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.
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!
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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, reduce the electric mixer (or stand mixer) to a low speed, and gradually add the flour.
Take care not to overmix! For the best applesauce cake with the perfect texture, stop your mixer as soon as the flour disappears.
- Fold in the soaked raisins and chopped walnuts or pecans.
- Pour the batter into a parchment-lined cake pan, and bake applesauce cake 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. 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.
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. 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.
The Best Cake Pan
This high-quality cake pan is easy to clean and promotes even baking. You’ll love using this for many of your favorite cake recipes!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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!
- 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.
Serving: 1(of 10), with frostingCalories: 534kcalCarbohydrates: 76gProtein: 6gFat: 24gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 82mgPotassium: 339mgFiber: 3gSugar: 53gVitamin A: 643IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 89mgIron: 2mg
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