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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
- Mix the dry ingredients.
- Mix the wet ingredients.
- Combine wet & dry ingredients.
- Pour into prepared 9×13 inch cake pan.
- Make cream cheese frosting.
- Chill. 30 minutes in the refrigerator makes cutting easier.
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. You could even use white chocolate buttercream frosting, or garnish each slice with whipped cream. All options are equally yum! 🙂
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
- Banana Cake
- Carrot Cake
- Pumpkin Cupcakes
- Harvest Spice Bread
- Apple Cider Donuts (baked not fried)
- Chai Spiced Cinnamon Swirl Bundt Cake
- Apple Crumb Cake
Super Moist Spice Cake
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 50 minutes
- Total Time: 5 hours
- Yield: serves 12
- Category: Cake
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
Homemade and super moist spice cake with tangy cream cheese frosting. Such an easy recipe packed with TONS of flavor!
- 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
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) and grease a 9×13 inch pan. I always use this glass pan.
- Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and other spices together in a large bowl. Set aside.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for 5 days.
- 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.
- Special Tools: Icing Spatula | Whisk | KitchenAid Hand Mixer | Glass Mixing Bowls | Glass Baking Dish
- Layer Cake: I’ve made this as a two layer cake before. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans, line with parchment paper rounds, then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the cakes seamlessly release from the pans. Divide the batter between the two 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.
- 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.
- Adapted from my favorite carrot cake recipe.
Keywords: spice cake
Reader Comments & Reviews
Normally I use a boxed spice cake mix, but cannot find them in the store.
When I make it from box, I use a can of pumpkin puree instead of the eggs and oil.
I dont really want to use eggs, oil, applesauce or milk products in my cake.
One is allergic to milk, and the other is vegan.
super DRY cake, brushed warm apple juice on it, then ended up adding a little more milk in frosting and poking holes in cake and poured icing. I think pre cooking the apples in butter and change baking time might help. The taste was so good, unfortunately not a success as recipe directs.
Hi there! Any advice on how to remove the grated apple and keep the cake nice and moist? More applesauce? A dairy of some kind? Much appreciated 🙂
Hi Ben, the best replacement for the apple here would be shredded zucchini or carrot. Hope you enjoy the cake!
I’m wondering if I could substitute crushed pineapple for the applesauce. I have some leftover from a carrot cake I made…..in my head it seems like it would work fine but wanted your opinion. Thank you.
I made this and the Best Banana Cake, cut them in half and layered them with the cream cheese frosting from this recipe for my sister’s birthday. This might be the best cake I’ve ever baked!
Should I peel the apple before grating? And any particular variety of apple recommended?
Hi Jackie! We usually do, but it’s not completely necessary. We love granny smith apples for baking!
My moms favorite cake is spice cake and I wanted to make this cake for her birthday but I wanted to do it as a layer cake and decorate it with the pretty roses you decorated your traditional birthday cake with. That recipe uses buttercream icing. Will the buttercream cream icing be just as good on this spice cake? I am assuming the cream cheese icing won’t hold as well when decorating.
Hi Emery, absolutely, you can use vanilla buttercream frosting with this cake (either to cover it or just for the decorations). You’re correct — the buttercream frosting will hold it’s shape much better than the cream cheese frosting!
How would you add extra moisture if you didn’t want to use grated apple or carrot?
Made this cake, but used your Vanilla Buttercream recipe as the frosting! It is delicious and very moist! Loved the cake and the creamy frosting!
I am needing to make this into a 3 teir cake but im nervous about it being stable enough…i wont be using the cream cheese frosting. Any tips?
Hi Jennifer! This cake should hold up as a tiered cake with the proper cake boards and dowels for support.
Hi Sally, what a great recipe! This is the first time I make spice cake and it turned out delicious. I ran out of apple sauce so instead I grated two apples instead of one. I also ended up making it in a Bundt pan and baked it for 45 minutes. Came out perfect!!
What is the best type of apple to use in this recipe?
Hi Judith, you can use your favorite variety — we often like Granny Smith, Fuji, or Pink Ladies.
I simply love it. I tried this recipe today and it turned out so deliciously yummy and moist and flavorful. Before putting it away I couldn’t resist and finished quarter of it 😉 Thank you for sharing such lovely recipes with us.
Would this do well as a triple layer 6 inch cake also? Was thinking about it for a special fall birthday .
Would adjust the bake time.
Hi Denise! Our spice cupcakes recipe would make the perfect amount of batter for a three layer 6 inch cake. Otherwise you can reference our cake pan conversions guide to adjust this recipe. You can use our 6 inch cakes post for a reference on baking time. Enjoy!
This is moist and delicious spice cake! I like the addition of applesauce and grated apple, it gave an extra kick of flavor! Easy to make, and I had all of the ingredients on hand! I didn’t make the cream cheese icing, I dusted with powdered sugar and topped with a dollop of whipped cream. Awesome recipe! Thx:)
If I wanted to make this recipe with just cinnamon, how much would you use?
Hi Kristy, you can try replacing the other spices with an equal amount of cinnamon (in addition to the called for amount of cinnamon).
I made this recipe and I felt that it could be a little more moist than what it was. I did use molasses does that make it less moist.
Hi Linda, the molasses should not make the cake less moist. How were you measuring your flour? Be sure to spoon and level (or weight measure) your flour, otherwise you risk adding too much to the batter which can dry out the cake. Over baking (even by just a minute or two!) can also contribute to a dry cake. Thank you for giving this recipe a try!
Would like to use the same amount of pumpkin instead of applesauce. Will that work?
Hi Beth, Definitely! Pumpkin puree would work very well in the place of applesauce. You may also love our recipe for pumpkin cake as well – pure pumpkin and spice flavors in that cake.
Do you think this cake recipe would be stable enough to use as the middle tier of a 3 tiered wedding cake? The middle tier would be an 8 inch 3 layer cake.
It shouldn’t be a problem as the center tier.
Could I use this recipe for cake pops?
Hi could you tell me why it didn’t cook in the centre ?
It was baked at 175 for 55 mins
I added toasted chopped walnuts and a teaspoon of orange zest. Love it! It will be a staple in my go to recipe collection.
I have made this recipe many times over the years, with no changes other than making it as a layer cake. It turns out perfect every time! It is my dad’s absolute favorite, and I am in the process of making it for Father’s Day as we speak! So delicious and easy!
I Made this delicious spice cake for my uncles birthday yesterday, and it was a big hit!
It is so moist and I loved the little apple slices in it. Thank you so much for this recipe!
Would definitely give it 5 stars.
I want to make this! I have no vegetable oil.
Would olive, canola or peanut work?
Thank you. Looks amazing!
Hi Tammy, canola oil would be your best bet of the those three. The others could work, but the taste and texture may change slightly. Melted coconut oil is also an option. Hope you enjoy the cake!
I would like to make this as a layer cake. Will the frosting proportions given make enough frosting for a 2 layer 9 inch cake?
Hi Mary Rose, yes, this frosting should yield enough for a thin layer around your layer cake. Feel free to 1.5x the frosting if you’d like to have a little more!
Since we have been doing KETO since the 1st of January, I did not have all of the ingredients and the shops are closed on Sundays so I ended up substituting a few things.
1. I did not have any applesauce or apples, so I substituted with Crème fraîche
2. I did not have any more Zucchini after last nights dinner so I left it out
3. I don’t like using Oil in Baking, so I used Irish butter
4. I halved the nutmeg, added an extra half teaspoon of Ginger and Cinnamon
5. I added a little AllSpice and Cardamon
6. I used Spelt Flour.
7. I added two Espressos to the batter.
I was low on cream cheese so I made an Ermine Frosting pepped up with espresso. I was out of Milk so I made it with whipping cream diluted with water.
The cake ended up very delicious. Next time I will follow the recipe exactly.
Lovely recipe! Although I’m not sure why my cupcakes came out super dry! I’m a regular baker and also been to culinary school. So I’m not sure what went wrong. The cream cheese icing was very tasty, I added extra icing sugar to make it more shapable
Hi Danielle, thanks so much for giving this recipe a try! If your cupcakes came out dry, is it possible that they were a bit over baked? That’s often the culprit for dry cakes / cupcakes. And did you use the spoon and level method to measure your flour? We also share more tips on how to prevent dry and dense cakes in this blog post — hopefully some of these tips will be helpful for next time!
This recipe looks amazing. I have been tasked to bake a spice cake with cream cheese frosting for a birthday and I need a half sheet cake size. Can I double this recipe, would that be enough? Thanks!!!!
Hi Michelle! We’re unsure exactly how much batter you would need for that pan, here is everything you need to know about converting recipes to different Cake Pan Sizes.
Does this need refrigeration if I leave the frosting off and make into cupcakes?
Hi Bob, unfrosted cupcakes will stay fresh for a day or two without refrigeration. If you plan to store them longer than that we would stick with the fridge since they’re so moist. Enjoy!
Very nice moist cake and easy to make. We added the molasses which gives a rich flavor. It reminds me of the first spice cake I made in which the spices needed to be increased. Doubled the spices in the next batch. Don’t know if the molasses hinders the spicy flavors.
So, I made this with mashed bananas 240 grams and 1 cup fine shredded zucchini, and 3 tablespoon cinnamon. And didn’t add any other spices.. and ohh boy.. they are so delicious <3 everyone I served it too absolutly loved them.. thank you so much for your delicious recipes <3
My daughter’s birthday always falls during Lent and she and my granddaughters give up chocolate during Lent. So I was looking for a recipe for a special birthday cake. This did not disappoint. I used the shredded apple; next time, I might try the shredded carrot. I made it in a Bundt pan and baked it about 40 minutes. The only problem I had was getting it all out of the pan . . . but I remedied the not-so-pretty look with cream cheese frosting. I put a little green food coloring in it and my grandson was sure that he tasted mint. 🙂 I will make this again. It was so moist!
My uncle loves spice cake but does NOT love cream cheese so I make this yummy cake with a molasses buttercream that picks up all the flavor notes in the cake. Perfect!
I would love your molasses buttercream recipe if you would share K Simmons.