Holiday Recipe: Apple Spice Cake

Anna Garner (a.k.a. Libby Mercer) stops by today to share her favorite holiday recipe, Apple Spice Cake, with us. Writing as Libby Mercer, Anna’s short story, Secret Santa, is featured in our Christmas anthology, Merry & Bright, and is sure to delight any reader with a penchant for romance and a dash of mystery. And her recipe looks equally delightful!

Anna's Apple Spice Cake

‘Tis the season for all sorts of wonderfully scrumptious sweet stuff! I first discovered this recipe many years ago when I was perusing the Joy of Cooking, looking for something festive to bring to my sister’s potluck Christmas dinner, and it’s been one of my all-time faves ever since. It’s very dense, and very, very sweet, which is why I like to say my holiday apple spice cake is both naughty and nice.

Apple Spice Cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour one 8 x 8-inch pan or line the bottom with wax or parchment paper.

Whisk together thoroughly in a large bowl, pinching out any lumps in the brown sugar:

  • 1 ½ c all-purpose flour, or a combination of all-purpose flour and whole-wheat flour
  • 1 c packed dark or light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp freshly ground or grated nutmeg
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Add and stir together until smooth:
  • 1 c buttermilk
  • ½ c vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Optional: 2 tbsp rum or brandy

Stir in:

  • 1 c chopped apples
  • ½ c chopped walnuts or pecans*

Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Slide a thin knife around the cake to detach it from the pan. Invert the cake and peel off the paper liner, if using. Let cool right side up on the rack. Serve warm or plain with vanilla ice cream, or let cool completely and frost with icing.

*I’m not a big fan of nutty cakes, so I usually add an extra ½ c chopped apples and leave the nuts out.

I like to ice my apple spice cake with a very basic frosting, since the cake itself is so flavorful. Here’s a recipe for a “quick” butter frosting:

  • ½ c (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 2-4 c confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1-2 tbsp milk or cream (more as needed)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Whip the butter on low to medium speed, gradually adding sugar. Beat until the sugar is fully incorporated and the butter is light both in color and texture. Taste as you go to decide where to stop on the sweetness scale.

Add the liquids and whip until blended. If the frosting is too thick, add more milk or cream as needed to reach the desired thickness. If it’s too thin, add more sifted sugar as needed.

Use immediately to frost a cake or store, covered, in the fridge for a few hours. The frosting will harden slightly as the butter chills, but you can bring it back to room temperature and beat it again before using.

MERRY-BRIGHT-SALESip your eggnog, linger under the mistletoe, and make a Christmas wish. Merry & Bright brings you six tales of Christmas cheer, featuring stories of budding romances, Southern charm, lost loves, heaps of humor, and lots of pie by authors Isabella Louise Anderson, Cindy Arora, Laura Chapman, Lauren Clark, Libby Mercer, and Nancy Scrofano. From sunny Los Angeles to the Rocky Mountains to the Deep South, Merry & Bright will take you on a heartwarming adventure you’ll love to visit again and again. Wrap yourself in holiday mirth and prepare to be swept off your feet.

blonde author photoFormer fashion journalist, Anna Garner, wrote her first “book” at the age of seven. She now writes old school chick lit stories as Anna Garner, as well as quirky love stories under the name of Libby Mercer. Anna currently lives in San Francisco. You can learn more about Anna by visiting her website.


  1. Yum! I’m definitely saving this recipe for later. Thanks for sharing!