Remember in elementary school, when you got to be the kid of the week, and your classmates all had to tell you how wonderful you are? Sometimes they even put a special book together just for you? Did your teachers ever call those compliments warm fuzzies? Because mine did. And how appropriate is that? You really do feel warm and fuzzy inside when you receive kind words from someone else.
This cake is the physical embodiment of a warm fuzzy. It might be my favorite (non cup-)cake ever. Not that I advocate eating your feelings, but you could eat this cake on the worst day of your life and feel a little better. It’s totally an everyday cake–nothing glitzy, nothing glamorous. Just comfort food that will warm you up from the inside. The combination of spices is just right, and I’m certainly not going to argue with cream cheese frosting. Deb is absolutely right when she says you can make this cake on a Monday and find another excuse to make another on Friday. Bring it to a neighbor, a friend, a colleague who helped you out recently, or best, just make it for yourself. You deserve it.
You will need:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce (like this)
- 1/2 cup walnuts (optional), toasted, cooled, and chopped (I left these out)
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter an 8- or 9-inch square cake pan. I had no trouble getting my cake out of a nonstick pan by just buttering it, but if you don’t have a nonstick cake pan or are a little nervous, line the bottom with parchment paper and butter that too.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in applesauce. At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just combined, then stir in walnuts (if using). The batter will look a little curdly and uneven but don’t worry, it will all bake up perfectly in the end.
Spread batter evenly in pan and bake until golden-brown and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake to loosen, then invert onto a plate. Reinvert cake onto a rack to cool completely.
Now let’s talk frosting. I bet Deb’s is great. That’s to be expected. But I have a cream cheese frosting recipe I use religiously, and I’m not interested in others. The 3:1 ratio of cream cheese to butter is perfect for me. By all means throw in a hint of cinnamon here too.
- 1 1/2 (12 oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/2 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 lb. powdered sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Beat the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy (be patient–waiting a couple of minutes helps). Slowly add the powdered sugar and beat until incorporated. Beat in the vanilla until incorporated, and then do the same with the cinnamon.