Welcome to your fall dessert line-up this old-fashioned spice cake topped with a velvety smooth salted caramel buttercream frosting! This irresistible combination strikes the perfect balance between warm, autumnal spices and salty-sweet caramel. This cake is a crowd-pleaser, so don't be surprised when your family and friends ask for seconds!
I can't think of a cake that's more perfectly suited to the fall and holiday baking seasons than this spice cake. With the flavors of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg front and center, this cake tastes like a cool fall day, snuggled up by the fireplace with a soft blanket, cozy socks, and your favorite book.
The salted caramel buttercream is a breeze to make and is the cherry on top of this delicious layer cake! I simply combined my trusty salted caramel sauce with my favorite American buttercream frosting and voilà: creamy, caramel-y, salty perfection!
Why This Recipe Works
Instead of playing a supporting role to other key flavors like pumpkin or apple, here the warming spices are the star of the show! A simple blend of popular, seasonal spices give the cake a robust (but not overly spicy) spice flavor.
A mix of butter and oil also helps to enhance the cake's flavor while maintaining a moist and tender texture.
And last but absolutely not least, the salted caramel buttercream frosting. I eat this stuff by the spoonful because it is truly that good! The salt ensures it isn't too sweet, and it pairs with the spice cake like peanut butter and jelly.
Ingredient Notes & Substitutions
All-Purpose Flour - This cake recipe uses all-purpose flour. For the most tender cake, it's best to use an all-purpose flour with a moderate protein content, like Gold Medal (10.5%), rather than a high-protein all-purpose flour like King Arthur (11.7%). If you only have high-protein all-purpose flour on hand, you can replace 1 cup of the flour with cake flour to limit the formation of gluten.
Warming Spices - For the best flavor, opt for freshly ground spices (or jars of ground spices that have been open for no more than a year), since their flavor fades over time.
Unsalted Butter - Butter provides necessary fat and flavor to the recipe. Unsalted butter lets us control the amount of salt in the recipe.
Vegetable Oil - Vegetable oil works with the butter; both provide needed fat, but butter provides flavor while the oil provides tenderness. Feel free to substitute another neutral oil like canola oil.
Eggs - Yes, you read that right... this recipe calls for 5 large eggs.
Salted Caramel Sauce - I used my favorite, easy homemade caramel sauce blended into classic, all-butter American buttercream frosting. If you use regular (not salted) caramel sauce, add ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt to the frosting when adding the vanilla.
See recipe card at the bottom of this post for full ingredient list and measurements.
In addition to essential baking equipment (like a mixing bowl and spatula), I recommend some special tools for making this recipe.
- Stand mixer or electric hand mixer, for mixing the cake batter and the frosting.
- Two 9 inch round metal cake pans, for baking the cakes.
Step-By-Step Recipe Instructions
Step 1: Make the cake batter. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, spices, and salt. Set aside.
Step 2: Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the oil and beat until blended.
Step 3: Whisk the eggs until fluffy. Add the milk and whisk until blended.
Step 4: Alternate adding the flour and egg mixtures to the butter mixture, mixing after each addition just until combined.
Step 5: Bake the cakes. Divide the batter evenly among the two cake pans. Bake the cakes at 350°F for about 25 minutes.Let the cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes before carefully removing from the pans to cool completely.
Step 6: Make the frosting. Beat butter until smooth. Add vanilla and beat until blended. Add sugar slowly – one cup at a time – beating well and scraping the bowl often. Add milk and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy. Finally add caramel sauce and beat on until well blended and fluffy.
Step 7: To frost the cake, first place one cake layer onto a cake plate or server. Using an offset spatula, spread some frosting on top of the layer and top with the other layer of cake. Spread remaining frosting over top and around sides of cake.
See recipe card at the bottom of this post for detailed recipe instructions.
Don't skip the parchment paper in the bottom of your cake pans, since it helps to ensure that your cakes come out of the pans easily. Here's my easy trick for lining round pans with parchment paper.
Be sure to measure your ingredients carefully. Measuring incorrectly - especially if you add too much flour - can lead to a dry cake.
Do not over mix the cake batter after the flour is added, since this will make the cake less tender. Stop mixing as soon as the last bit of flour is incorporated.
The two are similar, since they both rely on warming spices, like cinnamon, for flavor. Carrot cake also contains shredded carrots (and often nuts or other mix-ins like raisins or even pineapple), which add additional moisture, sweetness, and texture to the cake batter.
To avoid a dry spice cake, it's important to measure your ingredients carefully and be sure not to bake the cake too long. Also use an oven thermometer to ensure that you're baking the cake at the correct temperature.
Begin checking your cake at least 5 minutes before the stated bake time in the recipe (using your oven light without opening the door). When you think it may be ready, quickly and carefully pull it from the oven and do the "poke test": gently poke it with one finger to see if the top of the cake springs back. If it does, it's finished baking. You can double check that it's finished by inserting a cake tester or toothpick, which should come out with just a few moist crumbs. If you leave an indent when poking the cake, bake for a couple more minutes, being careful not to over-bake the cake.
Room Temperature: The frosted cake can be stored at room temperature covered on a cake stand or in a cake carrier for 2 to 3 days. The sugar in the buttercream frosting acts as a preservative, making it safe to store out of the fridge for a few days.
Refrigerator: I do not recommend refrigerating the cake right away, since this will dry out the cake more quickly. However, if you want to keep enjoying the cake for a couple of extra days after it's been stored at room temperature, move it the fridge either in a cake carrier or another sealed container (or on a plate covered with plastic wrap) for up to 3 days.
Freezing: The unfrosted cake layers can be made ahead of time, cooled, wrapped, and frozen for up to 2 months. Be sure each layer in completely cooled before wrapping with a layer of plastic wrap followed by a layer of aluminum foil. For an extra layer of protection, seal the wrapped cake layers in a sealed container or resealable plastic bag.
More Spiced Recipes
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Spice Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting
- 2 9 inch round metal cake pans
- Stand mixer or electric hand mixer
For the Cake:
- 2 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 12 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 5 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 cup whole milk
For the Frosting:
- 1 ½ cups unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 6 cups confectioners' sugar
- 3 Tablespoons whole milk
- ½ cup salted caramel sauce (homemade or store-bought)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray two 9 inch round baking pans with cooking spray and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Set aside.
Make the cake batter.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, spices, and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl using an electric hand mixer), cream together the butter and sugar by first beating the butter on medium-high speed until smooth (about 30 seconds) and then adding the sugar and continuing to beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy (another 2 to 3 minutes).
- Add the oil to the butter and sugar and beat until blended.
- In another small bowl, whisk the eggs until fluffy. Add the milk and whisk until blended.
- Add about a third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir until combined. Next, add half of the egg mixture and stir until blended. Continue to alternate adding the flour and egg mixtures to the batter, ending with the final third of the flour mixture. Be sure to mix well without over mixing (stirring gently and mixing just until combined) after each addition.
Bake the cake.
- Divide the batter evenly among the two prepared cake pans.
- Bake the cakes for about 25 minutes, or until the top springs back when poked and a cake tester inserted into the cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Let the cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes before carefully removing from the pans to cool completely.
Make the frosting.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using an electric hand mixer), beat butter on medium-high speed until smooth. Add vanilla and beat on medium-high speed until blended.
- Add sugar slowly – one cup at a time – beating well on medium speed and scraping the bowl often. When all sugar is added the frosting will be slightly dry.
- Add milk and beat on high speed until the frosting is light and fluffy.
- Add caramel sauce and beat on medium-high speed until well blended and fluffy.
Frost the cake.
- To frost the cake, first place one cake layer onto a cake plate or server. Using an offset spatula, spread some frosting on top of the layer and top with the other layer of cake. Spread remaining frosting over top and around sides of cake.