Autumn Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting


Spice Cake with a decadent Cream Cheese Frosting! This is one of my all time favorite fall cakes! It’s perfectly moist and brimming with lots of those sweet autumn spices. It has a tender crumb and so much flavor in every bite. No one can resist a slice!

Spice Cake slice with cream cheese frosting, on a brown matte plate decorated with colorful fall leaves around it.

Spice Cake

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 on a cold day 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 but I rarely cook with them anymore so I need a good homemade version. So here we are.

So Much Better than Box Mix!

It took a few 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 had 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.

Close up image of cream cheese frosting with pretty swirls.

It’s Perfect with Cream Cheese Frosting!

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. But if you aren’t a fan of nuts of course you can just omit them here.

A whole round spice cake without any slices cut. It's covered with a cream cheese frosting, chopped pecans around the edges and fall sprinkles around the top.

Ingredients You’ll Need in This Recipe

  • Flour – base
  • Baking powder, baking soda – leavening
  • Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves – spiced flavor
  • Brown sugar – sweetener
  • Vegetable oil, unsweetened applesauce, buttermilk – tenderness and moisture
  • Eggs – binding
  • Vanilla, salt – additional flavor
  • Pecans – textural contrast

Ingredients for the Frosting

  • Powdered sugar – sweetener
  • Cream cheese, vanilla – flavor
  • Butter – moisture

Spice Cake

How to Make Spice Cake

  • Preheat oven, prepare baking pans.
  • Whisk dry ingredients and spices.
  • Mix brown sugar with vegetable oil and applesauce, then mix in eggs and vanilla.
  • Mix in two additions of dry ingredients alternating with buttermilk.
  • Pour into prepared pans and bake until set. Let cool.
  • Prep cream cheese frosting and spread over cooled cake, sprinkle with pecans.

Now say hello to a new favorite cake! A good fall tradition, no?

One slice of spice cake on a single serve plate and a whole spice cake is in the background. Decorations in the image include fall leaves, a lit candle and a wooden surface.

Use Cake Strips if You Have Some

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?

Can I Add More Spices?

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.

Close up image of spice cake showing texture and frosting layers.

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 41 votes
This is one of my all time favorite fall cakes! It's perfectly moist and brimming with lots of those sweet autumn spices. It has a tender crumb and so much flavor in every bite. No one can resist a slice!
Servings: 14
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 50 minutes


  • 2 1/4 cups (318g) all-purpose flour (scoop and level to measure)
  • 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 (240ml) buttermilk**
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Cream Cheese Frosting

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


  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 
  5. Pour in vegetable oil and applesauce, set mixer with paddle attachment and blend until well combined (occasionally stop and scrape bowl throughout mixing process). 

  6. Mix in eggs and vanilla. 
  7. 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. 
  8. Divide mixture evenly among two prepared baking pans. Bake in preheated oven until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 28 - 32 minutes. 

  9. Allow to cool in pans about 5 - 10 minutes then run a knife around edges to ensure cake is loose and invert upside down onto a wire rack to cool. 
  10. Cool completely then level tops of cakes as needed. Frost with cream cheese frosting, sprinkle pecans around edges if desired.
  11. For the frosting: In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream butter and cream cheese until smooth. 

  12. Mix in powdered sugar and vanilla and mix until well blended***.

Recipe Notes

  1. *You can adjust the amount of spices used here to suit your taste. I'd say this has at amount of spice flavor, not too strong but not mild either.
  2. **If you don't have buttermilk you can make your own by mixing 1 Tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar with enough milk to equal 1 cup. Whisk and let rest 5 minutes before using.
  3. ***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.
  4. Store the cake in refrigerator in an airtight container. Let rest at room temperature before serving.
  5. Recipe source: Cooking Classy
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Spice Cake
Author: Jaclyn


  • Sibel: Can I make the cake, cool and then freeze or refrigerate them for 2 days before assembing? Trying to plan ahead as I have a lot of other baking to do. December 6, 2018 at 11:26am Reply

    • Jaclyn: Yes the cake layers should freeze well for 1 month or refrigerate well for 4 days. December 6, 2018 at 11:58am Reply

  • Fary: Jaclyn, I‘ve made this delicious recipe twice and made 22 cupcakes out of the recipe instead of cake. I made 1/2 of the frosting and added Cheastnut with Kirsch puree to the frosting. This was a Hit! Love it. Thank you for sharing. This is one of my favorites. December 2, 2018 at 11:54pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: Glad you liked it, and glad it worked well as cupcakes too! December 3, 2018 at 8:06am Reply

  • Bernadette: This is an amazing recipe! Easy to follow and had delicious results!! Made it for Thanksgiving and my family just loved it. :D December 1, 2018 at 3:25pm Reply

  • Jeanne: I love this cake! I’ve made it more than once and never had a failure with it. My only suggestion is to ramp up the amount of frosting with maybe an extra 4 oz. cream cheese and more powdered sugar till you get the frosting consistency you like. I just served it this Thanksgiving and my family raved over it. Yup, it’s good. November 24, 2018 at 8:21am Reply

  • Greenie: Please, to what does the asterisk after << 2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon* ,

    the two asterisks after <<
    1 cup (240ml) buttermilk**

    and the three after <<Mix in powdered sugar and vanilla and mix until well blended***.

    refer? I looked all over the page and couldn't find a reference explaining them. Also, is there any way to use less than THREE AND A HALF CUPS OF SUGAR! and still have a decent tasting icing? TYIA, A Novice Kitchener

    PS Your "rate this recipe" stars don't work November 24, 2018 at 7:30am Reply

    • Jaclyn: Sorry they are listed in the notes (I added the stars to each number so it makes more sense). And yes you can reduce the sugar down to as much as 2 cups but you won’t get as much frosting, I’d just spread atop layers and not on the sides. Hope you enjoy! November 25, 2018 at 9:54pm Reply

  • Laura: Emeril’s spice cake was my go-to and I must say this is the best we’ve every had. THANK YOU!!! Great recipe! November 21, 2018 at 5:40pm Reply

  • William: Could I make this same recipe as a bundt cake? November 20, 2018 at 7:56am Reply

    • Jaclyn: That should be fine just don’t overfill the pan no more than about 3/4 full. November 21, 2018 at 9:11pm Reply

  • Kay: Can I sub melted butter for the veg oil? November 19, 2018 at 8:24pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: I don’t recommend it as it will alter the texture and moisture of the cake. November 19, 2018 at 9:35pm Reply

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