With just one bowl and no mixer, this super delicious, Ridiculously Easy Applesauce Cake comes together in minutes. Make the vanilla bean icing while the cake bakes (and creates amazing aromas) and wait for everyone to come running!
Thinking of applesauce cake brings me back in time to the days when my mom would make this delicious, warm-spiced confection. It was one of her frequent-flyer recipes, especially in the fall when the leaves would turn shades of crimson and firey gold and evenings took on a cold, crisp chill. I loved the aroma that filled the house as cinnamon, cloves and ginger scents would swirl from her little Midwest kitchen.
There are lots of things I love about applesauce cake, besides the fact that it brings back sweet (literally!) memories for me. It's one of the easiest cakes I know how to make because the ingredients are staples that I almost always have in my pantry or fridge; eggs, oil, applesauce, sugar, flour and spices. Although my mom used a mixer to make her applesauce cake, this particular recipe requires simply one bowl and a whisk.
I love that applesauce cake is a universal crowd pleaser. I've made this for three October birthdays (as layer cakes) and all of the partakers have given the cakes a huge thumbs up. It's super moist with a delicious tender crumb and lots of warm spices. The fabulous (also one-bowl, no-mixer) vanilla bean icing is the wonderful crowning glory.
I call this a "sheet cake" because that's the way I generally make this applesauce cake. But, as mentioned above, it can be also made in two 8-inch round cake pans and served as a layer cake. If I'm serving a larger crowd, I increase the recipe by one-half and make a three-layer (in three 8-inch cake pans) cake.
I made the three-layer cake pictured below for a dear friend's 50th birthday party this past week and it served a group of 10 women (plus leftovers for the hubby and kids). The topping was little shards of our Pumpkin Pecan Brittle which paired beautifully with the applesauce cake and vanilla bean icing - it brought lots of rave reviews.
So you see, this is not only a super delicious cake, it's also super versatile! Sometimes I add raisins or currants. A finely diced fresh apple (no need to peel) is another delicious addition. A scoop of coconut adds delicious flavor and a nice texture. If you enjoy a less sweet cake, just give it a shower of powdered sugar. Make it your own unique way!
Why do I call this cake "ridiculously" easy! Because it is! But it also deserves this nomenclature because it definitely falls into a category of recipes here at The Café we call "Ridiculously Easy". We have a whole collection of these recipes which you can read more about in this post but, in a nutshell, our Ridiculously Easy recipes are the ones that "make you look like a kitchen rock star with minimal effort on your part".
Like that? Yep, me too!
What kind of applesauce should I use for this Applesauce Cake?
Any kind! I've used smooth, chunky, lightly sweetened and unsweetened. I've also made my own by simply simmering a few peeled and cored, roughly chopped apples in a bit of water or apple juice until everything is nice and soft. Then just mash it with a fork or a potato masher.
I like to keep a stock of the little, kid-friendly, snack-size cartons of apple sauce that you can find at almost any grocery store here in the U.S. Each one is exactly a half cup which makes things super easy, as there's no need to measure the applesauce.
A recipe for the frequent-flyer list!
Once you try this delicious, super easy cake, you'll be making it again and again! Not only because family and friends will be requesting it, but because it's so easy to put together, ridiculously easy!
Cafe Tips for making this Ridiculously Easy Old-Fashioned Applesauce Cake
- This is a sheet pan cake. I like to use a 10x15-inch jelly roll pan. You could use a regular half sheet size pan but your cake will be quite thin. You can also use 2 8-inch cake pans (my favorite pans) which is a nice option if you're not feeding a crowd. Serve one today and freeze the other for the future.
- This recipe calls for vanilla bean paste. Vanilla bean paste is available at many larger grocery stores, Whole Foods, Williams Sonoma and specially baking shops. I usually purchase it online as I find it to be more reasonable. You could also scrape the vanilla beans from one vanilla bean pod or use 1½ teaspoons of pure vanilla extract.
- As mentioned above, this recipe also works well for layer cakes. The recipe as written makes a really nice 2-layer cake using 8-inch round cake pans. If I'm feeding a larger crowd or want a fancier cake I increase the recipe by one half and make a three-layer cake (pictured above). If making a three-layer cake, increase the recipe by one-half or double it, if you want a nice thick layer of icing.
- A whisk is the perfect kitchen tool to whip up this applesauce cake. A good whisk is an essential item for anyone who enjoys cooking. A good whisk is not expensive but will last forever (unless you're a crazy cook like this one!). I have this whisk and really like it.
- As mentioned above, this recipe calls for one and a half cups of applesauce. If you purchase the small, snack-size containers of applesauce, each one is a half cup, so just add three of them. No need to measure!
- This recipe calls for a "neutral-flavored oil". You want an oil that's not going to add additional flavor to the cake. Options are sunflower, safflower, avocado, grapeseed, vegetable and canola oils. I would avoid olive oil, peanut oil and/or any other oils that have a stronger flavor.
- If using a sheet pan for this cake, I just spray it well with baking spray. However, if using round pans, I spray them and line them with a circle of parchment paper for fail-proof removal. I love these pre-cut parchment paper circles. They come in a package of 100 and save a lot of time.
- There's a difference between baking spray and non-stick cooking spray. Baking spray actually has flour incorporated into the spray to help ensure easy removal from the pan. It works like the old-fashioned, classic way of greasing a pan for baking where you use shortening and then coat the shortening with a layer of flour. Cooking spray is simply oil in a spray form.
- This cake freezes well. But don't let that fool you into thinking it's "safe from snitching" in the freezer! Don't ask me how I know, but it's super easy to thaw it quickly on low power in the microwave.
- Every oven is different so it's better to use the timing as a suggestion. You can use the toothpick test to determine if your cake is done - simply insert a toothpick or skewer into the center of the cake. If it's done, the toothpick will be clean or just have a few small crumbs on it. But the very BEST way to ensure your cake is perfectly done is to use an instant thermometer. The center of the cake will read 200-205˚F (93-96˚C) when the cake is perfectly baked.
- Since you won't be using a mixer for the vanilla bean icing, make sure your butter is nice and soft. You can leave it sit out at room temp for several hours or soften it on the lowest power on your microwave for a minute or two. Sometimes, when I'm in a hurry, I will soften butter in 10-second increments in the microwave (on full power), flipping it to an opposite side after each 10-second stint. It will only take 30-40 seconds with this technique, but you do have to watch it carefully or it will melt into a puddle.
Thought for the day:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
What we're listening to for inspiration:
If you enjoyed this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It’s so helpful to other readers to hear your results, adaptations and ideas for variations.
- 1 ½ cups unsweetened apple sauce
- ⅔ cup neutral flavored oil ie - canola or grapeseed
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar packed (I use dark brown sugar, but light brown will also work.)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon cloves
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup raisins or currants (optional)
- 4 ounces very soft butter 1 stick
- 5 tablespoons half & half maybe a bit more
- 3 ½ cups powdered sugar maybe a bit more
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
- ⅛ teaspoon almond extract
Heat the oven to 350˚F. Generously spray a 15x10-inch pan with baking spray. Rub with a paper towel to make sure all the surfaces are coated then spray again lightly. If using round cake pans, Spray with baking spray then line each pan with a round of parchment paper.
Combine the applesauce, oil, sugars, eggs and vanilla in a medium-size bowl. Whisk together until nice and smooth. Add the cinnamon, ginger, cloves, baking soda and salt and whisk until well incorporated.
Add the flour and whisk just until all of the flour is incorporated. Stir in the raisins, if using.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan(s). Bake the sheet pan cake for 18-22 minutes OR until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or the temperature in the center of the cake is 200-205˚F (93-96˚C). The round cakes will take 25-35 minutes. Use the same testing to determine doneness.
Allow the cake(s) to cool completely before icing. If using the round cake pans, allow the cakes to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.
Combine soft butter, half and half, vanilla bean paste and almond extract in a medium-size bowl and stir to combine. Add 2 cups of the powdered sugar and whisk together until nice and creamy.
Add the remaining 1½ cups powdered sugar and whisk until smooth. You want a nice spreadable consistency. If the icing seems too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar, if too thick, add more half and half, one teaspoon at a time.
Frost the cake(s) and enjoy!
See Café Tips above in the post for further instructions and more detailed tips to ensure success.
Half and half is an American convenience product often used in coffee. It's a mixture of half milk and half cream. You can substitute half milk and half cream or just use one or the other.
Recipe adapted from Food 52.