This is hands down the BEST spice cake recipe. It’s incredibly moist, perfectly spiced, and coated in a silky brown butter cream cheese frosting. It’s an absolute show stopper and never fails to impress. Take it a step further and add candied nuts on top…both for decoration and for snacking!
What makes this the best spice cake recipe?
I know it’s a pretty big claim to say that my spice cake recipe is the best, but it is just too good not to be. Each cake layer is so moist and packed full of flavor. And because it’s baked with oil instead of butter, this cake stays moist for days after it’s baked.
But the cream cheese frosting is the real star of the show. Made with brown butter, this frosting has a slightly nutty and warm flavor that pairs perfectly with the many spices in this cake. Trust me, after making this cake you’ll never want another spice cake without it.
What spices are in spice cake?
Most spice cake recipes include your traditional warms spices. It’s a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. These are all of your classic spices that are perfect for fall and winter baking. Some might also add cardamom, all spice, or even pumpkin pie spice.
For my recipe, I went with a combination of traditional and unique spice. With the addition of cardamom, it adds an extra hint of flavor that’s unexpected but perfectly blends in with the rest of the spices.
Another flavor added in spice cake recipes is apple. It’s very common to include apple sauce because not only does it add moisture, but it works so well together with the spices.
Tips for baking a moist spice cake
The cake batter is very easy to make, but here are a few tips to keep in mind to ensure your spice cake turns out just right:
- Don’t overmeasure the flour. To ensure you use the exact amount needed, gently spoon the flour into your measuring cup and level if off with a flat edge. If you scoop directly into the flour container, it pacts it down into the cup which could leave you with 1/4 cup or more of added flour. This will create a dry and crumbly cake.
- Use room temperature ingredients. Anything that’s chilled in this recipe, like the eggs and sour cream, try to bring them up to room temperature before adding to the batter. This won’t make or break the recipe, but using room temperature ingredients ensures that the cake will bake more even.
- If you have them, use cake strips. Cake strips are pieces of fabric that are dampened and wrapped around the cake pans before baking. The moisture prevents the outside edges of the pan from heating up too quickly. This allows the outer edges and center of the cake to bake at a more even rate.
- Evenly distribute the batter between the two cake pans. This is a no brainer, but it’s also very important. If one cake is overfilled and the other under filled, the two cakes will need to bake at different times. One has the potential to over bake and dry out, whereas the other one may turn out raw and sunk in the middle.
- Always test with a toothpick to be sure. Even if you think they’re done, test with a toothpick anyway. Especially with this recipe, the center can look puffed but it may still need a few extra minutes to completely bake in the center.
Once the cakes have baked, allow them to cool COMPLETELY before assembling. If they’re still even just a bit warm, the frosting will melt on the cake and cause the layers to slip and slide right off.
How to make brown butter cream cheese frosting
I could just dive right into that bowl of cream cheese frosting. The flavor is just TOO good!
To make this type of frosting, first you must brown the butter. I have a blog post all about how this works so I recommend checking that out if you’ve never browned butter before.
But to keep it short and sweet, simply melt the butter down in a saucepan over medium heat. Keep stirring until it turns from melted, to bubbling and sputtering, to foaming. You’ll know it’s almost ready when it reaches the foaming stage and the butter falls silent.
Pour the butter into a shallow glass dish (scraping in the brown bits at the bottom of the pot) and place it in the refrigerator. By the time the cakes have baked and chilled, the brown butter should be at the perfect consistency.
That consistency should be opaque and firm, but not too hard. You should be able to easily dig a knife into it without applying too much pressure (like the image above). If it’s still too soft or liquid, keep chilling. If it’s too firm, leave it at room temperature until it’s softened.
Next, add the butter to the cream cheese frosting mixture and mix until smooth. The next steps of this process are very straight forward, but if you find the frosting is too thin it could be because the cream cheese and/or butter were a bit TOO soft to start out with. If that’s the case, chill the buttercream for about 30 minutes to thicken before adding to the cake.
Prepping the cake layers
Once the cakes have cooled, start by leveling off the tops. I use a cake level to make this process much easier. They should have puffed up in the very center, but not too tall so there won’t be too much waste. Or, you could use the cake scraps to crumble on top as decoration.
After they’re leveled, you have the option to slice each cake in half to create 4 thin layers. I prefer this because it gives you a better frosting to cake ratio for each slice. If you’d prefer just two thick cake layers, you can leave the layers as is.
How to make candied nuts for spice cake decorations
I don’t know what I love more about this cake, the frosting or the candied nuts on top…mainly for side snacking purposes. They take this cake over the top but are such a simple added step. You can use any nuts you like but my favorites for this spice cake are pecans and/or walnuts.
I have a separate post all about how to make homemade candied nuts. I recommend cutting this recipe in half, splitting the single egg white in half as best as you can. After that, just coat the nuts in cinnamon sugar, roast, and they’re good to go.
For more fall dessert recipes, check out my:
- Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake
- Apple Cider Bundt Cake
- Caramel Apple Muffins
- Pumpkin Bread with Maple Glaze
- Deep Dish Apple Pie
Make sure to tag me @butternutbakery on Instagram and comment below if you make this Spice Cake recipe. To pin this recipe and save it for later, you can use the button on the recipe card or on any of the photos above. Happy baking!Print