It's spice cake season!
Apple-Cream Cheese Bundt Cake
Credit: Greg DuPree

Want to make your entire house smell like fall, even if it's still in the 80s outside? Bake a pan of spice cake and get into the autumn spirit. This simple, homey dessert comes together in minutes and is as simple as baking a loaf of quick bread. Here are three tips to make any spice cake recipe sing:

Bring on the Buttermilk

Most of our spice cake recipes call for a generous amount of buttermilk in the batter. And that's not just because we're Southern. This ingredient is key for a few reasons. Buttermilk gives the cake a light, tender crumb and adds a hint of tanginess which balances out the warm spices and sweetness of the cake.

Don't Be Shy with the Spices

It's called spice cake for a reason! No matter what else goes into it, when you take a bite of this dessert, the flavor of spices should be at the forefront. Cinnamon is usually the most dominant spice in a spice cake, with ground ginger, cardamom, and nutmeg playing supporting roles. (All are used in the Apple-Cream Cheese Bundt Cake pictured above) Some recipes also call for ground cloves and allspice, which are strong and pungent—a little bit goes a long way. If you're short on time, pumpkin pie or apple pie spice can be used to make a spice cake. As with all dried spices, give them a sniff before you use them to make sure they are still potent.

Add a Little Fruit

Fruit and spice are a natural combination. Ingredients like shredded apples or applesauce, raisins, fresh orange zest, or canned pumpkin puree add natural sweetness and depth of flavor, and in many cases add extra moisture. We even have a version that calls for cooked, mashed sweet potatoes.

One of the best things about spice cake is that it is strong enough to stand on its own—all you need is a plate and a fork. A little whipped cream or powdered sugar on top is a nice touch, but it's delicious as-is.