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Spiced Applesauce Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

applesauce cake with cream cheese frosting

I should really thank Kate for inspiring me to make this recipe. (Have you met her? Well, she is awesome and you should probably head over to her blog. Shopping, baking, and running? No wonder we get along.)

After a delicious meal at Peels, one of my favorite eateries in New York, we got to talking about baked goods and what was the best item to bring to a casual get-together. Since I’m on an apple bender at home (I can eat 4 apples a day, not kidding!) I thought an apple cake would be heavenly.

Just like that, the wheels in my little brain started churning…

applesauce cake with cream cheese frosting

Apple Bundt cake? Apple Cinnamon Loaf cake? Apple Crumb Cake? Spiced Apple Layer Cake?

The possibilities are endless!

While crumb cake is absolutely delicious and layer cakes are stunning, I had neither the time nor the inclination to make them. Instead, I thought about a simple snacking cake. You know, the kind of cake that has you slicing of bits and pieces every hour or two. No mess, no fuss. Only sweetness.

Enter this Spiced Applesauce Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese frosting. Granted, it doesn’t contain actual apples BUT it uses applesauce, which is even better in terms of baking. Applesauce is commonly used in healthy baking because it can take the place of butter by adding much need moisture to the cake. Don’t fret though, this cake is not for the healthy sort thanks to the butter, brown sugar, and cream cheese frosting.

applesauce cake with cream cheese frosting

Did I just say cream cheese frosting?! You bet I did. It is amazingly sweet with a slight tang, which plays well with the spiced applesauce cake.

If you didn’t already get the idea, the cake is a must-be-made item. Make it for Thanksgiving as a pre-dinner snack, make it for the morning-after breakfast, or just make it later tonight for a midnight snack.

applesauce cake with cream cheese frosting

Spiced Applesauce Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from: Smitten Kitchen &
Yields: 8-10 servings


For cake:
2 cups (8 3/4 ounces or 250 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) salt
3/4 teaspoon (2 grams) cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 stick (4 ounces or 113 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (7 3/4 ounces or 218 grams) packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (about 13 ounces or 365 grams) unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup (about 1 3/4 ounces or 50 grams) walnuts (optional), toasted, cooled, and chopped

For frosting:
5 ounces (142 grams) cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces or 42 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (4 ounces or 120 grams) confectioners sugar
1/2 (1 teaspoon) teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter an 8- or 9-inch square cake pan. Line the bottom of cake pan with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray.

Make cake:

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in applesauce. At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just combined, then stir in walnuts (if using). The batter will look a little curdled and uneven but don’t worry, it will all bake up perfectly in the end.

Spread batter evenly in pan and bake until golden-brown and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes.

Cool in pan 15 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake to loosen, then invert onto a plate. Re-invert cake onto a rack to cool completely. At this point, you can wrap the cake with plastic wrap and store to use at a later date.

Make frosting:

Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until fluffy.

Sift confectioners sugar and cinnamon over cream cheese mixture, then beat at medium speed until incorporated. Spread frosting over top of cooled cake.

Do ahead: We were impressed with how well this cake kept for three days but were unable to “research” if it lasted longer. Keep frosted cake in the fridge. If you’d like to bake the cake further in advance, I’d wrap it well and freeze it until the day you need it. Leave it out on the counter to defrost and frost it up to a day in advance.

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November 15, 2011 - 7:40 am

charlotte au chocolat - Looks delicious!

November 15, 2011 - 12:11 pm

Kate (Embarrassment of Riches) - Awwww this just made my week!

As soon as I saw your tweet about this post I thought of our apple dessert brainstorming session. I think this cake would be perfect for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning – sustenance for a long session ahead in the kitchen.

November 15, 2011 - 12:25 pm

Caitlin - This looks awesome! My grandma makes applesauce cake every year at Christmas and it’s always been one of my favorite things to look forward to.

November 16, 2011 - 3:52 am

aboyce18 - It would be so good on Thanksgiving morning! It’s not super sweet and you could add all sorts of nuts and dried fruit if you like! Enjoy xoxo

November 16, 2011 - 5:15 am

Jess - This looks so good!

November 16, 2011 - 10:26 am

aboyce18 - Thanks!! It was utterly delicious :)

November 25, 2011 - 10:35 am

Cookie and Kate - Drooling… totally sold on this apple cake concept.

August 1, 2012 - 6:43 pm

Amber - Mine ended up needing a long time to bake and got a little tough on the edges, so I think next time I’ll make two layers with a struesel in between. Thanks so much for the recipe, the cake is moist and flavourful and I was asked to make it again!

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