As we began to approach my son’s second birthday (yay!), we decided that we really wanted to make his cake from scratch and have it be something tailored especially for him. I got on allrecipes.com (love that site) and began searching. I finally came across this “Never Fail Applesauce Spice Cake” and decided that this was the cake for him!
Not only did it sound delicious, it also contained one of his favorite foods… applesauce! Since we make our own applesauce, it was the perfect choice for our cake from scratch. (It was at this point I begrudgingly gave up on the many recipes for German chocolate cake…so delicious…)
Although simple, the applesauce spice cake was such a big hit that when my husband’s birthday rolled around a month later, we decided to make it again! (We may or may not have polished the whole thing off within a matter of days just between the two of us… I’d rather not talk about it.) We’ll just say it’s good.
This recipes yields one 9×13 inch cake or two 9 inch round cakes. When we made ours we did not use the walnuts or pecans the recipe calls for (my husband is not a fan) but I think they would taste amazing in this cake!
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 3/4 cups white sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 1/2 cups applesauce*
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
*If you are going to be making your own applesauce, you will need apples (who would have guessed!?), water, lemon juice, cinnamon, and sugar. (It’s that easy!)
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
First things first, if you are making your own applesauce for this cake, congratulations! Applesauce is one of the absolute easiest things to make and it is pretty much impossible to mess up… that being said, I messed it up once. (I just forgot to add sugar… oops!) So first thing you will want to do is fill a large bowl with cold water and a dash of lemon juice. This will help keep your apple slices from browning a.k.a. oxidizing which is when an enzyme in the apple reacts with oxygen and iron-containing phenols that are also found in the apple. The water reduces the amount of available oxygen while the lemon juice reduces the pH on the surface of the fruit. (Science! See, we aren’t all fun and games around here. Occasionally you learn something too!)
Next thing you need to do is peel all of your apples. I keep a little bowl on the counter for all of my food scraps while I cook/bake that way they are easily transferred to the compost (or trash if applicable.) When I make applesauce, I just make a huge batch knowing that it will be gone within a matter of days. I technically don’t know how many apples it would take to make precisely 1 ½ cups for this recipe. I suggest taking however many apples you have and just do it to it. Trust me; the family will eat whatever is left over from this recipe.
Now that you have your apples peeled, you need to core and slice them. At this point in time is when I always think to myself, “Man, I really need one of those nifty gadgets that will do this step in one fell swoop!” But alas, I do not have one of those gadgets. In all actuality, you will want the slices to be quite a bit thinner than those things will slice so they will cook faster and more thoroughly. So either way, you will need to cut your apples in even, thin slices. (And that about sums up why I have yet to go buy one of those gadgets…) After you have your slices, toss them into the bowl of water!
What was once a bowl full of cold water and lemon juice should now be a bowl full of floating apple slices! (Ooh, magic!) Here’s a picture in case you are wondering what your bowl should look like…
Now you are going to transfer the apple slices from the lemon water to an empty pot. You then are going to fill the pot up with just enough fresh water to cover the top of the apples. It seems slightly redundant, I know.
Before you begin boiling your water to cook the apples, you will want to add some cinnamon. I never measure this part since I am always making different amounts of applesauce; I just sprinkle it on until it looks “right”, meaning evenly coated. I would guess for the 6 apples I cut up, the amount of cinnamon I mixed in was equal to about 4-6 tablespoons. Just sprinkle it in and stir it up until it looks like this…
Turn the burner on and get the water boiling. I would say we usually let our apples cook for about 20-30 minutes. Again, I don’t really have a time frame. I usually just rely on my senses to tell when they are ready. (I am not a cook by any means of the word, and this is about the only thing I make in which this rule applies…) The first thing I notice is the smell. I will be in the next room and smell this glorious aroma reminiscent of baked apple pie. The second indicator is when you look at the apples, they will have that nice brown color (again, think apple pie.) If you scoop a slice out of the pot and wait for it to cool, it should feel soft and should be easily mashed. Lastly, you can try a bite and see if it is the consistency you would like for your applesauce.
If it is to your liking, take the pot off of the burner and set it aside to cool. Now is the time you will go ahead and add your sugar. Again, depending on the size of the batch, the amount of sugar we add varies. I would say we typically add anywhere from ½ cup to 1 ½ cups. If you like more natural flavored, add less (or none), if you like sweeter, add more!
Once you have added your sugar, you will let the apples cool and soak in the water where they will absorb that sugar. We normally let them soak for 15-30 minutes (or however long it takes us to remember that they are still sitting there waiting for us to attend to them.) Once they have cooled a bit, you are going to begin the stress relief. Depending on the consistency of applesauce you prefer, your method may vary. We like our applesauce to be a little more chunky (sounds appetizing, I know…) so we simply place spoonfuls of the slices onto a cutting board and chop away!
We found that our dough scraper actually works great for this step with the sharp edge that cuts through the apples and it’s ability to scrape it all up and easily transfer it to a container. If you like a more smooth consistency you could put the apples in a food processor or if they were soft enough, you could simply put them in a bowl and mash away. Whatever your preference is!
And there you have it! Delicious, homemade applesauce!
Oh yeah… we were making a cake, weren’t we?! So now on to the main event… gather all your dry ingredients, measuring devices, and a large bowl like such…
You are going to take your flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice and mix together in a large bowl.
Now gather your electric mixer and all your wet ingredients…
Mix together the (1/2 cup) butter, buttermilk, and applesauce in a separate mixing bowl.
Beat this mixture for about 2 minutes with an electric mixer on medium speed. It should look like the picture on the left (below.) Don’t worry about it not being very smooth! Now you will take your dry mixture and slowly add it to the wet mixture until thoroughly blended. (See picture on the right.)
Now, beat in the eggs. It would be at this time, if you didn’t have family members who were opposed to an even more delicious cake, you would fold in the chopped walnuts.
You are ready to bake! Grease and flour your pan and then pour the batter (this example shows the 9×13 inch pan, but again, you can also use two 9 inch round pans.)
Bake at 350 degrees F for about 50 minutes. I highly suggest making sure you check on the cake often towards the end, as opposed to my method which involves forgetting you are baking a cake until you hear the beep of the timer and wonder what the noise was.
While your cake is cooling, you can go ahead and mix the frosting! You will mix the confectioners’ sugar, (softened) cream cheese, and vanilla together until smooth.
If you are like us, a.k.a. impatient, hungry, and not thinking clearly, a more experienced professional (like my husband) can hold the stainless steel mixing bowl over the burner to help soften the mixture while he stirs (since we forgot to soften it until it was too late.) It was going well until I had him stop so I could take a picture, at which time the sugar started to burn and produce little clumps… oops. That’s ok, we aren’t picky. I do think there were a variety of other ways in which to accomplish this step that were likely much more logical… I’ll let you be the judge.
Next you will melt 1/4 cup butter over medium heat, and again, if family members do not protest, you can add the chopped pecans now. Keep stirring until browned and then let cool. Now stir the cooled pecans (or in our case, the melted butter only, that I forgot to let cool… ) into the cream cheese mixture until blended.
Frost the cooled cake, let the icing set for a little bit, and then enjoy! (Or continue on the path of unprofessionalism like us and just cut that thing up and eat it right away!)
And just so you can see the reaction and know it was “kid tested”…