This Old Fashioned Spice Cake Is My Go-To Fall Dessert

Filled with apples and cinnamon and topped with cream cheese—what's not to love?

I love to bake cakes in the fall, and the cooler temperatures outside make it a little easier to deal with heating the oven. The changing colors, the rich, aromatic spices, and the abundance of fresh apples, pumpkins, and pecans work together to keep me in the kitchen chopping, mixing, stirring, and tasting. As much as I like to experiment with new recipes, I always choose one I know and trust whenever I bake a cake for an event.

I like to experiment with recipes that surprise me. I remember how excited I was the first time I made profiteroles, and the cream puff dough pulled away from the pan's sides as I stirred it. (I wasn't so surprised that the recipe worked as I was that I could actually make cream puffs!) It was a similar experience when I made caramel frosting. Melting sugar takes patience, and just when the sugar clumped and I thought I had messed up, it melted into beautiful liquid gold.

During the fall months, I always choose the Fresh Apple Cake. This recipe, shared by Helen Mack of Fontana, California (and initially called Chunky Apple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting), first appeared in the September 2001 issue of Southern Living and has been reprinted several times since it is such a hit with readers. Filled with apples and the warm scent of cinnamon, this is a classic cake to make in the fall, perfect for family gatherings, office parties, and neighborhood potlucks. Here are a few more reasons this is my favorite vintage spice cake to make in the fall.

Fresh Apple Cake
Hannah Zimmerman / Southern Living

It's Easy To Bake

I had tasted this Fresh Apple Cake in the Southern Living Test Kitchens and knew it was a solid and delicious recipe, but when I made it at home, I thought I had messed up. The dough was so thick I could barely stir in all the apples. I wondered if I had misread an ingredient amount or if there was a mistake in the recipe. I went on and baked the cake, and like many other readers have learned, this super-thick batter turns into a deliciously moist, heavenly-scented apple spice cake.

It Requires Very Few Baking Tools

I enjoy making this cake because it has a short prep time, and I don't have to haul out my heavy-duty stand mixer. Toast the nuts, peel and chop the apples, melt the butter, and stir everything together. Spoon into the baking pan, slide into the oven, and you are ready. Delicious aromas of cinnamon and baking apples will soon engulf your kitchen. The hard part, however, is yet to come—keeping your family from nibbling on the cake as it cools.

You Can Adapt This Cake

The Fresh Apple Cake is versatile and adapts well to several different toppings. If you like chocolate-dipped caramel apples, drizzle a caramel sauce across the cake, followed by a dark chocolate frosting. Add a rich, nutty flavor with a browned-butter frosting, or go for the classic cream cheese frosting. You can also turn this recipe into a streusel coffee cake by simply adding a streusel topping instead of a frosting.

You Can Store This Cake

This cake ages well. By "ages," I mean one or two days. This cake is so good it never lasts longer than that, but it does keep well and tastes even better after a few days if tightly covered and kept in the refrigerator, which makes this a good candidate if you need to make a recipe a day or two in advance of an event. But don't just keep it for dessert. This cake is ideal for a mid-morning or late-evening snack.

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