Gluten-Free Applesauce Crumb Cake with Cinnamon

Gluten-Free Applesauce Cake #glutenfree #cake

Coffee Cake to the Rescue

I decided to bake a cake. Because trying to wrestle gluten-free pie dough for an apple pie just seemed too fussy. Too complicated. Though in all honesty, that isn't the whole, unvarnished truth. The whole, unvarnished truth is, Yours Truly is more of a cake person than a pie person. It's true- pies have their charm. I've been known to inhale a slice or two of apple pie in my day. But here's the thing. And I'm going to be blunt.

Gluten-free pastry crust is simply not as flaky and tender and melt-in-your-mouth wonderful as wheat pastry crust. There. I said it. Fighting words, to some. And if you are among those true believers feel free to disagree. And go eat your gluten-free pie. I bless you with a thousand sprinkles of pie fairy dust. With love. And kisses. And pink ponies.


Gluten, you see, is more than a pesky protein with a bad rep. Gluten is what makes pastry dough soft, flaky and tender. Gluten is what inspired bakers to bake all those years ago, firing up their hand-hewn brick-lined ovens. Gluten was their muse. Their seductive mistress. Gluten took them beyond three ingredient pancakes and palm-tossed flatbreads. Gluten fed their imagination. Inspired tarts, baklava, cupcakes. Napoleons. And yes. Apple pie. Because gluten is a magical ingredient (despite its bad press these days). We have to admit it. She's not an easy paramour to replace.

Perhaps some day soon I'll be tempted to experiment with a gluten-free wheat-free pastry dough. I'll be lured into believing I can recreate such delicate, fragile beauty. But not today. I'll bake this 'no apology necessary' Apple Crisp or this amazing Pumpkin Pie with Coconut-Pecan Crust.

For breakfast, I'll eat Applesauce cake.

Right now, I can live with that.

Gluten-Free Applesauce Cake #glutenfree #cake
The perks of food photography? Cake!

Gluten-Free Applesauce Cake. Allegedly. #glutenfree #cake #gone
Gluten-Free Applesauce Cake. Allegedly.

Gluten-Free Goddess Applesauce Cake.  #glutenfree #cake
Not pie. Gluten-Free Applesauce Cake.

Karina's Wheat-Free Applesauce Crumb Cake Recipe with Cinnamon

Originally published November 2012 by Karina Allrich.

We debated whether or not to add chopped nuts to this (delightful!) cinnamon-laced and apple pie spiced gluten-free coffee cake. And though we were mightily tempted, we decided to keep it simple, and skipped the nuts.


1 cup sorghum flour
1 cup potato starch (not potato flour)
1/2 cup hazelnut, chestnut or almond flour
1 1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 organic free-range eggs, beaten
1/2 cup expeller pressed canola oil or coconut oil
1 tablespoon bourbon vanilla extract
1 cup organic applesauce

For the topping:

1/3 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons sorghum flour
3 tablespoons organic coconut oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a 9-inch deep cake pan or baking dish with a piece of parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk to combine the dry ingredients: sorghum flour, potato starch, hazelnut flour, brown sugar, xanthan gum, sea salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and nutmeg.

Add in the eggs, oil, and vanilla extract. Beat to combine.

Add in the applesauce and beat by hand to mix the batter.

Scoop the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth it out to the edges.

Make the topping combining the brown sugar, sorghum flour, coconut oil, and cinnamon. Mix with a fork until sandy textured.

Spread the crumb topping on the batter. Lightly press down.

Bake in the center of the oven for 40 minutes, then loosely tent a piece of foil over the top to prevent the topping from over-browning. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes more, until the center of the cake is firm and a wooden pick inserted in the middle emerges clean.

Cool the cake on a wire rack.

Delicious and fragrant with spices served warm. Careful- it will be a bit fragile when warm.

This lovely cinnamon-spiced cake may be baked the night before, cooled, and wrapped for the next morning.

Slice, wrap in foil, and freeze uneaten cake slices in a freezer bag.

Yield: 10-12 slices

Recipe Source:

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xox Karina


Kari S. said...

Love the looks of this cake! Do you think it would work subbing out the eggs with flax or chia eggs? My son is allergic to eggs :(
I usually don't Try to sub more than two eggs, but this look so good.
Thanks :)

Karina Allrich said...

Kari- I've had good luck subbing Ener-G Egg replacer in my recipes- and have vegan tea breads, muffins, cakes here that are egg-free. I bet the applesauce in this will help. Not sure about chia etc as I've not used the gel method. With applesauce in this cake, do you even need more pectin/gel? I'm wondering if you might just need more baking powder. Let us know how it turns out! Karina

Busy Bees Allergies said...

We are a gluten free, egg free, nut free, dairy free family. Eggs and nuts are anaphylatic allergies. Any ideas on how to substitute almond (tree nut) flours? I'm dying to try this!

RichmondTreatsKCEats said...

Looks delicious! Can't wait to try!

The Orange Dahlia said...

Is there something I can use in place of the potato starch and sorghum flour? Maybe tapioca starch and a rice flour?

Karina Allrich said...

Thanks, All. It's a tasty cake.

For nut-free, you'll need to use a whole grain GF flour- millet, perhaps?

You can substitute flours, but I cannot guarantee you will achieve the same lovely texture. I find rice flours a tad crumbly, and too much tapioca starch can turn into a 'tough' product. Please see my Substitutions tips post (link above) for guidance.


Kathy said...

I made your pumpkin bread last week and loved it..many thanks keep up the good work. from Australia

Anonymous said...

I am a cake or brownie person too. Thank you for this recipe. I started a gluten free diet a few months back and have to say I am a little intimidated by the baking side of this diet. I think because of the cost involved with buying all these different types of flours and xanthum gum, etc. But I think after seeing how delicious this cake looks I will change my tune. Have a blessed evening!

Melinda said...

This looks so lovely. I'm a professional gluten-free baker (cakes, cupcakes and cookies), and I'm picky about taste and texture....Every one of your recipes that I've tried have been wonderful! I found a fantastic ( REALLY fantastic) GF pie crust recipe over at if you're looking for flaky pie crust inspiration. Unfortunately, my husband went dairy free after I found that recipe...I have yet to experiment with dairy free alternatives.

I'll be making this apple cake for the family this week! Thank you for all that you offer with this blog, Karina - you got me through the first months of gluten free living and you were one of my inspirations to know that I could successfully switch my cake business over from gluten-full to gluten-free and provide people with delicious gf baked goods!

Pig in the Kitchen said...

LOVE your blog. I've seen you on the airwaves before (I say 'airwaves' rather than 'web' becoz I'm so old...)but as part of some research for an article, I've come to visit!

Fab recipes, fab pix and fab writing style :-)

Pig x

Anonymous said...

I made the pumpkin bread last week as well and it was amazing! However, it rose and overflowed the bread pan I used :) More to enjoy. I used corn starch in place of potato starch and actually used GF All Purpose flour for the whole recipe. It was so good, it tasted like regular pumpkin bread! I added chocolate chips for my sweet tooth!

Alaskan Darlings said...

Looks yummy! I Can't wait to try it. I have always used flax seed as an egg replacer. I like the taste better then the ener-g egg replacer. Plus it adds nutrition and fiber. I use 1 tablespoon milled flax seed to 2 tablespoons water for every egg. Mix and let sit for awhile before adding, so it has time to thicken.

ashleigh said...

Thank you for yet another yummy treat! My daughter is lactose free and I an GF so this is amazing for us!! I'm not one to usually fiddle with recipes but we had some left over homemade cranberry sauce that I blitzed up and used instead of applesauce! Might be helpful for everyone's leftovers next week. happy baking!

Suzanne @ Roll With It said...

This looks delicious! I totally agree with you on the GF pie crust. I keep thinking that it will turn out great and alas it is tough!

A tip for those who are looking for egg re-placers: 2 tbsp of chia seeds mixed with half a cup of water. Let is sit for 5 mins and then add to your batter. Works like gold and has no taste. I used it in the majority of my GF baking. If you are worried about the texture, you can grind them in a clean coffee grinder to make it even smoother.

Happy baking everyone!

lniz.GF said...

This looks fantastic! However, I'm sensative to sorghum (as well as rice & millet). Any suggestions for a substitution?

Anonymous said...

Holy moly. This is amaaaaazzziiinnng. I'm eating it right now. Glorious, thanks karina:)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this recipe--it's in the oven and smells delicious! the one hiccup i came across was that my crumb topping was less like crumb and more like wet sand...I ended up marbling it into the top. Any idea where I went wrong? (not a huge deal--i know it will still taste fantastic!) --Sophie

Kathleen @ Kat's Health Corner said...

Oh my gosh. That looks absolutely DEADLY!!!! What a great addition this would be to a Thanksgiving dinner. :)

Katie said...

MMmmm this looks yummy....

Anita said...

Made this for Thanksgiving and even those that were not gluten free enjoyed it!! A little part of me didn't want to share LOL

Nancy Olson said...

I love cakes..most especially baking...I love the texture.Thanks for this recipe.

Kay V said...

How can I make the applesauce myself? Do I cook chopped up apple with some kind of sweetener/sugar ? If so, how much sweetener?

Christy Caudill said...

This is the best cake I've ever made, GF or not! Instead of the 1 1/3 cup sugar, I used 1/4 cup Stevia baking blend + 2-3 tablespoons of honey. It set perfectly at 40 minutes. Thanks so much for these amazing recipes! It made my christmas!

dradygreen said...

This recipe is in the oven right now and my son and I can't wait! We've been gluten and dairy free for over 3 years and still come back to your site for goodies. Thanks Karina.
As far as a pie crust recipe, I used Pamela's amazing bread mix for the flour, half Earth Balance buttery sticks and half shortening and then used this lovely older lady's way of refridgerating the dough overnight: It came out fairly light and flaky (for GF/CF).
Happy Baking to All!

Unknown said...

I just made this for a friend who requested an old fashioned apple crumb cake. Instead of the applesauce, I sauteed apples in butter and cinnamon and brown sugar to caramelize. Looks like it did the trick ( ok so I threw in a little booze as I cooked them down...)

rebecca czinner said...

I thought this was a nut free cake. I was quite disappointed to find nut flour as an ingredient. What could I substitute for the nuts My 3 year old grandson is violently allergic to tree nuts. I would appreciate any help you can give me. thank you.

Marlene Longtin said...

This cake is just great. I made it for mothers day and everyone loved it. My husband isn't on a gluten free diet and he's very picky but he really enjoyed it. I don't eat eggs so I boiled 1/3 cup of flax seed with 3 cups of water and simmered it for 30 mins. I separate the gooey liquid from the seeds and pour the liquid into ice cubes (each ice cube equals one egg). Makes an awesome egg substitute thanks to Ricardo.

Sandy said...

Do you have the nutritional values for these?
Super yummy, BTW, we made as mini cupcakes (makes 60, bake for 20-25 min).

Karina Allrich said...

That sounds fabulous. Thanks for sharing with readers! (I do not have the means to provide nutritional analysis; there are online calculators you might look into...)

Karina Allrich said...

I have many nut-free recipes you might prefer. You'll need a half cup of GF flour- perhaps a medium weight flour, such as GF oats, millet flour, brown rice flour, or you can try using your favorite/safe for you flour blend.

Here is lots of advice on subbing for allergies here:

Karina Allrich said...

Wonderful! So glad the flax seed gel worked for you.

Karina Allrich said...

Great! Thanks for sharing your low sugar version. Yay.

Karina Allrich said...

I know that little part. I have it, too. (Ha!)

Karina Allrich said...

Sounds like you needed more 'dry"- more flour/sugar. If it's too wet, add more GF flour etc.

Karina Allrich said...

I'd use GF oat flour, or your favorite blend. brown rice flour can work, in a pinch.

Karina Allrich said...

Thanks so much! Appreciate it. xox

Karina Allrich said...

Excellent- great tip!

Karina Allrich said...

Thank you for your kind words- I'm so glad! xox

Karina Allrich said...

Luckily, the xanthan gum will last a long time. Keep it in the fridge. It *is* an investment- but home baked goodies are so much better than store bought. xox

Sandy said...


maizymilo said...

Hi Karina, I love your blog! May I repost this recipe on my blog -

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