Heat milk and cream. You want to heat the milk and cream over medium-low heat until steaming. Do not rush this and do NOT let it boil. Let me repeat that, do NOT boil. Ok, good no boiling. Moving on. Once it’s steaming take it off the heat.
Add heated milk/cream to egg mixture. You want to add the heated milk/cream to the egg mixture gradually, so as not to scramble the eggs. Scrambled eggs are great. But not here. Let’s save those for breakfast. And then return the mixture to the saucepan, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickened and coats the back of a spoon and holds a trail when you drag your finger through it, about 8- 10. Again do not let it boil.
I recommend using a wooden spoon at this point while you’re stirring, rather than a whisk, you can get a better feel for when it’s thickened.
Strain the custard. Ok remember those bowls you set up earlier? Time to use them. First strain the custard through the sieve. And the place that bowl of strained custard into the bowl of ice water and whisk until the mixture is about 70F. And don’t forget your vanilla! You want to then loosely cover it and refrigerate the custard until it’s chilled (about 3 to 4 hours).
Heather’s Best Baking Tips For This Irish Apple Cake With Custard Sauce
- Measure flour correctly. As always, measure your flour correctly. I recommend using a kitchen scale for best accuracy. But if you want to use your dry measuring cups (no shame in that) but make sure you spoon the flour in and level off with a flat edge. Do not pack the flour down in to the cup which results in too much flour and results in a dense cakey brownie. It’s one of my top 10 baking tips.
- Room temperature ingredients. For a properly creamed batter that rises properly make sure your ingredients for the cake are at room temperature. To soften the butter quickly, I like to use the microwave. I microwave at 30 seconds, at 20% power then give it a flip repeat 1-2 times. And for the eggs, I place mine in a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes.
- Do not overmix. When it comes to any kind of baking, overmixing can result in too much gluten (protein in the flour that results in how chewy a baked good can end up being) forming. So I always stir just until the flour is mixed in and then I stop.
- Prep your bowls for the custard. You want to make sure you have your mesh sieve set up over a bowl, and have an ice bath ready as well. This will make for an easy end to making the custard.
- Cook the custard on medium low. The first time I made it I cooked it on medium and for too long and it scrambled!! Oh no! So you want to keep it at lower temperature, and don’t’ rush it.
- Blend the sauce. If it does curdle, go ahead and take a hand stick blender to it (or you could try putting it in your blender) and blend it smooth. It will come back together.
How To Store This Irish Apple Cake With Custard Sauce
This cake is fine stored, covered, at room temperature. The custard sauce should be kept in the refrigerator, covered. Just make sure the cake is cool before you cover and store it.
How long does this cake last?
This cake will last for 4 days, covered at room temperature. But you can also freeze this cake for up to 1 month. Just let it thaw at room temperature before serving. You can also warm up a slice in the microwave as well if you want.
Can I use a different pan?
I have baked this Irish apple cake in a 9×9 square pan and a 9-inch round cake pan but I found the sides weren’t high enough. The cake didn’t overflow but came close! I would recommend using a 9-inch pan with 3-inch sides, or line the pan so parchment paper rises above the sides of the pan giving the cake a bit more support so it doesn’t overflow when baking.
What’s the best apples for this cake?
I think Honeycrisp or Granny Smith work best. They hold up well in baking and don’t turn to mush.
More St. Patrick’s Day Recipes
- Chocolate Guinness Cake,
- Mint Oreo Stuffed Bailey’s Cupcakes
- Chocolate Baileys Macarons
- Thin Mint Cupcakes
- Mint Oreo Brownies
More Apple Recipes
- Healthy Apple Crisp
- Apple Cider Cookies
- Apple Dapple Cake
- Apple Dapple Cake
- Whole Wheat Apple Crumb Muffins
- Apple Crumb Cake
- Caramel Apple Crisp
- Apple Crumb Cake
To Make This Irish Apple Cake With Custard Sauce Recipe You Will Need:
If you want to become a better baker, then enroll in my Ultimate Baking Bootcamp class! Enroll here!
Irish Apple Cake With Custard Sauce
For the cake:
- 3 cups peeled and diced Honeycrisp apples (or Granny Smith apples)
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 3 ⅓ cups (400 g) All-purpose flour
- 4 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 ¼ cups (284 g) unsalted butter softened
- 1 ½ cups (300 g) plus 1 Tbs (12 g) granulated sugar divided
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 Tablespoons turbinado sugar
For the custard sauce:
- ⅓ cup (33 g) granulated sugar
- 3 large egg yolks
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup (180 mL) whole milk
- ¾ cup (180 mL) heavy cream
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
To make the Irish apple cake:
- Prep oven and pans. Position a rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 350oF (177oc). Spray a 9-inch springform pan with a non-stick cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper and give it one more spray.
- Make your apple mixture. Peel and dice your apples and then combine them with 1 Tablespoon sugar and lemon juice. Toss and set aside.
- Combine your dry ingredients. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together. Set it aside.
- Cream butter and sugar. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment (or mixing bowl with hand mixer), go ahead and beat the butter and remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar together at medium speed for about 2 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. Add eggs, one at a time, making sure they are incorporated before adding the next. Add vanilla and combine. If your mixture curdles at this point, don't panic! This is normal and the batter will come together once the dry ingredients are added.
- Add your dry ingredients. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and make sure to stop mixing once it's just combined.
- Fold in the apples. Stir in the apples with a spatula, just until combined. Do not overmix. Spread batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
- Baking the cake. Bake in the center of your oven until the a cake tester (or toothpick works) or the insides read a thermometer 200F, about 1 hour (to 1 hour 15 minutes). You want to cover the cake after 30 minutes with foil to keep it from overbrowning. Once the cake has cooled for 10 minutes, go ahead and release the cake from its pan.
To make the custard sauce:
- Prepare your bowls. You want to place a fine-mesh sieve over a medium metal bowl. And then fill a large bowl with ice water. Get those ready now!
- Combine your wet ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, egg yolks, and salt.
- Heat milk and cream. You want to heat the milk and cream over medium-low heat until steaming. Do not let it boil.
- Add heated milk/cream to egg mixture. Add the heated milk/cream to the egg mixture gradually, so as not to scramble the eggs. Return the mixture to the saucepan, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, (with a wooden spoon is best) until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon and holds a trail when you drag your finger through it, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- Strain the custard. Strain the custard through the sieve. And place that bowl of strained custard into the bowl of ice water and whisk until the mixture is about 70F. Add vanilla. Loosely cover it and refrigerate the custard until it's chilled (about 3 to 4 hours).
- Make ahead/Storage: This cake is fine stored, covered, at room temperature. The custard sauce should be kept in the refrigerator, covered. Just make sure the cake is cool before you cover and store it. This cake will last for 4 days, covered at room temperature. But you can also freeze this cake for up to 1 month. Just let it thaw at room temperature before serving. You can also warm up a slice in the microwave as well if you want.
- Pan size: I have baked this Irish apple cake in a 9×9 square pan, and a 9-inch cake pan, but it tends to rise up over the sides, so if you want to use one of these pans, I would line the sides with parchment paper so it goes up over the sides to ensure it doesn’t rise and spill out when baking.
- Apples: I used Honeycrisp or Granny Smith – these are my two favorite kinds to bake with as I think they hold up well in baking and don’t turn to mush.