Ombré Spice Cupcakes

overhead image of cupcakes with orange ombre frosting

Happy Monday to you all! How was your weekend? Did you catch any football? Bake pumpkin cookies, decorate for fall? Melt in the 95°F, 80% humidity weather? (Really, September?) I did all of the above. My favorite part was either the Lumineers concert or tackling a pumpkin cookie recipe I’d been working on all week. I’ll share them on my blog soon, promise.

In case the weather outside your window is frightful– and in the blistering hot sauna sort of way– maybe these ombré spice cupcakes will put you in the Autumn mood. Grab your PSL (or homemade pumpkin spice creamer + coffee!!) and take a seat. It’s time to begin that Fall baking magic.

spice cupcakes with orange ombre frosting

This recipe is actually in partnership with McCormick. I’m on their blogging team this year and am thrilled to bring you recipes using all sorts of their products. One item I’m particularly excited about is their new food color: Color from Nature. I know you’ll appreciate these new colors as much as I do because I’m often asked about ways to naturally color icings, cupcakes, cakes, etc. These 3 new colors are all made with ingredients from nature like plants, veggies, seeds. And it comes in powder form. I think that’s pretty freaking cool!! You can mix and match + blend and combine to get all sorts of different shades.

Like ombré Fall colors. Aren’t these so fun!   ♥   ♥

overhead image of cupcakes with orange ombre frosting and McCormick Color Nature food coloring

I’ll get back to the colored frosting in a sec because I want to chat about the spice cupcakes themselves. These spice cupcakes are an adaption of my new vanilla cupcakes. I’ve gotten a lot of wonderful feedback from you on that recipe, so I’ve been inspired to play with it to create new awesome flavors. Like SPICE! I love spice cupcakes from their deep flavor to their moist texture and everything in between. Not to mention how timeless they are; they’re a must every Fall season.

To make my version, I’m going to ask you to whip out dark brown sugar and butter. These two combined– creamed– will be the base of your spice cupcakes. You can use light brown sugar instead of dark brown if it’s easier for you, but let me be honest. Dark brown will give you that little extra boost of flavor. I love the stuff this time of year!

spice cupcake batter in a glass stand mixer bowl

Also we’ve got all those wonderful spices. Here’s the spice line-up:

ground cinnamon
ground all-spice
ground ginger
ground nutmeg

These four warming spices will give your cupcakes most of their flavor. When I was testing this recipe, I kept switching up the amounts of each– but I’m satisfied with the amounts you’ll see in the recipe below. Maximum spice flavor. Also important: cake flour and sour cream! The two will produce the most incredible light, cakey, and fluffy spice cupcakes.

spice cupcake batter in a glass bowl with a whisk

We’ll use a deliciously sweet and tangy cream cheese frosting on the cupcakes. I’ve always loved spice cupcakes with cream cheese frosting– reminds me of pumpkin cake, carrot cake, or banana cake… my favorites!

And now we can add the pretty ombré colors! I mixed and matched the Color From Nature Food Colors to get varying shades. Like, some of the Berry Nature Food Colors and some of the Sunflower Nature Food Colors to get an orange. I have it all out in the notes below so you can make all sorts of festive Fall shades.

Cream cheese frosting in glass bowl with a hand mixer

overhead image of cupcakes with orange ombre frosting

Have fun with these! Get in the Fall spirit and color your heart out.

spice cupcakes with orange ombre frosting

More recipes to get you in the fall spirit:

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spice cupcakes with orange ombre frosting

Ombré Spice Cupcakes

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 22 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: 14 cupcakes
  • Category: Cupcakes
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American


Flavorful and beautiful ombre spice cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.


  • 1 and 3/4 cups (207g) cake flour (spoon & leveled)*
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (120g) full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk, at room temperature

Autumn Colored 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
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • McCormick Color from Nature Food Colors*


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Line a second pan with 2 liners – this recipe makes about 14 cupcakes. Set aside.
  2. Make the cupcakes: Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, all-spice, ginger, nutmeg, and salt together. Set aside.
  3. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy – about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and beat on high speed for 2 minutes until creamed together. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the eggs and vanilla extract. Beat on medium-high speed until combined, then beat in the sour cream. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed.
  4. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients until just incorporated. With the mixer still running on low, slowly pour in the milk until combined. Do not overmix. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be slightly thick.
  5. Pour/spoon the batter into the liners – fill only 2/3 full to avoid spilling over the sides. Bake for 19-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
  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 confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then switch to high speed and beat for 2 minutes.
  7. Divide the frosting up into however many colors you’d like. I made 2 batches of frosting to get this many colors, so stick with 3 colors for the 1 batch of frosting. Stir in the McCormick Color from Nature Food Colors to reach your desired color.
  8. Frost the cupcakes using one colored frosting on each one. I simply used an icing knife. Arrange the cupcakes in an ombre formation, from dark to light.


  1. Make Ahead Instructions: Cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature. Frosting can also be made 1 day in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. Leftover cupcakes keep well covered tightly in the refrigerator for 3 days. Frosted or unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Cake Flour: If you can’t get your hands on cake flour, use this homemade cake flour substitute.
  3. Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer | Flex Edge Beater | 5-qt Tilt Head Glass BowlGlass Mixing Bowls | Cupcake Pan | Cupcake Liners | KitchenAid Hand MixerIcing Knife
  4. Frosting Colors: For a yellow frosting, use ½ teaspoon Sunflower Nature Food Colors. For a light yellow frosting, use ¼ teaspoon Sunflower Nature Food Colors. For an orange frosting, use ¼ teaspoon Berry Nature Food Colors + 1 teaspoon Sunflower Nature Food Colors. For a light orange, use 1/8 teaspoon Berry Nature Food Colors + 1/2 teaspoon Sunflower Nature Food Colors. For a reddish orange, use 1/4 teaspoon Sunflower Nature Food Colors and 1/2 teaspoon Berry Nature Food Colors.
  5. Room Temperature Ingredients: Why are all the ingredients supposed to be at room temperature? Here’s why!

Keywords: ombre cupcakes, spice cupcakes


  1. I really want to make these for a Halloween party I am going to next week but I find that whenever I bake cupcakes for an event they get ruined by the time that I get there. Either the frosting gets all smashed or it melts (even after the cupcake has chilled) or it crusts up. I love cupcakes but I can’t figure out a way to safely transport them. Everything I’ve tried ends up a disaster.

    1. Try icing them closer to the event. You can leave the cupcakes un-iced till just before you go.

  2. Jackie Burnett says:

    I can’t wait to make these they look and sound amazing! How long would you bake these as mini cupcakes?

    1. I’d say about 11-13 minutes for mini size.

  3. Gosh, these look beautiful! I’d love to make them for a thanksgiving party we’re attending tonight, but unfortunately, it seems I’ve run out of sour cream. Would Greek yogurt work as a substitute, and if so, how much would you recommend adding?

    1. Greek yogurt works! Sorry I wasn’t working yesterday to see this comment 🙂

  4. Can I double this recipe?

  5. I’m planning to make these for a spice cake loving coworker, who is equally fanatic of chocolate. What do you think about making a Mexican chocolate inspired ganache frosting on these? I’d use a bittersweet chocolate with cayenne, cinnamon, nutmeg.

    Thanks for your great recipes!

  6. Hi Sally! Very excited to make these gorgeous little cupcakes for my mum. She’s been discussing how much she wanted a Honey Spiced Cake this Christmas and this almost fits the bill! To really knock it out of the park for her I wanted to add in honey – how much and when would you add it in this recipe? Thanks so much.

    1. Hi Zoe! That sounds delicious. I haven’t tested this recipe with honey, so I’m unsure. Let me know how it goes!

  7. I, too, would rather have spice cake or anything with lemon rather than chocolate. Thank you for doing what you do. I wish I had more drive to pursue my baking passion. Can’t wait to make these!

  8. Can i substitute the sour cream?

    1. Hi Zubi! Plain yogurt works in its place.

  9. Any harm substituting 1-2 tablespoons of shortening for 1-2 tablespoons of the butter to help stabilize the cream cheese frosting for piping? Thanks! It’s time for some fall flavors!

    1. Hi Derek! You could definitely sub in some shortening for a sturdier cream cheese frosting.

  10. Do you think 1% milk make a huge difference? I’m trying to make it lactose free… and have lactose free sour cream and 1% lactose free milk on hand. Thanks!

    1. That should be OK in this recipe. Thanks Joanna!

  11. I dont have any cake flour can I substitute for ap flour?

    1. Hi Manda! A combo of all-purpose flour and cornstarch works nicely instead. See note in this recipe:

  12. I do not have cake flour, only all purpose flour, should I use the same amount of flour?

    1. Hi Brittney! If you can’t get your hands on cake flour, you can make a DIY version from all-purpose flour and cornstarch. Measure 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Remove 2 Tablespoons. Mix in 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch. This equals 1 cup of cake flour. I suggest doing this twice, mixing it all up in 1 bowl then removing 1/4 cup since you need 1 and 3/4 cups in this recipe.

  13. I made a batch and a half of these yesterday for coworkers. They were moist and SUPER flavorful!

  14. Karin Baumgardner says:

    Could I double this recipe and use it for a 9″ layer cake? I’m looking for a light fluffy type spice cake, to make with maple buttercream … not a heavy pound cake type. Thanks for the reply!

    1. Hi Karin, I do have a recipe for a spice cake (see recipe notes for instructions on making it a layer cake):
      However if you like the texture of these cupcakes better you can certainly try making them as a cake!

  15. Hi! Just made these and they smell like heaven. However, one question, mine were great looking in the oven but as they cooled in the pan they completely flattened out. Not the worst since icing them will be easy, but wondering why they dropped and if the consistency inside will be off now. Thanks.

    1. And just to add more info, the bases did not bake all the way through, although I did add a few more minutes to them in the oven…

  16. Alyssa Black-Diamond says:

    Hi, I love all your recipes they are delicious but I have one question Can you do this with out the dye? Just the plain frosting? My family loves spice flavored things but we don’t have dye.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Absolutely! Hope your family enjoys these, Alyssa.

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I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally