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Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

The Sunday after Thanksgiving means one thing for sure at our table.  While the menu does change up a bit, the main course is a must-- Turkey and Sausage Gumbo.  It is my favorite way to use up those turkey leftovers.  I normally like to prepare a dessert to go along with the main course that is a nice segue into the upcoming holiday season.  I think the warm spices and cream cheese frosting in this cake will fill that role.

I grew up eating the spice cake and frosting from the box and tub and I will admit... I loved it!  But if you are a reader, you know that I try to steer clear of such grocery items and go homemade when time allows.  To bring out a really good spice, the ground spices are bloomed in browned butter and fresh ginger is used for more flavor.  Buttermilk is used for a tangy, tender batter and the whole cake is frosted with my go-to cream cheese frosting with just a touch of the reserved spice.

Printable Recipe

Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
serves 15

For the Cake
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
16 Tablespoons (8 ounces) unsalted butter, divided and softened
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 extra large eggs, plus 3 extra large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons molasses
1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

For the Frosting
12 ounces cream cheese frosting, softened
9 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Pinch of kosher salt
4-5 cups confectioners' sugar

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350ยบ F.  Grease and flour a 9- x 13-inch baking pan; set aside.  Combine cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, cloves, and nutmeg in a small bowl; reserve 1/2 teaspoon of spice mixture for the frosting.

In a small skillet over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter.  Cook, swirling pan constantly until butter is light brown and has a faint nutty aroma, 2-4 minutes.  Add spices and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 15 seconds.  Transfer the butter mixture to a small bowl and cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In a small bowl, gently whisk eggs, yolks, and vanilla to combine.  Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat remaining 12 tablespoons of butter with the sugar and molasses on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl using a rubber spatula.  Add the cooled butter mixture, ginger, and half of egg mixture; mix until incorporated, about 15 seconds.  Repeat with remaining egg mixture; scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in three additions, alternating buttermilk in two additions, scraping down bowl as needed.  Mix at medium speed until batter is thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds.  Give batter a final stir by hand.

Scrape batter into prepared pan, smooth top with rubber spatula, run tip of metal spatula through batter in a zigzag motion to edges of the pan, and gently tap pan on counter to release air bubbles.  Bake cake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 32-37 minutes.  Let cake cool completely in pan on wire rack, about 2 hours.

For the Frosting
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or using a hand-held mixer, beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla just until blended.  Add the confectioners' sugar, one cup at a time, and beat just until smooth (do not over beat). Stir reserved spice mixture into frosting.  Spread frosting evenly over cake.  Serve.  (Cake can be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 2 days.  Bring cake to room temperature before serving.)

Source: Cake adapted from Cooks Illustrated, January 2008, Frosting adapted from Joy of Cooking, 1997


  1. This spice cake recipe looks amazing! Spice cake is my husband's favorite, and I've tried to get the recipe from his grandmother several times, but she's one of those people who goes by feel, not an actual recipe, which makes it impossible to recreate. Thanks so much for posting this!


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