Autumn’s Most Tender Applesauce Cake


Autumn’s Most Tender Applesauce Cake + Giveaway – Design*Sponge

The apple is the fruit that says autumn to me the most, and I learned from cookbook author (and wife to Grace!), Julia Turshen, that when dipped in honey, apples are also most closely associated with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year (which begins this year at sundown on September 9 and ends at sundown on September 11).

Fittingly, Julia made an Applesauce Cake with Cream Cheese + Honey Frosting based on those celebratory apples dipped in honey in her new cookbook, Now & Again. It’s a soft, moist, one-layer cake that requires no special utensils or special ingredients to make. True to Julia’s popular cooking style, it’s also made in one bowl (or two if you count the frosting bowl). I’ll admit that while I can almost always resist layer cakes when I see them in bakery windows, it’s the single-layer cakes like this one that get me every time! Try this recipe out to usher in autumn or as a delicious addition to your Rosh Hashanah traditions. —Kristina

Image above: Freshly picked apples

Why Julia loves this recipe: My goal in every recipe I create is to give you the guidelines to make something that feels appealing and then is a breeze to prepare requiring no hard-to-find ingredients or a big mess to clean up (because… dishes). This applesauce cake, the opposite of dry and full of spice, is so easy to make. You mix everything in one bowl, scrape it into a cake pan, and that’s that. The frosting is equally simple, just cream cheese whipped together with a little honey for sweetness and a bit of sour cream because why have just one type of dairy when you can have two? (The sour cream actually makes a big difference in texture — it just smooths it all out really beautifully… trust me, I would never suggest an extra ingredient if I didn’t think it made a difference). And just as easy as it is to make, this cake is also so easy to enjoy. It goes great with coffee in the morning (it has applesauce so it’s totally acceptable for breakfast #wink) and makes for a homey, not-too-sweet dessert. I hope you love it as much as I do.

For a chance to win a copy of Now & Again, respond in the comments section below by September 25, 5PM EST to the following question: What’s your favorite bakery and why? It can be anywhere in the world, or even a person’s kitchen! We will announce the winner in the comments section, so be sure to check back!

About Julia: Julia Turshen is the bestselling author of Now & Again, Feed the Resistance, named the Best Cookbook of 2017 by Eater, and Small Victories, named one of the Best Cookbooks of 2016 by the New York Times and NPR. She has coauthored numerous cookbooks and hosted the first two seasons of Radio Cherry Bombe. She has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Vogue, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, and Saveur. Epicurious has called her one of the 100 Greatest Home Cooks of All Time. She is the founder of Equity At The Table (EATT), an inclusive digital directory of women and non-binary individuals in food. Julia lives in the Hudson Valley with her wife and pets.

All images by David Loftus

Image above: Julia with Winky and Hope

Image above: Julia frosts the cake

Image above: Cake and coffee

Image above: Julia and Grace’s living room

Applesauce Cake with Cream Cheese + Honey Frosting


The food most closely associated with Rosh Hashanah is apples dipped in honey, an autumnal gesture to shepherd in a sweet year. A lot of desserts feature apples and honey, and this super-simple cake (which requires one bowl and one cake pan) fits the bill. I like this cake so much (and especially love how easy it is to make) that I make it often, especially throughout the fall when apples are on the mind. Its texture and appeal are similar to those of banana bread. If you like, you can stir in a large handful or two of raisins and/or nuts just before you scrape the batter into the cake pan. Although you can absolutely use homemade applesauce for this, know that store-bought is just fine.


  • For the Cake
  • 2 cups [240 g] all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp ground ginger
  • 1½ tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup [100 g] sugar
  • ½ cup [120 ml] buttermilk or [120 g] plain yogurt
  • 1½ cups [400 g] unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 cup [80 ml] canola or other neutral oil
  • For the Frosting
  • 6 oz [170 g] cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 Tbsp sour cream
  • ¼ cup [85 g] honey
  • Pinch of kosher salt



To make the cake:

Preheat your oven to 350°F [180°C]. Spray the bottom and sides of a 9-in [23-cm] round cake pan with baking spray and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Set the pan aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and baking soda. Add the eggs, sugar, buttermilk, applesauce, and oil and whisk gently just until everything is combined. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the batter into the prepared pan and then smooth the surface so it is even.

Bake the cake until it is just barely firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Set the cake aside on a wire rack to cool to room temperature.

Use a dinner knife to loosen the edges of the cake from the pan sides and then invert it onto your work surface. Peel off and discard the parchment. Invert the cake one more time onto a serving platter.


To make the frosting:

In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, sour cream, honey, and salt and whisk together aggressively until the cream cheese is slightly aerated (you can also do this with a handheld electric mixer or in a stand mixer).

Spread the frosting over the top of the cake and don’t worry too much about making this perfect. I think a not-too-perfect cake is so much better than a perfect cake. Cut into wedges and serve. Leftovers can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Reprinted from Now & Again by Julia Turshen with permission by Chronicle Books, 2018


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