An easy spice cake recipe with old fashioned flavor from cloves, cinnamon and allspice, topped with a simple cream cheese frosting with added caramel.
Is there anything better than fall and winter flavors for cakes? I think not. Be gone, boring chocolate and vanilla. This type of year we are baking pumpkin and gingerbread, molasses and peppermint, and the ever popular spice. This recipe is everything you love about warm fall spices, without being too much. The texture is super light and moist, and the icing is perfect. Not too sweet with a hint of caramel.
This old fashioned spice cake is made totally from scratch but mixes up just as quickly as something from a boxed mix. I always find vegetable oil based cakes to be softer and moister than butter-based cakes, so I started with vegetable oil and plenty of sugar to get the texture I was looking for.
This recipe calls for cake flour, but if you don’t have any, you can substitute a mix of all purpose flour and cornstarch to get a similarly soft texture.
The spices are not overpowering, but you can definitely taste them. This is something that can be adjusted to your taste and you can absolutely increase the spices by about 25% if you prefer a more intense spice flavor.
You may notice that there is no molasses in this recipe. I found that adding molasses made the cake taste more like a gingerbread, even though I love that flavor and love the color is added, I wanted the flavor of the spices to shine through.
The classic pairing for spice cake is cream cheese frosting, and this recipe adds a little jarred caramel sauce for a super delicious combination.
Baking the spice cake, step by step
Go ahead and preheat the oven to 350 and prepare your cake pans. You can do this as a sheet cake or 2 eight inch rounds. I line the pan with parchment paper and then spray the parchment with cooking spray. If you’ve ever had a cake ruined by sticking to the pan, you know this is NOT overkill!
Then simply beat the oil and sugar on medium speed in a large mixing bowl and add the eggs, one by one, making sure the batter is well blended after each egg.
In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice.
Add the dry ingredients to the sugar mixture in in three additions, alternating with the milk. The batter will be thin.
Pour into the prepared pans and bake for 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Immediately cool on wire racks. Do not frost until completely cool. These usually bake flat, but if they are domed at all you can slice them a little.
To make the frosting
Make sure you start with well softened cream cheese and butter for easily blending and no lumps.
Start by beating the butter and cream cheese together, then add the caramel sauce and the vanilla.
Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time and blend until well combined.
If you are looking for an “authentic” stovetop caramel icing, that works with this cake too. See my caramel Bundt cake recipe for my favorite caramel icing.
Assembling the spice cake
To be perfectly honest with you, decorating cakes is not really my thing. (Obviously.) But if you start with a cooled cake with flat layers, you’ll be fine.
Make sure the icing is not so soft that it would slide off the cake. If you want to firm it up a little, pop it in the fridge for fifteen minutes.
Then simply layer frosting in between the cake layers, and frost the sides and top.
Spice cake is best when made a day ahead of time to let the spice flavor intensify.
More fall desserts you’ll like:
- Pumpkin sheet cake with cream cheese frosting is just as simple and delicious (very similar recipes, actually!)
- Soft molasses cookies have the same spices and are always a hit
- If you are more in the apple mood, Caramel Apple Cobbler is another simple, from scratch fall dessert.
- And for a fall party, a fall sangria with pear vodka is never a bad idea!
Here’s the recipe!
Old Fashioned Spice Cake with Caramel Frosting
- Spice cake
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2 1/4 cups cake flour see notes for substitutions
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1 cup milk
Caramel cream cheese frosting:
- 8 ounces cream cheese softened
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter softened
- 1/3 cup jarred caramel sauce
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in the center. Prepare cake pan with parchment and/ or baking spray.
- Beat the sugar and vegetable oil with an electric mixer on medium speed in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, blending well after each.
- In a separate mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
- Add the milk and dry ingredients to the sugar mixture, alternating between the milk and the flour mixture. Mix on low until just combined. Batter will be thin.
- Pour cake batter into prepared pans and bake 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool on wire rack completely before frosting. Frost and refrigerate until serving.
- If you don’t have cake flour, you can substitute 2 cups of all purpose flour and 1/4 cup of cornstarch
- Like many recipes with spices, this cake is best when made a day before serving.
- This recipe will fit in a 10 x 15 jelly roll pan or 2 (8 inch) round or square cake pans.