How to Make Apple Spice Cake (with Brown Sugar Frosting!)

Serve up a slice of fall by learning how to make apple spice cake. It's so good, you'll reach for seconds!

From pumpkin spice to cinnamon sugar, fall is full of decadent flavors that warm you from the inside-out. One of our favorite recipes to make when autumn rolls around is this rustic Apple Spice Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting, which makes the most of fall’s best flavors like fresh apple, pumpkin pie spice and toasted walnuts.

This layered cake is so delicious, it inspired our friends over at Bustle to develop a recipe for hand-held, air-fried apple pies with a brown sugar glaze. Be sure to check them out after learning how to whip up this apple spice cake.

How to Make Apple Spice Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting

This rustic apple spice cake recipe comes from Taste of Home reader Jennifer Owen of Louisville, Kentucky. Jennifer says, “I am a healthy eater most of the time, but this apple spice cake is worth the splurge!” And we have to agree. Here are some more indulgent dessert recipes you’ll want to dig into.

Ingredients

  • 4 medium Honeycrisp apples, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1-1/2 pounds)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped walnuts, toasted

Brown Sugar Frosting:

  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped walnuts, toasted

Yield: 16 servings

Tools

  • 2 9-in. round baking pans
  • Parchment paper
  • Knife
  • Food processor
  • 3 large bowls
  • Hand mixer or stand mixer
  • Whisk
  • Toothpick
  • Wire racks
  • Offset spatula

Directions

Step 1: Prepare the Cake Pans

First, preheat your oven to 350°F. Then, prepare your cake pans by lining two 9-inch round baking pans with parchment paper and thoroughly grease the pans. Check out these tips on how to properly grease a cake pan.

Step 2: Chop the Apples

Peel the apples and then chop them into roughly 1-inch cubes, discarding the peels and core. Transfer the apples to a food processor and pulse until they are finely chopped, being sure not to process them too much. You’re looking for the apples to still be a bit chunky, rather than like applesauce.

Step 3: Mix the Cake Batter

In a stand mixer, beat sugar, oil and vanilla together. Add the eggs one at a time until everything is fully combined. If you don’t have a stand mixer, no worries! A hand mixer will work just as good.

Once those ingredients are combined, whisk together the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl. Next, alternatively beat the dry ingredients and buttermilk into the wet ingredients, stopping every so often to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl. When all of the dry ingredients and buttermilk are added, stir in the apple chunks and chopped toasted walnuts.

Editor’s Tip: Toasted walnuts add depth and a wonderful nuttiness to this cake. If you bought raw walnuts by mistake, don’t just toss them into the batter. Instead, learn how to toast nuts with our four easy methods.

Step 4: Bake the Cake Layers

Divide the batter evenly between the two greased cake pans and bake them 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

When the cakes are done, remove from the oven and let them rest on your counter for about 10 minutes. This gives the layers a chance to firm up a bit and will make it easier to remove them from the pans.

After 10 minutes, gently transfer the cake layers to a wire rack, remove the parchment paper and let them rest until they have cooled completely.

Editor’s Tip: Cake baking can be finicky. Read up on the most common cake mistakes, and how to avoid them.

Step 5: Make the Frosting

While the cake is cooling, whip up your brown sugar frosting. In a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the softened cream cheese with the butter, confectioners’ and brown sugar, vanilla and pumpkin pie spice until smooth. Cover and store the frosting in the refrigerator until the cake has cooled.

Editor’s Tip: It might feel unnecessary, but waiting to frost the cake until it has completely cooled is very important. Frosting a warm cake will be messy and cause soft frostings, like this one, to melt off the cake. Also, if brown sugar cream cheese frosting isn’t your favorite, take a look at some of our other homemade frosting recipes.

Step 6: Frost and Decorate the Cake

Place one cake layer on a cake stand or plate and spread about a third of the frosting over it, trying to keep it even. Top with the other cake layer and spread the remaining frosting on the top and sides of the cake. Then sprinkle the remaining toasted walnuts on top of the cake. Get more frosting tips with our guide to frosting cakes.

Step 7: Slice and Serve.

Cut your cake into 16 even slices (we can show you how to cut a cake cleanly) and serve with a mug of tea, fresh coffee or warm apple cider.

Apple Spice Cake Tips

What Is the Best Apple to Use in Apple Cake?

This recipe calls for Honeycrisp apples, but you’re not limited to those. Northern Spy, Fiji and Jazz apples would also work well in this apple cake. This guide to apple varieties can tell you more about which types are best for baking, cooking and eating.

Should You Peel Apples for Apple Cake?

Yes, for this apple cake recipe, you’ll want to peel the apples. If your peeler is on its last leg, check out our Test Kitchen’s pick for the best apple peeler.

How Long Can You Keep Apple Cake

Store any leftover cake in a cake dome or keeper placed in the fridge for up to a week. You can even store a cake in the freezer as long as it’s wrapped in plastic wrap and foil properly.

Now that you’ve mastered this apple spice cake with brown sugar frosting, don’t forget to head over to Bustle to try out their recipe for air-fried, hand-held apple pies with brown sugar glaze.

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Caroline Stanko
As an Associate Digital Editor, Caroline writes and edits all things food-related and helps produce videos for Taste of Home. When she’s not at her desk, you can probably find Caroline cooking up a feast, planning her next trip abroad or daydreaming about her golden retriever, Mac.