Apple spice cake is an easy, fragrant cake that shouts fall. Top it with browned butter frosting and dried apples for a festive seasonal treat.
I always have applesauce on hand for my kids or for making baked oatmeal. Or for my own snacks, to be honest.
Even though we all love applesauce, we tend to have extra, so I naturally turn to baking with it.
Baking with applesauce adds flavor and moisture without added fat. While I do like plenty of chunky apple desserts like apple pie bars, I love the texture that this cake achieves from using the applesauce instead of apple pieces.
One of the things I really like about this apple spice cake is the browned butter frosting.
Now, I’m not generally a frosting girl and generally have the view that cakes have too much. But the nutty flavor in this frosting adds depth and pairs perfectly with the spices in this cake.
Tips for making browned butter frosting
Browned butter sounds fancy, but it is truly easy to make.
I recommend using a small pan set over medium heat. Melt the butter, stirring with a silicone spatula.
Don’t walk away! Once it is melted, it will start to bubble and look foamy.
Keep stirring, as you will need to push the foam away to check the color of the butter.
The bubbles will start to get smaller, and this is when the butter is starting to brown. It happens fairly quickly, so remove the pan from heat as soon as you see the color change.
Let it cool to room temperature before making the frosting, otherwise the sugar will just melt. I transfer it to the bowl I’m going to make the frosting in to speed this up.
When you start mixing the powdered sugar in, don’t be alarmed if it looks weird. Because the butter is liquid instead of a soft solid, the mixture will form what looks like tiny styrofoam balls.
Once you add in the milk, it will smooth out into a luscious frosting.
I highly recommend you use a hand mixer to make this frosting. It would probably still work mixing by hand, but it will take much longer and it will be harder to achieve a smooth texture.
You can make the frosting in advance, but be sure to let the cake cool before spreading it on.
This apple cake will keep in a covered container on the counter for up to three days.
If you need to store it longer, or your kitchen is very warm, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
I like to store the cake already sliced so it’s easy to serve. Note that if you use apple chips to decorate like I did, to put them on only just before serving, as they will get soft in storage.
Cake can be frozen with or without frosting!
Let the cake cool completely. Either frost now, or save the frosting step for just before serving.
Place the cake on a baking sheet lined with parchment or silicone, and freeze until completely solid.
Once frozen, wrap the cake tightly with plastic wrap, and store for up to 3 months.
Thaw the cake overnight in the refrigerator, and be sure to bring it to room temperature before serving (though I enjoy a cold slice of cake sometimes!).
This apple spice cake recipe makes a square 8×8 or 9×9 cake, which is perfect for my family. I cut it into smaller squares so we can enjoy it snack sized; it’s the perfect size for enjoying mid-afternoon while I’m working.
If you want a larger cake, simply double the recipe. I like this as a single layer cake, but you could make it as a layer cake as well.
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 4 tablespoons (¼ cup) butter, softened
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 6 tablespoons (⅓ cup) butter
- 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 to 3 tablespoons milk
- Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 9x9 or 8x8 square baking pan, or line with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, beat together sugar, applesauce, butter, egg and vanilla.
- In another bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, salt, and allspice. Beat into wet ingredients until well blended. Mixture won't be completely smooth due to the applesauce.
- Pour batter into pan and spread evenly to the edges. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean or with only moist crumbs. Let cool.
- To make the frosting, first melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring with a silicone spatula. Continue to cook, stirring, as the butter starts to bubble and foam. The bubbles will get large, then start to dissipate, as the butter browns. As soon as you notice the color change, stir well and remove from heat. Transfer to a mixing bowl and let cool completely.
- Once the butter is room temperature, add the powdered sugar and beat with a hand mixer. It will form small pellets. Add the vanilla and milk and continue beating until frosting is smooth, adding enough milk for the texture you prefer.
- Frost the cooled cake and serve. Store leftovers in an airtight container.
Adapted from Land O'Lakes
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 171Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 12mgSodium: 107mgCarbohydrates: 41gFiber: 0gSugar: 34gProtein: 1g