Apple Johnny

Apple johnny: cake baked in apple sauce.

Apple Johnny is a cake from eastern Canada that is baked in apple sauce. This is the third traditional cake from that region I’ve come across that is baked in a sauce or syrup.  I think that’s enough to classify this as a family of cakes.  I am going to call them drop cakes, because you make a batter and drop it into some manner of delicious sauce or liquid.  Not a traditional term by any means but there it is.

Anyways, the most famous drop cake is pouding chômeur, which is a traditional Quebecois cake baked in maple syrup.  When I mentioned this to a friend who grew up in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, she said that they also made a poorman’s pudding, but that it was baked in molasses, not maple syrup.  Then I was flipping through a cookbook that belonged to my grandma and there was a cake called apple johnny, which was baked in apple sauce.

Apple Johnny batter dropped in apple sauce.

I’ve put a photo of the original recipe from my grandma’s cookbook (90 Favourite Recipes – W.A. Garreton) at the end of this post.  For my own version I made some changes and have ideas for how I would do future batches differently.  Most significantly, the name “apple johnny” reminded me of johnnycake, or cornbread, that my Grandma made, so I decided to substitute a third of the flour for cornmeal.

The cake as it appears in the recipe below is serviceable: good on its own as a coffee cake, or served warm and topped with ice cream as a dessert.  To be a real knock-out I think it needs some more texture.  Maybe streusel on the top.  Or maybe some large pieces of apple could be put into the sauce.  It could be like an upside-down cake that is never turned upside-down, if you know what I mean.  Also the apple sauce tends to reduce and thicken, and it crossed my mind that it might be fun to make a very liquidy apple sauce with fresh apple cider so there is more contrast between runny apple sauce and baked cake.  I’ll give that a go this fall.


Apple Johnny


  • 130 g unsalted butter (or good lard)
  • 90 g sugar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 130 g all-purpose four
  • 70 g fine cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 175 g whole milk
  • 1 kg apple sauce (your favourite version… a very simple recipe is below)


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Cream the butter, sugar, and salt in a stand mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl every 2 minutes.
  3. Add the egg and beat until the batter is smooth.
  4. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the milk.
  5. Pour the apple sauce into a lightly greased 8″ x 8″ casserole.  Pour the cake batter onto the apple sauce.
  6. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean and the top is a deep golden brown, about 40 minutes.

Yield: 9 generous portions Apple Johnny


Simple Apple Sauce


  • 1 kg apples, peeled, cored, sliced
  • 100 g white sugar
  • 100 g butter or lard
  • 1 tsp kosher salt


  1. Put the apples in a pot with a splash of water.  Cover and bring to a simmer.  Cook covered until apples are very tender.
  2. Remove lid.  Add sugar, butter or lard, and salt.  Mash ingredients together and simmer until sugar is dissolved and fully incorporated.
  3. For a silken-smooth version, transfer to an upright blender and process.  You may need to add a splash of water to get the sauce to cycle properly.

Yield: about 1 kg simple apple sauce

My grandma's recipe for apple Johnny