Applesauce Snack Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting


This super moist applesauce cake is delicately sweet and has zip of flavor from hints of lime zest and ginger.

Applesauce Snack Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting
Photo: Photographer: Greg DuPree, Food Stylist: Emily Neighbors Hall Prop Stylist: Audrey Davis
Active Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs

This is the cake you'll be reaching for at 3 p.m. alongside an afternoon coffee. It's the perfect fall pick-me-up snack; the kind of cake you can eat quickly and neatly with your hands when hunger strikes in that undefined period between lunch and dinner.

This cake also couldn't be easier to make; it's as simple as combining the dry and wet ingredients separately, then together, to form the batter. You don't have to hassle with multiple cake pans, as the batter is poured into a 13- x 9-inch baking pan, and the only decorating involved is smoothing the brown sugar frosting over the top (the cake is so moist, you can even skip the frosting).

As with all baking, the ingredients in this cake matter. We call for McIntosh apples specifically because this apple variety has a tender, almost creamy flesh with a tart bite and a fruity aroma. When cooked, McIntosh apples break down easily and turn very soft, so they're best used in a dish with a smooth texture like this cake.

The McIntosh apple is also an excellent choice for making applesauce, which can also be used as a fat-free replacement for oil and butter in some baking recipes.



  • Baking spray with flour 

  • 3 large McIntosh apples (about 1 1/2 lb. total), peeled and chopped (5 cups)  

  • 1 ¼ cups packed light brown sugar 

  • ¾ cup canola oil 

  • 2 tsp. ground ginger 

  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon 

  • 1 tsp. grated lime zest (from 1 lime) 

  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract 

  • 2 large eggs 

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour  

  • 1 tsp. baking powder 

  • 1 tsp. baking soda 

  • ½ tsp. kosher salt 


  • ½ cup unsalted butter 

  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar 

  • 2 Tbsp. whole milk 

  • 3 cups powdered sugar 

  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt 

  • 2 Tbsp. hot water  

  • Chopped toasted pecans, for garnish 


  1. Prepare the Cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 13- x 9-inch pan with baking spray with flour. Place apple in a medium-size microwaveable bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap; microwave on HIGH until softened, about 4 minutes. Transfer apple and any liquid to a food processor or blender, and puree until smooth, 20 to 30 seconds. Let cool 10 minutes. (You should have 2 cups pureed apple.)

  2. Whisk together brown sugar, oil, ginger, cinnamon, lime zest, vanilla, eggs, and pureed apple in a large bowl until combined. Whisk in flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt just until combined. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 28 to 32 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely in pan, about 1 hour.

  3. Prepare the Frosting: Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium. Stir in brown sugar, and bring to boil. Cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Stir in milk, and return to a boil. Remove from heat, and whisk in powdered sugar and salt until smooth and thickened. If mixture is too thick, add hot water until mixture is desired consistency. Spread frosting over cooled cake; garnish with chopped pecans.

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