And so we begin daylight savings fall as we left equinox fall: with applesauce. Once you’ve cooked and blitzed your fall haul into a velvety puree (review the how-to here — quite as easy and luscious as it looks), what’s to be done with it? I put forth one suggestion, which isn’t to say you couldn’t freeze it until some black January morning, when the stores are filled with parsnips and potatoes, but nothing like an October apple perfumed with fresh lemon peel.
I suggest you make applesauce spice cake instead.
I wanted to make this the second I saw it on Smitten Kitchen, lured in by the promise of “October in a buttered square cake pan”. In the full swing of November, this should give you a rough notion of how long I’ve been plotting an applesauce spice cake Saturday. The cinnamon, the cloves, the ground ginger all lend a sweet, sharp bite, and the applesauce acts as a guarantor against dryness even, I would bet, if you left it in the oven a couple minutes too long. It has the look and taste of an everyday cake, the same crumb as banana bread or carrot cake, rather than a fancy party’s tiered and sugary confection. I like its light, moist casualness, which not only tastes delicious, but — marvelously — whisks away the notion that you need a reason to bake a cake.
Spiced Applesauce Cake
For the cake:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
- 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted, cooled, and chopped (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the middle. Butter the bottom and sides of a 8 or 9 inch square cake pan.
In a medium-sized bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in applesauce and walnuts, if using.
Slowly mix in the flour mixture until just combined. Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick stuck through the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges to loosen it, and invert onto a plate to continue cooling.
For the frosting:
- 5 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup confectioners sugar
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla extract together until fluffy. Sift confectioner’s sugar and cinnamon over wet ingredients and stir until fully incorporated. Store in the refrigerator until cake is cooled and ready to frost.