Dessert is my favorite meal of the day. Winter, the “holiday season” specifically, is my favorite time of the year because everyone is making and requesting sweets. The only thing that puzzles me about this season is that, with all the holiday delicacy just waiting to be enjoyed, people get hung up on cookies for some reason. I love cookies, but this cake is a lovely alternative to all that “holiday cookie” baking going on these days.
It is filled with the scents and flavors of fall and winter: cinnamon (my favorite spice), nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and apples.
I found this recipe on Gourmet.com in October 2009. I followed the recipe exactly the first time I made it and have since altered it to my liking. I add nutmeg and I leave the cream cheese frosting plain, I think it is a nice balance to the full flavor of the cake.
I make this cake year-round because I love the flavor, and the applesauce makes for an extremely moist cake. I have already made it twice this season and will definitely be making it several more times before winter is finished. It is best served at room temperature or slightly cooled.
Applesauce Spice Cake
For the cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup toasted, chopped walnuts (optional) OR
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
For the frosting
Make sure your cream cheese is at room temperature; cold cream cheese does not mix well and ends up with little lumps.
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup confectioners sugar (more or less to taste)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in middle position.
Grease 8-inch square cake pan
-Whisk dry ingredients together
-In a separate bowl beat butter, brown sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy
-Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in applesauce
-Add flour mixture and mix until just combined
-Stir in walnuts or raisins, if using. (Save a few to top the frosting).
-Spread batter evenly in pan and bake until golden-brown and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 45-55 minutes.
-Cool in pan 15 minutes then move to a wire rack to cool completely
-Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla with an electric mixer until fluffy
-Beat in confectioners sugar (adding more if you like sweeter frosting) until smooth
-Spread frosting over cooled cake.
-If using walnuts or raisins, sprinkle a few on top of the frosting for a little decoration.