First birthdays are so fun and bittersweet to celebrate, and this Healthy Apple Cake is one of my very favorite birthday cakes for kids. It’s SO easy to make, can be made ahead, and has a tangy yogurt frosting. Plus, it’s great for other celebrations, too!

healthy-apple-cake on cake stand

Healthy Apple Cake

When it came time to make a birthday cake for my third kiddo, I wanted something easy so I could enjoy the day with him and also yummy of course. This Healthy Apple Cake fits both of those goals—you can make the cake the day before if you want and it simply stirs together in a bowl.

It’s sweetened with maple syrup and applesauce, so it’s less sweet than traditional cakes but still super moist and flavorful. It also has fresh apple for extra flavor and a delicious cream cheese frosting.

You can make it a full day ahead of time and it’s delicious to serve to a crowd of all ages or to use as a smash cake for baby.

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Healthy Smash Cake

This baby cake can work as a smash cake for a baby’s first birthday—which is where you essentially give the cake to baby by placing the whole thing right in front of them and letting them smash and eat it however they like! Or it can be a cake to share with the rest of the family.

I made sure it tastes delicious to adults too, so you can serve it either way.

Ingredients You Need

The ingredients in this cake are very straight forward pantry staples, so you should be able to find everything in a regular grocery store.

ingredients in healthy apple cake on counter.
  • Eggs: Eggs help the batter to be light and tender, and hold together nicely.
  • Melted butter or coconut oil (slightly cooled): Use either one according to your preference. They work very similarly in this recipe.
  • Unsweetened applesauce: Applesauce, either homemade or from the store, provides sweetness and moisture in this apple cake.
  • Maple syrup: A little maple syrup adds flavor and sweetness. You can also use honey for kids over age 1 if you prefer.
  • Pure vanilla extract
  • Fresh apple: Use any apple you like for this recipe such as Honeycrisp, Granny Smith or Pink Lady.
  • Whole-wheat flour: I use whole wheat flour here for the nutty flavor and since it holds up nicely with the moisture from the applesauce and fresh apple.
  • Cinnamon
  • Baking powder and baking soda: A combination of these help ensure that the cake bakes through and rises nicely.

TIP: To make this cake dairy-free, use coconut oil instead of butter. To make it gluten-free, use cup for cup gluten-free flour blend. To make it vegan, omit the egg and increase the applesauce. See the NOTES at the bottom of the recipe for the full details.

cake pans lined with parchment paper.

How to Prepare Cake Pans for Baking

I prefer to grease cake pans with nonstick spray, then line with a round of parchment paper to ensure that the baked cakes come out of the pans easily. Be sure to grease the sides of the pans, too.

To make the parchment rounds, place the pan on top of parchment paper. Trace with a marker, then cut out inside of the lines. That should then fit inside of your pan easily.

Step-by-Step Instructions

To make this cake, you’ll need to follow a super simple process of just stirring the ingredients together and prepping the pans. Here’s a look of what to expect and scroll down to the bottom of the post for the full information.

how to make healthy apple cake in grid of four images.
  1. Finely dice your apple. Place the dry ingredients into a bowl. The wet into another bowl.
  2. Gently stir all ingredients together.
  3. Prepare your pans with nonstick spray and rounds of parchment paper. Divide the batter between the two pans.
  4. Bake, then let cool for a few minutes, and transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

TIP: This recipe is baked in two 6-inch pans so it’s a nicely sized cake for a baby or toddler, but it still feeds about 8.

Easy Greek Yogurt Frosting

This frosting requires only three ingredients and is very easy to make. You do need to make it ahead of time so it has time to thicken, so plan to get it ready the night before you plan to serve the cake.

how to make maple yogurt frosting in grid of four images.
  1. Gather your ingredients.
  2. Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. Line with cheesecloth or two layers of paper towels.
  3. Place the yogurt on top of the paper towels in the strainer.
  4. Store overnight in the fridge. Liquid will come out of the yogurt making it thicker.
  5. Mix in the maple syrup and vanilla.
  6. Frost the cake!

TIP: If you want to frost the sides of the cake, you’ll want to double the frosting recipe.

baked apple cakes on wire racks.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of apples are best for apple cake?

We like to use Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, or Pink Lady apples in this recipe. These tend to have wonderful flavor and bake well. You can use any apple though, as the recipe will still work.

What’s the best baby cake?

I love to make a cake using flavors or ingredients that are some of baby’s favorites. I have a lot of birthday cake options, so you can explore and choose the right one for your family.

amy-and-baby-with-apple-cake
My littlest and I on his first birthday!

How to Store

Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

You can also make the cake a day ahead of time if that’s helpful for your schedule. Let the cakes cool, then store in an airtight container at room temperature. Frost before serving if possible.

slice of healthy apple cake with frosting on pink plate

Best Tips for Success

  • Dice the apple finely to about the same size. You don’t have to peel it.
  • Use coconut oil instead of butter to make this cake dairy-free. You’ll also want to use nondairy Greek yogurt.
  • Double the frosting recipe if you want to frost the sides of the cake too.
  • Add natural sprinkles or natural food coloring as desired.
  • Store any leftover cake in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Related Recipes


I’d love to hear what you think of this cake if you try it, so please comment below to share!

healthy-apple-cake on cake stand

Healthy Apple Cake (with Yogurt Frosting)

For a first birthday or a family celebration, this Apple Cake is easy and delicious. (Note: You'll want to start the frosting the night before you plan to make the cake so it has time to thicken.)
5 from 13 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 26 minutes
Total Time 41 minutes
Cuisine American
Course Desserts
Calories 291kcal
Servings 8

Ingredients

Apple Cake

  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup melted butter or coconut oil (slightly cooled)
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • cups diced apple (about 1 large)
  • cups whole-wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Maple Yogurt Frosting

  • 1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
  • 2-3 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

To make the cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease two 6-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray. Trace the pans onto parchment paper and cut out. Place parchment into the cake pans, trimming as needed to fit. Coat again with nonstick spray.
  • Stir together the eggs, butter, applesauce, maple syrup, vanilla, and diced apple. Gently fold in the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • Divide batter between the two pans. (I put 1 cup into each, then divide the rest evenly by eye.) Spread the batter evenly in the pan with a spatula.
  • Bake for 26-28 minutes, or until the cakes are lightly golden brown around the edges, firm to the touch, and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out evenly. Let cool in the pans for about 5 minutes, then invert to cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the frosting:

  • Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. Line strainer with cheesecloth or two layers of paper towels. Place the yogurt on top of the paper towels on top of the cheesecloth or paper towels in the strainer. Cover and store overnight in the fridge. Liquid will come out of the yogurt making it thicker. (About ¼ cup of liquid was in the bottom of the bowl each time I made it; discard this.)
  • Add the yogurt (spoon it off of the strainer) to a bowl with maple syrup and vanilla extract. Stir well with a wooden spoon or beat with a hand held electric mixer.

To assemble the cake:

  • Place one cake on a platter or cake plate. Top with ½ cup of the frosting and spread evenly.
  • Add the second cake on top, pressing down gently. Spread the remaining frosting on top.

Notes

  • Dice the apple finely to about the same size. You don’t have to peel it.
  • Dairy-Free: Use coconut oil instead of butter to make this cake dairy-free. You’ll also want to use nondairy Greek yogurt.
  • Egg-Free: Omit the egg. Increase the applesauce to ¾ cup and bake for 32-34 minutes. Let cool fully in the pans.
  • You can make the cake a day ahead. Let cool, then store in an airtight container at room temperature. Frost just before serving if possible.
  • Double the frosting recipe if you want to frost the sides of the cake too.
  • Add natural sprinkles or natural food coloring as desired.
  • Store any leftover cake in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Nutrition

Calories: 291kcal, Carbohydrates: 38g, Protein: 7g, Fat: 13g, Saturated Fat: 8g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 73mg, Sodium: 253mg, Potassium: 225mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 18g, Vitamin A: 436IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 105mg, Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Rate in the comments and tag @yummytoddlerfood on IG!

This post was first published February 2019.

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Comments

  1. Any suggestions for baking this as cupcakes? Do you know if I would do a different oven temp or bake time?

  2. 5 stars
    Loved this cake and so did the baby! The recipe made plenty of cake, so we have been eating it for breakfast without any frosting. It smelled and tasted amazing. It was also super easy to whip; I plan on making this in the future juat because.

  3. 5 stars
    Thank you for this recipe!
    I made this for my daughter’s first birthday. Love it! It’s easy, healthy and taste really good. I added a little beets juice to the yogurt frosting as a natural food colouring. It worked very well and made the cake to be a perfect pink smash cake.

  4. Hello! This sounds amazing, but the diced chunks of apple make me nervous as a FTM, even though I know they’ll soften. I could leave them out without any consequences or making any other adjustments, yes? Thanks!

    1. You could try shredding them or dicing them smaller than I did? They really do soften and I don’t consider them to be a choking concern (unless the kiddo has trouble with finger foods or there’s some other challenge with soft textures like this). I hope it turns out well for you!

    1. Hi- I haven’t tested this with all purpose flour but I think it should work. It may need an extra minute or two of baking. (Regular flour, not self-rising)

      1. Hey, sadly I did it for the first birthday of my son and it did not work out. I think the problem is the measurements. I googled “how much is a cup”. Some people say 240 grams, oders 100 gr. could you please translate the recipe into grams? I would like to give it another try. Thanks!!!

  5. What if I wanted to use less maple syrup? Could I add more applesauce? Grated carrots? Something else? Any suggestions on amounts for both of those options, and other options?

    Thanks so much!
    Stephanie

    1. I haven’t tried it that way, but you could replace it with maybe milk? I am not sure if more applesauce might make the cake too moist.

      1. I hadn’t thought of milk, thanks for the suggestion! I’ll update once I try the recipe with a tweak or two.

  6. Hi! Any suggestions on how to add some colour to the frosting (even a slight tinge) with blueberries or strawberries? I saw your recipe using freeze dried blueberries which are quite hard to come by where I am unfortunately. Would using a basic blueberry or strawberry sauce make it too runny? Thanks!

    1. Maybe a natural food coloring? Or a little bit of fruit sauce could work. I’d add 1 tablespoon at a time. Even if you had thawed frozen fruit, the juice that it lets off could add some color. Let me know how it goes!

    2. Try scattering with finely chopped toasted walnuts—not all that colourful, but they give more texture and interest to the icing. Most babies can handle the crunch by their first birthday (unless they’re allergic to walnuts, of course).

    1. I haven’t tried it that way but you might be able to do it with 1/3-1/2 oat flour and 2/3 whole wheat or ap. Be extra careful when removing the cakes from the molds. Let me know if you try it!

      1. 5 stars
        Hi,
        So I finally made the cake for LO’s 1st birthday today. I halved the recipe, and used 1/4 cup each of oat flour, whole wheat, and AP, and baked it last night in a 12-cm round pan, it took ~5 minutes longer to cook. Let it cool overnight and split and frost the next day. I wanted to incorporate some oats because the combination–oats, apples, and yogurt is his favorite. The birthday boy had a blast digging and eating thru the cake!
        We had few (smushed) slices afterwards. I thought the cake was a bit dense (hence, not quite smashable), though my sister-in-law thought it was perfect. The oats gave nice texture and some crunch. The frosting was delicious, almost like cream cheese frosting once set!
        Thanks again for the great recipe and tips on mixing the flours!

  7. 5 stars
    Easy and delicious. Made this for my daughters first birthday and felt great about her eating it . The yogurt frosting was intimidating to me at first but it’s super simple. I used two paper towels with a mesh strainer and it’s crazy the liquid that came out! I’m sure this step is imperative for getting the yogurt to look like real frosting- which mine did. I Would highly recommend this recipe!!

  8. Can I substitute the greek yogurt for plain whole milk yogurt? I bought plain yogurt by mistake! Would I still strain the yogurt, and would the amount of yogurt used in the recipe still be then same? I want to make this for my son’s first birthday next week 🙂

    1. Yes, regular yogurt should work just fine. I’d start with 1.5 cups since more liquid will come out. I would try to let it strain for 8-12 hours (at least). Happy almost bday to your boy!

  9. 5 stars
    Thank you for your recipe. Im going to try to make it if I can find any flour for my toddler’s 2nd bday. I just have a question. Is there anyway where I can add zucchini into his? I always like to add some extra veggies in anything I can. Thank you

    1. I haven’t tried it, but I think if you shred zucchini and squeeze it super dry so you get all of the liquid out, you could add maybe 1/2-1 cup. Please let me know if you try that and I hope you find some flour!!

  10. When replacing the butter with coconut oil, is it still a half cup? I made it with a half cup of coconut oil and I find it extremely oily so I wanted to confirm. Thanks.

    1. Yes, I made it a few times with 1/2 cup coconut oil and didn’t find it to be oily. Did you still feel that way after it was totally cooled? Let me know and thanks!

  11. The notes for the frosting say to use 1 cup Greek yogurt, 1 tsp vanilla and 2-3 tsp of ?? Doesn’t say what

  12. If you wanted to turn this into cupcakes would you make any alternations to the recipe?

    Any thoughts on baking temp/time?

    Thanks,
    Joyanne

    1. I haven’t tried this as cupcakes so I can’t say for sure, but I would guess that if you filled each cup about 3/4 full, the baking time would be in the 20-22 minute range. Let me know if you try it!

      1. 5 stars
        I just made this recipe yesterday for my babe’s first bday! Doubled the recipe and did 12 cupcakes plus a smash cake using a 7 inch springform pan (I couldn’t find 6 inch anywhere nearby on short notice). Amy, you were spot on with the cupcakes timing guess. I think that 20-22 minute range is perfect. It was a rough teething night so I honestly already have forgotten whether they were ready at 20 or whether I put them back in for 2 minutes but they were moist and delicious! The cake came out a little thick so I ended up using a large biscuit cutter to make some 4” rounds, cutting in half and doing 3 layers like on your other healthy oat cake. I’m not much of a baker (my second time ever baking a cake!) but was very pleased. Your recipes have been keeping me going during the pandemic so thank you!! 🙂

      2. I’m so glad to hear that it all turned out well and I hope you had a really fun day celebrating!! (And I so appreciate you letting me know how it went!)

    1. You’d likely need to use 2 8-inch pans and bake for about 18-20 minutes.If you wanted to just use one pan, it would be fairly thick and might need closer to 35-40 minutes. I didn’t test it that way so you’d need to watch it and test it with a cake tester or toothpick to make sure the center is cooked through.