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Made with the most comforting spices and applesauce to keep the cake really moist, this homemade spice cake is one to make all year long!
What is spice cake?
Spice cake is, essentially, a cake made with a lot of really warm, cozy, comforting spices (think: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves) that is typically enjoyed during the fall and winter months when these spices are really showcased. Basically, if you’re into warm and cozy, spice cake is for you.
Why is homemade spice cake better than spice cake mix?
While both store-bought and homemade spice cake mixes will include a lot of the same flavors and spices, there are also several ingredients in store-bought, boxed mixes that really aren’t necessary. There’s also nothing quite like a homemade cake (in taste, texture, everything) in comparison to a boxed mix – especially when it’s this easy.
How does this recipe vary from spice cake mix recipes?
The biggest differentiator here (aside from the use of cleaner, better-for-you ingredients) is that this cake was actually formulated for gluten-free-eaters in mind (as opposed to being an afterthought). It also happens to work really well with regular, all-purpose flour, though, so it’s truly a cake that MANY can enjoy! The applesauce included in this recipe also really helps to moisten the cake.
Ingredients for easy spice cake
While the ingredients here are pretty standard baking ingredients, you’ll also notice several that are spice cake-special (think: lots of spices, applesauce, etc.) Here’s everything you’ll need:
- Flour – to start, you’ll need 2½ cups of all-purpose flour (use a 1-for-1 gluten-free flour blend for GF — our favorite is King Arthur’s Measure for Measure flour).
- Baking Powder – 2½ teaspoons of baking powder help the cake to rise.
- Baking Soda – a ¼ teaspoon of baking soda goes into the dry mix also.
- Sea Salt – a ½ teaspoon of coarse sea salt helps to bring out and enhance all of the other really bold flavors here.
- Spices – what would spice cake be without a heavy dose of warm, comforting spices? For this recipe, you’ll need 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, a ½ teaspoon of ground nutmeg, and ¼ of a teaspoon of ground cloves.
- Brown Sugar – 1 cup of brown sugar will both sweeten the cake and give it a nice, rich, caramel-y flavor.
- Butter – you’ll also need ¾ of a cup of melted butter (1½ sticks). For a dairy-free option, use an equal amount of ghee or avocado oil.
- Eggs – 3 eggs help to bind everything together.
- Vanilla Extract – 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract go into the wet mix to give a nice hint of vanilla.
- Unsweetened Applesauce – you’ll also want to grab 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce.
- Milk – to thin the batter slightly, you’ll use a ½ cup of whole milk (almond milk works great as a dairy-free option).
- Cream Cheese Frosting – top your cake with a generous slathering of cream cheese frosting!
- Chopped Pecans – if desired, finish everything off with a ¼ cup of chopped pecans.
How to make spice cake
The process is really easy, making this a great dessert for ALL bakers (even the amateurs of the baking world — hello, it’s me!) to tackle. Here’s what you’ll do:
- Prep – preheat the oven to 350°F and either grease or line a 9×13 inch cake pan with parchment paper. This is also a really great time to pull out all of your ingredients, measuring cups, and measuring spoons so that you’re not rummaging around for anything in the middle of baking!
- Whisk together the dry ingredients – in a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves until fully combined.
- Beat the brown sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, and applesauce – add the brown sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla extract, and applesauce to a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer to combine.
- Add the dry mix to the wet – gradually add the flour to the bowl with the wet ingredients, mixing constantly until the flour is fully incorporated into the batter. Then, add the milk to the batter and mix again.
- Bake the cake – once everything is fully incorporated, pour the batter into the cake pan and spread into an even layer. Then, bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top of the cake is browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Let cool – Let the cake cool for at least one hour before frosting.
- Make the frosting – if you’re using it, follow the recipe HERE to make your frosting.
- Frost, top, slice, and serve – spread the frosting over the cake, then sprinkle the pecans over top, slice, and serve.
How to make this spice cake recipe fit different lifestyles?
For a dairy-free spice cake, swap the butter for either ghee or avocado oil and the milk for almond milk. If you’re gluten-free, simply swap the all-purpose flour for a GF all-purpose blend (we’ve had the best results with THIS one).
What is the best frosting for spice cake?
It’s really difficult to beat a cream cheese frosting, and THIS is a great recipe to follow. If cream cheese frosting isn’t your thing, though, feel free to use buttercream (or any other frosting you love) or leave it off altogether. The choice is yours!
What to serve with spice cake?
To be honest with you, I’m in my happy place with a slice of spice cake (preferably slathered with a VERY generous amount of cream cheese frosting) and a hot cup of coffee. Feel free to serve yours alongside hot tea, coffee, cold milk, or even apple cider.
Can this spice cake be made into cupcakes?
You bet! All of the ingredient amounts will stay exactly the same, but instead of pouring the batter into a cake pan, you’ll scoop it into a lined cupcake pan. Then, pop the cupcakes into a 350°F oven for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cupcake comes out clean. Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, top them with cream cheese frosting, if desired! This recipe will yield 18 cupcakes!
How to store spice cake?
Spice cake (and most baked goods) are actually best stored covered on the counter (vs. the fridge). This helps them to stay really nice and moist. If your cake is frosted, though, you’ll want to store it in the fridge to preserve the frosting. If that’s the case, simply pull your cake out of the fridge 1-2 hours before serving so that it can come to room temperature!
How long can I store spice cake for?
Stored on the counter or in the fridge (if your cake is frosted), your spice cake will last 4-5 days.
- 2 1/2 cups gluten-free flour blend
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder sifted
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 3/4 cup butter 1 1/2 stick, melted (may substitute ghee or avocado oil)
- 3 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1/2 cup whole milk or almond milk
- Cream cheese frosting for topping
- 1/4 cup chopped pecans for topping
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9x13 inch cake pan or line it with parchment paper.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves until fully combined.
- Add the brown sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla extract, and applesauce to a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer to combine.
- Gradually add the flour to the bowl with the wet ingredients, mixing constantly until the flour is fully incorporated into the batter. Then, add the milk to the batter and mix again.
- Pour the batter into the cake pan and spread in an even layer, then bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top of the cake is browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Let cool for at least one hour before frosting.
- If using, make the cream cheese frosting (recipe HERE).
- Spread the frosting over the cake, then sprinkle the pecans over top, slice, and serve.