This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.

To serve this healthy Applesauce Cake only for dessert is to limit its potential. Moist, not too sweet, and made with wholesome ingredients like applesauce, honey, whole wheat flour, and nuts, it’s equally appropriate for afternoon snacking or an after-dinner delight.

A slice of healthy applesauce cake without oil or butter

If we can socially accept that Apple Coffee Cake is breakfast, then this easy applesauce cake can easily be passed off as a mid-afternoon snack.

Trust me, after just one bite, you won’t want to reserve this tender and moist old-fashioned applesauce cake for just dessert.

In fact, I bet it won’t even last until then!

Cut slices of applesauce cake from scratch

5 Star Review

“I made this cake and it was delicious, moist. and not too sweet. Just what I like and it sliced beautifully!”

— Mary —

Why Use Applesauce in Cake

Swapping applesauce for canola or vegetable oil in cakes, breads, and muffins is a healthy baking hack I’ve used in countless recipes (such as these top-rated Healthy Oatmeal Cookies), and today’s wholesome applesauce cake might just be my new favorite.

The applesauce in this cake does a few wonderful things:

  • The applesauce adds supreme moisture and tenderness. Not only is the texture of this cake sublime, but it also slices like a dream.
  • It acts as a natural sweetener, which allows the recipe to cut back on other added sugars.
  • With a full 1 1/2 cups of applesauce, the applesauce also contributes greatly to the cake’s flavor (like in these Applesauce Muffins).

To summarize, this applesauce cake from scratch combines the homey, feel-good taste of applesauce AND its ability to make baked goods better for you to create the BEST applesauce cake ever.

Frosted applesauce cake with golden raisins and cinnamon

How to Make The Best Applesauce Cake

In addition to the more essential ingredients like applesauce and cinnamon, this recipe contains a few special additions that elevate it to the absolute best applesauce cake you will ever taste.

Bourbon-soaked golden raisins, chopped nuts, cloves, nutmeg, and an easy cream cheese frosting make it a standout.

To make applesauce cake from scratch, you’ll need to combine the wet and dry ingredients separately, add the eggs one at a time, and be careful not to overmix.

An easy applesauce cake with cream cheese frosting cut into slices

The Ingredients

  • Applesauce. In addition to being nutritious, applesauce creates a wonderfully moist cake and sweetens it naturally. Plus, its flavor pairs beautifully with the bourbon, spices, and mix-ins.

TIP!

To take this cake to the next level, bake it with homemade Instant Pot Applesauce or Crockpot Applesauce.

  • Golden Raisins. Scrumptious little jewels of sweetness and texture. After they’re soaked in the bourbon, they will become ultra-plump.
  • Bourbon. Bourbon and apple are a match made in heaven! The bourbon adds an almost nutty and vanilla-like flavor to the cake. (If you love bourbon, you’ll also enjoy these Bourbon Balls).

Substitution Tip!

If you prefer to bake the cake without bourbon, you can swap in either orange juice or apple juice.

  • Flour. Unlike my Fresh Apple Cake which uses 100% white whole wheat flour, I used both all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour for this recipe. The combination creates a wonderful texture, and the whole wheat flour packs extra protein, fiber, and whole-grain goodness.

Dietary Note

For a gluten-free applesauce cake, swap both flours for a 1:1 gluten free baking flour like this one.

  • Spices. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves give this cake exceptional warmth and spice and are a natural pairing with the applesauce. A pinch of ground ginger would be a lovely addition too.
  • Butter. Just enough to give the cake some necessary fat for added tenderness and a moist crumb.

Dietary Note

I have not tried to make this applesauce cake without dairy. However, you could experiment with swapping the butter for a dairy-free, vegan butter. Keep in mind you would also need to omit or modify the cream cheese frosting.

  • Brown Sugar + Honey. Brown sugar and honey provide the cake with sweetness and moisture.
  • Vanilla. Accentuates the cake’s warm and cozy flavors.
  • Pecans or Walnuts. For toastiness and crunch. (I also love adding nuts to this Apple Bread too!)
  • Frosting. The cream cheese frosting for this cake uses the same cozy flavors of bourbon, cinnamon, and vanilla. It’s smooth, creamy, and the perfect finishing touch!

The Directions

  1. Soak the raisins and bourbon.
Dry ingredients in a bowl
  1. Whisk the dry ingredients together in one bowl. Beat the butter, sugar, honey, and vanilla together in another bowl.
An egg being added to batter
  1. Beat in the eggs one at a time.
Applesauce being added to a mixing bowl of batter
  1. Add the applesauce, reduce the electric mixer (or stand mixer) to a low speed, and gradually add the flour.

TIP!

Take care not to overmix! For the best applesauce cake with the perfect texture, stop your mixer as soon as the flour disappears.

batter for applesauce cake with raisins and nuts in a bowl
  1. Fold in the soaked raisins and chopped walnuts or pecans.
Healthy applesauce cake batter in a cake pan
  1. Pour the batter into a parchment-lined cake pan, and bake applesauce cake for 32 to 38 minutes at 350 degrees F.
A freshly baked healthy applesauce cake
  1. Let the cake cool in the pan, then place it on a cooling rack to finish.
Fluffy cream cheese frosting in a bowl
  1. Beat the frosting ingredients together. Frost the cake. DIG IN!

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Refrigerate cake for up to 5 days. Let it sit at room temperature for 15 minutes or so prior to serving. 
  • To Freeze. You can freeze this applesauce spice cake in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes or so before serving. I prefer to freeze the cake unfrosted, but you can freeze it frosted, as well.

Storage Tips

Freezing individual cake slices instead of the whole cake makes them quick and easy to thaw whenever a craving strikes.

A fork in a slice of old fashioned applesauce cake with bourbon raisins

Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe

  • Cake Pan. Perfect for this applesauce cake.
  • Stand Mixer. A stand mixer is a wonderful tool to use when preparing a cake like this one. A hand mixer is an awesome affordable option too!
  • Measuring Spoons. These double-sided measuring spoons make it easier to measure all the cake ingredients.

This moist, old-fashioned applesauce cake wants to be your all-day-every-day pick me up.

Give it a chance, won’t you?

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Taste Applesauce in Cake?

Yes! In this applesauce cake recipe, the applesauce flavor is definitely present due to the higher volume used. However, in other recipes where less applesauce is used (like these Cornbread Muffins), the flavor is pretty much imperceptible and simply adds moisture, tenderness, and subtle sweetness.

Can I Make Applesauce Cake Without Flour?

If you’re looking for a gluten-free applesauce cake, I have not tried making this recipe that way. However, I think you could swap the flour for a 1-to-1 gluten-free baking flour alternative. If you decide to give it a try, I’d love to hear about your results.

Can I Make Applesauce Cake Without Eggs?

While applesauce can often be used as a replacement for eggs, this recipe does benefit from the addition of eggs which contribute to the cake’s overall moisture, texture, and crumb structure. If you’d like to experiment, you could try swapping the eggs for a flax egg. Just know I have not tried this personally and cannot vouch for the results.

Is Applesauce Cake Healthy?

Compared to old-fashioned applesauce cake recipes that contain oil, this whole wheat applesauce cake is a healthier alternative since it has less fat, reduced sugar, and whole grains. Omitting the cream cheese frosting is an option if you’re looking to lighten up the recipe further.

Applesauce Cake

4.83 from 17 votes
This healthy applesauce cake with cream cheese frosting is moist, easy to make, and bursting with warm spices, nuts, and bourbon raisins.

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
Total: 1 hour 15 minutes

Servings: 10 servings

Ingredients
  

For the Applesauce Cake:

  • 3/4 cup golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon (or apple juice or orange juice)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour or white whole wheat flour or 1 cup, plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 cup pecans or walnuts toasted and chopped (optional)

For the Frosting:


Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with rack in middle. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square cake pan or 8-inch round cake pan with butter or nonstick spray and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  • In a small bowl, place the raisins and bourbon. Cover and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds (or you can heat on a small saucepan on the stove). Set aside to cool for at least 15 minutes.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
  • In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar, honey, and vanilla on high speed until the mixture is pale and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl once or twice as needed.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition until fully incorporated. The batter will look curdled, which is absolutely fine.
  • Beat in the applesauce, stopping as soon as it is combined.
  • Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour, stopping as soon as it disappears.
  • By hand with a rubber spatula, fold in the raisins with their liquid and the pecans.
  • Scrape into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 32 to 38 minutes, until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place the pan on a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 15 minutes.
  • With a dull knife, loosen the edges of the cake from the pan, then unmold it and place it on the rack, dome-side up, to finish cooling completely. (I like to invert from the pan onto a plate, then re-invert it back onto the cooling rack). Let cool completely.
  • Make the frosting: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, place the cream cheese, butter, bourbon, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Beat on medium speed until smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low, then slowly add the powdered sugar. Once the sugar has been incorporated, stop and scrape down the sides, then beat a bit more, until combined and creamy. Spread over the top of the cooled cake (I leave the sides bare). Enjoy!

Video

Notes

  • TO STORE: Refrigerate the applesauce cake for up to 5 days. Let it sit at room temperature for 15 minutes or so prior to serving. 
  • TO FREEZE: Freeze cake in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes or so before serving. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 10), with frostingCalories: 534kcalCarbohydrates: 76gProtein: 6gFat: 24gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 82mgPotassium: 339mgFiber: 3gSugar: 53gVitamin A: 643IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 89mgIron: 2mg

Join today and start saving your favorite recipes

Create an account to easily save your favorite recipes and access FREE meal plans.

Sign Me Up

More Healthy Cake Recipes

Try one of these other snack-worthy healthy dessert recipes:

Did you try this recipe?

I want to see!

Follow @wellplated on Instagram, snap a photo, and tag it #wellplated. I love to know what you are making!

You May Also Like

Free Email Series
Sign Up for FREE Weekly Meal Plans
Each includes a grocery list, budget, and 5 healthy dinners, helping you save time, save money, and live better!

Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

Learn more about Erin

Leave a Comment

Did you make this recipe?

Don't forget to leave a review!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




27 Comments

Leave a comment

  1. I followed this recipe exactly as written: Here is my feedback.

    I used a springform cake pan, 8 inches as stated, and with the amount of batter, it really needs a 9-inch springform cake pan. My cake height, in the end, was twice the height as shown here on this page. As a result, because there was so much batter, the cooking time actually took twice the uppermost stated time – 1 hr 15 minutes. I checked the cake after 38 minutes and the batter was so gooey – I increased the time in 15-minute intervals, checking the cake for doneness with a toothpick each time, and it wasn’t until 1 hour and 15 minutes later did the toothpick come out clean with the batter not being stuck to it.

    As for flavor and taste, this is an excellent recipe – I used bourbon as the recipe calls for – with soaking of the golden raisins and for the cream cheese frosting. This cake is moist, has texture, and is divine.

    Thank you for sharing – it is a keeper with slight modifications in pan size and cooking time.4 stars

    1. I’m so happy that you enjoyed it, TracyM! Thank you for sharing this kind review and your notes!

  2. After reading the review (and my aversion to making layer cakes) can this be made in a 9×13 pan? I realize the presentation won’t be “magazine cover worthy” but it will greatly decrease my stress level! This sounds like a recipe my husband will love!!!!!

    1. Hi Linda! I’ve only tested the recipe as written, so you’d be experimenting. The cake will be thinner, so it will likely be done much faster. If you decide to play around with it, I’d love to hear how it goes!

  3. I made this (in Denver, so at altitude) with gluten free flour, with non-soaked raisins, and it worked pretty well! Bake time was quite a bit longer than 38 min – I want to say it needed at least 20 more. First slice pretty fresh out of the oven was a little crumbly but hoping it firms up in the fridge overnight! Moist cakes like this are generally good for gfree bakes – prevents the sandy texture you can sometimes get.5 stars

      1. I haven’t made this cake yet, but it looks delicious! I was wondering if I could possibly use a Bundt cake pan? I have tried one of your other recipes for pumpkin muffins and that turned out really well and I really enjoyed them.

        1. Hi! I’ve only tested the recipe as written so I would be hard for me to advise on using a bundt cake pan. If you decide to experiment, let me know how it goes! So glad you enjoyed the muffins!! THANK YOU!

  4. I don’t normally leave reviews for recipes, but I just had to for this one – it’s absolutely divine!! I’ve made it twice in the last month because my husband and I just can’t get enough. I think this will have to become a monthly bake.

    Perfectly moist, super favourful and a rival to my favourite clay–bake carrot cake – I would not change a thing (definitely don’t leave out the pecans). I baked for 36m in a 9″ springfoam pan and it came out perfectly. Absolutely wonderful, thank you! A++5 stars

  5. I thought this was very tasty. Based on the other reviews I made it in a 9” round tin and it came out perfect after about 40 minutes of baking.4 stars

  6. I’m such a fan of yours Erin! The cake is cooling off right now and I am soooooo excited to try it, smells divine 💛 However I did not have bourbon so for the batter I used spiced rum and the frosting I used Irish Cream. I think it will came out well. Now I have an excuse to make this “correctly” with bourbon 😏5 stars

  7. I did end up making the cake using a Bundt pan. However, I did sacrifice a little of the healthiness. Because I was afraid the cake might stick to the pan, I grease the pan with a very thin layer of shortening and then dusted it with flour.
    I also used maple syrup instead of honey as I don’t really care for the taste of honey. Nor did I have any honey in my pantry.
    I thinned out the frosting so it would drizzle down the sides of the Bundt cake. The cake did not stick to the pan at all.
    And it turned out really nice. I sprinkled chopped pecans on the top of the cake to give it a little bit of a decorative touch. I would love to send you a picture, But I am not on any kind of social media.5 stars

    1. Hi L! Thank you so much for coming back and giving me your feedback, I really appreciate it! So glad it turned out for you!

    2. I haven’t baked this cake for a while, so honestly, I can’t remember how long I baked it.
      I would maybe try baking it for 45 minutes and check to see if the cake springs back when lightly touched. Then I would check to see if it’s ready to come out of the oven using a toothpick in the center and see if it comes out clean. If it doesn’t, depending on how close it is to being done, I would check it every five minutes or so, until the toothpick comes out clean. Generally though, I found most Bundt cakes take around 45 minutes to an hour to finish baking. Hope this helps.5 stars

  8. I made this cake and it was delicious, moist. and not too sweet. Just what I like and it sliced beautifully! I did not have enough honey so used what I had @1/4 cup. I used dark brown sugar, because that is what I had on hand. I used 1/2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice and doubled the cinnamon. Plus I used the whole can of applesauce (15 oz). I baked it in a bundt pan at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Yummy! I will definitely make this again.5 stars

  9. I made this the other day. I took it to my mum’s for pudding and added some vanilla buttercream on the top with some sprinkles.
    It went down a treat even had some myself and it’s gorgeous thank you so much adding it to my new recipe book as a fave. It’d be so nice in winter time too or even Christmas.
    I did have to bake it for 75 mins though.5 stars

  10. NEED clarificaion re:
    white whole wheat flour

    Does that mean UNbleached flour?
    I dislike ordinary WW flour but am confused about the white ww
    unless it means UNbleached then I am fine.
    I have also baked with 1/2 ww and 1/2 unbleached and it was fine
    Thanks for any assistance5 stars

    1. Hi Rosalee! White whole wheat flour does not mean unbleached flour. It actually a type of wheat. Unbleached flour is flour that has aged naturally after being milled, so it’s happens by the process it goes through. You can use whole wheat flour in place of the white whole wheat flour. Enjoy!

  11. Hi Erin! I don’t have a standing mixer. Is there an alternative method for handheld mixer for the icing? Love your recipes and would love to try this cake!!