Starbucks-Style Gluten Free Apple Pound Cakes

Starbucks-Style Gluten Free Apple Pound Cakes

Sweet, dense and satisfying gluten free pound cake, studded with tart and sweet apples. Just like they used to serve at Starbucks!

An apple pound cake on a white napkin

Somehow I managed to take home bushels (BUSHELS) of the freshest, off-the-tree apples from the apple orchard, the ones that my family picked with their very own hands—to a house that already had at least 2 dozen waxy, grocery store apples. I’ve been baking so much with apples already this fall that I have found myself terrified at the very idea of running out.

I have been steadfastly making my way through the piles of apples, though, and I remain determined not to let a single one go bad. I may lose the cook-it-until-it’s-spoiled battle with vegetables or summer fruit from time to time (oh, the food waster shame!), but who loses that battle with apples? Especially when 10 apples can disappear into a couple of cups of apple butter alone. There’s just no excuse. So I’m happy to report that these mini gluten free apple pound cakes, inspired as I often am by Starbucks’ vast bakery case, put two large (store-bought) Granny Smiths to excellent use.

Overhead and side view of apple pound cake in muffin tray

They’re really just miniature classic pound cakes baked with diced apples on top, but the tartness of the apples does something pretty remarkable to balance out the sweet, dense pound cake. The firm, diced and spiced apples also release just enough moisture during baking that they create a bit of a pudding-like texture on the top each cake. I used a 6-well cake panel pan made by USA Pans (perhaps someone else also makes that sort of pan, but I’ve never found any that weren’t at least rebranded USA Pans), and I really love the shape and size. But a standard 12-cup muffin tin works beautifully as well.

A close up pf an apple pound cake on a white napkin

There is something truly special about the crust-like texture of the outer layer of each cake, too. Perfectly browned without turning at all crunchy, it’s something I’d like to call “crisp-tender.” You know what I mean, right? One way or another, though, you’ll have to bake them and see.

Like this recipe?

Prep time: Cook time: Yield: 6 individual cakes


16 tablespoons (224 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup (200 g) sugar

9 ounces (about 4) eggs at room temperature, beaten

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract + 1/2 teaspoon almond extract)

1 cup 9 tablespoons (220 g) all-purpose gluten free flour (I used Better Batter)

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Apple Topping
2 tablespoons (28 g) packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups diced, peeled firm apples (from about 2 medium-size apples—Granny Smith works great, so do Empire)


  • Preheat your oven to 325°F. Grease well a 6-well round cake panel pan, or a standard 12-cup muffin tin, and set it aside.

  • First, make the cake batter. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large bowl with a handheld mixer, cream the butter on medium-high speed until it is light and fluffy. Add the sugar, and then the eggs (slowly, while the mixer is on low speed) and vanilla, beating after each addition until well-combined. Turn the mixer speed up to medium-high, and beat until smooth.

  • In a small bowl, place the flour blend, xanthan gum, salt, and cinnamon, and whisk to combine well. Add the flour mixture, about ¼ cup at a time, to the mixer bowl with the wet ingredients, and mix until just combined. The batter will be thick but soft and smooth. Divide the mixture evenly among the wells of the cake panel pan or muffin tin, and shake the pan back and forth to distribute the batter evenly in each well.  Carefully bang the bottom of the pan a few times on the counter to release any air bubbles.

  • Make the topping. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and whisk to combine, working out any lumps in the brown sugar. Add the diced apple, and mix to combine well. Divide the apple topping evenly among the tops of the batter in the wells of the muffin tin or cake panel pan, pressing the apple pieces down gently but firmly to help the apples adhere. The apple pieces should be in an even layer on top of the batter.

  • Bake the cakes. Place in the center of the preheated oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, or with a few moist crumbs attached (about 30 minutes for the cake panel pan, or 22 minutes for the muffin tin). The very top of each cake around the apple pieces may seem slightly wet, but the cakes are done as long as the cakes feel firm to the touch. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes in the pan before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.



P.S. Which Gluten Free on a Shoestring Cookbooks do you have? There are 3, soon to be 4!

Comments are closed.

  • reformeddem
    October 3, 2014 at 12:02 PM

    I bake for my daughter who is in graduate school and made your brown butter bananna bread yesterday. Turned out wonderful and she loved it but my question is Pillsbury has a GF Multi-Purpose, Betty Crocker has Rice Flour Blend and Haines has GF Cafe All Purpose Mix. Have you used any of these and are they interchangeable. I did use the Pullsbury for you Bannana Bread. The big companies are starting to jump on the GF bandwagon but their site is lacking in any info or really any receipes. I don’t have the time to make my own flour but make most of her stuff from your Bakes Bread. Great info in there. Love the book.

  • Linda
    October 3, 2014 at 11:50 AM

    I made these last night and they were delicious! Especially topped with some homemade vanilla ice cream. :) I got brave and deviated just a bit – I didn’t have that special pan and wasn’t sure I wanted to use the muffin tin (I feel like I make muffins all the time!) so I used 6 ceramic ramekins. I had to bake them a little longer, but they turned out beautifully. The first question I got at the breakfast table this morning was “where are the leftovers of that cake” and I was happy to report that they each had a half of one in their lunch box! And there are two in the freezer – I think they’ll freeze well. And next time, I think I WILL use the muffin tin, because they are a little on the big size for a single serving. Half was enough for me!

  • Heather
    October 2, 2014 at 10:51 PM

    Is it possible to omit the xanthan gum or is there a good substitute that is not just another gum? My little guy get’s diarrhea from the various gums.

  • Anneke
    October 2, 2014 at 6:08 PM

    These babies are on the cooling rack right now, waiting to be eaten at book club. Worked great in the muffin pan.

  • Kat
    October 2, 2014 at 3:27 PM

    This recipe sounds wonderful, and I love the use of a muffin tin for individual sizes. Wish I owned one of the other specialty pans though. Maybe this recipe will convince me that I will use that pan…Thanks for another great recipe!

    • October 2, 2014 at 3:43 PM

      I have to say, Kat, that I use that cake panel pan more often than I thought I would when I first got it. It is also great for making muffin tops, since I don’t own a special muffin-top pan. It’s completely not necessary, of course, but it does tend to come in handy!

      • Kat
        October 2, 2014 at 5:18 PM

        Thank You Nicole! Now I should be able to justify the expense-yippee!

        • Kat
          October 7, 2014 at 1:50 PM

          Ok, I bought the pan today and best part was I got to the counter and found out it was marked down to $1.99. What a great deal! Thanks for encouraging me to buy it.

  • Charlotte More
    October 2, 2014 at 1:30 PM

    Which one of the all purpose flours did you use? There are 2 that say all purpose.

    • October 2, 2014 at 3:42 PM

      Charlotte, I used Better Batter. I included a notation to that effect, something I usually do but just forgot!

  • Pam
    October 2, 2014 at 10:58 AM

    I was really pleased to see this recipe, and thankful there are only readily available (for any gluten free kitchen) ingredients needed. Off to the store for apples. Thanks for a simplified ingredient list. :-)

  • Karen
    October 2, 2014 at 10:53 AM

    i must make these too as i have an abundance of apples this year and i have been making all things apple for the past few weeks. i wonder how they freeze – have you tried it?

    • October 2, 2014 at 3:41 PM

      I haven’t tried freezing these mini apple poundcakes, but I have sliced and frozen the classic pound cake recipe upon which these are based, and it freezes really well, Karen.

  • Michelle R.
    October 2, 2014 at 10:51 AM

    Is it possible to substitute flax eggs or ener-g for the eggs? I have two kids that are allergic to eggs.

    • Jennifer S.
      October 2, 2014 at 10:57 AM

      You should totally try it out and let us know how it goes!! I’ve heard of many people having great love with the ener-g egg replacer. GOOD LUCK!

    • October 2, 2014 at 3:41 PM

      There are simply too many eggs in this recipe, Michelle. I do not recommend using an egg substitute. Sorry!

  • Jennifer S.
    October 2, 2014 at 10:44 AM

    I have this pan therefore I must make these beauties… they’ll have to wait a bit though as my oldest is 10 today so I’m baking like a mad woman to get ready for her parties. thanks for another yummy apple recipe!

    • October 2, 2014 at 3:40 PM

      Happy 10th birthday to your oldest, Jennifer!

  • Lucy
    October 2, 2014 at 10:21 AM

    Nicole your kitchen must smell wonderfully apple-ly good!
    I’ve been on a pumpkin puree baking mood these days (our neighbor gave us several sugar pumpkins) I still have more to process and freeze for winter baking.
    I may have to switch gears to apples soon, the granny smiths are still to green in our neck of the woods :)

    • October 2, 2014 at 3:40 PM

      This time of year, Lucy, I feel like all I do is switch from pumpkin to apples and back again!

  • Denise Carver Durflinger
    October 2, 2014 at 9:43 AM

    Is that 1 cup PLUS 9 tablespoons of flour?

    • Me
      October 2, 2014 at 11:05 AM

      Yes, one cup plus 9 tablespoons. I think 9 tablespoons is actually 1/2 cup….not sure

      • October 2, 2014 at 3:39 PM

        There are 8 tablespoons in 1/2 cup, Denise. Yes, it’s 1 cup + 9 tablespoons, for a total of 220 grams. I really can’t recommend measuring by weight enough!

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