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close up on a slice of spice cake

Spice Cake with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Author: Jenna Barnard
  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes + 2 hours cooling
  • Yield: 8" layer cake


This extra moist spice cake is perfectly spiced and coated in a silky brown butter cream cheese frosting.


Spice Cake

  • 2 3/4 cups (350g) all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 2 cups (380g) light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup (200ml) vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 cup (235g) unsweetened apple sauce
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (200g) sour cream, room temperature

Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 cup (220g) unsalted butter
  • 16 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 5 cups (600g) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract



Spice Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and prep (2) 8″ round cake pans. Coat them with a thin layer of nonstick spray and line the bottoms with a round sheet of parchment paper. Wrap in damp cake strips if you have them. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, either mixing by hand with a whisk or an electric mixer, mix together the sugar, oil, and apple sauce until the sugar is evenly moistened.
  4. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla.
  5. Once smooth, mix in half of the dry ingredients until combined. Then mix in the sour cream, followed by the rest of the dry ingredients.
  6. The batter should be fairly thin. Pour it into the two cake pans, filling each about 2/3 full.
  7. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. While the cake bakes, make the brown butter.

Brown Butter

  1. Add the butter to a saucepan over medium heat. Melt it down and continue to stir until it bubbles, foams, and turns a rich amber color (for more details on how to brown butter, click here). Pour the brown butter into a shallow glass dish and chill while the cakes bake.
  2. Once the cakes have baked, allow them to cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Then, flip out on to a cooling rack. If you plan on decorating the cake that same day, transfer the cakes to the refrigerator uncovered to chill completely before frosting. If you are decorating the next day, allow the cakes to cool completely at room temperature. Then wrap each layer in plastic wrap and chill overnight.

Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

  1. Once the cakes are chilled, make the frosting. But first, test the butter. It should now be opaque and firm, but not hard. It should be the consistency of softened butter to where you can easy dig into it with a butter knife. If it’s not there yet, continue to chill.
  2. When it’s ready, add the butter and cream cheese to a large mixing bowl. Mix until smooth, either using a hand or stand mixer with the whisk attachment.
  3. Mix in 1 cup of powered sugar at a time, followed by the vanilla. If it’s still too thin, add 1/2 cup of powdered sugar at a time to thicken. Or, if your home is a bit warm, transfer the frosting to the refrigerator to chill for about 30 minutes to thicken.


  1. When the cakes have completely cooled, level off the tops and slice each layer in half to make 4 thin layers. You don’t have to do this, but I like how it evenly distributes the frosting throughout the cake.
  2. Add a thin layer of frosting between each layer. Once all layers have been stacked, cover the cake in a thin coating of frosting to lock in the crumbs. Place the cake in the refrigerator to chill for 20-30 minutes to allow the frosting to set.
  3. Once chilled, cover the cake with the remaining frosting. Add any decorations you like, such as cinnamon sticks, crumbled cake scraps, or homemade candied nuts.
  4. Place the cake back in the refrigerator to chill until serving. Enjoy!


CAKE PANS – You can also make (3) 6″ cake layers or (2) 9″ cake layers. Just make sure to watch the cook times. It make take closer to 30-35 minutes to bake in larger or multiple pans. Although I haven’t tested it, this batter should make the right amount for a 9×13″ baking dish. Bake at 350F for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Then, only make half of the frosting recipe to spread on top.

SPICES – Cardamom isn’t a spice that’s in everyones kitchen. If you don’t have it on hand, you can leave it out and add 1/4 tsp extra of both cinnamon and ginger to the recipe, or swap it with pumpkin pie spice.

  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes

Keywords: spice cake, brown butter, spice cake recipe, cream cheese frosting

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