Vegan Apple Butter Cake with Buttered Caramel Frosting

Vegan Apple Butter Cake with Buttered Caramel Frosting

Apple butter is one of my favorite baking ingredients, so I just knew it would add incredible flavor to make a gluten free and vegan apple butter cake.

Have you ever have a recipe inspiration based upon a single ingredient — something you just know in your taste buds will be incredible … you just have to figure out how to pull it off? Well that’s what happened for me with this vegan apple butter cake with buttered caramel frosting.

Apple butter (or pumpkin butter!) would make an ordinary cake exceptional, but buttered caramel frosting takes it to the next level.

vegan gluten free apple-butter-wacky-cake-slice-gfJules

The base for this apple-butter-inspired cake is something called a “War Cake”, “Depression Cake” or “Wacky Cake.” During the Great Depression and times of war, eggs, milk and butter were scarce, so crafty cooks baked cakes without. I used olive oil in my version — I love its yummy health benefits, and that it subtle-ly imparts a warm, savory flavor in baked goods. I’m sure you could use your favorite vegetable oil instead, if you prefer.

It seems odd to be thinking about making war-time or Depression-Era cakes in modern times, but we’re dealing with a lot of really strange things right now that most (ok probably all) of us never thought we would. One of them is food shortages in the grocery store. Whether due to panic hoarding or supply chain inconsistencies from the quarantine, having a sweet treat recipe that doesn’t require a lot of ingredients is a nice thing to have right about now.

You might be thinking that it’s great to have a gluten free cake recipe with no eggs, dairy or butter, but you don’t have any apple butter on hand. No problem! If you can get your hands on some apples, it’s super easy to make your own! We’re all finding some new things to get good at right now, aren’t we?

apples halved

Start with a mixture of fresh apples, peel, cook & mash. No magic there!


Check out my easy homemade apple butter recipe and video, and add apple butter making to your quiver of new skills to impress your friends with. “What did you learn how to do today?” “Um, play cards?” “Well I made apple butter!” (They don’t have to know it’s super simple to do.) Oh, and if you’re making this recipe later in the year, try making homemade pumpkin butter with my easy recipe for that! Here’s my homemade pumpkin butter recipe and video!

apple butter puree

Click to see my recipe and video showing how to make apple butter in a crock pot (one method).


Once you’ve mastered making homemade apple butter, the sky ‘s the limit on the recipes you can make with it! Here are some of our favorites so far: Gluten Free Apple Bread; Gluten Free Poptarts; Apple Butter-Sriracha Marinade; Gluten Free Apple Butter Granola; Apple Butter-Butternut Squash Casserole; and even the yummy filling to Gluten Free Doughnut Holes

Now back to this luscious cake! What it lacks in traditional cake ingredients (butter, milk and eggs), it most certainly does not lack in taste or texture. I did use vegan butter in the “buttered” caramel frosting, but if you’re low on that ingredient, use shortening or pick another frosting you prefer (I have several recipes on my site — just use the search bar) or even dust with confectioner’s sugar. Or here’s an idea: serve with a dollop of homemade apple butter on top!

However you share it, your family will love this gluten free, vegan gem at your next gathering (or at-home quarantine party) and no one will miss a thing!

Vegan Apple Butter Cake with Buttered Caramel Frosting

Vegan Apple Butter Cake with Buttered Caramel Frosting

Yield: 2 round cakes or 9x13 sheet cake
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

This scrumptious gluten free vegan apple butter cake with buttered caramel frosting lacks nothing in taste or texture, but gets super creative with limited ingredients, allowing you to bake a delicious cake even without eggs, dairy or gluten.



  • 1/4 cup apple butter (make your own or pumpkin butter
  • 3/4 cup very warm water
  • 3 cups gfJules™ All Purpose Gluten Free Flour
  • 1 Tbs. + 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 cups unrefined coconut palm sugar (or light brown sugar)
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Buttered Caramel Frosting

  • 1/3 cup butter or non-dairy alternative (Earth Balance® Buttery Sticks OR vegetable shortening or solid coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup unrefined coconut palm sugar (or light brown sugar)
  • 1/3 cup + 1 Tbs. apple butter
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1-2 Tbs. milk, dairy or non-dairy OR water
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 pecans, chopped (to garnish)


Preheat oven to 350° F (325° F convection).

Oil two 8-9-inch cake pans or oil the sides and line with parchment circles.

In a small bowl, whisk together apple butter and very warm water. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the gfJules™ Flour, baking soda, spices and salt.

In a large mixing bowl, beat sugar, oil, vinegar and vanilla together. Add dry ingredients and mix slowly while adding the apple butter-water mixture, stirring until fully integrated. Stir in pecans, if using.

Evenly distribute batter between the two cake pans and bake for approximately 30 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes will come out clean when the cakes are done, and they will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan a bit.

Remove to cool on wire racks for 20 minutes, then gently turn out to completely cool. Frost with your favorite frosting (like vegan cream cheese frosting), or my Buttered Caramel Frosting, below. Or simply serve with a dollop of apple butter!

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the coconut palm sugar and stir constantly until the sugar dissolves. Slowly add the apple butter and bring to a boil.

Transfer to a metal mixing bowl and refrigerate until fully cooled. Once chilled, whisk in vanilla, 1 tablespoon of milk and confectioner’s sugar. Beat until creamy (add more milk, as necessary for frosting to be spreadable).

Spread evenly over cooled cake, or just on the cake tops for the cake as pictured. Sprinkle chopped pecans over the top, if desired.

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I may earn from qualifying purchases.

I hope you love this as much as we do!

Pin for later!

Gluten Free Vegan Cake with Buttered Caramel Frosting

This allergy-friendly cake lacks typical cake ingredients (butter, milk, eggs), but is still so yummy. A Depression-era recipe that will lift your spirits!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

27 thoughts on “Vegan Apple Butter Cake with Buttered Caramel Frosting

    • Of course! Just check the bake times when you use different size pans to be sure you’re not over or under-baking. Enjoy!

    • Hi Dottie – there are links (highlighted words) to make apple butter or pumpkin butter in the article and recipe. Let me know if you are still having trouble finding them or clicking through! Enjoy the recipe!

  1. I have a friend who is cutting out a lot of foods due to allergies. Even though she isn’t gluten free, she can’t have wheat and barley. With it being vegan it also doesn’t have her other allergens in it! I will be making this for her.

    • Hi Bianca, interesting question but no, I don’t think that will work out here. Apple butter is used as an egg replacer in this recipe and also to give flavor and moisture; it is like a thicker form of applesauce with spices — quite unlike butter and used for different reasons. Look around my site for other cake recipes and perhaps you’ll find one without apple flavor that interests you instead.

  2. I got this recipe form the skinnyms website and wanted to know the nutritional breakdown. I am on weight watchers and not sure how to convert to points

    Looks and sounds great!

    Thank you!

    • So sorry that I don’t have the nutritional software to compute the information for you, Linda! I hope you were able to find a way to fit this into your dessert plans anyway!

  3. Hi, searching for recipes to serve at a Family Reunion for a family member who must be gluten free, milk free and soy free. I have coconut oil on hand, can it be used in the icing recipe? Thanks for your great recipes.

    • Hi Leslie, what a sweetheart you are to hunt down some recipes for your Family Reunion so that everyone can enjoy them! Coconut oil should work just fine in this recipe. Enjoy your party!

  4. This recipe looks amazing I will share it with my older sister. She is a vegan and she is allergic to gluten so I hope she likes the recipe!! So thanks for providing vegan and gluten free recipes!!!

  5. Good morning Jules. I made this cake with the pecan crumb topping the other day and it was so good! Instead of the 9×13 I used 2 rounds. On one I used just a bit to much butter in the crumb and it sunk into the cake while cooking. That gave it a gooey butter cake texture which I was ok with.

    The second round I put the crumb on at the last 10 minutes of cooking. I gave this cake to my cousin and her family. It didn’t last one evening! She took it home for lunch and her 17 yro and 8 yro wanted a piece for lunch then they all had a piece for supper. That left just less than half the round. That night her oldest took the cake, dish and all, to his bedroom to finish it off only allowing the 8 yro 2 bites. He’s already requested more! Best part is that they are not gluten free!

    I just had to share that part with you. This is a keeper recipe. It’s so good and so easy!

    Thanks Jules!

    • Susan, that is such a wonderful story!! My father’s birthday is today and he has requested this cake (he’s not GF either), but he wants the frosting, too. I’m eager to try it with the pecan crumb topping, though! Maybe I’ll just have to make it again later this week!!! Thanks again for sharing the outcome with me!

  6. Hi Jules, I have to tell you how much I love this recipe! It’s so easy and yummy. I actually prefer the cake without the frosting. Do you think it would work ok in an 8×11 or 9×13 pan? And with a pecan crumb topping?

    • Oh I’m so glad you love this recipe too, Susan! The frosting is quite sweet and the cake is so moist and flavorful, I’m sure it would be wonderful even without it. I think a 9 x 13 pan would be fine, and a pecan crumb topping sounds delicious! Let me know if you make it that way and how it turns out!

  7. Hello
    I like to know it Jules ever comes to NYC and if so would she be interested in giving a gluten free cooking class? Thanks

    • Hi Melissa,
      Sorry I missed your question before. I do travel to give lectures and teach cooking classes. If you have a venue or event in mind, let me know!

  8. This sounds right up my alley. I could seriously eat at least half of this cake right now with a huge glass of almond milk, yum!

  9. Looks amazing! Both my kids birthdays stress next month (they’re birthdays are just 8 days apart). I’ll be making this yummy looking cake for their joint birthday party. Thanks for providing both gluten free AND vegan recipes!