This Applesauce Cake is sturdy, low in sugar, and lightly spiced, ideal for use as a smash cake!
One of those rare treats that are allowed to be over the top, decadent, and whatever you want it to be.
When we celebrated my second son’s first birthday four years ago, I had a hard time letting him eat his fill of a sugar-filled treat. I took that as the perfect opportunity to perfect a smash cake fit for a baby!
This Applesauce Cake is a little bit healthier than your ordinary cake. It takes advantage of leftover baby food jars, which you likely have sitting around with a one year old, and is sweetened with maple syrup and a bit of brown sugar. The cream cheese frosting is always a huge hit with babies because, in my experience, babies (and I) love cream cheese!
I’m not really one to scale down recipes (hello, tiny cheesecake tier). Instead I’m all about baking in the container you want to use and finding another way to use up the rest. For this smash cake I cleaned out two tuna cans, sprayed them with cooking spray, lined them with parchment, and sprayed them again. The remainder of the batter I baked in a greased 9×5 loaf pan and it made a perfectly acceptably sized cake that pairs perfectly with this glaze (I swapped one of the teaspoons of the vanilla with cinnamon) or some of the cream cheese frosting.
Sifting the powdered sugar is absolutely necessary here. I have left it unsifted before and the frosting was obviously lumpy. Be sure to sift for that silky smooth finish.
This Applesauce Cake can be customized! Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Add a bit of cinnamon to the frosting
- Skip the tuna tins and pour all the batter into the 9×5 loaf pan, increasing the baking time to about 1 hour
- Skip the loaf pan and make into cupcakes, baking until the tops are firm and a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean
- I haven’t tested it, but you could experiment with other baby food purees such as carrot or squash in place of the applesauce
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- 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 cup unsweetened applesauce (or two 4 ounce apple baby food jars)
- 8 ounces cream cheese , softened
- 1/2 cup butter , softened
- 2 cups powdered sugar , sifted
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease two clean tuna cans and one 9x5 loaf pan. Line the sides and bottom of the tuna cans with parchment and grease again.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream brown sugar and butter. Add the maple syrup and mix until incorporated. Add the eggs and beat well.
In a medium bowl, combine baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, and flour.
Alternately add the dry ingredients and the applesauce to the butter mixture, mixing just until incorporated.
Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans, filling the tuna cans about 3/4 full. Bake about 27 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 15 minutes before carefully inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
To make the frosting, place cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on low about one minute, ensuring that it is soft and pliable. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl. Add the butter and beat on medium speed for one minute, until thoroughly combined.
Turn the mixer on low and add the powdered sugar, followed by the vanilla extract. Beat until almost incorporated.
Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and beater. Beat on medium speed until the frosting is velvety soft.
To frost the cake, spread frosting on top of one of the small cakes, top with the other, and spread frosting all around the outside. Use any remaining frosting to top the loaf cake, or drizzle the loaf with vanilla glaze.