Old-Fashioned Spice Cake Recipe

Spice Cake

Can a dessert be a comfort food? If so, Spice Cake is one of my favorite comfort foods.

I found a Spice Cake recipe in a hundred-year-old cookbook, and just had to give it a try. It was perfect, and brought back memories of luscious Spice Cakes at long-forgotten family reunions and church pot lucks.

This easy-to-make cake has a perfect spicy blend of  cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Brown sugar is the only sugar used in this recipe, which gives this cake a lovely caramel note.

If I had one complaint about this recipe, it’s that it did not make quite enough batter to use my “go-to” 9-inch X 13-inch oblong cake pan. Instead I used a 9-inch square pan, and that worked well. Hmm. . . now that I think about it, perhaps the smaller cake  is an advantage rather than a negative.  It was just the right size for my husband and me.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Old-Fashioned Spice Cake

  • Servings: 8 - 10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup raisin or chopped dates (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°  F. Grease and flour a 9-inch square baking pan. Combine all ingredients (except for the raisins or dates) into a large mixing bowl. Blend until well blended. If desired, stir in the raisins or dates. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Frost if desired. Good with a maple-flavored frosting.

And, here’s the original hundred-year-old recipe:

Spice Cake Recipe b
Source: Lowney’s Cook Book (1912)

95 thoughts on “Old-Fashioned Spice Cake Recipe

      1. I made this cake tonight and I am so happy to tell you, it turned out perfect! – I love spice cake as well and to find one to make from scratch is the best. ❤ Thanks so much for sharing this recipe, it really is delicious.~ Happy Cooking!

  1. I can’t wait to try this! I love spice cake. I am really enjoying your blog posts! I’m so happy I found this site!

  2. I love Spice cake! It was my grandfather’s favorite cake too! Thank you for sharing your recipe! Brings back fond memories! Hugz Lisa and Bear

  3. Thank you. This is more my speed. I have been practicing making pies. This last one was a disaster. I forgot to put sugar in the fruit and it baked lovely but tasted bad.

    1. Oh dear- it’s no fun to put all the effort into making something, and then realize too late that there’s a missing ingredient. In my opinion cakes – or at least spice cakes- are definitely easier to make than pies. 🙂

  4. Spice cake was a staple of my childhood, too, and it’s been years since I’ve had a good one. This recipe looks just right: on the list it goes! (And of course I’ll add the raisins.)

    1. Raisins would be wonderful in this cake, and would definitely add to its “comfort food” aura. 🙂 I was also intrigued by the suggestion in the old recipe to add chopped dates. I may have to try that sometime.

  5. 😋.. Spice cakes are wonderful,even when they are baking, the spicy smell lifts the spirit! My family loves a cream cheese frosting .

    1. If you make it, you’ll have to let me know what you think. I’m always interested in other people’s experiences and opinions when they try a recipe from this blog.

  6. I definitely think dessert can be comfort food! I don’t have strong memories of spice cake, although I like it very much, but apple pie, cake (not yeast) doughnuts, and German Chocolate cake all mean a lot to me!

    1. mmm. . . they all sound like comfort foods to me. You’ve now made me curious about cake vs. yeast doughnuts – and I’m going to have to start digging through my cookbooks. My mother never made doughtnuts, but I used to absolutely love the sugared doughnuts that women’s church groups in Pennsylvania sold on Fastnacht Day.

  7. I will have to try it for our next church dinner – just doubling the recipe should put it nicely in a larger pan 0r I will just make two smaller ones. Either way it will work!

    1. It should work to double it. You might possibly have a little extra batter–but you could always make an extra tiny cake for you. 🙂

      1. 😉 yummm….I never thought about cutting the recipe in half….will try it out this weekend finally only one thing to do and the rest of the weekend I will be home… woo hoo!!

  8. I love spice cake and even use a spice cake as a basis for carrot cake. I like adding raisins, they seem to go so well with the spices.

    1. I have a lot of fun trying some of the old-recipes that I find. It’s nice to hear that this one brings back memories of the types of foods your grandmother made.

  9. I see you’ve posted another delicious recipe. Oh my my my I can almost taste the spices now. I love comfort foods like this. Recipes are timeless. I may have to give this recipe a try too. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    1. Some foods like spice cake definitely stand the test of time. Let me know if you give it a try. You are so good at testing recipes and tweaking them to make them even better. 🙂

    1. I think that he’ll like it. If you make it, let me know what he thinks. I always find it really helpful to get the opinions of others about these old recipes.

  10. I adore spice cake! What recipe did you use for the maple frosting?

    I am so happy I found your blog. I came across it while researching height difference crossing eras, then comparing it to the european height trajectory lol. You wrote it in 2012 – so grateful. Thank you.

  11. I made the spice cake. The flavour is exceptionally delicious but in my concern not to undercook I actually overcooked the cake, and it’s a little dry. No worries though…..I cut slices and buttered them. Tonight I am making the Scotch onion and potato dish. It’s a favourite. I have some leftover salmon which I will add for a little variety.

    1. Thanks for letting me know that you made it and how it turned out. I love how you took a slight “lemon” and made lemonade. I tend to use icing to resolve any issues related to cakes–but I really like how you instead used butter and ate it more as a bread.

      And, it’s wonderful to hear that you like the Scotch Potatoes. They are a nice dish–and sound lovely with the salmon.

      1. I did think about toasting the buttered cake in a pan; may do so yet. (Borrowing from the trend of banana bread toast!)
        One other thing I like about the Scotch Potatoes; the recipe keeps my husband and I happy for two meals. So, yay, no cooking tonight! Oh, I may make a disorganized salad to go with the potatoes. 😀

  12. I was looking for a Germans Spice cake my mom use to buy at a bakery in the 50’s and 60’s. I remember it looked gray in color with black bits pieces of something.

    1. Hmm. . . this cake is tan or brownish is color. The cake your mother bought probably contained raisins, or maybe dried currants if the the pieces were small.

  13. I loved this cake. However, I followed the original recipe by separately mixing the dry ingredients and wet ingredients (using melted butter) and then combining the two. That’s how I’ve always made this kind of cake. I also modified the spices slightly: 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 1/4 tsp nutmeg and 1/4 tsp of ground cloves. I served it with a maple whipped cream, which went perfectly with the cake (1 cup whipping cream, 2 tbsp good quality maple syrup, 1/2 tsp vanilla).

    1. mmm. . . Your version of the cake sounds wonderful. Thank you for taking a few moments to describe how you adapted the recipe. I know that blog readers find it really useful to read about the experiences of others who have tried a recipe.

  14. I made the cake today. I creamed the butter and sugar, then added eggs then the combined dry ingredients, alternating with the milk to which I added 1/4 tsp vanilla extract. This method seemed to be the traditional way of making a cake but my baked cake sunk in the center. Cake has a nice flavor. I topped it with ermine frosting which went well with the spice flavoring of the cake.

  15. Made this today; I thought the batter was a little stiff and the cake was a little dense. Is it supposed to be like that? How can it be made lighter?

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