My super simple Spice Cake Recipe is full of fall spices and covered with a silky cream cheese frosting. It comes together in just one hour in ONE BOWL! Recipe includes a how-to video!
A New and Improved Spice Cake Recipe
My super moist and incredibly flavorful spice cake recipe is a favorite around here. It’s rich with all the cozy flavors of the season, and it’s also super easy to make! I love the simplicity of tossing everything in a 9×13 pan and frosting it right in the pan once it’s baked and cooled. Easy and delicious!
I think what differentiates this cake from other spiced cakes like my pumpkin cake is (besides the lack of pumpkin) cloves; this spice provides a more cozy flavor than your traditional pumpkin spice. It’s an autumn dessert with a subtle reminder that Winter’s right around the corner!
Some of you may recognize this cake, and that’s because it’s not totally new to the blog. I personally loved the original version of this recipe, but a number of commenters had issues with the cake sinking in on itself. I want everyone to have success, so I went back to the drawing board and modified the recipe to be essentially foolproof and sink-proof (in fact, if you make this as a layer cake you will have to level the top as it domes!). This version maintains all the flavors and texture of the original, but without sinking (and I like this one even more than the original!).
What You Need
While many versions of this cake include apple sauce, this is a spice cake recipe without applesauce. Instead, you’ll need:
- Dark brown sugar. The strong molasses flavor in dark brown sugar really amps up the flavor of this cake and makes it taste a bit festive.
- Spices. You can’t have spice cake without spices! I use cinnamon, ginger, allspice, clove, and nutmeg.
- Melted butter. Just like in my yellow cake recipe, we’ll be using melted butter today. This method of adding melted butter to the dry ingredients and sugar (rather than beating softened butter and sugar together first, which would be traditional creaming) is essentially the reverse creaming method, and makes mixing super easy (and the cake very buttery!). You’ll want to let your butter cool until it’s no longer warm to the touch.
- Oil. We’ll also be using oil in addition to butter to make sure the spice cake is nice and moist.
- Sour cream. I’ve been loving this powerhouse ingredient in my cake recipes recently, it makes the cake tender, moist, and so flavorful (without imparting any sour flavor!). You could substitute this with plain, full-fat Greek yogurt.
What we’re not using: As mentioned, my spice cake recipe doesn’t use applesauce. While we do benefit from the molasses flavor of the dark brown sugar, we also don’t use straight molasses. Doing so would make this cake less of a spice one and more of a gingerbread, which misses the mark on the complex flavors I was aiming for here.
SAM’S TIP: This spice cake recipe can be made in a 13×9 pan OR as a layer cake. In fact, there’s enough batter you could even make this a three layer cake; just reduce the baking time!
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Spice Cake
- Combine your sugars and your dry ingredients in a large bowl, then stir in the melted butter and oil. The mixture will seem a bit stiff and dry, but try to make sure all of the dry ingredients have been moistened — coating the flour with butter and oil here is important for a moist cake!
- Stir in the eggs and vanilla extract and mix well.
- Add the sour cream and milk and mix until combined.
- Pour the batter into greased and floured pan(s) and bake according to your pan size/type. To ensure the spice cake doesn’t stick, I like to line the bottom with a round of parchment paper before adding the batter, too.
- Let the cakes cool in their pans for 15 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack to cool completely (if making a sheet cake, just let it cool in the pan).
- Frost and enjoy!
SAM’S TIP: I use the reverse creaming technique (or a method that’s akin to it, anyway) for my spice cake recipe, which ultimately makes this a one bowl recipe. This method results in a tighter, plush crumb that’s still super soft and melt-in-your mouth with buttery undertones.
Frequently Asked Questions
They are really similar but not exactly the same. This cake has more spices than my carrot cake and carrot cake cupcakes (naturally!) and includes a few other ingredients to make up for the moisture carrots would normally provide. Chances are, if you like that cake, you’ll like this one too!
Yes! This recipe will make about 30 cupcakes. You will want to bake them for 17-18 minutes.
I personally recommend my cream cheese frosting, though I use a scoop less of powdered sugar in order to make the frosting slightly more silky and spreadable. Brown butter frosting or even my whipped cream frosting would be other great choices (and I’ve been itching to try my new caramel frosting on it, too!)
If you were a big fan of my original spice cake recipe–don’t fret! I linked the original in the recipe card below.
Let’s bake together! I’ll be walking you through all the steps in my written recipe and video below! If you try this recipe, be sure to tag me on Instagram, and you can also find me on YouTube and Facebook
- 2 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour (335g)
- 1 ½ cups dark brown sugar firmly packed (300g)
- ½ cup granulated sugar (100g)
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ¾ teaspoon allspice
- ¾ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 12 Tablespoons unsalted butter melted (177g)
- ½ cup canola or vegetable oil (118ml)
- 3 large eggs room temperature preferred
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup sour cream (8 oz/240g)
- ¼ cup whole milk (60ml)
Cream Cheese Icing
- 8 oz cream cheese softened (225g) (use brick-style, not the kind sold in tubs)
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened (113g)
- 3 ½ cups powdered sugar 440g
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and grease a baking pan with baking spray (you may use a 13×9 pan or two 9” round or 8” round pans, if using round cake pans it’s best to line the bottoms with parchment paper, too). Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices (cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, & nutmeg) until well-combined.2 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour, 1 ½ cups dark brown sugar, ½ cup granulated sugar, 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder, ½ teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, ¾ teaspoon allspice, ¾ teaspoon ground cloves, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Add melted butter and oil and stir well until combined.12 Tablespoons unsalted butter, ½ cup canola or vegetable oil
- Using an electric mixer, add eggs and vanilla and stir until completely combined.3 large eggs, 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- Stir in sour cream and then milk. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure batter is smooth and uniform.1 cup sour cream, ¼ cup whole milk
- Pour batter into prepared pan (or evenly divide into round cake pans). Transfer to center rack of 350F (175C) oven and bake for the following amount of time:If using a metal 13×9" pan or two 9" round pans: 30-35 minutes (a glass or ceramic pan will take longer to bake). When finished baking, the cake should spring back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean or with a few moist crumbs.If using two 8" round pans: 35 minutes. When finished baking, the cake should spring back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean or with a few moist crumbs.
- If using a 13×9 pan: Let cake cool completely before icing directly in the pan.
- If using round cake pans/making a layer cake: Allow cakes to cool for 15 minutes then carefully invert onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Cakes will likely be domed and, if so, should be leveled before assembly. Cake must be cooled completely before icing.
- Combine cream cheese and butter in large bowl and use an electric mixer (or stand mixer) to beat until creamy and smooth.8 oz cream cheese, ½ cup unsalted butter
- With mixer on low-speed, gradually add powdered sugar until completely combined.3 ½ cups powdered sugar
- Stir in vanilla extract and salt.1 teaspoon vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon salt
- Spread evenly over cooled cake.
StoringStore in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 48 hours or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Cake may also be tightly wrapped and frozen for several months.
CupcakesThis recipe can be made as cupcakes, fill liners ⅔ of the way full and bake for approximately 17-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with moist crumbs. Will make approximately 30 cupcakes.
Original RecipeI first published this recipe in 2019 but a number of commenters noted that they had problems with the cake sinking. I want everyone to have success, so I went back to the drawing board and in 2022 modified this recipe to make it sturdier (while still being incredibly flavorful, moist, and easy to make!). If you were a fan of the original, you can find my original recipe here.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.
Can applesauce be used in this recipe, if so how much?
Hi Debra! I haven’t tried it but I think it would work here. Let me know how it goes. 🙂
Hi! I baked this the other day, and well, it’s gone! I probably should have frozen single servings! I didn’t find this to be overly oily. I also tried not to over-mix the batter. I added roasted chopped pecans to the top. This is a keeper and will make again. The spice combo is spot on! I highly recommend everyone trying this one. Thank you for sharing your recipes and knowledge with us.
Sugar Spun Run
I am so happy that you enjoyed it, CN! Thank you for trying my recipe and for commenting. 🙂
Why is my cake caving in the center and not baking all the way through? I used an 8×10 pan and cooked it for 45 minutes at 350.
Sugar Spun Run
I am so sorry that you are experiencing an issue, Danielle. Unfortunately, it sounds like you may have over mixed your batter. When you do so, you incorporate too much air – the air can then cause a collapse during baking. As far as it not cooking through, it just needs more time to bake. I use a 9″x13″ pan for this recipe and it takes approximately 40 minutes to bake. Since your pan size is smaller it will need more time. Again, I am sorry that this happened. Regardless, I hope that it still tastes delicious. 🙂
Hi Sam! Last week I made your vanilla birthday cake, which was THE BEST!!! Today I made the spice cake. It’s absolutely DELICIOUS!!! I am not sure why people said it was oily. 350°F for 33 minutes (yes, 33 minutes!). It was moist & perfect!!! The best spice cake I have ever made!!! A lot of flavor!!! The House smells like Christmas!!!
I am so glad you enjoyed it, Elaine! 🙂
Thank you so much for this recipe. My husband’s mother, who is no longer with us, used to make a cake just like this for him. We have been searching for a recipe to bring back those memories, and this recipe did the trick. Thanks again 🙂
Sugar Spun Run
I am so glad that this recipe could bring back such sweet memories to you and your husband, Jenna! I am glad that you came across my site and this recipe was what you had been searching for. Thank you for commenting. Enjoy! 🙂
I made this today. It turned out perfect. It is a moist cake but I did not find it oily at all.
Sugar Spun Run
I am so happy to hear how much you enjoyed the spice cake, Donie! Thank you for trying my recipe and for commenting. 🙂
Although the flavor of the cake was very good, I found it to be very oily. I baked mine in 2 -9” pans and had oil sitting in bottom of pan upon removal. I followed directions to the letter. No alterations except the size pan.
I’m disappointed to hear this, Diane. I’ve never had this outcome (you can see in the video mine was not oily) and don’t think that baking it in the 9” pans should have made this happen, either. I did have someone who complained that it was oily realize that they had accidentally used 2 sticks of butter instead of just one, but other than that I’m really not sure why it would turn out this way 🙁
Loved this cake! My husband usually goes for pie. He had two pieces!
Thanks for the great recipe!
Sugar Spun Run
I am so happy to hear that the spice cake was such a hit, Roxy! I am so glad that everyone enjoyed it, including your husband. Thanks for commenting. 🙂
I made cupcakes and the oil leak through the liners and puddled in the pan. The batter was very oil. Do sheet cakes need more oil?
Hmm, not really, while this is a moist cake I wouldn’t have expected it to have been that oily when made into cupcakes (though I have not made it as cupcakes myself). That seems odd to me that it was so wet.
This recipe is very similar to my aunt’s recipe. She has been gone for many years now and all of us miss her and her cooking. I was wondering, though. Nearly all of my recipes have more baking powder than baking soda. Did I get the measurements wrong, more baking soda than baking powder in this one? Reversing them might make the cake a bit lighter and “fluffier”. But I’ll try it your way first. I am making for my Christmas dinner dessert this year. Happy Holidays to you and your family.
Hi Morgan! The amounts of baking powder/soda used will vary depending on the other ingredients used. The ingredients listed here are correct as written but I have tested it with varying amounts of baking powder/soda. If you’d like, the cake can be made with 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and just 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda, it will rise a bit more but I personally found the flavor and texture to not be as desirable as it was when made as written (as did my taste testers). However you make it I hope you enjoy! 🙂
Can this be made into cupcakes ?
Hi Michele! It should work as cupcakes, but the top will probably be pretty flat. 🙂
This is was a test recipe for my daughter’s 18th bday cake. She loves spice and vanilla cake and cream cheese icing! The icing was a huge hit, and the cake was good too. It tastes a bit oily..I’m not sure what I did or didn’t do? It cooked beautifully though!!
Hi Andrea! It’s a very moist cake but shouldn’t taste oily, did it cool completely before you tried it? I’m glad it was a hit overall though!
I tried this recipe and it turned out delicious. Who would have thought a cream cheese frosting would pair so well with spice cake.
Sugar Spun Run
I am so glad that you enjoyed the cake, Gayatri! The cream cheese adds just the right amount of sweet. I am happy you liked the pairing. Thanks for commenting. 🙂
hi sam! would almond milk be okay to use instead of buttermilk?
Hi Mae! Since almond milk generally has less fat than buttermilk my concern would be that the cake may not be quite as moist. Since this is a very moist cake anyway, you might be able to get away with it, though! However, to maintain the acidity I do recommend you follow the steps listed in my buttermilk substitute (add a splash of vinegar or lemon juice) that way the ingredients all still react properly. I hope that helps and I hope you love the spice cake!
thank you! it worked great!! i added a splash of cognac in the cake mix and some maple syrup in the frosting– it turned out so delicious!
Sugar Spun Run
That is wonderful, Mae! I am so glad! Enjoy! 🙂
Hey Sam! How do you store the cake? How long will it keep? Looking to make something a day or two ahead of thanksgiving. Thanks!
Sugar Spun Run
Hello, Liz! I recommend storing it in an airtight container. It should last up to one week. 🙂
Thank you so much! And congrats on the new addition!