I’m loving this apple shortcake recipe. It’s so easy to make and it tastes amazing. The buttery shortbread will melt in your mouth and the texture and flavour of apples are the perfect pairing.
Table of contents
Why you’ll love it
This delicious dessert is an absolute crowd-pleaser and my test group on this recipe said it was their favourite taste-test yet. It really is a lovely cake and so simple to make.
- Easy to make
- Buttery, sweet shortbread-like cake
- Chunky cinnamon apple filling
- A classic for a good reason
- Great for morning or afternoon tea or a special dessert
Apple shortcake reminds me of apple pie and you could most definitely make it in a pie tin and serve it the same way. It’s lovely on it’s own or with a little cream or ice cream. However, if you know me, you know I’m going to drench this in crème anglaise.
I make my own apple filling for this recipe, using an adaptation of my sauteed cinnamon apples. It’s very quick to make and much nicer than using store-bought apple pie filling. It’s fresh, flavourful and has the texture to boot.
What is apple shortcake?
Different from a US style shortcake which consists of a biscuit sandwiching fresh fruit (often strawberries) and cream, apple shortcake is a classic dessert with an almost shortbread textured cake filled with apples.
Ingredients for apple shortcake
You have to love a recipe with minimal and common ingredients and this apple shortcake is definitely that.
Detailed quantities and directions in the recipe card at the bottom of the post.
- Apples: Use granny smith apples. They have the ability to retain their shape and not turn mushy which in turn helps the dough not get soggy. Granny smiths are also just a touch tart, which is great with the buttery, sweet dough.
- Butter: Use unsalted butter as salted butters all have varying levels of salt. This way you can add what you need.
- Lemon juice: Just a little lemon juice added to the apples helps them soften and gives them a slight tang.
- Cinnamon: I use less cinnamon in this than in my sauteed apples recipe but you can definitely taste it. Feel free to add more if you like a strong cinnamon flavour.
- Sugar: I prefer to use caster sugar in this recipe though granulated will work. It’s in both the dough and apples with a scattering on top too.
- Flour: Use regular plain / all-purpose flour.
- Baking powder: This gives the dough just a little lift.
- Egg: This adds some structure to the dough.
While you could use apple pie filling in this, I don’t recommend it as it has too much moisture in it and a lot less texture. Moisture can make your dough soggy and the texture from the apples is lovely in this.
Tools you’ll need
- I use a food processor for the dough which makes it incredibly quick but you can make it by hand (cutting the butter into the flour as you would with scones but to a much finer size).
- I use a 20cm / 8 inch square baking tin to bake mine in. It would work in a round springform tin too – either 20cm / 8 inch or 22.5cm / 9 inch. Always bake it until the top is turning golden. If you use a glass dish, the bottom may take a little longer to cook through.
- A simple rolling pin for rolling out the dough but technically you could just break it into pieces with your hand and flatten them, then patchwork it together.
How to make shortcake
There are two simple parts to this recipe for apple shortcake – the apples which are cooked in a saucepan and the dough which is made in a food processor.
See the recipe card below for the full recipe details.
- Cook the apples: Place sliced apples, sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon in a saucepan (photo 1) and cook over low-medium heat, stirring every now and then until they soften and most of the liquid has evaporated.
- Make the dough: The dough is a simple case of adding cubes of cold butter to the dry ingredients in a food processor (photo 2). Blend that to a sandy texture (photo 3) then add egg, followed by milk until it starts forming large clumps (photo 4). Form that dough into a rectangle with your hands and cut it into two squares (photo 5, below).
I don’t recommend using the apples raw in this cake. Cooking them allows them to soften a little before going into the cake and it also allows some of the liquid to evaporate. Putting them in raw would lead to less cooked apples and possibly a soggy dough.
Assembling the cake
- The base: After a short chilling time, roll out one of the squares of dough and place it into a prepared pan, pressing it out until it goes about 1 inch up the sides.
- The filling: Tip the apples into the base and spread them out evenly (photo 6).
- The top: Roll out the other half of the dough and place it on top, pressing down around the edges with your fingertips (photo 7). Finally, brush the top with a little milk, then dust with caster sugar (photo 8).
Tips and tricks
- Grease and line the tin: I recommend greasing the base of the baking tin, then lining it so that the baking paper sticks up on 2 sides. This will make it easier to remove the cake.
- The dough is short: The shortcake pastry or dough is very short (hence the name) and this means it might break apart when you use it. Don’t worry though – it’s very forgiving. Just trim and patch wherever you need, especially for the base.
- Don’t add too much flour: When rolling the dough out, which can be a touch sticky, don’t be tempted to add too much flour. This will end up making it shorter and drier. Instead, move it around a lot and work quickly to roll it out.
- Make the top bigger: Even though you’re using a 20cm / 8 inch tin, I recommend rolling the top out to about 22.5cm / 9 inches. This allows you to make ruffles and almost rolling hills along the top which looks beautiful when baked.
Removing the cake from the tin
I line my tin in such a way that I can use the two sides of baking paper to lift the cake out. If the butter that you greased the tin with has set, you can sit the base of the tin in warm water for 10 seconds and the cake will lift right out.
This apple shortcake is very forgiving though and if you haven’t left enough paper overhang to lift it out, you can literally flip it to turn it out. Place a plate on top of the tin, flip it so the cake falls out, then flip it right side up using another plate, just make sure it’s completely cool before doing this.
Can I use different fruits?
I’m planning to try a number of fruits in this shortcake recipe.
- Stonefruit: I think something like ripe peaches, plums or cherries would work a treat and I wouldn’t cook them at all first. Just slice thinly and place in the dough fresh. I also think tinned peaches or apricots would be lovely.
- Curds: Again, I haven’t tried yet and I’ll update here as soon as I do, but I think a lovely lemon curd would be beautiful in this cake. You could also try others like this orange curd.
- Mango: Fresh slices of mango would be gorgeous in this buttery, crumbly dough.
- Pears: Either fresh and slightly cooked the same way the apples are or canned pears, drained of the juice, would work really well.
I adore this apple shortcake recipe and I think the filling is so ripe for customisations. I’ll definitely be trying all of the above as and when the fresh fruits are available.
How to store apple shortcake
You’re unlikely to have leftovers, it tastes that good but if you do, it can be stored at room temperature with a tea towel draped over it or in the fridge in an airtight container for 2 days.
The apple filling will soften that shortbread the longer it sits so it’s best eaten as fresh as possible.
If you try this apple shortcake recipe, please take a moment to leave a rating and comment below. I love hearing from you and it helps other readers too! You can also take a photo and tag @sugarsaltmagic on Instagram.
More apple desserts you’ll love
- Cinnamon Apple Crumb Cake
- Apple Frangipane Tart
- Simple Apple Crumble
- Apple and Plum Cobbler
- Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls
- Warm Apple Crostata
- Caramel Apple Pie Bars
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FOR THE APPLE FILLING
- 4 medium granny smith apples (roughly 4 cups once sliced)
- 2 tablespoons caster (superfine) sugar (notes 1&2)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice (notes 1)
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
FOR THE SHORTCAKE DOUGH
- 260 g plain (all-purpose) flour (2 cups / 9.2oz)
- 150 g sugar (¾ cup / 5.3oz)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 large egg, room temp
- 140 g unsalted butter, cold and cubed (1 stick+2 tablespoons / 5oz / 10 tablespoons)
- 1 ½ tablespoons whole milk (+ 1 teaspoon extra) (notes 1)
- 1 tablespoon caster sugar for sprinkling at end
- Peel the apples and remove the core, then slice them into 4mm / ⅙ inch thick slices – you should end up with roughly 4 cups of sliced apples.
- Place the apples, 2 tablespoons sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon in a medium saucepan over low-medium heat. Cook for about 10 minutes or until starting to soften and most of the liquid has evaporated. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
- Preheat oven to 180C / 350F / 160C fan forced. Grease the base of an 8 inch square baking tin then line with baking paper so the paper runs up 2 of the sides.
- Place the flour, baking powder and ¾ cup of sugar in food processor and pulse to combine.
- Add the butter and pulse until it looks a bit like breadcrumbs. Add the egg and pulse until incorporated. Then, with the mixer on low, drizzle in enough of the milk until the dough starts forming large clumps.
- Turn the dough out to a lightly floured surface and shape it into a rectangle, twice as long as it is wide. Cut it in half so you have two squares. Wrap each in plastic wrap then chill for 30 minutes,
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out one of the pieces of dough to about 22.5cm / 9 inches square and lay it into the tin – it’s ok if it breaks here and there, just patch it back up. Press it down evenly all over and about 1 inch up the sides, making sure to thin out the corners where it’s thicker.
- Tip the apples into the base and level them out.
- Roll out the other piece of dough to about 22.5cm / 9 inches and place it on top. Press it down all around the edges with your fingers, allowing it to naturally ruffle in places.
- Brush the milk over the top then sprinkle the tablespoon of sugar all over.
- Bake for around 30 minutes until cooked through and turning golden on top.
- Cool in tin for 30 minutes before lifting out. You can serve it warm or let it cool and set up completely to room temperature.
- I use a standard Australian 20ml tablespoon (equal to 4 teaspoons)
- For best results you should always weigh ingredients like flour and sugar. Kitchen scales are relatively cheap but if you can’t weigh the ingredients, use the spoon and level method (don’t scoop).
- All ovens vary – check for doneness 8-10 minutes before the recipe suggests.
- Make sure the butter for the dough is cold.
- This is lovely served slightly warm with Creme Anglaise.
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