Moist Applesauce Cake Recipe

Applesauce tastes terrific both warm and cold, served up in a bowl with a cinnamon stick for an extra kick of flavor. But do you know how else applesauce tastes amazing? In a cake infused with flavors such as cloves, ginger, and cinnamon. This recipe from developer Melissa Olivieri, of The Olive Blogger, capitalizes upon rich spices that complement the applesauce and result in a delicious, soft cake that yields upwards of 30 squares.

The cream cheese frosting provides the perfect accent to this applesauce cake with every single forkful. Even sweeter than how it tastes is the fact that it only takes 15 minutes to prepare and 30 minutes to bake! If you'd like to add some texture and crunch to this cake, Olivieri suggested adding in chopped walnuts or diced apples.

"I would always suggest something like a Gala or Honeycrisp, but you can add in a Red Delicious or tart Cortland if you prefer," she said.

Gather up the ingredients

Aside from the powerful spices of cinnamon, ground cloves, ginger, and apple pie spice, this recipe calls for the basics for building a cake like flour, eggs, vanilla extract, baking soda, baking powder, butter, milk, and granulated sugar. The frosting only requires two main ingredients to yield a rich and creamy topper: cream cheese and powdered sugar. But what this recipe does call for will surprise you — white vinegar.

"The reason we used the vinegar was to mix with the milk to essentially create a soured milk or buttermilk, which most home cooks don't have readily on hand," Olivieri said.

Making buttermilk

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Then turn your attention to the white vinegar and milk. Olivieri said the type of milk doesn't matter for this applesauce cake recipe.

"We always have 2 percent in our fridge, so that is what gets used in all of our recipes. If you have 1 percent or skim milk, that is fine to use, too," she said.

Take out a small bowl and pour 1/4 of a cup of the milk and two tablespoons of white vinegar together. Allow it to sit for five minutes before stirring. The combination of these two ingredients makes sour milk, or buttermilk, she explained. Some recipes call for using lemon juice instead of vinegar, but Olivieri recommends white vinegar specifically.

Start mixing your ingredients

Grab a medium bowl and sift in or whisk together the all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and ground ginger. Make sure the ingredients are thoroughly combined, then set the bowl aside. 

Next, using a stand mixer or a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream half a cup of softened butter with the granulated sugar. Once the mixture is without lumps and nice and smooth, slowly add in one cup of unsweetened applesauce and continue blending until combined.

"The unsweetened applesauce is what we use to ensure the cake isn't too sweet once we add in the sugar and top it with the icing. Apples are naturally sweet, so in this case it works perfectly," Olivieri said.

Work with the wet ingredients

Now add three large eggs, the vanilla extract, and the milk-vinegar mixture to the wet ingredients. Mix everything on medium speed to ensure that they are thoroughly combined. 

Then, take your time adding the dry to the wet ingredients. Start by adding just half of the dry mixture to the wet mixture and beat on low speed until just combined, Olivieri said. Then add the last half of the dry ingredients to the mixture and work it into the batter, too.

Once everything is completely blended, slowly pour the cake batter into the greased pan and bake the cake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. At this point, enjoy the amazing smells that are swirling around your kitchen thanks to the delicious spices used in this recipe.

Create the cream cheese frosting

There are several different types of frosting recipes, but cream cheese frosting is Olivieri's favorite, she said.

"Cream cheese icing is the goddess of icings in my humble opinion and so, sooo easy to make. A lot of people are intimated by it until they have made it for themselves and see just how easy and delicious it is," she said. "It works so well in this recipe because it gives a nice thick topper to the slightly sweet cake. Without the icing, the cake is still yummy, but this just takes it over the top."

All it takes to make it is 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, butter, and 4 ounces of softened cream cheese. Mix together the cream cheese and two tablespoons of butter first, then add in approximately half of the powdered sugar and mix on low speed to combine. Add in the rest of the powdered sugar and one tablespoon of apple pie spice and mix thoroughly. Pour in one teaspoon of vanilla extract and mix on low, adding milk slowly and judiciously in case the frosting turns out a bit too thick.

Helpful tips

As soon as the cake has cooled completely, use an offset spatula to frost it. Because of the cream cheese frosting, refrigerate immediately.

Do not use cooking spray for this recipe or any other baked goods recipe, Olivieri said, but instead smear butter or margarine to grease baking pans. "I find the cooking sprays just don't do what they are supposed to and you end up with half the cake stuck to the pan," she said.

If you aren't a fan of chopped walnuts as an add-in and don't want to deal with finely chopping the apples, she suggested using any kind of chopped nut, chocolate chips, or even dried cranberries. "It is a fun way to make it your own," she said.

Moist Applesauce Cake directions
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This super moist, super delicious applesauce cake is a sweet treat you'll want to make all year-round.
Prep Time
Cook Time
slice of applesauce cake on a white plate
Total time: 45 minutes
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons milk, divided
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons butter (softened), divided
  • 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon apple pie spice
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.
  2. In a small bowl, pour 1/4 of a cup milk and the vinegar together, allowing to sit for 5 minutes before stirring (you can work ahead to the next steps while you wait).
  3. In a medium bowl sift/whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger until combined, and set aside.
  4. In a stand mixer, or large bowl if using a hand mixer, cream 1/2 cup butter and granulated sugar together. Add in applesauce and beat to combine.
  5. To the wet mixture add in the eggs, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and the milk/vinegar mixture. Mix on medium speed to fully combine.
  6. Add half of the dry mixture to the wet mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Repeat with the other half of dry mixture.
  7. Pour cake batter into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  8. While the cake is baking, cream together cream cheese and 2 tablespoons of butter. Add in about half of the powdered sugar and mix on low speed to combine. Add in the remainder of powdered sugar as well as the apple pie spice and mix thoroughly.
  9. Add in 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and mix on low, adding the 2 tablespoons of milk if needed to thin the icing.
  10. Once the cake has cooled completely, ice using an offset spatula. Refrigerate the cake once iced.
Calories per Serving 169
Total Fat 5.8 g
Saturated Fat 3.4 g
Trans Fat 0.2 g
Cholesterol 33.2 mg
Total Carbohydrates 27.9 g
Dietary Fiber 0.4 g
Total Sugars 20.9 g
Sodium 77.6 mg
Protein 1.9 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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