Applesauce Spice Cake

Mitchell Davis

James Beard Foundation, NYC

"Here's a recipe for a traditional American spice cake that's super moist and an excellent way to use up leftover applesauce, or even any jam or marmalade you have lying around. (You can also use up any jam that has crystallized.)" –Mitchell Davis


One 8-inch square cake, about 9 servings


Chunky Applesauce:
  • 4 or 5 cooking apples, such as Northern Spy, Golden Delicious, Cortland, Rome, Braeburn, Gala, McIntosh, or a combination, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch dice
  • 1/4 cup apple cider, cranberry juice, pomegranate juice, orange juice, or water
  • 2 tablespoons granulated or brown sugar (optional)
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of kosher salt
Spice Cake:
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the pan, at room temperature
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup chunky applesauce
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk, regular milk, thin yogurt, or cream
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (optional)
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)


To prepare the applesauce, in a medium saucepan, combine the apples, cider, sugar, if using, lemon juice, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Cover and set over low heat. Simmer slowly for 20 to 25 minutes, until the apples are soft. Mash with a fork to a chunky purée. Adjust the seasoning with salt, lemon juice, and cinnamon, to taste.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Grease and flour an 8-inch square baking pan and set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Set aside. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or by hand, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and the applesauce and beat until smooth. Mix in about half of the dry ingredients, and just before they are blended, add the buttermilk. Stir in the remaining dry ingredients and the walnuts and/or raisins, if using. Be sure the batter is well blended, but don't overmix.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, smooth out the top, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cake has risen, set, browned, and pulled away from the sides of the pan. The top should spring back when pressed with your fingertips. Remove from the oven, let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, and then unmold onto a rack to finish cooling completely.


Substitute 1 cup jam—such as raspberry, strawberry, blackberry, or orange marmalade—for the applesauce and proceed with the recipe as directed. The cake may take an extra few minutes to bake.