Apple butter cake is a moist and rich spice cake made with apple butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and more, then topped with cream cheese frosting.
This cake smells so good when it’s baking. It fills the room with a comforting apple, cinnamon scent. It’s fast becoming one of my favorite fall cakes.
This easy apple butter cake recipe has the perfect about of sweetness and spices. The apple butter, cinnamon and nutmeg give it so much fall flavor and the cream cheese buttercream on top gives it a nice tang and goes perfectly with the apple flavor.
This cake is actually really simple to make and you don’t need any fancy or special ingredients to do it plus the mixing method is quick and easy.
Now let’s talk about a few of the ingredients in this apple butter spice cake. (The printable list of all ingredients are in the recipe card below.)
Butter: Butter cakes are so delicious and they have so much flavor. You’ll use unsalted butter for this cake and I think it really makes for a more flavorful cake than a cake made with just oil.
Light brown sugar: This recipe calls for both types of sugar, it’s the light brown sugar that really adds a depth of flavor to it.
Apple butter: This is the star ingredient. There’s no need to make homemade apple butter though. The kind in the jar works perfectly.
All-purpose flour: There’s no need to get any special type of flour for this cake as all-purpose flour works perfectly.
Cinnamon and nutmeg: Adding spices really brings out the apple flavor and makes this the perfect fall cake.
Butter, cream cheese and confectioners sugar: These are the main ingredients for the cream cheese buttercream frosting. You don’t have to make a frosting for this cake as it’s good just by itself, but I personally love the tanginess of the cream cheese frosting in combination with the apple flavor of the cake.
(Make sure to check out the FAQ section below in this post for ingredient and substitution questions.)
How to make this cake:
Let’s talk about how to make this easy apple butter cake. (The printable instructions are in the recipe card below.)
First, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and spray a 13×9-inch baking pan with nonstick spray.
Next, in a large bowl, combine the melted butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, milk, apple butter and vanilla. Mix well with an electric mixer on medium speed and set aside.
In another bowl, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk well.
Next, add the dry ingredients to the liquid ingredients and mix with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined. Be super careful not to mix too long here. Just mix until it’s well combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 325 degrees F for approximately 40-45 minutes. The cake will bake somewhat flat on the top.
Once it’s baked, remove the cake from the oven and set it on a cooling rack to cool completely before adding the frosting.
Next, make the frosting. In a mixing bowl, add the room-temperature butter and cream cheese and mix well with an electric mixer on medium to medium-high until smooth.
Then add in the salt, cinnamon, vanilla, confectioners sugar and milk. Mix on medium until well combined.
Add the frosting to the cooled cake.
Tips & FAQs:
Unsalted is always best because you can estimate the proper amount of salt that will be added plus salted has a different water content than unsalted.
However, if you’re unable to get unsalted butter, you can use salted in the cake and the buttercream, but omit the additional salt that each recipe calls for.
Apple butter is like a thickened apple sauce with spices added. It’s not really the same thing as apple sauce, but that’s a way to describe it.
You can find apple butter at most grocery stores near the jelly and jam.
I used Musselman’s Apple Butter and that worked perfectly.
Maybe. I haven’t tried this recipe with homemade apple butter though. It may work just fine unless the apple butter isn’t thick enough.
Spoon the flour into the measuring cup and level it off. Don’t scoop the flour with the measuring cup as that will end up adding too much flour to the batter and will make the cake dry and/or dense.
Be very careful not to mix the batter too long. Scratch cakes should not be mixed for minutes at a time, or they will become dense. Stop mixing once the ingredients are well incorporated.
This cake is done baking when a toothpick inserted into the center of each layer comes out with a few moist crumbs on it or clean, but no raw batter.
This cake can be made ahead of time and frozen if desired. Let the baked cake cool completely, then wrap just the cake in plastic wrap and foil and place in the freezer for up to two months.
To thaw, place the wrapped cake on the counter at room temperature and let thaw completely, then remove the wrapping. Once defrosted, add the frosting.
Since this cake is topped with cream cheese frosting, it should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and can last up to about 5 days.
I have not tested this recipe out in layer cake pans or a bundt pan, but it should work just fine.
Fill two greased and floured 8-inch round cake pans or a greased and floured bundt pan with the batter and bake at 325 degrees F. Start checking for doneness at about 40 minutes although a bundt cake may need to bake longer.
This cake is best served near room temperature. This cake is a butter cake and since the cake needs to be stored in the refrigerator (because of the frosting), it will become firm, so it’s best to warm up slices in the microwave for about 15 seconds or so, or just set the cake out for about 20 minutes before serving.
***I write recipes using volume (cups) measurements because here in the U.S., this is what people are used to seeing and using. For weight in metric measurements, click the ‘metric’ button under the ingredients in the recipe card. The weights are converted by a program, not me, and it’s a best guess. Please note that because I develop recipes using ‘cups’ I can’t guarantee that weighing the ingredients will produce the exact same results.
Apple Butter Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
For the cake:
- ¾ cup unsalted butter, melted but not hot (1 ½ sticks)
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- ⅔ cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup milk
- 1 cup premade jarred apple butter (I used Musselman's Apple Butter)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
For the frosting:
- ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature (1 stick)
- 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, almost room temperature (1 block)
- 1 pinch salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 cups confectioner's sugar
- 1 tablespoon milk or cream (can use more if needed to reach the desired consistency)
For the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a 13×9-inch baking pan with nonstick spray.
- In a large bowl, combine the melted butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, milk, apple butter and vanilla. Mix well with an electric mixer on medium speed and set aside.
- In another bowl, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk well.
- Add the dry ingredients to the liquid ingredients and mix with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined. Be careful not to mix for too long. Don't mix over about 40 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then mix again for only about 10-15 seconds more.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 325 degrees F for approximately 40-45 minutes. The cake will bake somewhat flat on the top. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with either a few moist crumbs on it or clean, but no raw batter.
- Remove the baked cake from the oven and set on a cooling rack to cool completely before adding the frosting.
For the frosting:
- In a bowl, add the room-temperature butter and cream cheese and mix well with an electric mixer on medium to medium-high until smooth.
- Add in the salt, cinnamon, vanilla, confectioners sugar and milk. Mix on medium until well combined.
- Check the consistency. If it’s too thick, add a teaspoon of milk and mix again.
- Add to cooled cake.
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