Thursday, September 23, 2021

Old-Fashioned Applesauce Cake


While everyone seems to be in a pumpkin frenzy, the early days of autumn are always apple season to me. This is the time when they are picked from the trees, all crisp, sweet and juicy. It’s also when I like to bake all things apple flavored. 

Recently I turned to the collection of cookbooks I keep on my kitchen counter in search of a new recipe to try. These books are deemed most important to me versus those stored in the large bookcase in my living room. 

My eyes landed on Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook. It reminded me how life-impacting events happen on ordinary days. And while this particular moment I recalled from the past wasn’t monumental in the typical life-changing ways—awards, birthdays, accidents, love, death—it did lead me towards my love of food and joy of cooking. So much so, the memory of it is crystal clear. 

I was in the eighth grade. Do you remember those days? For me, it was a time when I felt less than everyone else, except for my size, which was more than most and kept my confidence in the basement. I had friends, but I spent a lot of time at home reading and watching T.V. Now I realize I’m what Oprah Winfrey describes as an introvert who can act like an extrovert when necessary. In those days, I just felt not good enough. 

On this particular day, I was bored. Somehow, I wound up reading through my mom’s copy of the Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook. I knew the basics of cooking and how to read a recipe, but this was the first time I remember falling in love with the pages of a book full of them and making a new-to-me recipe unsupervised. 

I made cream puffs. Today, thanks to watching the Great British Baking Show, I realize how difficult it can be to make pâte à choux. On that long-ago day, I followed the directions trusting the strange mixture created in a saucepan would come out right in the end. 

It did! Each ball of dough puffed up just like the ones in the picture. I didn’t have the ingredients needed to make the filling, but a box of vanilla pudding in the cupboard did the trick. I dusted the top with confectioner’s sugar and served them for dessert that night. 

I will never forget the look on Dad’s face after he took his first bite—total pleasure. Since then, I’ve never feared making pâte à choux, though I honestly have only made it a few times. I prefer treats that are easier to make these days. 

The cookbook is still published, updated since its first printing in the 1950s. Honestly, I don’t reach for it much anymore but during my recent time spent turning its pages, the Applesauce Cake recipe caught my eye—simple, homey, and full of autumn flavors. This cake makes a lovely afternoon snack, after-dinner dessert, or even a tasty companion to my morning coffee. (Yes, cake for breakfast!) I tweaked the recipe to fit the ingredients in my pantry—a sign of a good basic recipe. 

Join me in celebrating all things apple with this Old-Fashioned Applesauce Cake recipe. And, if you’re curious, the cookbook is still available!  Grab a copy and enjoy a step back in time. 

Old-fashioned Applesauce Cake

Old-fashioned Applesauce Cake

Yield: Makes a 9-inch cake
Author: Linda Ditch
This cake makes a lovely after-school snack, after-dinner dessert, or even a tasty companion to my morning coffee. (Yes, cake for breakfast!)


  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/3 cup oil (avocado, canola, or vegetable)
  • 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 2/3 cup raisins
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9-inch square cake pan with non-stick spray and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, use a mixer to beat together the sugar and oil. Beat in the egg and then the applesauce. Mix in half the flour-spice mixture, then the water, and then the remaining flour mixture until smooth. Fold in the walnuts and raisins.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Set on a cooling rack in the pan for 5 minutes, and then remove the cake from the pan onto the rack to finish cooling. Sift confectioners’ sugar over the top for decoration, if desired.