This spice cake is the ultimate comfort food. Paired with cinnamon cream cheese frosting, and cinnamon streusel for some crunch.
Aside from myself, Ryan is the only person I bake a birthday cake for every year. Friends and family will certainly get slices of a cake I happen to make around their birthday (though I do take their flavor preferences into consideration), but Ryan is the only one who can actually request a specific cake for his birthday, and I will happily make it. I actually bug him for flavor ideas repeatedly leading up to the day.
Last year, he requested a Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cake because it’s one of his favorite cereals. You really can’t go wrong there, amiright? This year, his request was for a Spice Cake with cinnamon frosting. I guess he has a thing for cinnamon!
Though arguably more of a Fall flavor, I feel like spice cake can (and should) be eaten all year round. There is something so comforting about the smell of all those delicious spices. It’s the perfect warm hug on a cool spring day.
This Spice Cake is fairly dense and fudgy (if you can call a non-chocolate cake fudgy) due to the applesauce in the cake batter (vs something like buttermilk). The applesauce adds both moisture and flavor, and is the perfect addition to this cake. Apples and spices go hand in hand in my opinion.
I am really loving cream cheese frostings lately. I don’t like cream cheese on its own, or even cream cheese based cheesecakes, but there is something about it in frostings that has me all like <3 <3 <3. I think it’s the combo of sweet/tart without being overpoweringly cheesy. The cake isn’t overly sweet either, and I think it’s just the perfect balance.
My cream cheese frosting has more butter in it than most, to help balance out the cream cheese and create more of a workable texture. Cream cheese frostings can be soft and difficult to work with, but this one is perfectly light and fluffy, and goes particularly well with this spice cake.
I added some cinnamon streusel for some crunch, because I love the additional texture and flavor it gives to a cake. You can skip this if you’d like, but it’s so easy to make and really adds more dimension to this Spice Cake.
I promise you this cake is SO good. Coming from someone who isn’t exactly a cinnamon lover, I think this speaks volumes. You will not be disappointed!
Tips for this Spice Cake:
- If you don’t have applesauce, you can substitute buttermilk or regular milk.
- The cinnamon streusel is optional, but easy. It’s really delicious!
- If you like this recipe be sure to check out my Apple Pie Cake, Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cake, and Pumpkin Spice Latte Cake!
- To help ensure your cake layers bake up nice and flat, see my Flat Top Cakes post.
Spice Cake With Cinnamon Streusel
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsps baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar packed
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup applesauce unsweetened
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 6 Tbsp light brown sugar packed
- 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter melted
- pinch salt
Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 8 oz cream cheese full fat, room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter room temperature
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour three 6″ cake rounds and line with parchment.
- In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, spices, and salt until well combined. Set aside.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and dark brown sugar on med-high until pale and fluffy (approx 3mins).
- Reduce speed and add eggs one at a time fully incorporating after each addition. Add vanilla.
- Alternate adding flour mixture and applesauce, beginning and ending with flour (3 additions of flour and 2 of applesauce). Fully incorporating after each addition.
- Bake for 30-35mins or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.
- Place cakes on wire rack to cool for 10mins then turn out onto wire rack. Allow to cool completely.
- Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment.
- Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl until clumps form. Spread on parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 5-7mins.
- Cool completely on baking sheet. Break up any larger chunks if needed.
Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting:
- Beat butter and cream cheese until fluffy (2 mins). Add powdered sugar one cup at a time. Add vanilla & cinnamon and beat until fluffy (3 mins).
- Place one layer of cake on a cake stand or serving plate. Top with 2/3 cup of frosting and 1/4 cup streusel (or more if desired). Repeat with remaining layers and apply a thin coat of frosting all over the cake. Chill for 20mins.
- Use the remaining frosting to frost the cake with rustic swoops. Use extra streusel to decorate bottom and top of cake if desired.
Andrea S says
Congratulations on NOT making a recipe for cake with oil!
Yuck! Of course it’s going to be moist. It’s got a cup of oil in it , which will never solidify, so it basically just lubes the cake forever. Make me shudder. I think if those cheap
Convenient store muffins wrapped in cellophane.
So I am making this for my son’s birthday in 2 days. I’m an oldie but goodie mom of 5 and have baked many cakes. I know a good recipe when I see it. So thank you and hats off to you for a no lube recipe!
Hi Anread! Lol! Well I hope this one lives up to your expectations. Let me know how it turns out!
This cake is amazing and the icing is one of the best things I’ve ever made.
Thank you for such an interesting and delicious recipe.
Hi Betsy! I’m so happy you loved it. Thanks for the feedback!
Lauren Candela says
Hey! Making this cake for Thanksgiving this year and I was wondering what can be made in advance and how to store anything made in advance? Thank you!
Hi Lauren! If it’s just a day in advance you can leave both the cake and frosting at room temp (wrapped/covered in plastic wrap). The buttercream will need to be rewhipped before use to fluff it up again. Otherwise, if making further in advance:
For the Cake: Cool the layers, double wrap in plastic wrap, freeze for up to 3 months. Take out 2-3 hours before assembly.
For the Buttercream: Place in an airtight container and refrigerate for 1 week for freeze for 3 months. Bring to room temperature and rewhip before using.
For the Streusel: Cool completely and place in an airtight container. Store at room temperature.
Finished Cake: The whole frosted cake can be frozen as long as it is stored in something airtight. For shorter storage, the cake will be fine in the fridge for 2-3 days but after that it will start to dry out.
Can anyone tell me how to substitute cake flour in this or any cake recipe?
Hi Nancy! It may depend on the recipe but for this one you can just swap it in.
Susie Palensky says
Hi, Olivia – I love your recipes and tutorials. I’d like to use this recipe to make a 3 layer, 8 inch cake. My math isn’t the best – do I need to double or triple the recipe? Thank you!
Hi Susie! I would 1.5x the recipe but that gives some odd numbers. I recommend changing the Servings to 16 and using those amounts. The layers will be slightly thinner than what I have here though.
Susie Palensky says
Thanks so much!
Hi! I don’t have any applesauce, do you have any substitutions for this? Thank you!
Hi Nadine! I haven’t tried it with a substitute but here are some options: https://buttercreambakeshop.net/applesauce-substitute-for-baking/ I can’t guarantee the results though.
First, I’d like to commend you on an excellent recipe. Your sequencing and flavor profile is very good in this recipe. I’ve made this cake now twice and it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite cakes. The only thing that I did differently was to add a lot more cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and clove and 1 additional egg. It’s an excellent recipe and the cake is incredibly moist and dense. I would agree with you /it is fudgy!! The frosting is just perfect. It’s not heavy. Thank you so much for bringing this recipe to the world!
Hi Veronica! Thanks so much, I’m so happy you love this recipe. Thanks for your tips! I think if I was to make this one again I would spice it up a bit more 🙂
I can’t wait to try this! How many servings would it be to make 24 cupcakes? 1x or 2x the recipe?
Hi Chelsea! It should make 18-24 depending on size. You can 1.5x the recipe to be safe 🙂 Just adjust the Servings to 18. Though that gives some odd numbers so I’d change it to 16 and go with those amounts 🙂
Thank you for this recipe and for your help! I have a question about the baking powder- is it in teaspoons or tablespoons? I used tablespoons and had rising issues in both my cupcakes & cakes :\
Hi Chelsea! It is teaspoons! tsp vs Tbsp. Using tablespoons would cause for way too much raising agent 🙁