This easy apple butter spice cake is topped with our favorite maple fudge frosting and full of fall flavor! The perfect recipe when you're wondering what to do with all that extra apple butter.
Fall is finally here, there's a chill in the air, and you cooked a big, beautiful batch of homemade apple butter that you've been slathering on toast (looking at you, apple butter brie crostini) and cheese plates for dayyyyyys.
But somehow, you still have SO. MUCH. LEFT. So...now what?
One of the most common questions we get about apple butter is what to do with it once you've made it. Our answer? This easy apple butter cake!
It's the perfect way to use up any leftover apple butter (or, y'know, the perfect excuse to whip up a brand new batch).
First things first: make your apple butter.
This cake was developed to use our favorite (processed sugar free!) stovetop apple butter, and it also works with our slow cooker apple butter recipe. Our recipes don't use any refined sugar - just a quick drizzle of maple syrup - so the natural sweetness of the apples can really shine through.
This cake recipe works with fresh, refrigerated, or previously frozen apple butter (so if you still have a jar from last year stashed in the back of your freezer, this is a great time to use it!) If you don't have time to make apple butter, you can substitute store-bought apple butter or applesauce.
What size cake can I make?
This recipe is easy to adapt for whatever size and shape you'd like!
As written, this recipe makes:
- 12-15 cupcakes
- One 8- or 9-inch square sheet cake
- One 8- or 9-inch round cake layer
- Two 6-inch round cake layers
For a larger layer cake (with two 8" or 9" pans) or a 9x13 sheet cake, we recommend doubling the recipe.
Note that you'll likely have to adjust the baking time if you experiment with different cake sizes - make sure to read the recipe notes for best results!
For reference, the first picture in this post features two 6" cake rounds, and the last two photos in this post feature an 8" square cake.
A few notes on this fudge frosting
Our maple frosting has an amazing texture, but it does thicken pretty quickly! As the butter cools, the frosting seizes a bit, which leaves us with a much thicker, fudge-like frosting.
As a result, this frosting works best for sheet cakes and cupcakes. Spread the frosting just after mixing, when it's still fairly loose, and work quickly to spread it around before it sets.
This is also a fairly sweet frosting, so a thin layer goes a long way! We want to complement the flavor of the cake without overwhelming it.
If you'd like to make this as a layered cake, we recommend going for a more rustic "naked cake" look and spreading frosting between each layer and across the top of the cake, but not around the sides. You could also use a more traditional buttercream for easier layer cake frosting (like this maple buttercream!) This spice cake is also great with cream cheese frosting!
Adjustments & Substitutions
No apple butter? Use store-bought applesauce instead! Be mindful of the amount of sugar in your applesauce: a sweeter applesauce or apple butter will yield a sweeter cake.
If you have a kitchen scale, please use it here! Measuring flour by volume (with cups) is notoriously unreliable, so we always recommend following our gram measurements for best results.
To make this cake dairy free, use coconut oil instead of butter (in both the cake and the frosting!) You can also swap the butter in the cake itself for vegetable or canola oil.
If your frosting thickens too much, you can microwave it for 5-10 seconds or add a small splash of hot water to bring it back to a workable consistency.
No maple extract? Use pure maple syrup! It won't be quite as intense, but is just as good.
Video: How to make apple butter spice cake
This easy spice cake is the perfect way to use any extra homemade apple butter!
FOR THE APPLE BUTTER CAKE:
- ¾ cup apple butter
- ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 210 grams flour (1 ¾ cups when measured correctly by scooping and leveling)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
FOR THE MAPLE FUDGE FROSTING:
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon maple extract
- 2 ½ cups powdered sugar (you may need another scoop depending on your frosting)
- 3 Tablespoons hot (nearly boiling!) water (you may not use it all)
FOR THE CAKE:
- Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour an 8-inch square cake pan.
- In a large bowl (or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment), stir together apple butter, melted butter, eggs, and sugar.
- Add flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and vanilla extract to bowl. Mix until ingredients are just combined and no lumps remain.
- Pour batter into your prepared cake pan.
- Bake at 375 F for 35-40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Transfer cake to a wire cooling rack (see recipe notes) and let cool completely before frosting.
FOR THE FROSTING:
- Once cake has cooled completely, make the frosting! Stir melted butter, maple extract, and powdered sugar together in a large mixing bowl. The sugar will quickly absorb the butter and will begin to clump - this is what you want!
- Add hot water to frosting one Tablespoon at a time, stirring between each addition, until frosting comes together and reaches a thick, fudge-like consistency. If you add a little too much water, don't worry - just add a bit more powdered sugar to even it out. This frosting will thicken as it cools, so it's best to work quickly here.
- Spread frosting onto cooled cake. Let sit for at least 30 minutes (this gives the frosting a chance to firm up!) then slice and serve.
Which apple butter should I use? We recommend using our Stovetop Apple Butter or our Slow Cooker Apple Butter for this recipe! You can also use apple butter made with a different recipe, store-bought apple butter, or applesauce - just keep in mind that sweetness and flavor can vary across brands and recipes!
What size cake can I make? As written, this recipe makes 12-15 cupcakes, one 8-inch square sheet cake (the pan we mention in the recipe), or two 6-inch cake rounds. For a larger layer cake (with 8" or 9" rounds) or for a 9x13 sheet cake, we recommend doubling the recipe. For best results, fill cake pans about ⅔ of the way full. If you adjust this recipe for alternate pans or sizes, you will likely need to adjust the bake time as well. For cupcakes, we recommend baking for 15-17 minutes. 6-inch rounds and 8-inch square cakes typically take 30-40 minutes. Check on larger cakes after 35 minutes and add time as necessary until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
A few notes about this frosting. Our maple frosting is rich and fudge-y - it's perfect spread over a sheet cake or swirled onto cupcakes! It's sweet, so a little bit goes a long way - this recipe makes enough frosting for a thin layer! The frosting will seize up as it begins to cool, so work quickly as you frost (see the post above for more notes on how to frost this cake!) If you want to do a layer cake, we recommend going for a rustic "naked cake" look and spreading frosting only between cake layers and on the very top of the cake (we don't recommend trying to frost the sides of a layer cake with this frosting as it will seize up too quickly and can be difficult to work with. If you'd like to frost the sides, we recommend a more traditional buttercream). This cake is also great with cream cheese frosting or a maple buttercream frosting!
Additions and substitutions. Replace the butter in the cake recipe with coconut oil, vegetable, or canola oil. You can also replace the butter in the frosting with melted coconut oil if you like. Use maple syrup instead of maple extract in the frosting. Use applesauce in place of apple butter if you like. Applesauce is frequently used as an egg replacement in baking: we like the texture of this cake with two eggs, but you can swap one egg for an extra ⅓ cup apple butter if you like. We haven't tested a completely egg-free version of this cake.
How to cool your cake. If you're baking cupcakes, transfer the cupcakes from the pan to a wire rack right after you take them out of the oven. If you're making a small round or square cake, you can tip the cake out onto a wire rack or leave it in the pan to cool! Cooling a cake - especially a square or rectangular cake - right in the pan is definitely easier and makes it easy to store or transport, but it can also dry the cake out a bit. The apple butter helps keep this cake quite moist, so dryness isn't actually a huge issue here - feel free to leave the cake in the pan if you prefer!
If you have a kitchen scale, please use it here! Measuring flour by volume (with cups) is notoriously unreliable - for best results, grab your scale and use the gram measurements provided! If you do measure the flour here with cups, be sure to use the scoop and level method for best results.
To make this cake dairy free, use melted coconut oil instead of butter in both the cake and the frosting!
- Serving Size:
- Calories: 441
- Sugar: 57 g
- Sodium: 396.6 mg
- Fat: 14 g
- Carbohydrates: 76.6 g
- Protein: 3.7 g
- Cholesterol: 70.8 mg
Keywords: fall, autumn, apples