Autumn Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting


Fall is that time of year where you have more excuses to make cake right? At least that’s how I feel about it :). It’s that time of year to break out all those delicious, sweet spices and get baking! One cake I’ve been wanting to try for years is just an old fashioned spice cake. I always loved the boxed spice cake growing up (if I wanted dessert when I was little I had to make it so the boxes were what I usually turned to) but I rarely cook with the box mixes anymore so I needed a good homemade version. It took two attempts and a lot of contemplating on exactly what I wanted from this cake but let me tell you this cake is worlds better then anything you get from a box! It is probably the most moist cake I’ve ever made/eaten and filled with the perfect amount of all those delicious autumn spices. It uses brown sugar instead of white sugar which gives it a sweet caramel-y note and pairs so well with the spices. And of course if we are going to have cake we need to have cream cheese frosting right? I know, I’m obsessed with cream cheese frosting, but it just goes so well with this cake. The slight tanginess of the frosting balances out the sweetness of the cake. Then I chose to add nuts to the outside of the cake vs. swirling them into the batter. If I add nuts to a cake, the majority of the time I like to add them over the frosting layer. I usually like the contrast through layers not between crumbs. Plus that way if some people prefer no nuts they can just slide them right off…and I’ll eat them of course.And might I add cream cheese frosting coated pecans should be a thing, a dessert all there own, those last little bits at the end are the “icing on the cake.”

Autumn Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting | Cooking Classy

Not sure how, I’m still not so knowledgeable about all the science behind baking, but this cake does end up domed despite the fact that it has so much leavening, oil/applesauce and liquid. With that said, you can either use cake strips (DIY version here) to help prevent that or you can just do what I did and cut the extra little portion off the top and eat it. No reason to waste good cake right? Then, if you want a well spiced cake just up the spices. I want somewhere in the middle of mild and strong because I wanted it to be a kid friendly cake too.

This is one of my new favorite cakes and I’m already trying to think up another excuse to bake it again because we finished it off so quickly! I was literally scraping up the crumbs from the cake plate. I created this cake to be much like one of my favorite kinds of cake – which is carrot cake and it is so much like it, but without the carrots and a more generous amount of spice. It’s amazing to say the least and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did! Happy Fall!


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Autumn Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

4.93 from 13 votes


  • 2 1/4 cups (318g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 3/4 cups (370g) packed light-brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (175ml) vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup (185g) unsweetened applesauce
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 12 oz cream cheese , nearly at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (4 oz), nearly at room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups (440g) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract


  1. For the cake:
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9-inch round baking pans well with non-stick baking spray then lightly dust with flour and shake out excess. Wrap cake strips around pan if you have them (for a more level cake). Set pans aside.
  3. In a mixing bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and cloves for 20 seconds, set aside.
  4. Pour brown sugar into the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Break up brown sugar with fingertips until no clumps remain. Pour in vegetable oil and applesauce, set mixer with paddle attachment and blend until well combined (I recommend a paddle attachment that constantly scrapes bowl, otherwise stop mixer throughout entire mixing process and scrape down sides and bottom of bowl). Mix in eggs and vanilla. Add in 1/2 of the flour mixture and mix on low speed until combined, then blend in buttermilk, then add remaining 1/2 of the flour mixture and mix until well combined. Divide mixture evenly among two prepared baking pans. Bake in preheated oven until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 28 - 32 minutes. Allow to cool several minutes then run a knife around edges to ensure cake is loose and invert upside down onto a wire rack to cool (this will also help deflate those domes a little if you didn't use cake strips). Cool completely then level tops of cakes as needed. Frost with cream cheese frosting, sprinkle pecans around edges if desired.
  5. For the frosting:
  6. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream butter and cream cheese until smooth. Mix in powdered sugar and vanilla and mix until well blended (at this point I like to freeze the frosting in 5 minute increments, then mix again with stand mixer, then freeze another 5 and more as needed until it's a stiffer yet creamy consistency).
  7. Recipe source: Cooking Classy


  • Pat: Love the look of the cake! How do you place the pecans on the side of the cake so it looks so neat and even? September 19, 2015 at 10:31am Reply

  • LaDonna: can this be made in a bundt pan? September 18, 2015 at 4:10pm Reply

  • Medha @ Whisk & Shout: Yum! This looks delicious and is perfect for fall :) September 18, 2015 at 2:29pm Reply

  • Cathleen @ A Taste Of Madness: Gahh!! I haven’t made a layer cake in forever! This is the perfect way to bring in the autumn flavors :) September 18, 2015 at 2:10pm Reply

  • Robyn: Your photography and food design is just beautiful. It’s true that we taste first with our eyes! September 18, 2015 at 12:08pm Reply

  • Medeja: This cake looks so nice! Autumn can definitely be an occasion to celebrate with such cake :D September 18, 2015 at 3:04am Reply

  • Julia@Vikalinka: Ahhh, I just adore that frosting swirl shot, Jaclyn! It looks like your attempts to create a perfect spice cake paid off. I can’t taste it but I could see from your gorgeous photos that the sponge is perfect! I am trying it soon. Thank you for the recipe! :-) September 18, 2015 at 2:31am Reply

    • Jaclyn: I hope you love it Julia! I can’t count how many of your cakes I’d love to try, they are always gorgeous! Thanks for the compliments :)! September 18, 2015 at 10:41am Reply

  • Kara: I love spice cakes! I too grew up on box spice cake and have yet to find the perfect from scratch recipe. I really want to try this one, it looks amazing. However, I have an allergy to apples. (Strange, I know) Do you know what I can replace the applesauce with? I know applesauce is commonly used to replace oils and butters in cake to try and make them healthier. Is the opposite true? September 17, 2015 at 9:38pm Reply

    • Cyndi: Kara, you can substitute the applesauce with a banana. April 14, 2016 at 2:03pm Reply

    • Elizabeth: You can also replace it with yogurt or sour cream :) November 4, 2017 at 3:42pm Reply

      • Fran: How about pear instead of apple? March 17, 2018 at 12:21pm Reply

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