Make Ahead

Applesauce Cake With Caramel Glaze

July 22, 2021
4.7 Stars
Author Notes

Having made a giant batch of applesauce this fall (unpeeled apples, a pinch of salt, lemon juice, and nothing else), I realized last week that what was left would probably ferment if I didn't do something with it, and quick. So, I decided to whip up one of my favorite desserts, a spiced applesauce cake. Previously, I've made a fresh ginger glaze for it that tastes delicious but sort of curdles and doesn't look all that pretty. This time, I found inspiration in a rich, sweet, Southern-stye caramel icing from Craig Claiborne's New York Times Cookbook, which I've made a few times for other cakes. But I wanted a true glaze, not an icing, so off to the interwebs I went.

Imagine my delight when I came across the perfect recipe on the blog of our very own TheRunawaySpoon! I adapted the measurements slightly, as I found I needed a little less powdered sugar to keep my glaze runny enough to drizzle, and it turned out to be the perfect complement to this tender, spiced and just slightly sweet cake. Thank you, TheRunawaySpoon, for your help.

Note: If you're serving this cake to demanding or hyper-observant guests (What? Did I say that?), you may want to glaze the cake right on the plate you plan to use to serve it, forgoing the rack. As soon the glaze has even the slightest chance to set, it will crack if you try to transfer the cake from the rack to a serving plate. —Merrill Stubbs

Test Kitchen Notes

What's one of the best things you can do after hauling a bunch of freshly picked apples home from the orchard? Make a bunch of homemade applesauce, of course! Then what's the best thing you can do with all of that applesauce? Make this amazing applesauce cake, of course! This is one of our favorite fall-forward cakes that you can also definitely make with store-bought applesauce if that's what you have on hand, but homemade puts it over the top. The cake is super-easy to put together: Simply cream the eggs with sugar, add the applesauce, oil, vanilla, fold into the dry ingredients, then let the cake bake away in the oven. The glaze takes a little more accurate timing, but TheRunawaySpoon, who developed the recipe, gives great visual cues and you should have no problem getting it to the perfect consistency. It's what helps make this recipe a showstopper of a dessert. But if you don't have the time or don't feel like making the glaze, the cake is wonderful all on its own. Simply dust with powdered sugar before serving.

You'll love the taste and texture, as well as the fact it's both comforting and sweet. Per the comments, the cake is also very forgiving with spice substitutions, and many have added chopped apples to the batter, which gives it even more fall-like flavor. One even used cranberry sauce instead of applesauce to great success! Feel free to experiment with what works best for you and let us know how it turns out. —The Editors

Watch This Recipe
Applesauce Cake With Caramel Glaze
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 50 minutes
  • Serves 10
Ingredients
  • Cake
  • Unsalted butter, for the pan
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened (preferably homemade) applesauce
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Caramel Glaze
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup (or more) heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup (or more) sifted powdered sugar
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Make the cake: Heat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, ginger, salt, black pepper, and allspice. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until light and airy. Mix in the applesauce, oil, and vanilla until smooth.
  2. Using a spatula, fold in the dry ingredients, being careful not to overmix. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan set on a wire rack before turning it out and letting it cool completely on the rack—make sure the cake isn't at all warm before you make the glaze.
  3. Make the glaze: If desired, place a piece of foil or parchment under the wire rack to catch any drips before you start the glaze. In a medium saucepan, combine the brown sugar, cream, butter, and salt and set over medium heat. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly, and boil for 1 minute exactly. Remove from the heat.
  4. Let cool for a couple of minutes, then gradually whisk in the powdered sugar until you have a thick but pourable consistency (you may not need all of the sugar). If the mixture seems too thick, add a splash of cream to thin it out a little. Immediately pour the glaze over the cake, moving slowly and evenly to cover as much surface area as possible. Let the glaze set before serving.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Pamela Turner
    Pamela Turner
  • elisaung
    elisaung
  • helicopterina
    helicopterina
  • Jen Hayes
    Jen Hayes
  • Franca
    Franca

129 Reviews

Russtipher December 26, 2021
I made this for Christmas. It was my first baking experience. I couldn't be happier with the result. My wife loves it, and so do I.
 
Pamela T. November 1, 2021
I made this cake last year and loved it, but had forgotten to add my review. I bought apples to make applesauce and this cake sprang to mind for a repeat performance. Though wile the applesauce was roasting and I started to gather the cake ingredients, I realized that 1) I only had dark brown sugar, 2) I had run out of vegetable oil and 3) we were also out of cream. For anyone else faced with this dilemma but you are still desperately wanting cake, you might be interested to know that grape seed oil seemed to be a reasonable substitution for vegetable oil and dark brown sugar seemed to deepen the spice notes (if my memory of the year prior is reliable) and lastly, using sour cream instead of cream for the glaze was very tasty, with a bit of added tanginess that worked with the overall caramelized sweet profile.
 
Anne B. October 19, 2021
This is a very yummy cake. I made my own chunky applesauce for it and followed the recipe. Then I made one with a little bourbon in the glaze and I used butter for the cake instead of the vegetable oil and I liked that even more. This cake is a keeper, thanks!
 
elisaung October 15, 2021
One of my favorite cakes, I make it at least once a year and whoever I make it for always wants the recipe. I just baked a 1/2 recipe in a 9-inch pan, swapping the same amounts of spelt flour for AP, maple sugar for white and brown, cardamom for cinnamon, olive oil for veg, and I scattered the top with chopped apples. Great swaps — they result in a much more rustic cake that’s just as delicious.
 
wyndslash October 3, 2021
I don't have a bundt pan. Does this work with a regular 9x13 pan?
 
Randi September 15, 2021
Just made this for the first time--it's delicious! Replaced the white sugar with maple syrup (cup for cup) and used gf jules all purpose gluten free flour. Cake was soft, tender, moist, flavorful. Didn't get a heavy maple flavor, just a hint. Spices were perfectly balanced. Will definitely make again!
 
Dana L. November 23, 2020
Delicious and easy! After reading some reviews, I added a few diced apples tossed in flour. I ground my own spices, which made the flavors very distinct. Not having any cream, I used eggnog for the glaze and it was a win. Thanks!
 
ChrisA. November 12, 2020
Great recipe! So tasty! Had homemade thick sweetened applesauce to use and made a boiled cider, cinnamon glaze on top. This is a new family favorite! Thanks!
 
helicopterina November 12, 2020
How did you make the glaze? Super curious. And agree - this is a fantastic recipe!
 
Mercergirl October 5, 2020
Delicious and easy. I made a 1/2 recipe and baked it in a 6 cup ring mold for ~30 minutes. Like others, I added 1 small apple, peeled and chopped. No glaze/frosting, served with sea salt caramel ice cream instead Very good.
 
Vidya October 2, 2020
Cake was delicious. However I could taste the baking soda a bit. I have made this cake before and never had this problem. I am not sure what the reason is. It hasn't expired and is my regular brand.
 
zoe B. August 21, 2020
This was really delicious--so moist and flavorful. Baked it in two pans--to take one to a socially distant dinner and one for us. Didn't change a thing, except used evaporated milk for the glaze instead of cream. The next time I'll either boil the glaze longer or wait a bit to pour it so that it is thicker and doesn't all run off of the cake.
 
missshelly August 6, 2020
This cake was wonderful! My family loved it. I will definitely make it again and I appreciate that it inspired me to make my own apple sauce for the first time. I added a few tablespoons of rum to the sauce to give it a slight rum flavor which was delicious. I plan to add some soaked raisins the next time I try!
 
helicopterina May 6, 2020
Just revisited this wonderful recipe. Made a vegan version and it came out great. Subbed in 6 T aquafaba for the eggs, and used extra virgin olive oil as it was all that I had. Cut sugar a bit and could have even done more (used 3/4 c. cane sugar and 1/3 c. brown). Baked it in a 8x13 pan for 22 minutes. YUM. Thanks, Merrill! This is the cakegift that keeps on giving. :)
 
helicopterina May 6, 2020
hah hah -- just scrolled through these replies and found my own original thumbs-up comment from back in 2012. love this site.
 
Author Comment
Merrill S. September 21, 2020
Great to know about these adaptations, and so glad you like this cake!
 
Beth H. October 26, 2021
Can I make this cake 2 days before I need it, refrigerate it and put the Carmel topping on the day I am serving it?
 
Author Comment
Merrill S. October 29, 2021
Hi Beth! Because this is a very moist cake, I wouldn't recommend keeping it in the fridge, as the surface will likely get soggy/sticky. If you're going to make it ahead, I would wrap the cake tightly in both foil and plastic and freeze it. Remove it from the freezer the morning you plan to serve it and thaw the cake at room temp for several hours before uncovering it and adding the glaze. Hope this helps!
 
Jen H. March 16, 2020
This recipe has got to be one of F52's best. I've made this cake more than 10 times over the last three years and it has never disappointed me. One of the best parts is how easy the cake recipe is by itself. I have only ever made the caramel glaze one time- its absolutely delicious, but the cake is mouth-watering on its own. I made it for my roommate once... and then she made it the next week because she loved it so much. This is the recipe everyone will ask for. Yum. Yum. Yum.
 
Debra L. March 12, 2020
Thank you for this lovely recipe! I've made this applesauce cake twice in the last two months - - a bit hit with family and friends! I added 1 cup of raisins that were first simmered in water for a few minutes to plump them up (drained off the water before adding to the batter), and omitted the caramel glaze in lieu of a pretty sprinkling of powdered sugar. Perfection! Will try this with the caramel glaze sometime in the future, when I'm less concerned about calorie intake.
 
Author Comment
Merrill S. March 13, 2020
That sounds so good! I'm going to try the raisins next time.
 
Franca January 4, 2020
Pulled this out of the oven not long ago. I cut the sugar by half and replaced the AP with one cup of WW. Can't wait to try it!
 
TheAnxiousBaker December 26, 2019
This is great, taste- and texture-wise. After making it three times, I'd say:
- Thick applesauce is nicest. Touch oily if applesauce is runny, as store-bought often is.
- Do not lose confidence in the icing. All flecks of confectioners WILL disappear with whisking.
- Killer (killer) with https://food52.com/recipes/81527-no-churn-ice-cream-with-vanilla-bean-scotch
 
Aja A. September 16, 2019
Soft, sticky, and super satisfying! Love that this is savory and sweet. Had the pleasure of eating this without the caramel sauce and loved it just the same. Great recipe all around. Fall- it's go time!!
 
Patricia C. July 4, 2019
Loved this cake...and so did everyone else that tried it!! I've made this 4 times in the last couple months. It has just the right amount of spice (forgot the ginger in one of the bakes but I just sifted it over the top before icing) and is super moist. I always make a recipe exactly as written the first time and I saw absolutely no need to change anything the next three times.
 
Pamela W. January 2, 2019
I needed to use up some applesauce that I made, and I am SO glad I found this recipe! It turned out perfectly moist and fluffy... I was kind of concerned that it would be dense/wet due to the homemade sauce, but it is entirely perfect. I did have a few other things I needed to use, so I made a few changes - subbed in 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, used half orange olive oil and half veg oil, used a baking spice mix instead of the cinnamon, and drizzled some goat milk caramel over the finished cake instead of using the glaze. Seriously amazing, this is going into heavy rotation this winter!