Warm, comforting and flavorful homemade spice cake is the perfect dessert for autumn! This moist cake with the best tender crumb is full of fall spices, layered with a luscious cream cheese frosting then topped with nuts for a treat that is irresistible!
Whether it’s a cozy evening in or a special celebration, making homemade spice cake is the perfect way to treat yourself and your loved ones to a slice of pure bliss during cool fall days or cold winter nights!
With its warm spices of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, this old-fashioned cake may remind you of gingerbread cake or even my favorite pumpkin spice cupcakes. But this dessert holds its own special place on your dessert table this fall with its impressive cake layers full of the best cream cheese frosting!
Baking this cake with both buttermilk and oil keeps it soft for days and the perfect amount of spices will make you keep coming back for another slice! From the perfect combination of flavors to the rich cream cheese frosting to the crunchy nuts on top, this really is the best spice cake recipe!
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Why This is the Best Ever Spice Cake
- Better than a box mix: From the brown sugar which gives this cake a caramel molasses undertone to the perfect blend of autumn spice, this homemade spice cake recipe is so much better than any boxed spice cake mix!
- Flavorful: Warm spices make this moist spice cake the best from ginger and ground cinnamon to spicier nutmeg, cloves and allspice!
- Tender crumb: Cake flour plus vegetable oil give this cake the best moist crumb!
- No applesauce: This cake does not use applesauce but instead relies on buttermilk. The result is a light and fluffy cake with the perfect amount of tang to complement the sweet brown sugar.
- Cream cheese frosting: Rich and luxurious, the cream cheese frosting is satiny smooth and the perfect pair for spice cake!
Spice Cake Recipe Ingredients
For the cake:
- Cake flour: Using cake flour or pastry flour produces a light, tender crumb in this moist cake.
- Baking powder and baking soda: Leavening agents for lift and rise.
- Warm spices: Ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ground cloves add the best fall flavors in spice cake.
- Salt: Enhances the taste of all the ingredients.
- Sour milk: Or you could use buttermilk, this adds a slight tang to balance the sweet flavor and also helps give rise.
- Eggs: One large egg and one egg yolk adds moisture and binding.
- Vanilla extract: Adds another layer of rich flavor.
- Vegetable oil: Using oil helps keep this cake tender and moist. If you prefer you can use melted butter instead.
- Brown sugar: Adds sweet caramel-like taste due to the molasses.
- Walnuts: Used to garnish the cake if desired for an added crunch.
For homemade cream cheese frosting:
- Butter: Softened butter is able to combine fully with the cream cheese.
- Cream cheese: Full fat cream cheese from a block is best to use.
- Powdered sugar: Adds a light, sweet taste to the tangy cream cheese.
- Vanilla extract: To add flavor to the frosting.
- Salt: Just a small amount of salt enhances the icing taste.
- Cream: Whole, heavy or whipping cream that is at least 30% fat content helps make the frosting satiny smooth.
- To make cake flour: For every cup of all purpose flour, remove two tablespoons and replace with two tablespoons of corn starch. Be sure to sift the flour and cornstarch together a couple of times, this way it is sure to be properly combined and lump free.
- Homemade sour milk: To make ½ cup sour milk needed for this spice cake, measure out ½ Tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar in a measuring cup then add enough milk to make ½ cup. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes.
- More or less spice: For a well spiced cake follow the recipe as written. For less spice, decrease the amount of each spice ingredient. You can also use pumpkin pie spice if you wish.
- Garnish: Cinnamon sticks, a sprinkle of cinnamon or candied nuts would also be delicious!
How to Make Spice Cake
I made this cake with thinner layers rather than a regular cake layer, if you prefer thicker layers then double the recipe.
To start making the spice cake, combine dry ingredients including flour, baking powder, baking soda, spice mixture and salt in a medium sized bowl. Whisk to remove any lumps.
Cream oil and sugar in a stand mixer or hand mixer. Add the egg, egg yolk and vanilla and beat to combine.
Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients alternately with sour milk and then continue to beat until smooth and combined.
Pour homemade spice cake batter into greased and floured 8-inch cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
Cool for a bit in the pan then move to a wire rack to cool completely.
Prepare frosting, by beating butter and cream cheese together on medium-high speed until creamy. Lower speed to medium and add powdered sugar a cup at a time beating well after each addition.
Add the salt, cream and vanilla and beat until fluffy.
To frost the cooled cake, place the first layer on a large plate top side down, spread with approximately 1 cup of frosting, place the second cake top side down and frost top of the cake with remaining frosting.
Cover cake with finely chopped nuts.
Cream Cheese Frosting
While this cake would be delicious on its own as a snack cake, since we are making it into a layer cake the tangy cream cheese frosting is the icing on the cake!
- Measure flour accurately: The spoon and level method ensures that you are accurately measuring flour for best results.
- Room temperature ingredients: Room temperature eggs and buttermilk will incorporate better with the other cake ingredients.
- Avoid a dense cake: Only combine wet and dry ingredients until combined to prevent excess gluten from developing.
- Cake strips: To prevent a domed cake use cake strips around the cake pans which helps keep your cake layers flat while baking.
- Parchment paper: Lining your baking pans with parchment paper helps prevent cakes from sticking.
- Cool cake completely: Before frosting your cake ensure it has cooled completely otherwise the cream cheese icing will just melt and slide off!
- Full fat cream cheese: Use full fat cream cheese that has been softened and at least 30% fat heavy cream for the best icing.
Can I make this in a different sized pan?
To make this homemade spice cake in a 13×9 pan, the recipe should be doubled, baking time will be around 40-45 minutes. It should work to make this as in a bundt pan (again double the recipe) and it should take around 40 minutes, but always check for doneness by using the toothpick test. To make cupcakes, bake for around 20 minutes.
How to store leftover cake?
Due to the dairy ingredients in the cream cheese frosting, store leftover cake in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days.
Can I freeze spice cake?
Yes, you can freeze this easy spice cake whole or sliced. To freeze it whole, I recommend doing so before frosting it. Wrap cake layers in plastic wrap then foil. Thaw then proceed with frosting. You can also freeze slices of the spice cake! Just wrap and store in a freeze safe bag for up to 3 months. Thaw and enjoy.
How is spice cake different from carrot cake?
While the spices and cream cheese frosting may remind you of carrot cake this cake does not contain any shredded carrots! So while the flavor profile is similar the cake is different!
Spice Cake is one of my favorite cakes and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! Let me know what you think. Enjoy!
Homemade Spice Cake
FOR THE CAKE
If you prefer a thicker layered cake then double the recipe.
- 1¼ cups cake/pastry flour
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup sour milk (room temperature) or buttermilk
- 1 large eggs (room temperature)
- 1 large egg yolk (room temperature)
- 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- ¾ cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar lightly packed (158 grams total)
FOR THE FROSTING
- ½ cup butter (softened)
- 5 ounces whole fat cream cheese (room temperature)
- 5 cups powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup cream (whole, heavy or whipping cream at least 30% fat content)
- ½-1 cup finely chopped nuts (pecans, walnut or hazelnuts)
- Pre-heat the oven 350F / 180 C. Grease and flour or spray 2 8 inch cake pans.
- In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves and salt.
- In the mixing bowl beat the oil and sugar to combine about 2 minutes, add the eggs and vanilla beat to combine. Alternately add the dry ingredients and the sour milk. Beat until smooth.
- Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs attached. Let cool 20 minutes in pan then move to wire rack to cool completely before, cutting to make a layer cake and frosting.
- To frost the cake, place the first layer on a large plate top side down, spread with approximately 1 cup of frosting, place the second cake top side down and frost with remaining frosting. Cover cake with finely chopped nuts. (maybe do the sides or on top you decide). Enjoy!
FOR THE FROSTING
- In a medium bowl beat together butter and cream cheese on medium-high speed until creamy approximately 1 minute. Lower speed to medium and add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, beat well after each addition. Add the salt, cream and vanilla and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.