Applesauce Cake with Mascarpone Cream Cheese Frosting and Brown Butter Streusel

June  4, 2021
2 Ratings
Photo by CacieWright
  • Prep time 3 hours
  • Cook time 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Serves 12
Author Notes

This cake was inspired by a 1950's applesauce cake recipe that was passed down from my great grandmother to my grandmother (my Maw Maw). With a whiff of this cake baking, I'm suddenly seated at the kid's table on Thanksgiving at my Paw Paw and Maw Maw's house. I can see her setting up this cake on her buffet table, just like she did every year.

As the Thanksgiving dessert set up moved from my Maw Maw's buffet table to my mother's table to my oldest sister's table, this classic recipe has slowly disappeared from the line-up. I wanted to bring this cake into 2021 while still keeping the flavors that take me back to Thanksgiving in my Pawpaw and Mawmaw's home.

I turned this cake from a plain and simple applesauce bundt cake to a three-layer applesauce cake with mascarpone cream cheese frosting and brown butter streusel. I swapped out the raisins for cranberries, decided on toasted walnuts, and made a few other slight changes to modernize this vintage classic.
Cacie Wright

What You'll Need
  • Applesauce Cake
  • 2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon Baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon clove
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 cup (92g) shortening 
  • 1/2 cup (100g) white granulated sugar 
  • 1/2 cup (106g) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup (114g) dried cranberries
  • 1 cup (113g) chopped walnuts
  • 2 eggs, well beaten and at room temperature 
  • 1 cup (255g) applesauce, room temperature 
  • Applesauce (optional)
  • 4 apples
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Mascarpone Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 8 ounces mascarpone, room temperature 
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup (226g or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups (453g) powdered sugar (1 16oz. bag) 
  • Pinch salt
  • Brown Butter Streusel
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (120g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (213g) brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  1. Applesauce Cake
  2. Prepare Applesauce (or use store-bought) 
  3. Peel, core, and chop 4 apples into quarters. 
  4. Combine the apples, cinnamon, vanilla, lemon juice, salt, and water in a heavy pot. 
  5. Cover pot and cook over medium-low heat, occasionally stirring and checking to make sure the apples aren't sticking to the bottom (add a splash of water if they begin to stick), until the apples are very soft but not falling apart; about 25 min. 
  6. Uncover the pot and let the apples cool. 
  7. Working in batches, pass the apples through a food processor or blender until smooth. If the applesauce is a little watery, you can return it to the pot and simmer over medium-low heat until thickened slightly. 
  8. Let cool to room temperature to use in the applesauce cake or place in an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator. 
  9. Prepare the Brown Butter Streusel
  10. With a fork, combine the flour, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon.
  11. Melt butter in a small pot over medium-low heat, stirring and scraping the sides and bottom of the pot occasionally with a rubber spatula.
  12. Once a light layer of small foamy bubbles develops on top of the melted butter, and the butter is nice and brown with small brown bits in it, remove it from the heat. 
  13. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the brown butter, mixing with a fork until evenly distributed and only a few small clumps remain. Let cool. 
  1. Mascarpone Cream Cheese Frosting
  2. Make the Cake
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, 177 degrees Celsius. 
  4. Lightly coat three 8 inch pans with shortening and flour. 
  5. Spread walnuts evenly on a baking sheet and toast, tossing once, for five minutes or until golden brown and fragrant; let cool.
  6. Leave oven at 350 degrees.
  7. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and clove in a large bowl. 
  8. Add the cranberries and toasted walnuts to the flour mixture and stir to incorporate. 
  9. Cream shortening using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 1 minute. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the sides of the bowl and the paddle.
  10. Add both sugars gradually to the shortening and cream together until light and fluffy, stopping twice to scrape the paddle and bowl. Once finished, scrape the paddle and bowl. 
  11. Gradually add the beaten eggs in three additions, mixing until fully incorporated after each addition. Once finished, scrape the paddle and bowl.
  12. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the applesauce in 2 additions, mixing for about 10 seconds after each addition, starting and ending with the flour mixture.
  13. Scrape the paddle and bowl, and give the batter a final gentle stir to make sure all of the ingredients are incorporated.
  14. Using a kitchen scale, scrape and measure an even amount of batter into the 3 prepared pans (I was able to do 550g of batter into each pan, but just be sure each pan has the same amount of batter).
  15. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned, and a cake tester comes out clean. 
  16. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting. 
  17. Mascarpone Cream Cheese Frosting
  18. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the mascarpone, cream cheese, and butter on high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. 
  19. Beat in vanilla extract and salt.
  20. Reduce speed to low and gradually mix in powdered sugar. 
  21. Increase speed to high and beat frosting until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. 
  22. Assemble the Cake
  23. Spread about 3/4 cup frosting evenly on top of the first cake layer. Place the second cake layer, domed side down, on top. 
  24. Spread about 3/4 cup frosting evenly on top of the second cake layer. Place the last cake layer, domed side up, on top. 
  25. Spread a light layer of frosting over the top and sides of the cake.
  26. Chill for 30 minutes to let the frosting set. 
  27. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake.
  28. Take a bench scraper or offset spatula and lightly scrape and smooth out the top and sides of the cake (it doesn't need to be perfect). 
  29. Sprinkle the brown butter streusel on top of the cake, and lightly spread and press the streusel up the sides of the cake. Garnish with cinnamon sticks, if desired. 

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