Super Moist Spice Cake

Homemade and super moist spice cake with tangy cream cheese frosting. Such an easy recipe packed with TONS of flavor! sallysbakingaddiction.com

After I shared a spice cupcake recipe— complete with fanciest of frostings– many of you emailed or asked for a spice CAKE recipe. And when someone asks me for specific dessert, especially one so appropriate for the beloved Fall baking season, I put on my apron and mad scientist goggles.

Spice is easily one of the best cake flavors around. It’s in the same family as carrot cake. Chocolate? Who needs it. (Don’t hate me.) Dense, moist, and flavorful enough that frosting isn’t even a requirement. I can’t even believe I’m saying this but when done right, super moist spice cake doesn’t need a swipe of frosting on top.

Though that’s not really stopping you and I. Cream cheese frosting is always welcomed.

Homemade and super moist spice cake with tangy cream cheese frosting. Such an easy recipe packed with TONS of flavor! sallysbakingaddiction.com

Completely unrelated to spice cake, though. Today Friday September 23rd 2016 is my dear friend’s wedding day. I’m currently helping the bride get ready for her big day. I’m her matron of honor! My speech is written, the details are finalized, my dress is long and royal navy, and Jess is glowing. I’ll post a picture or two on social media. Congrats to the bride and groom, who met 16 years ago on the beach. ♥ ♥

How to make super moist spice cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

This spice cake recipe is different from my spice cupcakes. Maybe it’s just me, but when I think of cupcakes– I prefer light, fluffy, soft, and springy. No matter what that flavor is. When I think of spice CAKE, the direction is drastically opposite. Spice cake is dense and rich. Comforting on cool Fall nights. It has tight crumbs and a moist texture. More compacted flavor in 1 bite than an entire cupcake. We’re talking gingerbread-level flavor.

It’s not difficult to achieve all this. In fact, it’s easier than most cakes and cupcakes you and I have ever made. All you’ll do is whisk dark brown sugar, oil, eggs, spices, and applesauce together. You’ll be amazed at what these simple ingredients can produce. And the cake batter is so easy, you don’t even need your mixer.

Let’s talk spices. You’ll need 4 pantry staples: ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, & cloves. I like to add 1 Tablespoon of molasses, but that’s completely optional. I loved its extra robust flavor inside the cake, but I did test the cake without it. Still wonderful. One other item in this spice cake: 1 cup of grated apple. So much flavor and moisture in there to bring us the most wonderful spice cake to ever grace your baking pan. You can also use grated zucchini or carrot too.

Options keep things exciting!

How to make super moist spice cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

As we chatted about above, the cake is delicious on its own. No frosting necessary. And if you let the cake sit overnight (make ahead recipe alert!!!), the spice flavor will develop even deeper. But we all know tangy cream cheese frosting is spice cake’s favorite friend. Let’s do it.

Homemade and super moist spice cake with tangy cream cheese frosting. Such an easy recipe packed with TONS of flavor! sallysbakingaddiction.com

Homemade and super moist spice cake with tangy cream cheese frosting. Such an easy recipe packed with TONS of flavor! sallysbakingaddiction.com

This cake reminds me of the recent banana cake recipe. Only with extra extra Fall spice flavor instead of banana flavor. 🙂

Homemade and super moist spice cake with tangy cream cheese frosting. Such an easy recipe packed with TONS of flavor! sallysbakingaddiction.com

Cheers to the bride and groom, cheers to Fall cakes!

More Fall cakes and cupcakes:

Super Moist Spice Cake

Ingredients:

  • 2 and 1/2 cups (312g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup canola (240ml) or vegetable oil
  • 1 and 3/4 cup (350g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup (180g) unsweetened applesauce
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup grated apple (or grated carrot/zucchini)
  • optional: 1 Tablespoon molasses

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 ounces (224g) full-fat block cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3 cups (360g) confectioners' sugar, plus an extra 1/4 cup if needed
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) and grease a 9x13 inch pan. I always use this glass pan.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and other spices together in a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. Whisk the oil, brown sugar, applesauce, eggs, vanilla extract, and molasses (if using) together in a medium bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until combined. Fold in the grated apple until combined.
  4. Spread batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Baking times vary, so keep an eye on yours. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If you find the top of the cake is browning too quickly in the oven, loosely cover it with aluminum foil.
  5. Remove the cake from the oven and set on a wire rack. Allow to cool completely. After about 45 minutes, I usually place it in the refrigerator to speed things up.
  6. Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on high speed until smooth and creamy. Add 3 confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then switch to high speed and beat for 2 minutes. If you want the frosting a little thicker, add the extra 1/4 cup of confectioners sugar (I add it). Spread the frosting on the cooled cake. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving. This helps sets the frosting and makes cutting easier.
  7. Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for 5 days.

Make ahead tip: Prepare cake through step 5. Cover the cake tightly and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze up to 3 months. Bring to room temperature, make the frosting, frost, and serve. Frosted cake freezes well, up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, bring to room temperature or serve cold.

Recipe Notes:

Layer cake: I've made this as a two layer cake before. Use 2 9-inch cake pans and bake the layers for 30-34 minutes or until the centers are cooked through.

Bundt cake: This batter will fit into a bundt pan. I’m unsure of the exact bake time, but use a toothpick to test for doneness.

Adapted from my favorite carrot cake recipe

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Icing Spatula | Kitchenaid Hand Mixer | Glass Mixing Bowls | Glass Baking Dish

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How to make super moist spice cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com
How to make super moist spice cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

171 Comments

Comments

  1. Kashi on December 23, 2016 at 7:57 am

    I made this cake for a potluck in the fall and it was a huge hit! Getting ready to make it again this morning for Christmas– thanks so much for the round cake times, that was just what I was planning to do this time and I appreciate the adjustments for time. Cannot wait to eat this again!!

  2. Sarah on January 1, 2017 at 11:59 am

    I have made several recipes from your site, mostly at first because they came up first in Google (kudos to your seo person lol) but now because I know everything you make is delish. This is in the oven smelling great 🙂

    • Sally on January 2, 2017 at 1:05 pm

      So glad you found me, Sarah! Thanks, Google 🙂

  3. Sharon on January 22, 2017 at 8:27 pm

    My son has been bugging me to make a spice cake for a while now. Since, he is extremely lactose intolerant I was happy to find a recepie that didn’t call for any dairy products. I will admit I was skeptical at first since cakes made from scratch have never been good IMO. This cake was AMAZING!!! I did add more cinnamon then called for after tasting the raw batter (we adore cinnamon) and omitted the molasses as well as the grated apple. My son has requested this cake for his birthday next week!!

    • Sally on January 23, 2017 at 12:06 pm

      So happy you found something for both of you! Hope he has a great birthday 🙂

  4. Amanda on February 1, 2017 at 9:13 am

    Does the cake turnout if you double the recipe?

  5. Keith J. Doll on February 24, 2017 at 2:54 pm

    I made this cake for my wife’s second thirtieth birthday. I baked the cake yesterday, covered it and frosted it this morning. Man was it good! moist! I can’t wait to try your spice cupcakes!

  6. Laurette on March 7, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    I made this cake with avocado oil ….turned out fantastic ! 
    I would like to use coconut oil this time . 

    Should I use the same amount ? 

    Any suggestions would be helpful 

    Thks 

    • Sally on March 7, 2017 at 6:51 pm

      Same amount, yes. Make sure it is melted and slightly cooled.

  7. Natasha on March 13, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    Hello! Can I replace all the spices with Pumpkin Spice and would I use the same amount 3.5 teaspoons?

  8. CC on March 27, 2017 at 9:08 am

    Hi, can I replace applesauce with another ingredients 

  9. juli on April 4, 2017 at 8:16 am

    Hello I just ate a piece of spice cake I made this morning and found it delicious! Thank you very much!

  10. Lydia on July 15, 2017 at 3:45 pm

    Well…I just made a version using mashed butternut squash instead of applesauce and grated carrot instead of apples (one large-ish carrot = one cup grated). Also about 1/2 a cup grated coconut. Added a few dashes cayenne because it accentuates the spices, I think. Out of vanilla, but I think it’ll be okay. It’s in the oven now. I might make a brown butter frosting if it looks like it needs something. Thanks for the recipe, it’s a great jumping-off point!

  11. Aubrey Cooper on September 10, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    could i substitute apple butter for the apple sauce, for a deeper apple flavor
    ?

    • Sally on September 10, 2017 at 5:57 pm

      Sure can!

  12. Nicole on September 16, 2017 at 6:31 pm

    This was sooo great! Just made it and since I live in Colorado Springs (elevation 6,000), I wanted to let my fellow high altitude peeps know that I cut the baking powder and soda in half and increased the temp of the oven to 360 to adjust for altitude and it was great! Getting a permanent card in my recipe book right now.

  13. Robin on September 20, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    Sally, I noticed above someone asked if they could use pumpkin pie spice and they also asked if they would still use the 3 1/2 Teaspoons however, there was no answer to the question. Also someone asked if they could double the recipe and if it would work fine. Again, no answer was given. I’ve got the same questions. I’m baking a 9 x 13 so not sure if I’d need one recipe or two??
    You have been my “go to person” for about 3 years now. You’re fantastic. Thanks!

    • Sally on September 20, 2017 at 1:49 pm

      Hi Robin, yes I’d use 3 1/2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice.

      • Robin on September 20, 2017 at 2:20 pm

        Thank you very much Sally!!



  14. Robin on September 20, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    I see above where one recipe will do the 9 x 13. Sorry I didn’t see it before. Still have the question about the spices.

    Thanks!

  15. Trena on September 25, 2017 at 7:59 am

    AH-MAZING.

    I’m pretty new to baking on a regular basis and found this recipe two weeks ago. Rave reviews from my husband, his coworkers, friends, and myself. 😉 I added cinnamon to the frosting because cinnamon + me = true love forever. I will definitely be making this again!

    • Sally on September 25, 2017 at 1:05 pm

      Yay! So happy you all enjoyed it! I recently started adding cinnamon to frostings too – DELISH!!

  16. Denny on September 27, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    My Half-Husband (my fiance) mentioned his mom used to make Spice Cake all the time. And that he hadn’t had it in about 10 or more years.

    So I found this recipe and added the Molasses and added 1.5 tsp of Gingerbread spice to it (yes,I know there are spices in the recipe) and thought this would add more ooomph to the spice.

    He LOVED it! Made my own Cream Cheese frosting and even his VERY PICKY BOX CAKE EATING BOYS loved it! 😀

    Thank you for sharing this recipe. It’s a keeper!

    • Sally on September 27, 2017 at 1:35 pm

      Hi Denny, I’m so happy to hear you could recreate this for him! I bet the extra spice was great!

  17. Sarah on September 28, 2017 at 6:57 am

    Hi Sally!

    I kinda feel like we’re old friends because I’ve been learning form your recipes for years (you’re awesome).
    And now my question: I wonder would it work to swap out the all-purpose flour for cake flour in this recipe (or any spice-cake sort of recipe for that matter)? I notice you do use the cake flour in your spice cupcakes, in which, as you point out, you prefer that lighter texture. But would it work for a cake, or do those heavy ingredients (applesauce, grated apples) require a more robust flour in a cake?
    Or, more broadly, is there any other way to achieve that lightness you like in your spice cupcakes in this spice cake? Or are there reasons why that’s not quite possible or desirable?

    (I live in the Netherlands and it’s my partner’s birthday in a few weeks. Usually at Dutch birthdays they serve light, airy tarts. But the stubborn American in me will always think that a birthday requires a layer cake. And this is the one my partner wants, along with a salted caramel buttercream! But if there’s a way I can lighten it up a bit I think it will be even better received by the lucky Dutchies I’ll be serving. 🙂 )

    • Sally on September 28, 2017 at 11:49 am

      Hi Sarah! What a nice message, thank you for the comment! 🙂

      This is a dense cake– and you really can’t achieve the lighter texture unless you change up the wet ingredients somehow. Feel free to play around with it as you see fit, but this recipe (as written) does require the heavier texture of all-purpose flour. I hope this helps!

  18. Bernadine on September 29, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    Hi Sally,

    Could I use 6 inch round pans instead of 9 inch? If you could how long and what temp?

    • Sally on September 29, 2017 at 12:51 pm

      You’ll have a 3 or 4 layer cake with 6 inch pans. Same oven temp, but I’m unsure of the bake time. Use a toothpick to test for doneness. Enjoy!

  19. Alejandra on October 16, 2017 at 6:09 am

    Hi Sally, so looking Forward to baking this… as soon as we get some fall weather in Munich!
    I have a question. Is there any ingredient I can Substitute the oil with?
    Thanks so much in advance 🙂

    • Sally on October 16, 2017 at 11:40 am

      Oil is heavily recommended for this spice cake– at least a little bit. You can sub half of it with applesauce though! 🙂

  20. Tereasa on October 20, 2017 at 6:01 pm

    I just wanted to say that you are the baker I aspire to be!!  I’m more savory but with your recipes I’m getting rave reviews on my baking.  Have you ever created anything that was no sugar and VERY low carbs.  It’s my Dad’s way of eating for health and weight. Looking forward to trying the recipes I found on here today.  Have a great HOLIDAY season!!!

    • Sally on October 20, 2017 at 6:21 pm

      Thank you so much for the kind comment! I don’t have any recipes like you are referring to, but you can browse my healthy choices section if you’d like!

  21. Miranda Tompkins on October 21, 2017 at 3:15 pm

    Hi there! 
    Can you tell me why the 4 eggs are optional and the difference it will make in the cake? It seems like it would make a pretty big difference! 

    • Sally on October 21, 2017 at 4:47 pm

      The molasses is the only optional ingredient. The other ingredients are a must 🙂

  22. Meagan on November 2, 2017 at 7:36 pm

    This recipe made my house smell heavenly! Thank you so much for sharing the recipe. You said options keep this thing exciting, so I took the liberty to add things! I used shredded carrot instead of shredded apple and pureed pumpkin instead applesauce. Then I added in chopped up walnuts and rasins.

    • Sally on November 2, 2017 at 9:51 pm

      Sounds so good!

  23. June on November 2, 2017 at 9:54 pm

    Just made a 1/2 recipe of this in an 8×8 pan – it’s so delicious!! I had a new spice mix I wanted to road test (KAF Speculaas) so I used that in place of the listed spices. Love the moistness & soft texture. 

    This was so easy to pull together that I actually mixed it up while I was in the middle of making dinner. Perfect “just bc it’s Thursday and we need cake” cake. 

    (Also just for ref my oven did vary as you said – @350F in an 8×8 mine took just shy of 30min.)

    • Sally on November 3, 2017 at 11:29 am

      I like your rationale for making a cake on Thursday night. 😉

  24. Christine on November 13, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    Hi Sally, can I just leave the cake on the cooling rack till morning?

    • Sally on November 13, 2017 at 7:22 pm

      Absolutely! I would very loosely cover it with aluminum foil.

  25. Edwina on November 13, 2017 at 8:31 pm

    Hi Sally,
    I want to make a spiced pineapple layer cake for my birthday and was tossing up between your hummingbird recipe and this one – do you think I could sub the applesauce and apples in this recipe for 1 cup drained crushed pineapple and 1 cup well drained diced pineapple? Or could I just keep the applesauce and sub the grated apple with drained crushed pineapple since that would probably overtake the flavour of the applesauce anyway?

    Love your recipes, they always turn out perfectly!

    Thanks,
    Edwina  

    • Sally on November 14, 2017 at 7:13 am

      Hi Edwina! You can try to sub in crushed and diced pineapple, but I haven’t tested this recipe with those subs– and I’m a little unsure of the results. Why not try the hummingbird cake? It’s wonderfully spiced and already has pineapple 🙂

  26. Emily on November 24, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    Would this recipe work in cupcake form?

    • Sally on November 24, 2017 at 4:56 pm

      Yes, it should!

  27. bernadette jones on December 14, 2017 at 8:49 pm

    Hi, I want to know if you can also use raisins and nuts? In addition, can you use an aluminum pan for spice cake?

    • Sally on December 15, 2017 at 8:50 am

      You can add raisins and chopped nuts, yes! An aluminum pan works too.

      • bernadette jones on December 17, 2017 at 8:46 pm

        Thank you!



  28. Jim on December 15, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    Thanks for the recipe. The 1 cup of shredded apples was pretty much 2 medium sized apples. I cut 1 more apple into 8 pieces and dunked it into thw batter after pouring it into the cake pan. Will see how it turns out. I just made thus in a bundt pan and it took 60 – 65 minutes.

  29. Michelle on December 17, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    Hi! Can I leave out the grated apple? And if so, should I increase the amount of applesauce? Thank you!

    • Sally on December 17, 2017 at 1:03 pm

      I don’t recommend a whole extra cup of applesauce– maybe stick to 1/2 cup. OR instead of grated apple, I suggest 1 cup of grated carrot or zucchini.

      • Michelle on December 17, 2017 at 1:30 pm

        Thank you!



  30. Christi on December 23, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    I cooked this recipe in a metal bundt pan & it deflated & cooked harder on the outside with a little unhooked in the middle. I wondering if I should adjust the temp & time for cooking in this pan. Also, the 4 eggs are under the optional list of ingredients. Should I not use the eggs if I’m using oil?

    • Christi on December 23, 2017 at 4:19 pm

      That was meant to say uncooked in the middle & after 50 min at 350.

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