January 25, 2023

Apple Spice Cake


by Hattie Sandy

Field Kitchen Manager

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I come from a family of bakers and chefs.

My grandma would never sit down and eat with the rest of us because she was always serving at every meal. She had a china cabinet full of homemade caramels, turtles, pralines, and chocolate-covered cinnamon bears, plus plates of buckeye peanut butter balls and other treats scattered all over her house. My mother was an amazing cook too. People don’t believe me when I tell them, but throughout my whole childhood I never saw Mom make the same meal twice, unless it was to improve on a dish she wasn’t satisfied with.

I started baking at age four or five, and my favorite things to make were mostly desserts. Every Sunday from the age of eight I would make a cake or try a new recipe for brownies, cake pops, truffles, or some other sweet. In college I was known for my s’mores brownies, and my former roommates still ask about them.

For Thanksgiving 2021, a group of my friends agreed to meet at a cabin in Heber and bring something homemade to share. I decided to try a recipe for dense apple spice cake that looked and sounded delicious. The kitchen at the cabin was way too small, and we were missing a lot of tools, but the recipe still worked. In fact, it’s one of the few recipes that I will go back and make again and again. It’s not only delicious and satisfying, but it’s one of those desserts that makes people go “Oh, wow!” when you unveil it.

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Apple Spice Cake

  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp cloves
  • ¼ tsp allspice
  • ½ stick butter, room temperature (¼ cup)
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ¾ cup unsweetened applesauce

Vanilla Bean Buttercream

  • 2 sticks butter, room temperature (1 cup)
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste, or extract from vanilla bean pods
  • 5-7 cups powdered sugar

Caramel Drizzle

  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp butter, unsalted
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1 Tbsp water


Caramel Drizzle

(Be sure to prepare your caramel drizzle sauce in advance because it needs to cool before adding it to the cake.)

  1. Combine cream, butter, and salt in a medium pan, and warm over low heat until salt crystals are dissolved. When crystals are completely gone, remove from heat, add vanilla, and set aside.
  2. Combine sugar, corn syrup, and water in a medium-large pot over medium-high heat. Swirl occasionally until liquid reaches a golden color.
  3. Reduce heat to low and stir in cream mixture until smooth. Then remove from heat. At first, mixture will seem thin, but it will thicken as it cools.

Apple Spice Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F.
  2. Using butter, grease the bottom and sides of a 6-inch round cake pan or springform pan and line the bottom with a round piece of parchment paper. In order to ensure even baking, place a bake even strip around the pan. (If you don't have a bake even strip, then you can make your own by cutting a towel or shirt to fit the size of your pan. Get the fabric really wet, then squeeze out the dripping water. While the fabric is wet but no longer dripping, wrap it around the pan and secure it with a safety pin.)
  3. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. Stir until well mixed.
  4. In a larger bowl, combine the butter and brown sugar and beat using an electric mixer until creamy, about 1 minute.
  5. Add in the egg and beat again with mixer. Add in the applesauce and mix by hand with a spatula. Gradually add in the flour mixture, mixing by hand until it’s incorporated.
  6. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan, then use a spatula to spread it evenly.
  7. Bake for 23-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. Once the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan on a cooling rack. After 10 minutes, carefully remove the cake from the pan. Allow the cake to cool completely on a cooling rack, then remove the parchment paper. If you need to level the top of your cake, do so now using either a cake lever or knife. When the cake is completely cooled, wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator. This cake is good for up to one week like this.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream

  1. While cake is cooling, combine the butter and vegetable shortening in a large bowl. Beat using an electric mixer for 2 minutes until fluffy.
  2. Add in the vanilla paste, then beat using electric mixer.
  3. Begin to add the powdered sugar, about 1-2 cups at a time, mixing by hand first, then with the electric mixer. Continue adding powdered sugar until the frosting tastes good to you.


  1. First, spread a small amount of buttercream on a 6-inch round cardboard cake circle. Then place your first layer of cake on top of the cardboard. Put buttercream on top of the first layer and spread it as even as possible with an offset spatula. (I use 1/3 to 1/2 cup of frosting between each layer, but you can decide how much frosting you want.)
  2. Second, repeat this process for each layer of cake. Once all of the layers are stacked and frosted, spread some frosting on the top of the cake.
  3. Third, go back and fill in any gaps between the cake layers with more frosting. The frosting between the layers does not need to look perfect, so don't overstress. Use a small offset spatula to get the frosting in between the layers and to spread it around the cake. Don’t completely cover the cake layers because they are supposed to still be visible.
  4. Place the entire cake in the freezer or fridge for 20 minutes in order to harden the buttercream.
  5. Once the caramel sauce is cooled, use a spoon to drizzle the caramel around the center and sides of the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides.
  6. Finally, add cinnamon sticks or another garnish to the top of the cake for decoration.
  7. At last, you're ready to serve and enjoy.

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