Super Moist Spice Cake

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)
  • The ultimate fall dessert

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
  • 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

  • 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 | 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

149 Comments

  1. I made this cake over the weekend and it was as wonderful as the pictures promised!!!! Thanks once again for the super recipe!!!

    edgar

  2. Can this be made in a bundt pan? I feel like it would be so pretty. 

    1. Absolutely! Will be delicious. I’m unsure of the exact bake time though. Use a toothpick to test for doneness.

  3. Made this cake last night for dessert – it’s delicious! So light and moist and it was a hit with everyone from my kids to the grandparents.

  4. just thought I’d drop you a big thank you for posting this recipe. I’ve made it a few times now….never the same way twice. It’s very versatile and forgiving. Though I’ve changed it a bit each time I haven’t once iced it. The latest version was with 100% whole wheat flour…..even I was surprised it turned out so well. I wasn’t sure of the age of the baking powder or soda, as I made it in my daughters kitchen. She also only stocks olive oil and coconut oil. (hippies sheesh) so I used coconut oil. added about 1/4 tsp baking powder and soda. All she had was alspice and ginger. I threw in equal amounts of the called for spice….then added some more for good measure. Used two grated apples and 1 1/2 cups apple sauce. I used only about 3 1/2 eggs…they were farm fresh sooooo had to be cleaned a bit of blood spots. But hear it is the next day and I’m sitting here on the guest bed picking up the crumbs off the comforter, enjoying a slice ….a rather big slice with my coffee waiting for everyone to get out of bed.

    I should add that I’ve used this recipe for apple upside down cake. After arranging the cooked apples on a pan I’ve poured over 1/2 the batter and then used the other 1/2 in a smaller pan for freezer destination. I’ve added flaked coconut, leftover roasted yam (smushed to a paste added into the apple sauce)… . there was one time I was staring at a small pile of leftover bacon bits. But I didn’t add them. The cake is so much better the next day. Though it rarely lasts past that. Whenever I make it, it’s usually my breakfast …either as an upside down version with ice cream or just plain whipping cream poured over the whole mess. I’ve made it now in three different kitchens when I’ve visited my kids. I just wish the coffee makers ive had to deal with were as forgiving as this cake in the morning.

  5. Sally, the cake was delicious and super moist. Half was eaten up in a matter of minutes. Thank you!

  6. can you use coconut oil instead of the vegetable oil?

    1. Melted coconut oil works.

  7. 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!!

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

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. 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. 🙂 )

    1. 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!

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

    1. 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.

  12. I just tried making this in a bundt pan and it came out extremely moist and fell into pieces once I finally got it out of the pan. The flavor is good but it looks hideous and I don’t even know how I would even get icing to spread on it withought turning into a crumby mess

  13. Amy Shaffer Post says:

    Yet another amazing recipe from Sally! I made this using Bob’s red mill all purpose gluten free flour and used flaxseed eggs instead of regular eggs and it still turned out amazing! I did make it as cupcakes and they baked to perfection. Thank you for the great recipe!

  14. Elizabeth Chavez says:

    What kind of apple would you recommend to use? I have honey crisp apples in my fridge, but wasn’t sure if something that sweet would be good for a spice cake. Thanks!

  15. I love this recipe! I can´t wait to try it… but I want to use it for a 3 layer naked cake. Will it work? Should I double the recipe?

    1. Hi Ary! This batter, as is, will fit nicely into 3 9-inch or 8-inch cake pans. 🙂

  16. Does the grated apple give a texture to the cake?
    Also my sister requested that I incorporate fruit into the cake somehow, such as by putting it inside the center of a two layer cake (like cutting out the center of the bottom circle and filling it with fruit). How do you think this would work taste-wise? I was thinking of using blueberries, sliced strawberries, and possibly raspberries. I was also thinking I would use some cream cheese frosting to combine them before putting them in the middle so they wouldn’t all loosely spill out when cutting into the cake. What is your general opinion and/or suggestion as an experienced baker?

    1. Hi Kyra! Yes, the grated apple leaves a little texture in the cake. Not much though– it mostly just gives the cake a lot of moisture. You can play around with assembling the cake with fruit or berries, but I haven’t tried anything like that. I have a pinata cake recipe where I cut out the center and added candies if you want to look to that for inspiration.

  17. Absolutely fantastic and bulletproof recipe! I’m definitely a novice baker and this cake came out really well both times I made it (in spite of getting some things slightly wrong). I made the batter in 2 cake pans and, as a matter of preference, only frosted the middle and top of the cakes because I don’t like a lot of icing. If your taste is similar, I would recommend cutting the frosting recipe in half. This cake was a huge hit with my coworkers and I will certainly be making it again!

  18. This was such a great cake! I made it for a coworker’s birthday. Everybody loved it. Birthday Girl was happy to try a spice cake from scratch and I was happy to deliver! Thank you so much for this amazing recipe. Super easy to bake!

    Melissa

  19. I made the cake for Family Dinner last night after my sister in law asked me to ‘pick up a spice cake.’ I followed the recipe exactly and set the timer for 45 minutes (recipe says 45-50 minutes). It was definitely overbaked, I so wish I had started checking at 35-38 minutes. Still good but would have been lots better if it wasn’t overcooked.

    I also didn’t use all the frosting, which was a good call. I think it would have been overwhelming. And now I have some lovely frosting to use on something else!!

    Hopefully this helps someone else make their cake perfect!

  20. This is so good! I made it exactly as shown other than I only had cinnamon. It was fabulous!

  21. Thank you very much for sharing this fantastic recipe! I feel like I got a secret family recipe or something. I made this for my child’s first birthday and skipped the frosting. I served it with whipped cream. He ate every last bite of his piece… and so did everyone else! It didn’t last until morning!

  22. This is a recipe that I’ve been searching for. I did a little alteration, I made it into an upside down cake. In a cast iron skillet, melted a stick of butter, added 4/4 cup of brown sugar, and let it simmer until it came to Carmel consistency. Added sliced apples, sprinkled with chopped pecans, then poured your spice cake batter on. When it finished baking, flipped the pan over onto a platter. It looked beautiful and my family went crazy about it. I called it Carmel Apple upside down spice cake. It’s now a holiday tradition! Wonderful cake recipe!

    1. I absolutely love upside-down cakes, so I really want to try your adaption! Thank you so much for sharing!

  23. Hi Sally,

    So, I am going to make your spice cake into a 2 layer cake for Thanksgiving and frost it with a maple buttercream. However, I want to fill it with something pumpkin – maybe a pumpkin ganache. What do you recommend? Thanks.

    1. Hi Sandy! Sounds delicious. I’ve never tried making pumpkin ganache before. My suggestion would be a pumpkin spice cream cheese frosting. You can add pumpkin pie spice to the cream cheese frosting– about 1/2 teaspoon.

  24. I absolutely love this spice cake recipe. It leaves you with a delicious, moist cake AND it is simple to make. Perfect for a light dessert after a big Thankgiving meal.
    I totally recommend this recipe.

  25. This cake is DELICIOUS! Made this on a whim for a friend’s birthday after finding out that their mom had made them spice cake for their birthday growing up and it did not disappoint!

  26. Hi Sally, I love this recipe so much, I tried it last night in a bundt cake pan. It took about 45 minutes to bake perfectly.

  27. Sally, this recipe is amazing! I will be making this for a second time this weekend. Thank you!

  28. I’m planning to make this cake for my mom’s birthday this weekend! I was wondering if it’s a good cake to stack and if it bake time will be longer or shorter in 9in round cake tins. Also, do you have any good, simple ideas to decorate a spice with? Excited to make this cake!

    1. Yes! See the recipe notes for how to bake in 2 9-inch pans 🙂

  29. This is the 2nd time we’ve made this in a month. It’s so amazing! First time, we used a shredded carrot, and the 2nd time, we added a yellow zucchini. And used freshly grated nutmeg. Love spice cake and this one is one of the best we’ve eaten!

  30. What a great cake. Because I didn’t have enough carrot, apple or zucchini to make a cup, I used 3/4 cup of grated zucchini and 1/4 grated carrot. Turned out to be one pretty cake with the orange streaks in it.

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