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


  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

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

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

  • 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

  • Laura (Tutti Dolci): Those layers are perfection, what a gorgeous cake! September 19, 2015 at 5:15pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: Thanks Laura :)! September 20, 2015 at 11:59am Reply

  • Hannah: Hi Jaclyn, I’m a long time reader and have made many of your recipes but never commented. I have loved everything I’ve made from your teriyaki chicken to your amazing dinner rolls and funfetti cupcakes. I really want to make this cake! I live in Denver and usually adjust recipes for high altitude, do you think this cake should be adjusted or do you recommend making it as is? I live in the metro area so I’m at 5,000 ft. Thanks so much, I’ll report back once I’ve made it!! September 20, 2015 at 3:53pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: I’m at about 4,000 ft so you shouldn’t need to make any changes, this cake comes out pretty domed anyway so maybe your higher elevation will just help level it out a bit more :). I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed the recipes! September 20, 2015 at 7:37pm Reply

  • Terri: I can’t wait to make this…it looks delicious! I’d like to make these as cupcakes …just curious on your thoughts? Any adjustments?
    Thanks. September 26, 2015 at 10:49am Reply

  • Laura Dembowski: I’ve never had spice cake. How is that possible? Clearly I need to change that asap. Such a gorgeous cake with the sprinkles and pecans. September 27, 2015 at 6:37am Reply

  • Carolynn: Can I sub the vegetable oil for melted butter? October 6, 2015 at 11:27am Reply

  • Amy: If i were to add pumpkin, would I substitute it for applesauce? OR would it be safer not to add it? I just want a hint of pumpkin, not a pumpkin spice cake.

    Beautiful Cake! and DELICIOUS frosting! October 9, 2015 at 3:17pm Reply

  • Mary Ann: So moist and delicious. Thank you for the recipe. October 31, 2015 at 3:09pm Reply

  • Bianca Campos: I just finished making these in cupcake format and they turned out great: flavourful and fluffy!

    I got exactly 30 regular size cupcakes. I just had to use 160z of cream cheese plus 2 extra tablespoons of butter to have enough frosting. They were baked at the same temperature for about 16 minutes.

    Thank you for sharing the recipe! December 15, 2015 at 9:01am Reply

  • Karen: My son requested spice cake for his birthday and this is the recipe I chose. Delicious! Very moist and flavorful and the family loved it. Will definitely make it again. May try it as cupcakes next time. January 14, 2016 at 10:00am Reply

  • Roberta: It’s in the oven now,but I cut it in half.It’s just me and my husband. January 30, 2016 at 1:27pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: I hope you both love it! January 31, 2016 at 12:47am Reply

  • Christina S.: I am combining your cake and frosting recipe with a pecan pie filling recipe for in between the two layers. I only have 8 oz of cream cheese at home right now – if I don’t need frosting for in between the cakes, will reducing the frosting to about 2/3 of the recipe be enough to cover the cake? February 1, 2016 at 8:59am Reply

    • Cyndi: Christina S, that sounds ahhhhhmazing! April 14, 2016 at 2:06pm Reply

  • Cheryl: This cake sounds like the spice cake my mother would make for the holidays. I’m trying to recreate some of her treats for my children who are grown. (Note to all who still have your loved ones who cook…. write it down!! Or better yet, video them making the recipe. Playing catch up is hard.) My mother had a sweet drizzle and I wondered if a cream cheese drizzle would work. Instead of cooling the frosting – could I warm it? March 16, 2016 at 4:46pm Reply

  • Diane Pevy: why do you freeze the cream cheese icing ??? Going to make today for my
    husbands Birthday he loves spice cke March 31, 2016 at 12:07pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: I just freeze it for a few minutes to help firm it up if it’s a slightly runny consistency. It’s the only thing I’ve found helps with a slightly runny cream cheese frosting. April 1, 2016 at 10:14am Reply

  • Sherene: Hi Jaclyn,

    Your cake looks lovely and yummy. Would love to try. If applesauce is unavailable, what can be used as substitute ?

    Thank you. May 26, 2016 at 4:20am Reply

    • Cyndi: Hi Sherene,

      You can substitute a banana for the applesauce!

      Have a blessed day,
      Cyndi June 15, 2016 at 6:54am Reply

  • Peg: penuche frosting good with this? July 4, 2016 at 7:40pm Reply

  • Kathy,s Cakes and More: If you want a flat cake. Lower the baking temp by 25 degrees. So if your recipe says preheat to 350. Only preheat to 325. You will need to add 5 to 10 min of baking time. Trust your toothpick. To come out clean. Also cut parchment paper to fit bottom of pan . This helps so your cake comes out in one piece. You still need to prepare your pan.. instead of using oil and flour, use a spray called Baker’s joy. Generic is fine too. This spray haw flour in they spray. Much less of a mess. July 24, 2016 at 5:02pm Reply

    • June: Trying this trick right now and the tops are still flat and they are almost done. I’m at about 40 mins baking time right now. May 17, 2017 at 9:45am Reply

  • Laura: This recipe was amazing! I made this cake for 15 people for my mom’s 60th birthday party, and everyone raved about it. It was SO moist and flavorful, and the cream cheese frosting is delicious! I skipped the pecans, but added some sliced almonds on top for decoration and a little crunch. Thanks so much for the recipe! August 21, 2016 at 6:39pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: I’m so glad it was enjoyed Laura! Thanks for your review! August 22, 2016 at 10:10am Reply

  • Kathryn: I made this last night for a friend’s birthday & can I just say OMGosh!!! This is such a deliciously moist, perfectly spiced cake! I may or may not have eaten all the cake top without sharing any with my children. August 27, 2016 at 9:31pm Reply

  • Pieterina: Hi there! I am REALLY looking forward to making this one of these days. I was just wondering if I could use another type of frosting? Our family hates cream cheese frosting lol. Thank-you! September 11, 2016 at 10:36pm Reply

  • Carmen: I made this cake n it turned out great. I made a few changes, I used coconut milk instead of buttermilk, two eggs n two Tsp golden flaxseed n used coconut oil in place of vegetable oil.
    Thank you for sharing. September 18, 2016 at 5:18am Reply

  • Leese: This was my first recipe of the fall season this yeat. And what a FANTASTIC recipe!!! Moist, light, and with the perfect spice flavoring.

    I used a bundt pan and baked it for almost 50 minutes checking on it till done. I also refridgerated due to it being a cream cheese frosting.

    Thanks for sharing! This will def be a go to recipe! September 21, 2016 at 10:16pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: Thanks for the great review Leese! September 27, 2016 at 2:38pm Reply

  • Lulu: This looks so yummy! I want to make it for my hubby’s hunting trip but a two layer would never make it. Would it convert well to a 9×13 disposable pan? and how long would it take to bake? I also live at 5,000 ft and things tend to rise and then fall flat. I can smell it baking already! October 5, 2016 at 9:23am Reply

  • rachal: Should this be refrigerated when it’s all said and done? October 5, 2016 at 1:28pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: Yes I’d store it in the fridge then let it come to room temp before serving. October 5, 2016 at 5:36pm Reply

  • Catherine: This looks delicious and I’m definitely pinning this for my next bake! I’m also really happy that you’ve put the actual measurements in grams and ounces and not just cups as I’m in the UK and am never quite sure when converting the ingredients, thank you! October 9, 2016 at 8:52am Reply

  • Essentials of Life: I love spice cake – I can hardly wait to try this recipe! October 10, 2016 at 3:17pm Reply

  • Caitlin: I see that this worked in a bundt pan. Do you think it would be enough batter for a 9×13, or would it be a little thin? October 11, 2016 at 1:23pm Reply

  • Eva johnson: I made this spice cake for my Mother’s 68th Birthday this past weekend. As a child i remember her baking the boxed kind….so i decided to surprise her with this cake. I decorated it differently on top but LOVED the pecans around the sides. This cakes was everything you said it would be. The different spices came through in the flavors and my mother was so surprised and she LOVED IT!! Thanks for the recipe. October 17, 2016 at 7:58pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: I’m so happy to hear she enjoyed it Eva! Thanks for your comment! October 17, 2016 at 10:49pm Reply

  • Laura Bocian: I made this for an adult birthday dinner. Everyone liked it, and my 28 year old son said that he thought it was the best cake I’d ever made. It turned out just like your photos. I used the wet strips around the pans while baking. The only changes I made were very slight. I used a full tablespoon of cinnamon, and dark brown sugar instead of light. Next time, I will not use as much frosting, though, as it was a bit overwhelming. October 29, 2016 at 7:49am Reply

    • Jaclyn: Glad it was enjoyed – thanks for the feedback Laura! November 1, 2016 at 2:21pm Reply

  • Sally: Thanks for a great recipe. Made this today and it was a big hit! My first cake from scratch in ages. I’ll do this again. I was out of applesauce so I used apple butter. November 7, 2016 at 11:06pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: So glad you liked it Sally! November 17, 2016 at 9:46am Reply

  • Donna: omg!!!!!!!! THIS IS THE BEST!!!! December 20, 2016 at 6:18pm Reply

  • Dana G: Easy recipe to follow and delicious results! I find that when I bake late in the day (5 pm for this one), I tend to make mistakes… I didn’t realize I needed applesauce and buttermilk (skipped right past these when I found the recipe). So I substituted pumpkin for the applesauce and sour cream/water/lemon juice for the buttermilk. The cake is excellent! However I’ll make it again with the right ingredients in the future. Thanks! March 28, 2017 at 12:32pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: I’m so glad you liked it Dana and glad you found good substitutes! March 28, 2017 at 8:53pm Reply

  • Monika: Can this be used as a base for carrot cake? April 13, 2017 at 11:27pm Reply

  • Susie: My boss wants me to use my carrot cake recipe minus the carrots and raisins for a spice cake. I am afraid that the cake will not be as moist because I am leaving out the carrots that have been soaking in brown sugar for an hour and the raisins that have been soaking in brandy. I am thinking that I could add a cup of applesauce to make up the moisture? September 12, 2017 at 1:30pm Reply

  • Susie: Ditto September 12, 2017 at 1:30pm Reply

  • Laura: This was delicious. I halved all the spices except the cinnamon as I tend to prefer less but the consistency and taste was incredible. The icing came out perfectly. Highly recommended! October 25, 2017 at 2:48pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: I’m happy to hear you enjoyed it Laura! Thanks for your review! October 26, 2017 at 12:08pm Reply

  • jennifer: Made this recipe as cupcakes yesterday. I added half a teaspoon of cardamom because I love it. They were delicious. Flavourful, light & moist. This one is going to become a cake staple for me. Thanks! October 27, 2017 at 5:58am Reply

    • Jaclyn: Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment Jennifer! October 27, 2017 at 1:41pm Reply

  • Karen Tieszen: It was very delicious! Moist! October 27, 2017 at 1:28pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: So glad you liked the cake Karen! October 27, 2017 at 1:34pm Reply

  • JamesK144: Hands down one of mt favorite cakes. A repeated request in this house! October 30, 2017 at 1:15pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: So glad to hear it James! October 31, 2017 at 4:14pm Reply

  • Karen: This is a very good recipe. It is moist and has a very good flavor. The pecans, when used as decoration, add flavor. I have made it twice, both times receiving a lot of compliments, even from people who don’t normally like spice cake. I made it according to the recipe, making no changes. November 1, 2017 at 12:38pm Reply

  • Siobhan: Delicious recipe! I’ve made it twice now and its AMAZING!
    I followed the icing recipe and my frosting was very thick! wonderful consistancy and I didn;t freeze the bowl and rewhip. Maybe I just whipped the cream and butter really good but it was very thick! :)
    Thank you! November 10, 2017 at 4:29pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: Thanks for the great review Siobhan! November 13, 2017 at 2:43pm Reply

  • Jen: Made the cake (not the icing) and it is absolutely perfect! I bake quite a bit for events and this recipe didn’t disappoint one bit! It’s moist, the spice is on point, and lends itself to many options for icings/toppings. Thank you Jaclyn sharing this jewel! It is now a part of my “to-die-for” recipe repertoire. November 26, 2017 at 7:05pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: Thanks Jen! So glad you like it! :) November 28, 2017 at 10:22am Reply

  • mohan vaidya: incredible ….magic preparations and recipes… family will try at home followers your magic recipes
    heartily thanks to you and your team….have a nice day to all

    mohan and meena vaidya December 12, 2017 at 1:53pm Reply

  • EnjoywCooking: I made this yesterday and used a bundt pan. It. Was. Amazing! Everyone loved it. Only difference is that it took a bit longer to cook because of the different pan size. I felt like such a cordon bleu! December 26, 2017 at 4:13pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: So happy it was enjoyed! January 2, 2018 at 4:40pm Reply

  • Ellen: This cake was delightful! Everything you want is a spice cake. It was moist, spiced to perfection and easy to make. I made it in a 13×9 pan so my husband could easily bring it to work. Thanks for sharing. I’ll be making it often January 8, 2018 at 10:14pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: So glad it was enjoyed – thanks Ellen! January 17, 2018 at 11:07am Reply

  • Linda: I made cupcakes and felt the cake was bland. I think I would double the spices next time I make it. The texture was lovely; fluffy and moist. I used salted caramel frosting to give the cake some zip and drizzled with salted caramel they were a hit! January 22, 2018 at 12:33am Reply

  • Leonie VanPuymbroeck: Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe! I made it into cupcakes, (someone had put a comment before, baked them for 16 minutes, came out perfect) they are so moist and delicious. My son said A+! I made a Gingerbread Buttercream Icing instead, I found the recipe on the Imperial Sugar website. The two together are fabulous! Thanks again, they are a hit and I will definitely make them again. Too bad I can’t share a picture, I tried to put my Instagram link, hopefully it worked. :) February 11, 2018 at 12:35pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: Thanks for taking the time to leave a review, glad you loved them! (I’ll check out your pic on Instagram.) :) February 12, 2018 at 10:16am Reply

  • Sally: Can I make this in a 9×13 pan and if so how long do I bake it? February 26, 2018 at 6:22pm Reply

  • Kerri Lynn DeMinicosta: This is without a doubt the best spice cake I’ve tasted. My mom has always been a spice cake fan, so we’ve had it many times over the years. Made this cake for her 73rd birthday today, and holy cow, it was delicious. So moist, and the flavour was just amazing. The cream cheese icing was perfect as well. Saving this recipe for many future uses! March 2, 2018 at 2:30pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: So glad you enjoyed it! March 3, 2018 at 11:07am Reply

  • Reanna: Hi! I’m so excited to try this for my mom’s birthday (it is her favorite type of cake). She really wants raisins added – will I need to change any part of the recipe if I add some? March 13, 2018 at 2:27pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: I think you should be fine to add them in. You may want to coat with a 1 or 2 tbsps of the flour from the recipe so they don’t sink. March 16, 2018 at 5:13pm Reply

  • Andrea: I made this for my husband’s birthday. He’s a “caramel” kind of guy so I used a quick and easy caramel frosting recipe (it pairs well with the spices and apple sauce). It looks, smells, AND tastes like a DREAM. And I CANNOT BELIEVE how super moist it is! This is my new “go-to” for special occasions! Thank you for ! it March 28, 2018 at 4:53pm Reply

  • Yvone: Outstanding recipe my family raved about my cake. My sister said it was the best spice cake she had ever eaten….Thank You! I added some butter and lemon Zest to the frosting. I also added some fresh whip cream to the frosting to make it even lighter. I made a three layer cake from the recipe. I will make this cake again!!! April 8, 2018 at 11:21am Reply

    • Jaclyn: I’m so glad it was enjoyed – thanks for the feedback! April 12, 2018 at 12:08pm Reply

  • Deb: We’re half way through spring here in Canada. Don’t care. This looks delicious!! Spice cake it is this weekend. May 5, 2018 at 5:50pm Reply

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