Make Ahead

Applesauce Cake with Caramel Glaze

January  5, 2011
21 Ratings
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

  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 50 minutes
  • Serves 10
  • 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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  • Jen Hayes
    Jen Hayes
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    Aja Aktay

121 Reviews

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!
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
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!
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
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.