Julia's Hot Cross Bun-Inspired Spiced Apple Cake

With Easter just around the corner, we can’t resist making Julia Busuttil Nishimura’s deliciously spiced apple cake.

Reminiscent of a hot cross bun, this Autumnal-inspired recipe has cinnamon, mixed spice and ginger alongside zesty orange, tart Granny Smith apples and sweet sultanas.

Topped with a sour cream glaze, it truly is the perfect afternoon tea Easter treat. Find the recipe below!

Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Sarah Hendriks

Julia’s spiced apple cake is the perfect hot cross bun-inspired afternoon tea treat.

‘It’s a beautifully simple and comforting bake,’ says Julia.

Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Sarah Hendriks

15th of March 2024

This hot cross bun-inspired cake is perfect for Easter, but also just really great for Autumn, thanks to the addition of sultanas and apples.

I’ve used Granny Smith apples which have a nice balance of tartness and sweetness but any apple of your choice is fine. Complemented with warming spices like cinnamon, mixed spice and ginger, it is a beautifully simple and comforting bake.

I’ve also added orange zest and juice which perfumes the whole cake. I suggest rubbing the orange zest into the sugars to allow the orange oils to intensify and carry the flavour — something I always do if there is some form of citrus zest in a cake.

Topped with a thick sour cream glaze, this cake is a real winner — enjoy!

Bursting with warming spices, zesty orange, tart apples and sweet sultanas.

Topped with a thick sour cream glaze!

Spiced Apple Cake With Sour Cream Glaze

(Serves 8) 

250g self raising flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground ginger
Sea salt
150g raw caster sugar
50g brown sugar
Zest of an orange
200g unsalted butter, softened
60g sultanas
Juice of half an orange
3 eggs
150g full fat sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Granny Smith apples (around 375g), peeled, coarsely grated

Sour cream glaze

250g pure icing sugar
50g full fat sour cream
Juice of half an orange, plus extra, if needed
Unsweetened shredded coconut, to serve


Preheat the oven to 180 C (200 C conventional). Grease and line a 23 cm round tin.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, mixed spice, ground ginger and a good pinch of salt. Mix to combine and set aside.

In a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment combine the sugars and orange zest. Rub the zest into the sugars with your fingertips until damp and fragrant. Add the butter and beat at a medium-high speed until the mixture is pale and fluffy (4-5 minutes). Scrape down the side of the bowl, as needed. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use hand-held electric beaters.

Meanwhile, place the sultanas in a small bowl with the orange juice. Set aside.

Reduce the speed of the mixer to low-medium and add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add the sour cream and vanilla and mix until combined. Add the apple, sultanas and juice and mix briefly.

Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when tested. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then transfer it to a wire rack to complete cooling.

For the glaze, sieve the icing sugar into a medium bowl and add the sour cream. Whisk to combine then slowly add in orange juice until you have a thick but pourable consistency. You may not need all of the juice. If the mixture is too thick, add a little more orange juice until you have reached the desired consistency.

Place the cake on a serving plate and pour the glaze onto the cake, spreading it to the edge of the cake and allowing it to drip a little down the sides. Top with shredded coconut.

Allow the glaze to set before serving.

What else I’m cooking: On the topic of apples, I came across some incredible raspberry apples at Morning Market. They’re blush red on the inside and absolutely gorgeous. I stewed them with some cinnamon, lemon and sugar and turned them into apple turnovers. Served with cold cream, just perfect!

What else I’m eating: The fried zucchini chips dipped in tzatziki, at Jim’s Greek Tavern. A classic for a reason!

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