Over the course of the next few weeks, I will roll a fair amount of cookie dough. I’ll probably do some piping, some sprinkling, and other forms of fussy decorating. As an antidote to that–and because I can never be sure how things will go when I try to use a pastry bag–it’s nice to do some baking that’s simple and reliable. I’ve been making this vegan applesauce spice cake for years now, and it has never let me down. Just a few turns of a whisk and a spatula create a moist, fragrant, and sturdy cake that’s perfect for gifting or serving with holiday tea.
Once upon a time, when I first made the bread, I convinced myself that I needed to make a glaze or an icing to accompany it. As with a lot of my recipes, this one has become simpler and more streamlined as time goes by; nowadays I just dust it with a little confectioners’ sugar before serving. But you don’t even need to do that: it’s got a lovely deep color when you turn it out from the bundt pan, and it’s moist enough that it really doesn’t need to be glazed. I like to serve it with some fresh apple slices for crunch, but that’s just me.
I love dried fruit, especially in holiday baked goods, so I always put raisins or cranberries in the cake. A few times, when I haven’t had either one of those on hand, I’ve used chopped apricots or dates instead, and it’s all good. Whatever dried fruit you use, it’s helpful to toss the pieces in a tablespoon of flour before you add them to the batter; this will help to prevent them sinking to the bottom (which becomes the top) of the cake. If you prefer, you can use vegan chocolate chips or carob chips, and if you’d rather not mix in anything at all, the cake will still taste wonderful without any additions.
If a bunch of friends or relatives decide to drop by for unexpected company, this is the cake to make. It’s stress free, reliable, and I’ve never given it to anyone who didn’t love it–raisin haters included. Serve the cake with coffee, tea, or as a simple dessert.
- 1 tablespoon unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 1 cup raisins (regular or golden)
- 1½ cups unbleached, all purpose flour
- 1 cup light spelt, spelt, or whole wheat pastry flour (or an additional cup all-purpose flour)
- 1⅓ cups cane sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 4 teaspoons ground flax or chia seed
- 5 tablespoons warm water
- 2 cups applesauce
- ⅔ cup vegetable oil (such as safflower, grapeseed, or canola)
- Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 350F. Oil or grease a bundt pan with vegan buttery spread, then dust it with flour. Toss the raisins with the one tablespoon of flour and set them aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and cloves.
- In a small bowl, mix together the ground flax or chia and warm water. Allow the mixture to thicken up for a few minutes. In the meantime, whisk together the applesauce and vegetable oil. Add the flax or chia gel to the applesauce and oil and stir well.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until they’re evenly combined. Fold in the raisins. Pour the batter into the bundt pan, then transfer the bundt pan to the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the cake is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center emerges clean or nearly clean. Transfer the cake to a wire rack and allow it to cool.
- Before serving, dust the cake with a light coat of confectioners’ sugar. Slice and serve.
There’s something so special about recipes that have stood the test of time. I don’t have as many tried-and-true baked goods that fit that description as I do savory recipes, but this cake (and my classic vegan banana bread) are two. The cake brings me a lot of gladness each season when I make it, and I hope it’ll bring you some holiday cheer, too.
I’m wrapping up a half week of travel, so fingers crossed I can catch up before the weekend rolls around. Whether I do or don’t, I’ll see you for weekend reading!