This Old Fashioned Spice Cake recipe highlights all the best of fall flavors. It’s so tender and moist, made with buttermilk and plenty of warm autumn spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice making it a truly flavorful cake. It’s topped with a silky maple buttercream frosting for the perfect decadent bite.
Warm fall spice flavor truly come to life in this tender cake with the ingredients below:
For the spice cake:
- Unsalted butter: any brand works - unsalted is important so you can control the level of salt since you can’t taste as you go with baking to adjust.
- Buttermilk: this gives the cake a fantastic texture and keeps it moist.
- Sugars: a combination of granulated sugar (white sugar) and light brown sugar is used in this recipe for flavor. Brown sugar has a bit of molasses which pairs really nicely with the warm spices.
- Eggs: room temperature large eggs are standard for baking. Try to buy pasture range if you can because it means the chickens have access to an entire pasture so they are naturally healthier which means more nutrient dense eggs!
- Pure vanilla extract: brings a great depth of flavor. You can use vanilla bean paste if you have it!
- All purpose flour: standard baking flour. Make sure you fluff it and spoon it into the measuring cup as opposed to scooping - you’ll get too much flour if you scoop and the cake will be dry.
- Spice mixture: a delicious combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice. And they’ll make your kitchen smell fantastic.
- Baking soda: the leavening agent! Baking soda is used as opposed to baking powder because this recipe calls for buttermilk which is acidic and reacts with the baking soda.
- Salt: kosher salt to balance everything out.
For the maple buttercream frosting:
- Unsalted butter: the base of buttercream - butter of course! Unsalted is best so you can add salt to your liking.
- Powdered sugar: the other half of the base of buttercream frosting - powdered sugar is what gives it the sweetness.
- Pure maple syrup: brings flavor, adds a bit more sweetness, and acts as the liquid to loosen up the frosting a bit. Pure maple syrup is important, not the processed syrup.
- Pure vanilla extract: adds to the delicious flavor.
- Salt: kosher salt. Start with a bit, then add more to your liking to balance out the sweetness.
Step by step instructions
Just a few steps and you’ll have a rich, delicious spice cake.
1. Combine the wet ingredients. In a mixing bowl, combine the buttermilk, melted butter, light brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla extract, and eggs. Whisk until smooth.
2. Add the dry ingredients. Add the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice) to the bowl with the wet ingredients. Whisk until just combined.
3. Pour into a cake pan. Pour the cake batter into a prepared cake pan (8-inches either square or round) and smooth into a flat layer.
4. Bake. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out with just a few crumbs. Remove it from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes in the pan then transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely.
5. Make the maple buttercream. While the cake cools, using an electric mixer (either stand mixer with a paddle attachment or a hand mixer) cream the butter on medium speed for 2 minutes until it's whipped to be light and fluffy. Then on low speed add the powdered sugar and mix until well combined, another 1-2 minutes. Then finally whip in the maple, vanilla, and a pinch of salt.
6. Frost the cake. Scoop the frosting on top of the cooled cake, and spread evenly over top.
Tips and tricks
To help make sure this old-fashioned spice cake comes out perfectly, check out the following tips and tricks.
- Preheat your oven before you start making the batter. The baking soda will react with the buttermilk as soon as it is added to the batter, so you want to move quickly to get the cake in the oven so it rises properly.
- Prep your cake pan. For round cake pans I like to spray with non-stick cooking spray and lay parchment paper on the bottom. If you use a square pan then place the parchment with overhang to make it easy to pull the cake out.
- Use an oven thermometer. It’s not uncommon for ovens to run hot or cold, so use an oven thermometer to make sure it’s at the temperature you need it to be.
- Don’t over mix! If you over mix it’ll make the cake more dense and less airy and tender.
- Make your own buttermilk. If you don’t have it on hand you can make it simply by combining 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice with enough whole milk to fill up to 1 cup (after the vinegar/lemon juice is already in the cup). Let it sit for 5 minutes. Recipe linked here.
- Use room temperature butter for the frosting to get the best results. If it’s too cold or too warm it won’t whip properly.
- To get little fluffs in the frosting on the cake use the back of a spoon or an offset spatula.
- Decorate the cake with a light dusting of cinnamon for an extra wow-factor, or add some into the buttercream.
- Add chopped nuts for a little crunch. Walnuts or pecans would be great.
- You can use an 8 or 9 inch pan, but the cake will be a bit shorter in the 9 inch and will bake in a shorter period of time, so watch closely.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Let it sit at room temperature for a little bit before you dive in to help the texture soften back up.
Sure! Just don’t fill the pan more than ⅔ full and it’ll need a bit longer to bake – about 1 hour – so keep an eye on it.
Absolutely - tangy cream cheese frosting is a classic pairing with fall spices, I just happen to prefer buttercream. But go for it!
Yes you need to use buttermilk, otherwise the cake won’t rise properly due to the leavener used. The buttermilk also helps keep the cake tender.
I’ve never tried that, it might be a bit loose, but I don’t see why not.
Sure! You can either double the recipe to make 2 layers, or slice the cake in half into two thinner layers once it’s baked and cooled.
1:1 gluten free flour should work okay, but I can’t say for certain because I haven’t tried it.
More fall desserts
If you want to get into the fall spirit but this old fashioned spice cake isn't your jam right now, try any of the below!
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Old Fashioned Spice Cake
For the cake:
- ½ cup melted unsalted butter cooled to room temp (1 stick)
- 1 cup buttermilk
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
For the maple buttercream:
- ½ cup unsalted butter room temp (1 stick)
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Preheat your oven to 350℉.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the buttermilk, melted butter, light brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla extract, and eggs. Whisk until smooth.
- Add the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice) to the bowl with the wet ingredients. Whisk until just combined.
- Pour the cake batter into a prepared cake pan (8-inches either square or round) and smooth into a flat layer.
- Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out with just a few crumbs. Remove it from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes in the pan then transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely.
- While the cake cools, using an electric mixer (either stand mixer with a paddle attachment or a hand mixer) cream the butter on medium speed for 2 minutes until it's whipped to be light and fluffy. Then on low speed add the powdered sugar and mix until well combined, another 1-2 minutes. Then finally whip in the maple, vanilla, and a pinch of salt.
- Scoop the frosting on top of the cooled cake, and spread evenly over top.