Spicy applesauce cake

Spicy applesauce cake DSC 2940

My great-grandma Blanche loved applesauce cake. In fact, her recipe collection has no less than five versions of this classic snack cake, all of them different. So when I decided to make my own applesauce cake recently, I knew where to turn for inspiration. But as I went through her cards, it was a challenge deciding which one to choose.

Her stack of recipes is a motley collection of scribbles found on index cards, insurance company letterhead, and torn pieces of notebook paper. They’re smudged with various spots and splatters, which tells me that the recipes were tested and loved. While sometimes her directions aren’t exactly clear, if I spend enough time looking at them I can usually figure out what to do.

Spicy applesauce cake | Homesick Texan

In the case of her applesauce cakes, several of them required the cook to make the applesauce from scratch while others called for shortening. These didn’t appeal to me as to make them would require a trip to the store and I wanted to work with what I had on hand. As I kept reading through her cards, at last I found one that used prepared applesauce and butter, two things already in my refrigerator. This was the one, this was a keeper.

When I went to assemble the rest of the ingredients for the cake, I was surprised to see that there weren’t any eggs in the recipe nor was there any liquid, such as milk or buttermilk. The cake instead just called for sugar, butter, applesauce, flour, raisins, spices, and baking soda. There was also little guidance as the only directions were to mix the soda with applesauce. No oven temperature was given, no time for how long to bake, nor any other hints though she did say that the recipe yielded 12 two-inch pieces.

While I wasn’t sure if this recipe was a fragment or the real deal, I was curious to see how a cake without eggs or milk would turn out and since my great-grandma had never let me down before I proceeded in good faith. I followed Great-Grandma Blanche’s list of ingredients, adding some chopped pecans for crunch and a spoonful of ground ancho chile powder for its earthy heat.

Spicy applesauce cake | Homesick Texan

The batter came together easily, and I baked it in a skillet at 350 degrees, since most of her other cake recipes called for this temperature. For baking time, I decided to start with 40 minutes for the time and then see how far I needed to go from there.

A few minutes after sliding the skillet in the oven, my home was filled with the honeyed scent of baked apples and warm spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. The time passed quickly and when I pulled the cake out of the oven it had risen (which I wasn’t sure if it would do) and had a gorgeous caramelized brown tone. I stuck a knife into the center and it came out clean. The cake was done.

After letting it cool, I cut a slice and the cake was tender with a compact crumb neither crumbly nor velvety but somewhere in between. I took a bite and it was soft and flavorful with the chile, spices, pecans, and juicy sweet raisins making each bite lively. It was also moist enough that no icing was needed.

Spicy applesauce cake | Homesick Texan

Wanting to make something simple and sweet, this spicy applesauce cake just might be my new favorite thing. And if you’re looking for a quick and easy snack cake, it may become your new favorite thing, too.

Spicy applesauce cake DSC 2940
5 from 1 vote

Spicy applesauce cake

Servings 12
Author Lisa Fain


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ancho chile powder (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon ground clove
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • ½ cup chopped pecans


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease a large oven-proof skillet or a 9-inch square baking pan.

  2. In a mixing bowl, with a wooden spoon cream together the sugar and butter until well combined. Stir in the flour, ancho chile powder, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Stir together the baking soda and applesauce then add it to the batter. Stir until well combined then stir in the raisins and pecans.

  3. Spread the cake batter into the skillet then bake uncovered for 40-45 minutes or until browned and an inserted knife comes out clean. Serve warm. Will keep covered for 3 days.

  1. When you said there was no liquid, I was wondering if you were going to melt the butter, but I see you didn’t! It’s great that these incomplete recipes are like puzzles for you to figure out.

    • Lisa Fain

      Yes–it was a fun mystery! And while I suppose I could have melted the butter, the cake turned out fine with the butter simply softened.

  2. I’m intrigued. I wonder about using some of your ancho chile applesauce in this recipe? I will try it this year since I make that applesauce every fall.

    • Lisa Fain

      Debbie–That was my inspiration fir adding ancho chile powder to the cake so yes, I think that would work very well!

  3. Sounds delicious! I love heirloom recipes! Enjoy your blog!

  4. My husband saw this yesterday and just sat and stared at the cake for a long time…so I am making it for him today and posting about you on my blog. We also loved the foods shown on your drive through Texas.

  5. Bell Moore

    Thanks for sharing, can’t wait to try your recipe! I made and apple pie yesterday, need to finish it before I make your cake. ?

  6. Deborah Silverman

    This sounds yummy! Can this recipe be halved? I know, I should just make it as shown and give it all away but one slice!

    • Lisa Fain

      Deborah–Yes, the recipe can easily be halved. I’d probably bake it in a 4 or 5-inch skillet.

  7. Celeste Lipp

    Oh yum! I love a spice cake. They’re festive, somehow.

  8. Dan Mills

    I made 3 of these today and they were great.

    • Lisa Fain

      Dan–That’s wonderful news! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the cakes.

  9. Pam Wood

    I made the cake this morning. Smelled wonderful while baking. Omitted the chili; friend who is coming over has issues with chili. Doesn’t believe jalapenos upon occasion may be added to cornbread. Nice person and grew up in Iowa so what can I say? Waiting for it to cool.

  10. Lisa Fain

    Pam–It’s just as delicious without the chile! And I sure do love jalapeños in my cornbread.

  11. Erica Lea | Buttered Side Up

    That is so neat that you were able to recreate your great-grandma’s recipe! <3

  12. Thank you for sharing the applesauce cake recipe. It is so good and easy. I made it after a long and intense day of work. It was nice to have a recipe that I could put together in no time. The house smelled so good while the cake baked and what a reward to have such a tasty dessert.

    • Lisa Fain

      Carol–A slice of warm applesauce cake sounds like a fine reward after a long and intense day. Glad it made you happy!

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