Applesauce Cake with Caramel Glaze

January 5, 2011

Test Kitchen-Approved

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 rack to serving plate.

Merrill Stubbs

Serves: 10
Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 50 min


For the cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened (preferably homemade) applesauce
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the caramel glaze

  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar, plus more as needed
In This Recipe


  1. Heat the oven to 350° F and butter and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan. Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, pepper and spices and set aside. In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the eggs with both sugars until light. Mix in the applesauce, oil and vanilla until smooth.
  2. Using a spatula, fold in the dry ingredients, being careful not to over-mix. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake for 10 minutes in the pan on a rack before turning it out and cooling completely on the rack—make sure the cake is not at all warm before you make the glaze.
  3. TheRunawaySpoon wisely advises that you put a piece of foil or paper under the cooling rack to catch any drips before you start the glaze. Put the butter in a medium saucepan with the brown sugar, cream and salt and set over medium heat. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil for one minute exactly, and then pull it off the heat.
  4. Leave the pan to cool for a couple of minutes, and then gradually whisk in the powdered sugar until you have a thick, but pourable consistency (you may not need all the sugar). If the mixture seems too thick, just 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 the cake.

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Reviews (104) Questions (17)

104 Reviews

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!
TraceyE October 9, 2018
Thank you! This cake is delicious. Its become one of my go to recipes - so of course I've been tinkering with it a little. Usually I serve it without the glaze but the glaze is terrific when you want to splurge or serve to company. I've made it with chopped up apples and/or plums folded in. Substituting whole wheat flour in for half of the AP works and then you can have it breakfast. For other high altitude bakers this cake works really well with the adjustments appropriate to your altitude (at 7200' feet I add 3T of flour and cut the baking soda to 1/2t)
Jamie D. September 22, 2018
This cake is amazing. I did change a couple things up. I added some extra chopped apples I had laying around (always coat in flour first). Did white instead of black pepper and added a touch of a local apple pie liquor to the caramel after the boiling stage. This is a cake to keep in the recipe box.
Angie January 24, 2018
This recipe was AMAZING! I made it on a whim to go with an average dinner I was making for my family and this cake really took the whole meal up a notch. WOW that frosting! And we have had moist, super delicious leftovers all week that show no signs of drying out even 4 days later. I will make this recipe again and again.
csemsack October 28, 2017
Followed the recipe exactly as written and took it to a dinner party. People were going back for seconds. Everyone loved the carmel frosting!
Margaret L. August 25, 2017
This morning I made applesauce, and this afternoon I made this cake, including the caramel icing. It is less effort than it may seem, and whatever effort it requires is so richly repaid! What a great recipe - perfection! Thanks, and more thanks.
Margaret L. August 25, 2017
I want to hear more about your applesauce with peels on. I use a recipe from the "Penny Whistle Cook Book" to make applesauce in a slow-cooker that I've <br /> used since the 1980s. But if I could use the peels too -- game changer!
Gail September 24, 2017
Try this. Wash and dump your apples - peels, stems, seeds, etc. etc into a large pot or dutch oven with a cover. Cover and cook the apples over a low light for several hours until fully collapsed and mushy. Once cooled process through a Foley Food Mill. It keeps the peels, etc, away from the sauce. I don't add anything to the sauce. It flies on its own flavors.
Margaret L. September 24, 2017
Thanks, Gail, I'll try it.
Trees December 31, 2016
I recently tried making this with cranberry sauce instead of applesauce, and it turned out really well! It turned out to be ever so slightly pink, which was nice. I used homemade cranberry sauce that still had chunks of cranberries in it, and I really liked getting little bits of cranberry visible throughout the cake. Didn't bother with a glaze, though I imagine any sort of orange glaze would go really well with it.
OccasionalCook November 25, 2016
Foregoing the caramel glaze, I "finished" the cake by coating the buttered bundt pan not with flour, but with turbinado sugar -- effectively creating a sugared crust on the baked cake. Delicious with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream. If anyone knows where this idea comes from -- let me know! I thought it was from The Smitten Kitchen, but a quick search didn't turn up the recipe I thought I'd remembered it from...Thanks, Merrill, for a glorious day-after-Thanksgiving afternoon coffee & dessert centerpiece.
Michelle D. November 6, 2017
I remember learning about that idea from Joy of Cooking, in one of the coffee cake recipes. It was granulated sugar, and you can add sliced almonds too. Mmm<br />
OccasionalCook November 6, 2017
My husband literally just made this cake yesterday! He did the same turbinado crust: delicious as ever. Especially dolloped with sweetened whipped cream. I'm curious about the Joy of Cooking reference you mention and will check it out: thanks!!
Peggy G. November 8, 2016
JUDY RODGERS'S ROASTED APPLESAUCE<br />FROM THE ZUNI CAFE COOKBOOK AND KRISTEN MIGLORE’S GENIUS RECIPES<br /> 3 ½ to 4 pounds apples (Rodgers uses crisp eating apples, like Braeburns, Pippins, or Galas; I used Pink Ladies)<br /> Pinch of salt<br /> 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar, or to taste<br /> 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into slivers<br /> A splash of apple cider vinegar, optiona<br />Preheat the oven to 375 F.<br /><br />Peel, core, and quarter the apples. Put them in a (ungreased) baking dish just large enough to hold them in a crowded single layer. (I find that a 9×13 dish is perfect.) Toss with a little salt and 1 teaspoon of the sugar. (Unless they are very sweet, in which case you might not need any sugar at all.) If they are tart enough to make you squint, use 2 teaspoons of sugar. Dot the apples with butter, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake until the apples start to soften, about 15 to 30 minutes. Remove the foil, raise the heat to 500 F, and return the pan to the oven. Leave the apples to dry out and color slightly, about 10 minutes more. When the tips of the apples are golden and the fruit is tender, remove the pan from the oven, and coarsely mash the apples. (You could use a potato masher, but I just use the back of a wooden spoon, and I leave mine very chunky.) If you like, season the applesauce further with salt and sugar to taste, and then consider a splash of apple cider vinegar to brighten the flavor. (You can try a drop on a spoonful to see if you like it; I haven’t found that my applesauce needs it.)<br /><br />Yield: about 3 cups
Laura October 4, 2016
I made this cake over the weekend and it was a HUGE hit. I made the cake part the night before I served it and waited until the next day to make the glaze. The cake was still very moist. I substituted cloves for allspice (equal amounts), which I will probably continue to do in the future. Definitely sift your confectioner's sugar if you don't want lumps in the glaze. Next time, I'll probably let the glaze sit and cool for a little bit longer before I add in the confectioners sugar.
Leslie D. October 3, 2016
I made this cake yesterday and took it to work and everyone was crazy about it! I made it with just regular canned applesauce and it came out beautifully. The glaze puts this over the top and it's so easy, it is definitely one to make often. I absolutely adore this recipe!
Gretchen S. December 28, 2015
Yum! I keep making this over and over and the last cake didn't last until noon (there was a houseful of us). I like the adaptions from the website Orangette, with dark brown sugar, a couple of loaf pans and cardamom instead of allspice.
Sue H. December 16, 2015
Oh, does this cake sound wonderful! I tried clicking on the links for the Roasted Applesauce but none of them worked. Could you please share the link to this recipe? Thank you so much! Sue
Tara C. December 10, 2015
How far ahead could this cake be made & would I wait til day of serving to put the glaze on?
Meredith J. November 25, 2015
This cake is gorgeous and delicious...I used 1/2 cup powdered sugar and added 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice for the glaze, it cut down on the sweetness but I was able to get the consistency I needed. Cannot wait to eat this tomorrow for Thanksgiving.
Annie S. November 14, 2015
Glaze is a little gritty and overly sweet. I love the cake and especiallyJudy Rodger's recipe for roasted applesauce!
Claire I. November 9, 2015
I know this is going to sound silly but can you explain what you mean by apple sauce?. Is it a smooth apple puree, or does it have a rougher texture (all chunks) or a mixture of the two? Thanks so much
Donna V. November 5, 2015
I tried 3 times to print this and nothing. Printing is in good working order.
Sherry J. December 15, 2015
Did you click on the printer icon to the top left of the recipe beside the Save button? It changes the format for printing.<br />
Lisa F. October 24, 2015
I made this tonight and converted it to gluten free. It is so delicious!!! The glaze is pretty sweet, as those who wanted more drizzled before taking a bite found out.
youngna P. September 29, 2015
Great cake. My applesauce was a bit sweeter so used 1/2 c. brown sugar and 1/2 c. granulated and that was plenty!