This applesauce spice cake is soft, moist, and perfectly spiced and is incredibly delicious topped with the creamy brown butter frosting.

If you make only one cake this season (or for the rest of your life), please let it be this applesauce spice cake. The ultra-soft cake with that amazing frosting is one of the most delicious cake + frosting combos I’ve ever had!

Square of frosted applesauce spice cake on white plate with pecans on top.

Applesauce Spice Cake Batter

When it comes to cake batter, this one couldn’t be simpler. No electric mixer and no fancy creaming methods needed.

It’s a dry ingredients meets wet ingredients situation, and it comes together fast.

There is a whopping two cups of applesauce in the cake which helps contribute to the soft, moist texture.

The recipe calls for unsweetened applesauce. If using sweetened applesauce, you’ll likely want to adjust the sugar in the cake to compensate for the extra sweetness.

Mix the batter until just combined. Don’t over mix. I mean, speaking frankly, it’s not the most attractive looking batter in the world, but I promise it bakes into the most deliciously spiced cake you’ve ever met.

How to Brown Butter for the Frosting

The frosting for this cake is amazing for two reasons:

  1. brown butter
  2. brown butter meets cream cheese

Brown butter is amazing stuff. It’s incredible in cookies and bars and rice krispie treats and a myriad of other desserts. But in frosting, it is truly exceptional.

Here’s a quick tutorial for how to brown butter. In short, you’ll melt butter over medium heat and let it cook and foam and sizzle until the butter solids turn golden brown and smell intensely nutty and caramelly. Watch it closely! Butter can burn easily, so make sure to remove it from the heat immediately once you see the browned bits on the bottom.

Glass bowl with spoon and brown butter.

It’s important to let the brown butter cool until it is room temperature and kind of sludgy in consistency. If it’s too warm, the frosting will be thin and runny.

While the frosting does bear cream cheese in the title, it is not heavy on the cream cheese flavor. The recipe only calls for three ounces of cream cheese.

This amount perfectly compliments the caramelly brown butter and adds the the ultimate level of creaminess without overwhelming the frosting with the distinctive cream cheese flavor.

Even if you ditch making the cake completely, please promise you’ll make this frosting? It is a shining star among a galaxy of dull frostings, and it has changed me forever.

Glass bowl with whipped creamy frosting.

A Simple Cake

Once the homey applesauce cake has cooled, you can spread the frosting over the top right in the pan!

There’s no fancy piping or frosting techniques needed here. This delightfully simple cake is served straight from the pan, and the only adornment you might need or want is a few toasted pecans tossed on top.

The toasted pecans are completely optional, but I have to be honest, for someone that normally eschews nuts in my desserts, I love the subtle crunch of the pecans with the creamy frosting and soft cake.

A bit unassuming in looks, this frosted applesauce spice cake will catch you off guard with just how completely delicious it is.

It is the perfect cake for the cozy fall months. But I can definitely see myself making this all year round. The ingredients are simple and pantry-friendly, and the result is knock-your-socks-off amazing.

It is definitely so much more than the sum of its parts.

If you’ve been wanting a perfect spice cake, this is it. I cannot wait for you to make it!

Fork taking bite of frosted applesauce spice cake on white plate.

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Fork taking bite of frosted applesauce spice cake on white plate.

Applesauce Spice Cake with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

4.97 stars (58 ratings)


Applesauce Cake:

  • 2 ½ cups (355 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 cups (500 g) unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 large (100 g) eggs
  • ¾ cup (146 g) neutral-flavored oil
  • cup (142 g) granulated sugar
  • cup (142 g) packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 6 tablespoons (77 g) salted butter
  • 3 ounces (85 g) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 3 cups (342 g) powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons milk or cream
  • 1 cup (120 g) toasted pecans, optional


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9X13-inch metal baking pan and set aside. (If using a glass pan, reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.)
  • For the cake, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the applesauce, eggs, oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla until smooth.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined and no dry streaks remain. Don't over mix.
  • Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the top springs back lightly to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs.
  • Let the cake cool completely in the pan.
  • For the frosting, place the butter in a light-colored skillet or pan over medium heat. As it continues to cook, it will foam and sizzle. Once melted, the butter will begin to foam and sizzle around the edges. Stir occasionally with a silicone spatula to keep it from burning. As it cooks, the butter solids will begin to brown and it will smell caramelly and nutty. Watch closely so it doesn't burn. Once the solids are golden brown, immediately remove the pan from the heat and pour the butter into a medium bowl to stop the cooking.
  • Let the butter cool until room temperature and sludgy in consistency, 20-30 minutes.
  • Using an electric handheld mixer (or transfer the butter to the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment), add the softened cream cheese to the butter and mix until well-combined. It will look curdled; that's ok. Add one cup of the powdered sugar and mix until mostly combined.
  • Add the vanilla, two tablespoons of milk or cream and mix.
  • Gradually add the remaining powdered sugar while mixing on medium-low speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add additional milk or cream to adjust the consistency, if needed. Mix for 1 to 2 minutes until very thick and creamy.
  • Spread the frosting evenly over the cooled cake. Sprinkle with toasted pecans, if desired. Cut into squares and serve at room temperature or chilled.


Applesauce: the recipe calls for unsweetened applesauce. If using sweetened applesauce, you’ll likely want to adjust the sugar in the cake to compensate for the extra sweetness. 
Serving: 1 serving, Calories: 467kcal, Carbohydrates: 64g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 22g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Cholesterol: 40mg, Sodium: 356mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 46g