Autumn Spice Cake with cream cheese frosting is one of my all-time favorite cakes that I have made for decades. Simmering with warm fall spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves, it’s everything to love about seasonal fall flavor. It’s moist with a tender crumb, and delightfully rich in every bite.
It’s the best time of the year to break out the tantalizing baking scents of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves! But this cake goes the distance. Add in a touch of cocoa powder for richness and brown sugar for slight hints of caramel to further compliment these warm flavors.
But don’t forget about the famous cream cheese frosting. This recipe is the perfect complement. It harmonizes with the cake’s other flavors, and this is one perfect cake you cannot recreate from a box.
Spice cake is a nostalgic fall and winter tradition. It’s an excellent addition to your holiday menu but it can easily be enjoyed any time of year. It’s moist, aromatic, and frankly irresistible.
Ingredients and Notes
Below is an overview of what you will need to make this deliciously spiced, decadent cake!
Flour: All-purpose flour is used in this recipe. I recommend sifting it to prevent any lumps in your batter. You may also use cake flour, although it is not necessary. Cake flour will produce a slightly more light and fluffy texture.
Sour Cream: Regular or lite sour cream is fine. As with most recipes, sour cream may also be substituted with Greek yogurt in equal amounts for a healthier alternative.
Buttermilk: Real buttermilk is BEST for the perfect rise and taste. If you can’t find real buttermilk, you can add 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup. Then, add milk to the 1-cup line (237 ml) and stir. Let sit 5 minutes to thicken.
Brown Sugar: Light brown sugar is recommended but dark brown sugar can be substituted. Dark brown sugar does, however, have a higher moisture content and more acidic nature due to the molasses.
Spices: Make sure to use the best quality & freshest spices. They tend to dull in flavor the older they get. I share lots of tips on how to store spices in this post.
Eggs: I used 3 whole eggs & 2 egg whites in this recipe. They eggs allow your cake to rise and create a slightly dense texture that is perfect for the complex flavors of a spiced cake.
Cocoa Powder: Dutch processed cocoa powder is the best as it will best support the flavors of the spices without adding a chocolate taste.
Baking Soda & Powder: Make sure the baking soda and baking powder are fresh.
Butter/ vegetable oil: This old-fashioned recipe originally had Crisco in it so I kept the moisture and taste by mixing butter and oil. Use unsalted butter that has been softened to room temperature.
If you want the perfect frosting for this cake, I highly recommend this recipe for homemade cream cheese frosting. Tastes amazing and ready in 15 minutes! No store-bought can compare.
Step by Step Recipe Guide
The full instructions are included in the recipe card at the bottom of this post. I include this area for a visual reference to show how the cake comes together.
Prepare Cake Pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour TWO 8×8 cake pans or line the bottom with parchment paper. I draw a circle in the parchment paper using the bottom of the pan and then cut the circle slightly smaller, so it fits inside. (photo 1)
Combine the dry ingredients – flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices. (photo 2)
Cream butter and sugars. In a second large bowl or stand mixer, combine the butter and sugar until well creamed (photo 3), then add the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture a little at a time until just combined.
Add to Cake Pan. This cake is best about ½ inch below the rim so that it has some room to expand. The batter may appear a bit thin if you are not used to homemade cakes.
Spice Cake Sheet Cake Variation
This recipe can easily by converted to a sheet cake recipe with a few simple changes! Sheet cakes are great for gatherings as they are easy to frost, travel well, and feed a crowd!
Prepare the cake batter as directed. Prepare a 9 x 13-inch, deep sided baking dish by greasing the sides and bottom with butter or parchment paper. Pour all of your batter into the prepared pan. Baking as one single, larger cake will increase your cook time by 20-25%, so you will need to allow the cake to bake about 42-45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake.
Quick Tips to Make the Perfect Cake
- If you can’t find real buttermilk, you can add 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup. Then, add milk to the 1-cup line (237 ml) and stir. Let sit 5 minutes to thicken. Truthfully, it doesn’t rise quite as much, but this recipe is very forgiving.
- I recommend using room temperature frosting because it spreads much easier.
- Cakes always frost better if you put them in the freezer for a bit, but they don’t need to be completely frozen. It makes the cakes a little firmer so that the frosting doesn’t pull bits off when you spread it.
Serving & Storage Ideas
Decorating: Truthfully, I am a terrible cake decorator. I own it! And before you say the photos don’t look bad – this cake took me 4 hours just to add frosting. So, I keep it simple. We added some copper food gel to the frosting, faux leaves, blueberries, and a few spices like cinnamon sticks or anise. You don’t need to get that fancy!
Storage: This cake is best served at room temperature because the butter will solidify in the refrigerator and make the cake seem denser.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! This cake can be stored in the freezer prior to frosting. Wrap each layer individually with plastic wrap and store in the freezer up to 2-3 months. Allow the cake layers to thaw overnight in the refrigerator prior to frosting. I don’t recommend freezing the cake after frosting as it may alter the texture of the frosting.
You can definitely make this recipe as cupcakes. Line a cupcake pan with your favorite fall inspired cupcake liners. The recipe as written should make about 20-24 normal sized cupcakes if you fill them ¾ full.
I do this in many of my recipes, but I have not tested it yet in this particular recipe myself. It may slightly alter the texture. You may do a 1:1 swap or substitute half oil and half applesauce.
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PS. If you make this recipe, leave a COMMENT AND A STAR RATING in the comments section at the bottom and be sure to take a photo and tag it #cravingcreative on Instagram! I appreciate you for taking the time to read about me and my family recipes.
- ½ Cup Vegetable Oil
- 1 Cup Unsalted Butter softened
- 1 Cup Brown Sugar
- 1 Cup Granulated Sugar
- 3 Eggs
- 2 Egg Whites
- 1 ½ Cups Buttermilk
- 2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 2 Cups Flour sifted
- ½ Cup Sour Cream
- 2 tablespoon Dutch-processed Cocoa Powder
- 2 tsp Baking Powder
- 1 tsp Baking Soda
- 3 tsp Ground Cinnamon
- 1 tsp Ground Nutmeg
- ½ tsp Ground Allspice
- ¼ tsp Ground Cloves
- Cream Cheese Frosting
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Iine two 9 inch cake pans with parchment paper and lightly butter.
- Cream butter and sugars together until smooth.
- Beat in eggs and egg whites one at a time until smooth and light.
- Stir together buttermilk, vegetable oil, sour cream, and vanilla in a separate bowl.
- Blend sifted flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and spices in a large bowl.
- Alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk mixture into the creamed butter mixture, using a third of each between each addition. Continue adding until all ingredients are combined, blending well between each addition.
- Pour batter equally between the two prepared pans & bake in preheated oven about 35 minutes.
- Remove cakes from oven. Toothpick should come out clean when inserted in the center of cake. The center should feel bouncy but not overly firm.
- Cool cakes in pans for about 30 minutes. Transfer them onto racks and allow to cool completely before frosting.
- 6 cups of my cream cheese frosting recipe will be enough to fully frost this cake. DOUBLE the recipe I’ve provided if you like a heavily frosted cake or need more for decorations.
- How to store cake: Cake should be frosted immediately after cooling, or you can wrap the layers individually and store at room temperature or refrigerator for 1-2 days prior to frosting. Once the cake is frosted, it should be stored in the refrigerator. It can be served chilled or allow to come to room temperature on the counter for up to 2 hours before consuming. Individual cake layers may also wrap and freeze for 2-3 months.