Jane’s Applesauce Cake Is A Perfect Christmas-Week Treat

Dara Bankole

In the summer, my mom would make Applesauce Cake to take on park picnics, to church potlucks, or just to have something reliable and sweet around for a long holiday weekend. It’s a breadlike cake that’s dense enough to eat with your hands, but moist and crumbly enough to satisfy a sweet tooth. With a thick, lemony glaze, lots of raisins and cinnamon, and yes, plenty of applesauce, it’s the polar opposite of chocolate decadence or a buttery vanilla, more akin to carrot cake’s vegetal softness. Though my mom almost always made the cake in the summer, and I made it then this year at the height of quarantine boredom, I realized the flavor profile is actually very well-suited to winter, too. It’s a perfect Christmas-y recipe, and I’ve been wanting to start sharing recipes here for a while, so this was a great one to kick off with.

The best part about this cake is that it gets better over time, like a stew, as the glaze begins to seep deeper into the body of the cake. Sitting in the fridge for a few days just makes it taste brighter and softer, while other cakes that are more flour-based tend to go dry with time. That’s why it’s the perfect cake to bake this week and eat all throughout the holiday next week. It doesn’t matter if you live alone, with two people or five people, the large format of the cake means there’s plenty for a big family, or you can slowly ration it out for yourself. Just mix the ingredients together and bake it on the day when you have time and energy, and slowly reap the rewards for the rest of your time off. Keep in mind, you can also store the glaze separately and heat it up to spoon it over each slice, but then you’ll miss the gooeyness of the two slowly combining over time.

My mom got the recipe from my dad’s mom, Idris White, but I’m attributing it to Jane because she’s the one who introduced it to me, and I’m not sure where Idris got the recipe, either. Plus, my mom slowly made the recipe her own over the years, changing proportions and experimenting with what worked best. The recipe card I always followed was in her handwriting, something I miss now that we mostly share recipes over email or otherwise typed formats. Wishing a happy and healthy Christmas to all our readers, hopefully this cake can bring some sweetness during a sour year. Recipe below.

Photo by Dara Bankole

Jane’s Applesauce Cake 

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup oil (canola or olive works fine)
3 cups sugar
4 beaten eggs
4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups thick applesauce 
2 cups raisin (optional)

Cream butter, sugar and oil together. Add eggs. Combine all the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl. Begin to add applesauce to the butter, eggs and sugar mixture alternating with dry ingredients. Mix well. Grease a 9 x 13 pan with butter and pour the batter into it. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 1 hour.

Sweet Lemon Glaze

1/2 cup lemon juice
2 TBS melted butter
2 cups powdered sugar

Mixt together and pour over the cake while still hot. Helpful tip: Poke holes in the top of the cake with a fork so more of the glaze can seep in, especially if the cake is well done. Enjoy! Make sure to cover the leftover cake with plastic wrap and store in the fridge.

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