Old fashioned spice cake recipe is filled and covered in a rich, maple cream cheese buttercream for a traditional layer cake that’s irresistible. Buttermilk makes the cake layers light and tender while a splash of whiskey adds a unique, smoky flavor that will have your guests begging for the instructions. This post was first published October 2013. Last updated December 2018.
For this recipe you’ll need: cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, cayenne, butter, light brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, vanilla, buttermilk, whiskey, cream cheese, maple syrup, maple extract, heavy cream, Confectioner’s sugar, toasted pecan halves for optional garnish
Spice Cake Recipe Backstory
Autumn and winter are my favorite times of the year. I like the chilly mornings, the golden sunlight, and the colors that look like they have been carefully brushed on the trees. I love the scent and sound of a crackling fire, and the flavors of the comfort foods so often found on our tables this time of year.
So many children’s books have the kind of food descriptions that keep me coming back to them. Farmer Boy, The Hobbit, Narnia, and one of my very favorites for its food descriptions — Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham.
“When the girl returned, some hours later, she carried a tray, with a cup of fragrant tea steaming on it; and a plate piled up with very hot buttered toast, cut thick, very brown on both sides, with the butter running through the holes in great golden drops, like honey from the honeycomb. The smell of that buttered toast simply talked to Toad, and with no uncertain voice; talked of warm kitchens, of breakfasts on bright frosty mornings, of cozy parlor firesides on winter evenings, when one’s ramble was over and slippered feet were propped on the fender, of the purring of contented cats, and the twitter of sleepy canaries.”
That is autumn. Right there in that paragraph autumn exists for me every time I read it. Maybe autumn is so linked with food in our minds because of the harvest, the upcoming winter months — maybe it is entrenched in our DNA so deeply because of years of living within the confines of the present season.
Spice cake is one of those flavors that says autumn to me. I don’t like most recipes for it because they lack something I am looking for — an intensity of flavor, a combination of cinnamon and cloves and creamy frosting. It has to be moist and be able to stand up to a good, strong cup of coffee or tea, and it has to pass the ultimate test: Would Badger put it on his tea table?
The answer for this recipe is a resounding yes. Maple, spices, heat, and velvety whisky all churn together into a mixture that is suitable for any rainy, blustery day you want to lounge around in front of the fire.
It’s great for summer days, too but don’t tell anyone.
Recipe rated moderately easy – some cake making experience helpful.
- Leave out the cayenne if you prefer a less spicy spice cake.
- Substitute chipotle powder for the cayenne.
- Use ginger ale or apple cider in place of the whiskey if you don’t use alcohol in your home.
- Always buy the whole nutmegs and grate with a grater if possible. The flavor is so much better.
- Make sure the cake is completely cool before frosting.
- Most spice cakes are better the second day because the spices get a chance to mellow.
- Apple butter is fantastic between the layers of this cake.
Spice Cake FAQs
Have questions about spice cake? I’ve got answers!
What icing is best for spice cake?
I like a creamy, sweet icing on spice cake. Cream cheese, vanilla, cinnamon, or coffee buttercreams all work well.
What flavor is spice cake?
Spice cake is a mixture of spices. Traditionally the spice used are cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger. Allspice is sometimes added as well. However, don’t let tradition stop you from trying other spices! Some possibilities are:
- Black pepper
- White pepper
- Chinese 5 spice powder
What fillings go with spice cake?
You can always use the frosting to fill your spice cake but if you’d like something a little different here are some flavor possibilities-
More Old Fashioned Cake Recipes from Restless Chipotle
Here are some more of my favorite cake recipes!
- Apple bundt cake
- Pumpkin spice bundt cake
- Chocolate layer cake with cookies and cream filling
- Classic yellow cake
- Homemade white cake mix
- Spiced Devil’s Food cake
Try this traditional spice cake recipe with this cinnamon buttercream from Two Sisters.
YOU MAY NEED…
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These 9-inch layer cake pans from Wilton are heavy duty and come with an insert to make a checkerboard pattern in the cake.
Buttermilk Spice Cake Recipe
This spice cake recipe is two layers of easy filled with a generous amount of delicious! Spicy, sweet, creamy… it’s all here. Make this in two 9-inch or three 8- inch layer cake pans or save some time and make it in a 13×9-inch pan. It has a little cayenne in it for a spicy bite. Cake flour works best in this but you can use all purpose flour if you don’t have any on hand. If you love this recipe please give it 5 stars.
- 2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
- 11/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar firmly packed
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/4 cup whiskey
- 8 oz cream cheese , room temperature
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter , room temperature
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon maple extract
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 -3 cups confectioners' sugar
- 1 tablespoons heavy cream , may need a little more
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour 2 9-inch pans
Whisk the flour, baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and cayenne together in a large bowl - set aside.
Cream butter and both sugars together until light and creamy.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each.
Beat in the vanilla.
Whip on high speed until light and fluffy, 3 minutes or so.
Scrape sides a few times during beating.
Pour the buttermilk and whiskey in a cup.
While mixing on lowest speed, add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture alternately with the buttermilk mixture.
Pour batter into two greased and floured 9-inch cake pans.
Bake at 350F for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let cool in pans for 10 minutes.
Turn out to finish cooling.
Beat the cream cheese and butter together until well mixed and creamy.
Add the flavorings and the syrup.
Whip until fluffy.
Add the confectioners' sugar slowly until you reach the consistency that you like.
Whip until very fluffy.
Add cream as needed for consistency.
Cake can be stored, covered, at room temperature for up to 2 days. Refrigerate or freeze for longer storage.