Apples and cinnamon, cool temps and falling leaves…these are a few of my favorite things 

I love to bake cakes in the fall, and the cooler temperatures outside make heating up the oven a little easier to deal with. The changing colors, the rich, aromatic spices, and the abundance of fresh apples, pumpkins, and pecans work together to keep me in the kitchen chopping, mixing, stirring, and tasting. As much as I like to experiment with new recipes, whenever I bake a cake for an event I always choose one I know and trust and, during the fall months, I always choose the Fresh Apple Cake. This recipe, shared by Helen Mack of Fontana, California (and originally titled Chunky Apple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting), first appeared in the September 2001, issue of Southern Living, and was such a hit with readers it has since been reprinted a number of times. Filled with apples and the warm scent of cinnamon, this is a classic cake to make in the fall, perfect for family gatherings, office parties, and neighborhood potlucks. Here are a few more reasons this is my favorite vintage spice cake to make in the fall.

I like to experiment with recipes that surprise me. I remember how excited I was the first time I made profiteroles and the cream puff dough really did pull away from the sides of the pan as I stirred it. (I wasn't so surprised that the recipe actually worked as I was that I could actually make cream puffs!) It was a similar experience when I made caramel frosting. Melting sugar takes patience, and just when the sugar clumped and I thought I had messed up, it went on to melt into beautiful liquid gold. I had tasted this Fresh Apple Cake in the Southern Living Test Kitchens and knew it was a solid and delicious recipe but, when I made the recipe at home, I thought I had messed up for sure. The dough was so, so thick I could barely stir in all the apples. I wondered if I had misread an ingredient amount or there was a mistake in the recipe. I went on and baked the cake and, like many other readers have learned, this super-thick batter turns into a deliciously moist, heavenly scented, apple spice cake.

I enjoy making this cake because it has a short prep time and I don't have to haul out my heavy-duty stand mixer. Toast the nuts, peel and chop the apples, melt the butter, stir everything together. Spoon into the baking pan, slide into the oven, and you are done. Your kitchen will soon be engulfed with the delicious aroma of cinnamon and baking apples. The hard part however, is yet to come, and that is keeping your family from nibbling on the cake as it cools.

The Fresh Apple Cake is versatile and adapts well to a number of different toppings. If you like chocolate- dipped caramel apples, then drizzle a caramel sauce across the cake, followed by a dark chocolate frosting. Add a rich, nutty flavor with a browned-butter frosting, or go for the classic, cream cheese frosting. You can also turn this recipe into a streusel coffee cake by simply adding a streusel topping instead of a frosting.

This cake ages well, and by "ages" I mean one or two days. This cake is so good it never lasts longer than that, but it does keep well and tastes even better after a few days if tightly covered and kept in the refrigerator, which makes this a good candidate if you need to make a recipe a day or two in advance of an event. But don't just keep it for dessert; this cake is ideal for a mid-morning or late evening snack.