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Sour Cream Spice Cake: a Scrumptious Nod to Fall

Sour Cream Spice Cake is everything you love about fall baking in one delectably simple dessert.

Sour Cream Spice Cake on a white plate.  Plate is on a marble countertop and has a fork and blue print fabric napkin next to it.  Cake is frosted with cream cheese icing and sprinkled with chopped pecans.
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Dark brown sugar brings caramelly richness, and pecans add delightful texture to this flavorful and festive Sour Cream Spice Cake.

The warm spices we associate with autumn and the holidays (namely cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and clove) are delicately balanced with citrus in this moist and tender cake.

The velvety smooth cream cheese frosting is Sour Cream Spice Cake’s crowning glory. It’s one of my all-time favorite frosting recipes, and it’s delicious on so many cake and cupcake recipes. You should give it a try with my friend Janelle’s Sourdough Carrot Cake recipe. And it’s spectacular on my delicious Drop Sugar Cookies. Mmmmm…you’re going to love it!

Sour Cream Spice Cake on a white plate. Plate is on a marble countertop and has a fork and blue print fabric napkin next to it. Cake is frosted with cream cheese icing and sprinkled with chopped pecans.

The Ingredients

  • Butter
  • Dark Brown Sugar
  • Applesauce
  • Orange, zest and juice
  • Sour Cream
  • Eggs
  • All Purpose Flour
  • Baking Powder
  • Baking Soda
  • Salt
  • Spices: Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger, Cloves
  • Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Chopped Pecans

You’re reading the recipe correctly. There is only dark brown sugar in this cake. It creates a richer, more caramely flavor than you would achieve with just granulated sugar.

The sour cream is important, again for richness, but also for moisture in this batter. You could probably substitute plain Greek yogurt, though I haven’t tried that in this recipe.

orange zest for sour cream spice cake

The Orange

I used a large orange for this recipe. It netted me well over 1/3 cup of juice, but not quite a half cup.

Be sure to zest the orange before juicing it. If you just have orange juice in the fridge and want to use that, you could make it work, but the real citrus flavor comes from the oils in the zest.

In my opinion, omitting it will definitely change the flavor.

The applesauce doesn’t add tons of apple flavor. It is more for moisture and to cut back on the amount of fat needed.

I use unsweetened because that’s my preference. If you have sweetened applesauce on hand, it should be fine.

baked sour cream spice cake in a 9x13 cake pan

How to Make Sour Cream Spice Cake

You won’t believe how easy this spice cake is to make and how quickly it comes together!

  1. Start by creaming the butter and brown sugar together in the bowl of your stand mixer. You can certainly whip this up by hand, but I used my Bosch stand mixer. A mixer just makes the process quick and easy.
  2. Add the applesauce, sour cream, orange juice, zest, eggs and vanilla. Mix until they are well incorporated.
  3. Mix in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.
  4. When the batter is mixed, stir in the chopped pecans.
  5. Bake the sour cream spice cake in a 350° oven.
Sour Cream Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Chopped Pecans

Finishing Your Spice Cake

The Sour Cream Spice Cake will need to cool on a rack.

Unless I’m making this for some special occasion, I leave it right in the pan to ice it.

The recipe in the card, below, makes the perfect amount of Cream Cheese Frosting for icing it in the pan. If you are baking the cake in two layers, or you are removing the 9×13 from the pan to ice the sides, too, you will need to double the cream cheese frosting recipe.

When there’s no hint of heat left in the Sour Cream Spice Cake it’s time to finish it off.

Icing the Cake

Beat together the softened cream cheese, vanilla, milk and powdered sugar for the most delicious Cream Cheese Frosting.

Spread the frosting over the Sour Cream Spice Cake. I like to sprinkle a few extra chopped pecans over the top, because well…delicious. You do you. If you have extra and love them like me, it really is spectacular.

Sour Cream Spice Cake on a white plate. Plate is on a marble countertop and has a fork and blue print fabric napkin next to it. Cake is frosted with cream cheese icing and sprinkled with chopped pecans.

Storing the Cake

I keep this cake in the fridge because I love how it tastes served cold. Not a necessity, but in my opinion, it’s when it’s at its ultimate best. Seal it in an airtight container before storing.

To freeze your Sour Cream Spice Cake to enjoy on another day, double wrap the pan with aluminum foil. Store in the freezer up to 3 months.

How easy is that? And you guys, Sour Cream Spice Cake is scrumptious!

The Recipe

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sour cream spice cake on a serving plate

Sour Cream Spice Cake

  • Author: Glenda Embree
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 1524 servings 1x


If fall and the holidays could be baked into a cake, this moist and delicious spice cake would be it! The light citrus notes are a beautiful complement to the warm spices and the tangy cream cheese frosting is perfection!


Units Scale
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 large orange, zest and juice
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 recipe Cream Cheese Frosting (see in notes)


  1. Preheat oven to 350° and grease a 9×13 cake pan.
  2. Cream the butter and brown sugar together in the bowl of your stand mixer.
  3. Add the apple sauce, sour cream, eggs, orange juice, zest and vanilla and beat until the ingredients are incorporated.
  4. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices.  Mix until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated into the batter.
  5. Mix in the pecans.
  6. Bake in a greased 9×13 pan, for 35-45 minutes at 350°.
  7. Remove the cake from the oven when the edges have pulled slightly away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. Cool the cake, in the pan, on a cooling rack.
  9. When completely cool, frost it with one recipe of Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe in the notes, below) and if desired, sprinkle with a few additional chopped pecans.


Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe (enough to ice a cake in a 9×13 pan)

In the bowl of your stand mixer beat a softened 8 oz bar of cream cheese, 1 Tablespoon of vanilla, and 1 pound of powdered (confectioners) sugar, until the frosting is smooth and creamy.  If the consistency is too thick for you, add 1-3 teaspoons of milk, a teaspoon at a time, until you achieve the desired consistency.

Frost your completely cooled cake.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Category: Dessert, Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

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glenda embree

About Glenda

I believe cooking from scratch doesn’t have to be complicated and that YOU can do it. My simple recipes, tutorials, and cooking tips will help you get weeknight dinners on the table with less stress. Forget takeout or the drive-thru. Let me show you how to make homemade easy. Read more...

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