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Moist, dense, and rich homemade spice cake is topped with a generous layer of tangy cream cheese frosting. Filled with comforting fall spices, this cake is perfect for cool fall days.

slice of spice cake with cream cheese frosting on a white plate

Chocolate? Who needs it. Spice is easily one of the best cake flavors around. It’s 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.

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. It has tight crumbs and a moist texture. More flavor in 1 bite than in an entire cupcake—we’re talking gingerbread-level flavor.

spice cake with cream cheese frosting in a glass baking dish

This Spice Cake Is:

  • Dense like banana cake
  • Cozy + comforting
  • Perfectly spiced
  • Soft + moist
  • Easy to make
  • Simple to transport—no layers!
  • Topped with smooth + silky cream cheese frosting
  • A great make ahead recipe (it’s even tastier on day 2)

Plus, you can see that I used this very batter as the starting point for my favorite apple cake. Such a great base recipe!

ingredients for spice cake

Spice Cake Ingredients

Spice cake requires very simple ingredients—nothing fancy, all items you likely have in your pantry already.

  • Flour: All-purpose flour serves as the base. We use sturdy all-purpose flour instead of cake flour in this recipe because of the thick, wet batter.
  • Baking Powder + Baking Soda: These ingredients help the cake rise.
  • Salt + Vanilla Extract: Both add flavor. Try using homemade vanilla extract!
  • Fall Spices + Molasses: For mega spice flavor we use lots of cozy spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and 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.
  • Oil: Oil guarantees a moist crumb.
  • Brown Sugar: We use only brown sugar in this spice cake recipe because you know that’s where the best flavor lies. I prefer dark brown sugar for even deeper spice flavor.
  • Applesauce: Applesauce adds flavor and moisture.
  • Eggs: Eggs provide structure and moisture.
  • Apple: 1 cup of shredded apple adds so much flavor and moisture– it’s what makes this spice cake truly the best I’ve ever tasted. You can also use shredded zucchini or carrot too.
spice cake batter in a glass bowl with a whisk

Overview: How to Make Spice Cake

This is a very simply cake to prepare—it actually reminds me of pumpkin cake in terms of preparation, ease, taste, and texture. You don’t even need your mixer!

  1. Mix the dry ingredients.
  2. Mix the wet ingredients.
  3. Combine wet & dry ingredients.
  4. Pour into prepared 9×13 inch cake pan.
  5. Bake.
  6. Make cream cheese frosting.
  7. Chill. 30 minutes in the refrigerator makes cutting easier.
spreading cream cheese frosting on spice cake in a glass baking dish

Cream Cheese Frosting

No frosting necessary as this spice cake is delicious on its own. But we all know tangy cream cheese frosting is spice cake’s favorite friend so let’s whip up a batch of silky cream cheese frosting and pile it on!

Mix it up and try brown butter cream cheese frosting used on banana layer cake or cinnamon cream cheese frosting used on banana cupcakes. All options are equally yum! 🙂

spice cake with cream cheese frosting cut into squares in a glass baking dish
slice of spice cake with cream cheese frosting on a white plate

Other Size Cakes

This spice cake is incredibly versatile– one of the many things I love about it! There’s enough batter for a layer cake, Bundt cake, or cupcakes.

  • 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 fits wonderfully into a Bundt pan. I’m unsure of the exact bake time, so use a toothpick to test for doneness.
  • Cupcakes: This recipe makes about 24 standard size cupcakes. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full and bake for 18-21 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

More Spiced Recipes

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spice cake with cream cheese frosting in a glass baking dish

Super Moist Spice Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 50 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 hours
  • Yield: serves 12 1x
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

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


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 and 1/2 cups (313g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 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 (240ml) 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 shredded apple (or shredded 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

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) and grease a 9×13 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 shredded 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.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: 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.
  2. Special Tools: Icing Spatula | Whisk | KitchenAid Hand Mixer | Glass Mixing Bowls | Glass Baking Dish
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Cupcakes: This cake batter yields about 24 standard size cupcakes. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full and bake at 350°F (177°C) for 18-21 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Adapted from my favorite carrot cake recipe.

Keywords: spice cake

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Hi there! I am looking to make this cake as a 3-layer cake for a Christmas Dinner show-piece. Wondering 2 things – 1: Will this ingredient quantity work if I split this over 3 9-inch cake pans as opposed to 2? and 2: Going back and forth between using the cream cheese buttercream as written in the coconut cake recipe, and just doing a swiss or Italian meringue buttercream with basic vanilla flavoring. Any thoughts?

    Lastly, I’m planning on doing a mulled wine jam layer in between 🙂

    1. Hi Garry, you can divide this cake batter between 3 9-inch cake pans. The bake time will be a little shorter than the 2 layer cake instructions in the notes. We love this cake with a cream cheese icing, but let us know what you decide and how it turn out with the jam layer!

      1. This recipe looks amazing! I was wondering if I could use more applesauce instead of the shredded apple or carrots or zucchini? My friend doesn’t like the texture. Or do you have any other suggestions for substitutions.

  2. A nice moist cake. I think I would like more spice next time. Will make again.

  3. For the shredded zucchini/carrot, should that be peeled before being shredded? Or can I leave the skin on?

    1. Hi Lilly, No need to peel the zucchini before shredding. Enjoy!

  4. We made this for my father-in-law’s birthday. He LOVE’S spice cake but the rest of the family does not. We were VERY happy with this cake. Everyone loved it! We are now a family of spice cake converts. Thanks so much!

    1. The shredded apple adds a lot flavor and moisture. We wouldn’t simply leave it out, but you can use shredded zucchini or carrot instead.

      1. The shredded apple was really REALLY wet, so I tried to dry it off by patting my pile with a paper towel. I should have left the moisture, right? The cake is a little dry 🙁

  5. My daughter just made me this for an early birthday cake. I love spice cake and this might be the best I’ve ever had! She made it exactly as instructed but w/o the optional molasses. The cake was moist and rich, the frosting was much better than our usual vanilla frosting, and we will definitely make this again and again. Cheers!

  6. Made the cake and absolutely loved it:) I’m going to make it again but would like to layer it between 3 6-inch cake pans. should I double the batter recipe to do this? And should I reduce or add time?
    Thank you!

      1. Hi Tia, oil guarantees the most moist crumb in this cake. We recommend sticking with oil, as butter may make the cake a bit dry and even taste rubbery.

  7. Aside from a simple chocolate chip cookie recipe I made a few weeks ago, this is literally the first thing I’ve ever baked, from scratch or otherwise. Everything turned out perfectly, and it tastes absolutely amazing, better than I ever could have hoped for on my first attempt actually baking something. I will be saving this recipe forever, thank you so much for making it.

      1. Hi Sandy, you could use melted coconut oil in place of the vegetable oil. Oil helps to guarantee a moist crumb. Hope you enjoy the cake!

  8. Wow. She’s right, it doesn’t need frosting. It’s everything Sally says it is. I added a bit more cinnamon but otherwise made it exactly as written. Best cake ever.

  9. My cake was dry, didn’t overbake. Husband thought it was dry. Baked 5 minutes less than recommended in recipe. Added molasses to mine, followed recipe. So, if I make again we would add 1/2 C sour cream and bake 10 minutes less. Icing was delicious.

  10. Does the apple or carrot change the flavor to those flavors? Or a will they just enhance the spices? I don’t necessarily want it to taste like a carrot cake.

    1. Hi Paula, It will taste a bit different if using carrots instead of apple, but it’s not as much carrot as a carrot cake. If you want to avoid a carrot flavor completely, we recommend sticking with apple (or even zucchini).

    2. This is the best spice cake. I have made it several times and everyone loves it. My son’s girlfriend from Germany said it was just like her grandmothers apple cake. She had two pieces, took the leftovers home and she’s vegan! I have tried other recipes and I think it’s the combination of applesauce and shredded apples that make it moist.

  11. I am terrible at baking and cakes always scare me. I’m always afraid that they’ll be goopy in the middle or burnt around the edges or whatever.
    This cake cooked up PERFECTLY. I am so relieved and pleased with the result. I made it for hubby’s birthday and everyone said it was great. Thank you so much for this recipe <3

  12. I would have to use a different option to apple and apple sauce as I am deadly allergic to tree fruits. Perhaps pumpkin purée?

    1. Hi Collette, Pumpkin puree or mashed bananas work very well!

  13. Do you have a recipe for a glaze or light icing that you can drizzle over it?

  14. OMG this is the most delicious cake. Super moist and the spice mix is fabulous. I’ve made many spice cakes and they usually turn out dry and dense but this was perfect. Thank you for such a fabulous recipe.

  15. Is this cake good for stacking tiers, for a wedding cake? Also, could you suggest a cake that would be good with fig jam filling? Something fall-ish to go with the apple one. Thank you!

    1. Hi Christine, Yes this cake should hold up nicely as a tiered cake and would be absolutely delicious with a fig filling. Let us know if you give it a try!

  16. Hello, I can’t wait to try this recipe. Wondering if I could substitute 1 cup of sour cream for the shredded apples. I think it would help keep the moistness while changing the texture slightly from the shredded apples. Love your website, btw!! Thank you.