The Drapers could dig it: Old-fashioned apple spice cake

Jared and I have been on a bit of a Mad Men kick as of late (we’re still on the third season though, so no spoilers, please!), and watching an episode always makes me a bit nostalgic for the days of suits in the office, gallons of hair spray and backyard barbecues with multiple JELL-O molds in attendance. Sure, I wasn’t alive during the ’60s, nor do I have any real decade-specific memories to draw from, but TV and movies tell me I would have had a neat time (aside from the chauvinism in the workplace and housewifely mandates of course). Stick me in a full skirt and a pillbox hat, and I think I could be a happy camper for quite a few days.

Now truth be told, I can’t say that any of the slabs of meat or JELL-O salads Betty Draper serves to poor Sally and Bobby look all too appetizing, but I do like the idea of an old-school dessert every now and then. I’m really not sure what decade this old-fashioned apple spice cake derives from, but let’s pretend it’s from the ’60s, just for the sake of the story. My sister and I put this together a few weekends ago, and it was definitely a fun change from the usual fare. The cake seems like it should be an absolute disaster, with its thick, apple-filled batter topped with brown-sugar meringue stuck into the oven all at once. But something amazing happens while it’s baking away. The cake batter rises, the meringue hardens, and everything stays in place. You’re left with a super moist cake (think homemade carrot cake consistency) with a thick, sweet layer of meringue on top. A one-pan marvel that will wow the backyard barbecue crowd.


Old-Fashioned Apple Spice Cake
Adapted slightly from betteirene at

• 2 large egg whites
• 1 ½ cups firmly packed brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons water

• ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
• 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
• 2 large egg yolks
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 3 teaspoons cinnamon
• 1 ½ teaspoon ground ginger
• ¼ rounded teaspoon ground cloves
• 2-3 large apples, cored and grated
• 2/3 cup raisins
• 2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease a 9-by-9-inch baking pan or casserole dish.

For the meringue, place the egg whites, brown sugar and water in the top of a double boiler. Over high heat, beat the mixture electric mixer until peaks form, 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside.

For the cake, beat together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, and blend well after each. By hand, stir in baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, grated apples and raisins (we mixed all this together in a separate bowl beforehand). Fold in the flour and blend well, but don’t overmix.

Spoon batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top. Spread meringue evenly over the batter. Bake until top is crisp, about 45 minutes. Serve warm or the next day.


Do you have any recipes that you were sure would flop but wound up producing fantastic results? Any fun fare from the 1960s you can’t get enough of? And is anyone else eagerly awaiting the day when those pillbox hats come back in vogue for everyday wear? Do tell!



  1. says

    Wow, I love apple(sauce) cake, but have only had it with a cream cheese frosting, never meringue. Sounds wonderful! I grew up in the ’60s and I can tell you the food was hearty and plentiful, at least where I came from. If you’re in the mood to make some prize-winning recipes from the ’60s, try the Pillsbury bake-off recipes.

    Thanks for sharing your apple cake recipe. I’ll have to try it!

  2. Katrina says

    Super crazy- but I started making my wedding cake a few minutes ago (apple spice cake with cream cheese frosting) and i looked online to see if the batter will rise because I needed to know how much to fill my pans with. As I looked I came upon this page, which answered my question (thank you) and after reading this article laughed at the irony that your name is slso Katrina, spelt the same which is sort of rare, and then the fact that I am currently making this same cake (with few Alterations)!!! I’ve also been on a Mad Men kick ever since I watched it for the first time last month- which leads me to the conclusion that we must be the same person. Lol- but thank you! I hope it turns out (my wedding is this sunday!!!) and that it looks beautiful with my cherry blossom fondaunt decorations. Everyone told me not to hand-make them, that I was overloading myself- but they turned out so nice I can’t express my pride! I’m considering becoming a wedding cake designer to be honest now! 😉 I’ll post pics of my cake in a post when it’s done, so you can see what you helped me create. With thanks,

    • says

      Oh my goodness, that’s crazy! I hardly ever meet other Katrinas! And how crazy to find another Mad Men-loving, apple spice cake-baking one! Woo hoo!

      Well, I’m super happy that my post was able to assist in your wedding cake baking. How fun! You are brave for doing it yourself, but I think that’s wonderful! Especially if baking is something you enjoy. Hats off to you! I’d love to see photos of the finished product!

      Best wishes to you on your wedding day! May 27 sounds like the perfect day for “I do.” :)


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