Spice Cake

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This Spice Cake is full of warm fall spices and covered in a lovely cream cheese frosting! It’s incredibly moist, delicious and the perfect way to enjoy fall!

Why You’ll Love This Amazing Spice Cake

Spice cake is a classic and there’s no shortage of recipes out there. Here’s why you’ll love this one and come back to it over and over again.

  • Moist. The cake batter has oil, brown sugar, and even some applesauce to make the moistest cake crumb ever. It gives you a cake that’s a little fluffy and a little dense and so moist.
  • Perfect spices. The batter has the perfect blend of your favorite holiday spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice. The rich, caramel flavor of brown sugar and vanilla really allow the spices shine.
  • Cream cheese frosting. I’m a sucker for cream cheese frosting! I love the tang and mild sweetness. And I love how it perfectly compliments the sweet and spicy cake layers.
  • Classic Fall cake. This spice cake makes me feel so nostalgic. Its old fashioned, simple flavors never go out of style. It’s a wonderful cake for the holidays – or anytime you get the craving!

What Spices are in Spice Cake?

Spice cakes typically includes cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. They are traditional warm spices that you tend to find around fall and winter. You may also find some recipes that call for cardamom, all spice or another unexpected spice.

This cake uses all of the traditional ones, plus a little all spice for a little something extra. It also adds a hint of apple. Not only does apple help incorporate even more Fall flavor into this cake, but it also adds moisture. It doesn’t make the cake apple-flavored, but it does help the flavor of the spices really pop.

Spice Cake on a white and wood cake platter on a napkin.

What You’ll Need to Make Spice Cake

Although this a relatively easy cake to make, there are a number of ingredients. Make sure to read my ingredient tips. You can find the exact measurements in the recipe card below.

Ingredients for Spice Cake with labels.

For the Cake

  • All-purpose flour – Be sure to measure the flour correctly so you don’t end up with a dry cake. I always recommend a food scale for accuracy, but you can use the spoon and level method as well.
  • Leavening – Using both baking powder and baking soda gives the cake the proper rise and tender texture.
  • Spices – This cakes uses ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice.
  • Salt and Vanilla extract – Both add flavor to the cake. Be sure not to leave out the salt or you’ll end up with a bland cake.
  • Vegetable oil – I personally love the combination of oil and butter in a cake. The oil is great for extra moisture and tenderness in the cake layers.
  • Unsalted butter – Bring your butter to room temperature before using. You’ll know it’s ready to use when you can press gently on the outside and leave a slight indent with your thumb. If you don’t have unsalted butter, just make sure to omit the additional salt in the recipe.
  • Light brown sugar – The light brown sugar adds great additional flavor that compliments all the spices. It has molasses in it which also helps to keep the cake moist.
  • Eggs – Room temperature eggs mix more easily and help prevent lumps. Be sure to use large eggs, not medium or extra large.
  • Milk – Any fat percentage will work, although higher percentages will give you a better cake. I recommend 2% or whole milk.
  • Unsweetened applesauce – The applesauce works beautifully with the spices in the cake and adds lovely moisture and texture.

For the Frosting

  • Cream cheese – You’ll also want to use room temperature ingredients for the frosting. Similar to butter, you’ll know the cream cheese is ready to use when you can leave an imprint after pressing gently with your thumb. You don’t want it to be too warm, or you have a frosting that is too thin and hard to work with.
  • Unsalted butter – Ready to use when it reaches room temperature.
  • Powdered sugar – Powdered sugar helps to sweeten and thicken the frosting. This recipe uses a good bit of powdered sugar. You can reduce it, if desired, but keep in mind that adjustments change the consistency of the frosting.
  • Vanilla extract – For flavor.
  • Chopped pecans – I love the crunch and nutty flavor of pecans with the spice cake, but they are optional. Feel free to leave them off completely, or switch them to a different nut.
A slice of Spice Cake on a white ruffled plate.

How to Make Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Here’s a brief overview of how to make a layered spice cake. I’ve provided step-by-step photos for quick reference, but you can get the comprehensive directions in the recipe card below.

To Make the Spice Cake

  • Prepare to bake: Prepare three 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper circles in the bottom and grease the sides. Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C).
  • Combine dry ingredients: Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a medium sized bowl and set aside.
  • Cream butter, oil, sugar, and vanilla: Add the butter, vegetable oil, brown sugar, and vanilla extract to a large mixer bowl, and beat together until light in color and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Do not skimp on the creaming time – it adds air to the batter that gives the cake it’s fluffy texture.
  • Add eggs: Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until mostly combined after each. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all ingredients are well incorporated. 
  • Incorporate half of the dry ingredients: Add half of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix until mostly combined.
  • Pour in milk and applesauce: Slowly add the milk and applesauce and mix until well combined.
  • Add remaining dry ingredients: Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until well combined and smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all ingredients are well incorporated. Do not over mix the batter.
  • Fill cake pans: Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs.
  • Remove from oven and cool: Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool for about 2-3 minutes, then remove to cooling racks to cool completely.

To Make the Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Blend the cream cheese and butter: While the cakes are cooling, add the cream cheese and butter to a large mixer bowl and mix until well combined and smooth.
  • Add half of the powdered sugar: Add about half of the powdered sugar and mix until well combined and smooth.
  • Pour in vanilla: Add the vanilla extract and mix well.
  • Add remaining powdered sugar: Add the remaining powdered sugar and mix until well combined and smooth.

To Assemble the Cake

  • Remove cake domes: Use a large serrated knife to remove the domes from the tops of the cakes so they are flat, if needed.
  • Set first layer: Place the first cake layer on a serving plate or on a cardboard cake circle. Spread about 1 cup of frosting on top of the cake layer.
  • Set second layer: Add the second layer of cake and another cup of frosting.
  • Set top layer: Top the cake with the third layer and frost the top and outside of the cake with the remaining cream cheese frosting. Use a spoon or offset spatula to create a design in the frosting on the sides of the cake. 
  • Decorate: Use the remaining frosting to pipe a border around the top edge of the cake. I used Ateco tip 847. Decorate the cake with some chopped pecans, if desired.

Working with Cream Cheese Frosting

Cream cheese frosting is harder to work with than buttercream because it tends to be softer. I prefer to thicken mine up with powdered sugar to make it pipe-able and easier to work with, but if you aren’t a fan of using that much sugar, you can reduce it. I recommend reducing the amount of all the ingredients by the same percentage. That way you’ll still have a frosting that is thick enough to stay on the cake and prevent the layers from sliding around. Basically, you’ll make less of the same frosting.

Also keep in mind that the temperature of your cream cheese makes a difference. If your cream cheese is a little too warm when you make your frosting, you’ll have an even softer, and possibly even runny, cream cheese frosting. If that happens, you can refrigerate it until it’s a little firmer and easier to work with.

For more tips, check out my post on how to make cream cheese frosting.

Tips for Success

Keep these tips in mind as you prepare this spice cake. A few simple suggestions will help you avoid common mistakes.

  • Don’t skimp on creaming. When creaming together the butter, oil, sugar, and vanilla, do so until the mixture has lightened significantly in color and become fluffy. This process incorporates air into the batter, which helps ensure that your cake doesn’t turn out overly dense.
  • Measure your flour correctly. I highly recommend using a food scale. If not, check out my post on how to properly measure your flour, to be sure you don’t over measure and end up with a dry cake.
  • Don’t overmix. To prevent a tough, dense cake, make sure not to overmix the batter after adding the dry ingredients. It can cause the glutens in the flour to overdevelop and become tough.
  • Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Make sure to get all the ingredients incorporated into the batter. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl as you continue adding ingredients.
  • Divide batter evenly. When you add the cake batter to the pans, be sure to do so evenly so that one cake doesn’t bake more quickly than the other, or you could end up with some dry cake layers.
  • Let it cool. Allow the cake layers to cool completely before stacking and frosting. If the cake is still warm, the frosting will get melty and slide off.
Close up of a spice cake on a white cake platter.

How to Store Leftovers

  • Refrigerator. Seal the spice cake in an airtight cake carrier or wrap it in a couple of layers of plastic wrap (I like using toothpicks to prop the plastic away from the frosting). You can also arrange slices in a single layer in an airtight container. Keep it in the fridge for up to 4-5 days.
  • Freezer. To freeze the full cake, place the cake in the freezer for a couple of hours to firm up, and then wrap it in a few layers of plastic wrap. If you already sliced it, you can wrap and freeze each slice individually, or arrange the slices in a single layer in an airtight container. You can keep it in the freezer for up to 3 months. Allow it to thaw in the fridge before enjoying.

More Spiced Cake Recipes

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Close up of a Spice Cake with slices cut away to show layers.
Recipe

Spice Cake

  • Author: Life, Love and Sugar
  • Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
  • Yield: 12-14 Slices
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This Spice Cake is full of warm fall spices and covered in a lovely cream cheese frosting! It’s incredibly moist, delicious and the perfect way to enjoy fall!


Ingredients

Spice Cake Layers

  • 2 1/2 cups (325g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup (168g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups (336g) packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) milk
  • 3/4 cup (185g) unsweetened applesauce

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 16 oz (452g) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (172g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 10 cups (1150g) powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Chopped pecans, optional

Instructions

To make the cake layers:

  1. Prepare three 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper circles in the bottom and grease the sides. Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C).
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt in a medium sized bowl and set aside.
  3. Add the butter, vegetable oil, brown sugar and vanilla extract to a large mixer bowl and beat together until light in color and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Do not skimp on the creaming time.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until mostly combined after each. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all ingredients are well incorporated.
  5. Add half of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix until mostly combined.
  6. Slowly add the milk and applesauce and mix until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all ingredients are well incorporated.
  7. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until well combined and smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all ingredients are well incorporated. Do not over mix the batter.
  8. Divide the batter evenly between the cakes pans and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs.
  9. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool for about 2-3 minutes, then remove to cooling racks to cool completely.

To make the frosting:

  1. To make the cream cheese frosting, add the cream cheese and butter to a large mixer bowl and mix until well combined and smooth.
  2. Add about half of the powdered sugar and mix until well combined and smooth.
  3. Add the vanilla extract and mix until well combined and smooth.
  4. Add the remaining powdered sugar and mix until well combined and smooth.

To assemble the cake:

  1. To build the cake, first use a large serrated knife to remove the domes from the tops of the cakes so they are flat, if needed. Place the first cake layer on a serving plate or on a cardboard cake circle. Spread about 1 cup of frosting on top of the cake layer. Add the second layer of cake and another cup of frosting.
  2. Top the cake with the third layer and frost the top and outside of the cake with the remaining cream cheese frosting. Use a spoon or offset spatula to create a design in the frosting on the sides of the cake.
  3. Use the remaining frosting to pipe a border around the top edge of the cake. I used Ateco tip 847. Decorate the cake with some chopped pecans, if desired.
  4. Store cake in an air-tight container in the fridge. Serve at room temperature. Best if eaten within 3-4 days.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 Slice
  • Calories: 856
  • Sugar: 108 g
  • Sodium: 246.2 mg
  • Fat: 36.5 g
  • Carbohydrates: 129.2 g
  • Protein: 6.8 g
  • Cholesterol: 138.4 mg

Keywords: spice cake recipe, holiday dessert recipe, christmas cake recipe, thanksgiving cake recipe

Categories

Enjoy!

Lindsay
About Lindsay

I'm a wife and a mom to twin boys and a baby girl! And I've got a serious sweets addiction! Bring on the treats!

Scripture I’m Loving

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29