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 tried this for moms birthday.. Reduced sugar to 3/4 th cup.. Came out superb.. Thanks Sally.. Now I only follow your recipes for all cakes

  2. I tried this recipe as is, and it’s delicious! My family loved it to say the least. Thank you for sharing it. Now I have a birthday coming up so I wanted to make this cake layered instead but worry about the moisture and density feel it has. Does it dry up a bit when you split the cake batter and make it in two? Thank you very much!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Maribel, We are so happy you enjoyed this recipe! For a layer cake the bake time is shorter so it doesn’t dry out. See the recipe notes for details.

  3. I want to make this as a 3 layered cake. How would I modify the recipe?

    1. Hi Olivia, you can simply 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.

  4. I have made this several times and always comes out great!
    First time I didn’t have applesauce, apples or apple pie filling so I reduced the sugar and blended peach pie filling. The cake was gone in 10 minutes!
    Second time I used applesauce and apple pie filling mashed in cupcakes. Made 3 dozen cupcakes that disappeared in minutes.
    Grandkids love them.

  5. Jessica Sanchez says:

    OMG This cake was so moist and delicious. Highly recommend all the ingredients suggested. Next time around I’m doing raisins and walnuts for another. Yummmy

  6. Can you substitute apple sauce with something else?

    1. Definitely! Pumpkin puree or mashed bananas work very well.

  7. This was so delicious! We made two 9” round cakes and put just one layer of cream cheese frosting in between – I didn’t want to frosting to overwhelm the flavor of the cake. The consistency is perfect, super moist. One of the spices is a bit overpowering and bothers the roof of my mouth – not sure if it’s the ginger or cloves? (And I’m Indian, so “too spicy” is saying something. :)) Not sure, but it’s still really good and I would make it again!

  8. How many applies did you use and what type? Going to make my for my daughter’s Birthday this weekend. First time not a box cake.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kathy, Start with one large apple and measure after you shred it, you want one cup of shredded apple. You can use any variety here!

  9. Hi Sally! First, thank you for all the great recipes! Regarding this recipe I was wondering if I can use chesscake felling ?

  10. Hi Sally! Can I add in walnuts and raisins?
    Thank you!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Absolutely! Add a total of 1 cup of raisins and chopped walnuts to the cake batter.

  11. Oh wow, this cake is amazing! I made it gluten-free for my daughter’s 10th birthday party and was told by one of her friends that this was the best spice cake she had ever eaten. Thank you Sally for another fantastic recipe!

  12. Can I use coconut oil in place of vegetable oil?

    1. Hi Kim, melted (and slightly cooled) coconut oil works. Same amount.

  13. I made the recipe as stated, using homemade applesauce and whisking together ingredients (though I am more accustomed to using a mixer). I was disappointed, because I didn’t find the cake to be moist at all! Shocking considering the apple, oil, and applesauce, but in fact, it was on the dry side. No one went back for seconds.

    1. Hi Vicki, with this amount of moisture in the cake batter, it’s possible the cake was over-baked and that’s why it tasted dry. Regardless, thanks for trying the recipe and the feedback.

  14. Halved the recipe to bake in a 2 qt glass dish for 25 minutes and it came out great! I will definitely be making this again. I suggest serving with some chopped, toasted pecans.

  15. Frøydis Kilmer says:

    Hey. I’m thinking of making this as a layered cake. Do you think chocolate ganache and cranberry coulis would work as layers in the cake? With brown butter cream cheese frosting?

    1. I think both would be wonderful, but it would be a very flavorful cake. I don’t think anyone would complain though. A small slice would definitely satisfy. Sounds delicious.

  16. I made this cake as is and it was amazing! I also made it as a two layer cake but with Sally’s vanilla buttercream frosting and it was incredible (my Mom said it was the best cake she ever tasted and my husband told me not to lose this recipe). It’s s moist and flavorful . I will be making this over and over again. Thanks Sally!

  17. If make cupcakes, how long should they be baked and at what temperature please.

    1. Hi Marilyn, see recipe note for cupcakes.

  18. Dear Sally,
    I have just found your website and I am trying some recipes 🙂 This recipe seems delicious. I made my own unsweetened applesauce using Granny Smith apples. My applesauce is sour. Is it ok if I use it in the recipe? I wonder if it sabotages the taste or not. I also want to shred the same Granny Smith apples in the cake. Would that be ok?
    Thank you 🙂

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Fatima, Yes you can use your homemade applesauce and use Granny Smith apples for the 1 cup of shredded apples. The sugar in the cake and the frosting should keep the cake plenty sweet. Enjoy!

  19. I didn’t have applesauce so I blended some ripe mango and used it as a 1 : 1 substitution and OMG the entire cake was devoured (by four people) within minutes, which is out of the ordinary for our family. I made it again with applesauce and actually prefer the blended mango, but other than that, kept everything the same. Highly recommend!

  20. Love this recipe! Tastes great

  21. Made this for my daughter’s 3rd birthday yesterday and it was delicious! Moist and the perfect amount of spices. Everyone loved it! I know I can always count on your recipes. Thanks!

  22. This was delicious! The only sugar I had on hand was maple syrup, so I cut the sugar down to 1 1/3 cups and used only maple syrup. I also did 1/2 white whole wheat flour. I chose carrot too. The cake was still so moist! Also, I had previously made eggnog ice cream and this cake pairs amazingly with it! Thank you.

  23. I didn’t change the recipe added to molasses, it was very moist and flavorful.

  24. WOW, easy to make and absolutely delicious! I added the 1 tbsp of molasses and used shredded carrots, baked in a bundt pan, the cake is so moist, not too sweet and the spice flavor is mild. My little picky eaters loved it! If you like it spicier, add extra spices! 🙂

  25. My boyfriend grew up eating spice cake at every celebration, so I used this recipe to try to recreate his childhood experience. He said it’s the best spice cake he’s ever eaten! I’ve made this twice now and have it bookmarked for future celebrations. Thanks for your wonderful recipes!

  26. I’m a new baker and am wondering why this recipe does not call for room temperature eggs. I have found most recipes do. Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Allie, Unless otherwise stated, your eggs should be at room temperature! If you are interested, here is a post all about why Room Temperature Ingredients Make a Difference.

  27. Hi! This looks amazing!! I’d like to bake for a friend, but he doesn’t like chunks of anything in his cake. I’m wondering if the shredded apple/carrot/zucchini is noticeable?? Thank you so much for your recipes- everything I have made from your site is DELICIOUS!!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kristen! They’re not noticeable – they mostly melt into the cake making it perfectly moist. Using apple or zucchini with the skin peeled before shredding should be perfect. Hope this cake is a hit!

  28. Betina Søgaard says:

    I LOVE this recipe..
    And I made it both as cake and cupcakes.. but I have a question though.. I like the texture better in this recipe than in the banana cupcakes. Do you think I can switch out the applesauce and shredded apples with smashed bananas and only using cinnamon? I’m pretty new in this baking world so don’t have a lot of experience with playing witt recipes

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Betina, you can certainly use mashed bananas to replace the applesauce. How about using zucchini instead of the apples? That will still give the cake it’s delicious moisture without having an apple taste or overpowering the banana. You can leave out the other spices and add more cinnamon, too. Let us know if you give it a try!

  29. It’s amazing to see recently displayed comments and not comments from 10-14 years ago – lol! I made a moist pineapple cake and triggered my taste for a real old fashioned spice cake like my grandmother’s and this looks like this may be the winner. This is Friday and will making it tomorrow for our Sunday dinner! Thanks …

  30. I made this last night and it came out great! Because my husband and I are empty-nesters, I halved the recipe and baked it in a 9”x5” pan. I didn’t have applesauce, but I did have a can of peaches, so I blended the peaches in a food processor to substitute for the applesauce (1:1 ratio). Additionally, I did use the molasses. I’ll definitely be making this again!

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