To serve this 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 as much afternoon snacking material as it is a post-meal treat.
And yes, I am totally down for cream cheese frosting at snack time.
It makes the applesauce cake even better, and I can heartily attest that it will improve your 3 p.m. mood!
Applesauce makes cakes moist and tender and can help sweeten them naturally.
Swapping applesauce for oil in cakes, breads, and muffins is one of the oldest (and best!) healthy baking tricks. I use it in many of these applesauce recipes, such as these top-rated Healthy Oatmeal Cookies.
In larger amounts, applesauce can also contribute to a recipe’s flavor, the way it does in these Applesauce Muffins and today’s healthy applesauce cake.
This moist applesauce cake (or as my friends decided to call it so that we could eat it whenever we wanted, “applesauce snacking caking”) makes the most of the homey, feel-good taste of applesauce AND of its ability to make baked goods better for you.
This easy cake is spiked with cinnamon and tastes definitely cozy.
Applesauce cake is also a perfect way to use a lot of applesauce. This recipe calls for a full 1 ½ cups.
If you purchased too large of a jar or are in the lucky possession of a big batch of this homemade Crockpot Applesauce, this cake recipe will give it scrumptious purpose.
How to Make The Best Applesauce Cake
In addition to the more essential ingredients like applesauce, cinnamon, and (if you live in our house), cream cheese frosting, this recipe contains a few special additions that elevate it to the absolute best applesauce cake you will ever taste.
Bourbon-soaked golden raisins, cloves, and nutmeg make this cake a standout.
We also love to add pecans or walnuts for toastiness and crunch.
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.
See the bottom of this post for the full recipe and be sure to check out the instructional video too.
- Golden Raisins. Scrumptious little jewels of sweetness and texture. After they’re soaked in the bourbon, they will become even more plump.
- Bourbon. Bourbon and apple are a match made in heaven! The bourbon adds an almost nutty and vanilla-like flavor to the cake.
- Flour. I used both all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour. The combination creates a wonderful texture, and the whole wheat flour packs extra nutrition.
- Spices. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves give this cake exceptional warmth and spice and are a natural pairing with the applesauce.
- Brown Sugar + Honey. Brown sugar and honey provide the cake with sweetness and moisture.
- Vanilla. Accentuates the cake’s warm and cozy flavors.
- 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. (If you want to make your own homemade version, try Instant Pot Applesauce!)
- Pecans or Walnuts. For a toasty, nutty crunch.
- 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!
- Soak the raisins and bourbon.
- Whisk the dry ingredients together in one bowl.
- Beat the butter, sugar, honey, and vanilla together in another bowl.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time.
- Add the applesauce.
- Fold in the soaked raisins and nuts.
- Transfer the batter to a parchment-lined cake pan, and bake for 32 to 38 minutes at 350 degrees F.
- Let the cake cool in the pan, then place it on a cooling rack to finish.
- Beat the frosting ingredients together. Frost the cake. DIG IN!
- 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. 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. I prefer to freeze the cake unfrosted, but you can freeze it frosted also.
Freezing individual cake slices instead of the whole cake makes them quick and easy to thaw whenever a craving strikes.
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.
- 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 the chance, won’t you?
FOR THE APPLESAUCE CAKE:
- 3/4 cup golden raisins
- 2 tablespoons bourbon*
- 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:
- 5 ounces cream cheese softened to room temperature
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter softened
- 1 teaspoon bourbon or milk
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 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 1 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!
- *If you prefer not to use bourbon, you can use orange juice or apple juice.
- 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: 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.
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