This one-layer Spice Cake Recipe is loaded with warm spices and topped with a luscious cream cheese frosting. Full of the same flavors that you find in pumpkin pie make this a perfect fall dessert.

Plus, this Applesauce Spice Cake is baked in an 8 x 8-inch pan, making it snack cake-sized so it can be devoured in no time! The additions of applesauce, oil, and buttermilk make it super moist and tender!

Two slices of frosted spice cake on square white plates.

Why You Must Make

  • It’s super moist and makes the house smell amazing as it bakes!
  • The cream cheese frosting turns it from a cozy dessert to a decadent indulgence.
  • Spice cake is the perfect autumn dessert. The same warm spices that are in pumpkin pie flavor this snack cake.
  • It’s made in an 8×8-inch pan so it’s perfect for times you don’t need a huge dessert.
Tray of labeled ingredients for a spice cake.

Ingredient Notes

  • Baking Powder – This leavening agent is different from baking soda. It often expires in your pantry, so check the expiration date. To be extra cautious, you can test it by placing a spoonful in some very hot water. If active, it will bubble vigorously.
  • Dark Brown Sugar – The extra molasses added to dark brown sugar deepens the color and makes baked goods moister. You can make dark brown sugar by adding 1 tablespoon of molasses to a cup of light brown sugar. Mix and repeat if more than a cup is needed.
  • Vegetable Oil – Canola oil is my vegetable oil of choice. Don’t use olive oil as it’s too flavorful. You want a neutral-flavored vegetable oil.
  • Buttermilk – If you’re in a pinch,  you can make a buttermilk substitute. Add 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar, white vinegar, or lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup. Then fill to the 1 cup mark with whole or 2% milk. Stir, then wait 5 minutes before using.
A slice of applesauce spice cake topped with 2 pecan on a round white plate with a red handled fork.

Expert Tips

  • Have your eggs at room temperature for the best incorporation. The buttermilk should be brought out of the refrigerator ahead of time, too, so it’s not ice cold.
  • PRO-Tip: Make sure your baking powder is fresh as it often expires before it’s used up. Check the expiration date as it often expires before you use it up. You can check by putting a spoonful into very hot water. It should bubble vigorously if it is still active.
  • If you’re using the same spices you were using 5 years ago, consider replacing them. They most likely have lost some potency over the years.
  • Put a square of parchment in the bottom of the baking pan before greasing, then grease the top of the parchment and sides of the pan. This will prevent the bottom of the cake from sticking to the pan.
  • PRO-Tip: Use a flour and oil spray like Baker’s Joy to grease the pan. It’s easier than greasing and then dusting with flour.
  • Check with a toothpick for doneness. All ovens bake differently, so make sure there’s no batter on the toothpick before you remove the cake from the oven.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Is It Called Spice Cake?

The spice cake gets its name because it’s flavored with 4-5 warm spices. Most other cakes contain only one or two spices if any.

What Spices Go Into a Spice Cake?

Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves are almost always in spice cakes. Allspice and cardamom are two others that can be used.

What Is Spice Cake Made Of?

Besides the usual flour, sugar, and eggs there is also dark brown sugar, baking powder and soda, oil, applesauce, buttermilk, and 4 spices.

How Should You Store a Spice Cake?

Since it’s so moist, it’s best to store it covered in the refrigerator. It should be brought to room temperature to serve. It will stay fresh for 4-5 days.
It can also be kept in the freezer in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

What is a Snack Cake?

The phrase “snack cake” may conjure up thoughts of plastic-wrapped Hostess or Little Debbie treats, but it also refers to homemade cakes. A snack cake or snacking cake is usually a one-bowl cake, that’s more informal than a layer cake and is made with simple ingredients.
Generally, it’s a single-layer cake with no topping or a very simple frosting. Snack cakes are baked in round or square cake pans.

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A slice of applesauce spice cake topped with 2 pecan on a round white plate with a red handled fork

Spice Cake Recipe

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Yield 9

An easy, moist spice snack cake recipe.



  • 1 ¼ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil like canola oil
  • ½ cup plain applesauce
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla


  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla


  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Spray an 8x8-inch baking pan with a flour and oil nonstick spray and line the bottom with a square of parchment paper. Spray the top of the parchment and set it aside.
  3. Sift all the dry ingredients (the flour through all the spices) into a large mixing bowl. Whisk to combine. Set aside.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and brown sugar until well combined. Add the oil and whisk until incorporated.
  5. Add the applesauce, buttermilk, and vanilla and whisk together.
  6. Using a silicone spatula, slowly add the flour mixture, mixing just until the batter is smooth and well combined.
  7. Scrape into the prepared pan.
  8. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 30-40 minutes.
  9. Cool completely on a rack.
  10. When ready to frost the cooled cake, add the cream cheese and butter to a mixer fit with a paddle attachment.
  11. Beat until smooth, then add the vanilla and mix until combined
  12. Slowly add the powdered sugar until combined, then increase the mixer to high speed and beat until light and fluffy.
  13. Frost the top of the cake.


Cover and store the cake in the refrigerator.

Bring out an hour before serving to bring the cake to room temperature.

Recipe adapted from Pretty. Simple. Sweet.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 387Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 68mgSodium: 307mgCarbohydrates: 52gFiber: 1gSugar: 37gProtein: 5g occasionally offers nutritional information for recipes contained on this site. This information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only. This information comes from online calculators. Although attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased can change the nutritional information in any given recipe. Also, many recipes on recommend toppings, which may or may not be listed as optional and nutritional information for these added toppings is not listed. Other factors may change the nutritional information such as when the salt amount is listed “to taste,” it is not calculated into the recipe as the amount will vary. Also, different online calculators can provide different results. To obtain the most accurate representation of the nutritional information in any given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information obtained is accurate.


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