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Apple Spice Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

October 22, 2008

B and I both love dogs. We don’t have one of our own, but our “5 year plan” definitely includes adding a family member of the canine persuasion. As circumstances had it, a few years ago we had the opportunity to foster a rescue dog for a few days in our (tiny) Boston house (which, by the way, had pretty much no yard.) We jumped at the chance.

lovely local Honeycrisp apples

cinnamon, spice, and everything nice.

The dog was a 4 year old yellow Lab – we’ll call him “Spot” (names have been changed to protect the innocent) – and he was described as “mellow” by the rescue agency that we spoke with. Now, I didn’t grow up with dogs. The only dogs I’d ever really spent a lot of time around were well-behaved, docile creatures that lived with relatives or in the neighborhood…furry friends who licked my face and happily wagged their tails whenever I’d approach. I had read books like “Marley and Me” and “A Dog Year” and smiled to myself at the mischief those dogs got into. Those were extreme cases.

ready for the oven

Hm. With that lead-in, you’re probably thinking that “Spot” was a supremely misbehaved and un-mellow dog, right? Not entirely…he did have a bad chewing habit (his leash was a particular favorite, to the point where he chewed through it while we were walking him), but overall I guess he was pretty typical of a dog in a rescue situation. Some separation anxiety, some bad habits, but all probably a product of the life he’d had so far.

However, we did have one “Marley-esque” episode. The day we brought him home – as soon as we walked in the door with him – he galloped behind me into the kitchen, heaved his front paws up onto the counter, and proceeded to gobble up the entire apple spice cake I had just made (and left sitting out in the open on the counter, silly me!) The whole episode was over in about 5 seconds, and I was just left with my jaw hanging open and “Spot” happily licking crumbs from his chin! The cake that he so enthusiastically wolfed down (should I take that as a compliment?) was this apple spice cake – moist, studded with chunks of apple, still even a bit warm. I hadn’t even frosted it yet.

spreading on the super delicious maple cream cheese frosting

He was adopted shortly thereafter, actually, by a family that had some other Labs that he could play with. We were very happy that he had found a new long-term home, and as educational as the experience was for us, we decided that maybe a tiny Boston house with no yard was not the best place for us to foster rescue Labs. Will we bring another dog into our lives some day? Absolutely. Will I make apple spice cake and leave it out on the counter? Perhaps not. I suppose the smell is just too tempting!

This is a great snack cake for autumn, and the maple cream cheese frosting is, as they say “icing on the cake” – literally and figuratively!

More fall dessert ideas:
Apple Cup Pies
Cinnamon Apple Cake (one of my favorites!)
Maple Gingersnaps
Maple Pots de Creme
Maple-Roasted Apples & Plums

Apple Spice Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from The Cake Book

View printable recipe


1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt
2 tart apples, peeled and diced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan (I’ve used both, and have concluded that I like the 8-inch square pan better. The picture above was taken with the cake made in a 9-inch square pan…it works, but I prefer a slightly thicker cake.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour through salt.) Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute, then gradually add the brown sugar and continue beating on medium-high speed until well blended and light, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time. Beat well after adding each egg, and scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk (or yogurt) in two additions. Mix just until blended. Turn off the mixer, add the diced apple and chopped walnuts, and stir them in by hand.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is light golden brown and a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool completely on a rack, then turn out onto a serving platter before you frost it.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Also adapted from The Cake Book

6 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of ground nutmeg
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup (I like to use Dark Amber/Grade B)
1 cup confectioner’s sugar


In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat together the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until smooth. Add the vanilla, maple syrup, spices and salt. Reduce the speed to low and add the confectioner’s sugar. Beat until well blended. Increase the speed to high, and beat until light and creamy, about 2 minutes.

34 Comments leave one →
  1. October 22, 2008 7:58 pm

    Definitely a compliment! And those are beautiful honeycrisps (all the ones I’ve gotten from the farmers’ market have tasted great, but looked less-than-lovely). I recently baked an apple cake too and I’m wishing it was capped with that maple cream cheese frosting!

  2. October 22, 2008 8:17 pm

    I am sorely tempted by this cake, and I don’t usually like spice cake. I also wanted to complement you on your excellent storytelling. Great lead in to a fantastic looking recipe.

  3. Betsy permalink
    October 22, 2008 9:16 pm

    Yum, yum, and yum! Such a cute story Amy!

  4. October 22, 2008 9:24 pm

    Mmm… this cake sounds perfect especially this time of year. I will have to make it real soon! I love the story of the guest lab too! We have a Lakeland terrier we rescued when she was 5 years old and now is in her golden (14 yrs old) years. Thanks for sharing…

  5. October 22, 2008 11:01 pm

    tee hee 🙂 those four-legged friends can be quite resourceful! lovely cake!!

  6. October 23, 2008 1:17 am

    Looks lovely! I just baked a maple pecan cake with maple frosting tonight. Wishing I could have a little of both right now…you know simply to test them out! 🙂

  7. October 23, 2008 3:43 am

    Looks so yummy! I’m living abroad and desperately missing my chocolate lab back home…who eats anything. She’d love this cake if she could get her paws on it. She loves plain apples too – as long as we cut them up in slices for her! yes, she is a bit spoiled…

  8. October 23, 2008 4:38 am

    The cake sounds fantastic – I am still trying to get a handle on all of the different local varieties of apples!

    Hope you dog dreams come true soon – I have a 6yr old Chesapeake who was a major counter surfer – I’ve never lost any baked goods but did lose 6 raw ahi tuna filets once!

  9. October 23, 2008 6:39 am

    What a great story, Amy! Your cake looks delicious and I always love the fact that you post such wonderful seasonal ideas! Maple and apples–what could be better?

  10. October 23, 2008 9:08 am

    This cake looks fantastic. It really does suit autumn. I am definitely going to give this a try. Excellent work! By the way, I have four dogs, three labradors, one of each color and an Irish Setter. They are a handful, but, wouldn’t live without them.

  11. October 23, 2008 10:43 am

    I adopted a recuse dog my last year in college (she now lives with my in my tiny NYC apartment, but gets regular runs in Central Park!) and the first time I brought her home to my parents she ate our thanksgiving turkey! But she’s worth those occasional losses! I’m sure Spot loved this cake, I’m sure my dog would too. But I’d much rather it be in my tummy!

  12. October 23, 2008 12:47 pm

    gorgeous, gorgeous cake. apple cakes can never be bad (unless they’re, say, burnt to a crisp), but by adding that frosting, you’ve made this to die for. seriously. (okay, not seriously, but it is awesome.) 🙂

  13. honeymuffin permalink
    October 23, 2008 1:59 pm

    If only I could just push a button and order one right now! Looks delish, I might have to find more things to do with that maple cream cheese frosting…

  14. October 23, 2008 2:34 pm

    This looks good in a way that’s making me want to rush out and buy some maple syrup so I can bake this RIGHT NOW! Thanks for sharing this recipe! Can’t wait to try it.

  15. October 23, 2008 3:02 pm

    You know, I love honeycrisp apples, but have never baked with them, and it’s probably due to the fact that, being a favorite, I tend to eat them quickly, out of hand.
    Now, I’d love to go jump start my oven and recreate your lovely cake.

  16. October 23, 2008 3:13 pm

    Hmmm. Can you pass a piece of that this way. That looks amazingly yummy!

  17. October 23, 2008 3:25 pm

    Mmm…apples in anything baked always gets my attention. But the clencher with this recipe is the maple in the frosting. What a lovely idea. Great story, too. We have a rescued dog who has been part of our family for 11 years now. She thinks she’s one of us and has never been very social around other dogs — in fact her ever present anxiety goes into high gear. Luckily, she’s never taken food from anywhere but her bowl w/o permission.

  18. October 23, 2008 7:26 pm

    Oh, this is my kind of cake! The apples, the spices, the frosting, I want some now! 🙂

  19. October 23, 2008 8:23 pm

    i think maybe dogs just like baked apple goods more than we know. my dog ate an apple pie last week right off the counter.

    fun read and beautiful cake!

  20. theladymel permalink
    October 23, 2008 10:34 pm

    OMG—can’t wait to try this one… Something about Fall puts me in the baking mood.

    Anyways, made the stuffed squash tonight with the beets. They were tasty…but I think I used too many greens or too much sage…? The flavor was off and yet overpowering… BUT, I mean, dude, just roasting the beets was fab…. And with a creamy risotto? GOD. I love fall!!!!!!

  21. biz319 permalink
    October 24, 2008 10:59 am

    Oh that looks good. My step-son loves carrot cake, and I found a recipe that I liked, but not the frosting. First of all, I can’t put nuts or raisins in his carrot cake.

    But I found a separate recipe for cinnamon frosting – it was just powdered sugar, vanilla and cinnamon (he LOVES cinnamon!). Anyway the cinnamon frosting/carrot combo was to die for. Now everyone in my family wants that cake for their birthday!

    This post just reminded me of that!

    Happy Friday!

  22. October 25, 2008 1:50 pm

    mmmmmmmmmmmm – i truly can’t wait to have this sitting on my kitchen counter waiting to be frosted!

  23. Carrie permalink
    October 25, 2008 7:26 pm

    Hey Amy-
    I used this frosting on a pumpkin spice cake from Epicurious and it was delicious!

  24. October 27, 2008 7:10 am

    Wonderful spice cake- the first that I have seen this fall. Always one of my favorites. The last springer spaniel I fostered stayed, he is sitting next to me this morning as I type away.

  25. Dana permalink
    October 31, 2008 4:20 pm

    We had a cockapoo growing up, and one Halloween she got into the candy and ate alllll the Hershey’s Miniatures — in record speed. Gotta love a frisky puppy. However, I would do as your dog did if this cake were on the table — it looks irresistible!

  26. November 2, 2008 6:30 pm

    You had me with “honeycrisp apples” and “maple cream cheese” frosting – with those two ingredients this had to have been fabulous! I can’t wait to give this one a try.

  27. November 6, 2008 1:20 pm

    What a gorgeous cake!
    I think anyone who has had a lab could swap similar stories with you. They soooo love to eat. Our old lab consumed my son’s 1st birthday cake (luckily in time to make another one) … a whole pizza … a turkey carcass … tubes of Desitin … etc. But they are wonderful dogs.

  28. April 2, 2009 9:56 am

    I just made this (minus the nuts). I will try it out on my Euchre group today. I went super fast trying to throw this together…. was hoping to try and get a little golf in this morning…. anyway, I cut the apples into very tiny thin slices and then accidentally threw them in with the mixer still going. Oh, well, it still turned out smelling and looking great. I made it in two 9″ round pans. Do you think that if I would have not “mixed” the apples in, the cake would have risen a little more? Looking at the pictures, this cake doesn’t look like it rises too much to begin with.
    The icing is wonderful! I used regular 100% maple syrup, (not sure if it’s grade D). So I added just a bit of Dark corn syrup. The frosting is not a thick icing, therefore, it spread like a beauty over the cake. I also let it slowly run down the sides of the cake. I am almost tempted to make an extra batch of frosting just so I can sit here and eat it!
    Thank you for the recipe.

    • Valerie permalink
      October 18, 2010 11:13 am

      I’m going to make this cake for my mom-in-law’s birthday on Wednesday! It looks absolutely fantastic! I am going to double the recipe and put it in two round pans. Do you think I can stack it with the maple frosting in the middle? Would it stick together and not slide off? Just wondering if you tried that with your round cakes as well. 🙂 Thanks!

  29. September 5, 2010 12:11 pm

    I doubled the recipe, but not the icing, and put it into a 9×13 pan (I added 15 min to the cooking time). I also used half whole wheat and half white flour and it turned out GREAT! MMM MMM MMM 🙂 The frosting gives a power burst in your mouth, very good. Thanks so much for the recipe!

  30. Janet permalink
    December 18, 2011 5:50 pm

    My daughter is making this for my birthday today – thank heavens the yellow lab I rescued from the middle of the road at 10pm the other night is safely home with his family. The only damage he did was to the carpet but he had no compunction about countertops either! Thanks for a beautiful recipe and posting!

  31. rickanddianne permalink
    September 12, 2012 9:26 am

    I made this last year and boy was is it good!!! Family and I went apple picking last year and brought home tons of apples. Of course made the usual apple pie and apple sauce and still had more apples than what we could eat. Husband said what about a spice cake. I looked and looked and this recipe popped out at me. Everyone loved it.
    Went apple picking again this year, yesterday, and can’t wait to make this again…Yum Yum.

    Question though. Can I use all purpose flour instead of getting just pastry flour? I know all purpose has baking powder already in it…would I then add again according to your directions.
    Hurry with the answer!!!!! I want to make this in the next few days!! Lol

    Thanks for the great story too. We have a 3 year old Golden.

    • September 13, 2012 7:53 am

      Glad you liked the cake! Yes, you can do a direct substitution/same amount of all-purpose flour (it’s self-rising flour that has baking powder already added; you should be fine with all-purpose.) Enjoy all those apples!

  32. Shannon McCormick permalink
    August 7, 2013 4:12 pm

    This looks delicious. My favorite spice cake is actually a Crumb Cake spice cake and it comes from ….simply outstanding.

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