An easy, moist vegan gluten-free applesauce cake that’s just like the classic old-fashioned version you know and love, except this recipe contains no dairy, no eggs, and no gluten (and no one will know!).
It’s filled with warm, cozy spices and raisins, plus, you can add nuts if you choose. All of the delicious details are below.
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If you're looking for a quick, easy dessert for everyone to enjoy after a holiday meal or a regular weeknight meal, OR if you're looking for something easy but impressive to serve with tea or coffee, this vegan gluten-free applesauce cake is the dessert for you.
It's a simple, but versatile dessert that can be served on a variety of occasions and it doesn't take long to make (just like my vegan banana cake and apple cider doughnuts!). Plus, you decide how fancy you want it to be, it's all up to you! You can:
- serve it plain
- frost it with cinnamon buttercream (recipe below)
- dust the top of the cake with a little powdered sugar
You can also customize the add-ins, I've included everything you need to know, so let's get started!
Ingredients You'll Need
The list of ingredients is not a long one, you may already have everything in your kitchen right now!
Ingredient and Substitution Notes
As always, I recommend making this recipe exactly as it is written for the best and intended results, but you’ll find some ingredient notes and substitution info below.
Gluten-Free Flour Blend – This recipe calls for Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour, the one in the RED bag without xanthan gum.
I did test this recipe with Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 gluten-free flour (blue bag) and that cake still tasted great, but the texture was not ideal and it needed to bake much longer. The blend in the red bag produces a much better result, so I do not recommend the 1 to 1 flour for this recipe.
That's not to say the 1 to 1 flour blend would not work to make a vegan applesauce spice cake, it will, just not with this particular recipe. Modifications would need to be made for it to result in the perfect cake.
I have not tested with any other wheat-free / gf flours other than what is mentioned above, so I don’t know how others will work. With gluten-free baking, it’s always important to use the same flour the recipe calls for to get the expected results.
Make sure to measure your flour correctly or your cake will not have the correct texture.
Applesauce – Make sure to use plain, smooth (not chunky) unsweetened applesauce so no extra sugar or flavour is added to your cake. Don't use applesauce that has added sugar, corn syrup, flavour, or spices.
Vegan Butter – If you don't have vegan butter, oil can be used instead. Melted coconut oil can be used, but if you use it, make sure that your other ingredients are at room temperature so the coconut oil does not solidify when added to the recipe. I have not tried to replace the butter to make this recipe oil-free, the oil helps to make the cake moist.
Coconut Sugar - Granulated or brown sugar can be used instead of coconut sugar if needed. If you do use granulated or brown sugar, make sure you are using a brand that is vegan (organic will always be vegan). I have not made this recipe with liquid or alternative sweeteners.
Raisins - Raisins add a little natural sweetness to the cake (which isn't overly sweet on its own) and in my opinion, they make the cake perfect, so I highly recommend using them. However, if you don't have any, you can use dates that have been chopped to the size of raisins or dried cranberries instead.
Spices - The spices are the key to this cake's amazing flavour and cannot be left out.
Nuts go very well in this cake, so you can add a ½ cup of chopped walnuts or chopped pecans to the batter when you add the raisins if you'd like.
Are you new to vegan gluten-free baking? If so, be sure to read all of my vegan gluten-free baking tips!
How to Make It
(Note: I’ve outlined the step-by-step on how to make this recipe here, but find the full recipe, ingredients, and directions at the end of this post.)
While reading the simplified steps, follow along with the numbered images below!
Start by making your flax eggs and preparing your baking pan.
1. Mix all of the dry ingredients together
2. Mix all the wet ingredients together.
3. Add the wet to the dry ingredients.
4. Mix into a batter.
5. Add the raisins to the batter.
6. Stir the raisins into the batter.
7. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan.
The Best Type of Baking Pan to Use for This Cake
A glass dish can also be used, but keep in mind that since glass heats up and cools down slower than metal, you will need to add a few more minutes to the baking time.
Glass also holds heat longer, so when you take it out of the oven, remove it from the glass dish after a few minutes so it doesn't continue baking and end up overbaked.
After the cake has baked and you've removed it from the oven, let it sit in the metal cake pan for about 10 minutes before removing it.
When the 10 minutes have passed, remove it from the pan and place it on a cooling rack. If you will be frosting it or adding powdered sugar to the top, wait until it has fully cooled before doing so.
If you will not be topping it with anything, you can go ahead and slice/serve when it is still a little warm, but almost fully cooled.
How to Know When It's Done
Follow the time stated in the recipe and you can also do the toothpick test by simply sticking a toothpick into the center of the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, it's done.
The cake will have also pulled away slightly from the sides of the pan (see image 8 above). The middle of the cake will feel soft but firm.
How to Serve It
This is a dessert that's suitable for any occasion!
Serve it Plain
This cake on its own is the best because it's not very sweet, so it's nice to enjoy with tea or coffee. The plain version would also be a great addition to a brunch table.
Frost with Cinnamon Buttercream
You can make a small amount of frosting for this applesauce cake, just enough for the top. A recipe for cinnamon buttercream frosting is included below.
After frosting, you can sprinkle with a little cinnamon as I've done in the image above. Adding the buttercream is a good option if it's going to be a dessert for a fancier occasion like the holidays or a celebration.
Dust with Powdered Sugar
Sprinkle a little on top using a small sieve, like in the image below, and serve it for any of the occasions mentioned above. Note, that if you're going with this option, only add the powdered sugar to each slice right before serving. The cake cannot be stored with powdered sugar on top because it will melt and disappear into the cake.
These are all just suggestions, of course. If there is no special occasion and you just feel like having a frosted spice cake for tea time, or a plain cake for Thanksgiving dessert, then, by all means, do that! It all depends on your personal preferences.
How to Store Leftovers
Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days. After two days, place in the refrigerator for another 2-3 days. Serve cold or bring to room temperature before serving. This cake will dry out the longer it is stored, so it's best if it's used up quickly.
Tips for Success
- Use the same flour I use. Baking vegan gluten-free can be tricky because different flours produce different results. I know this particular flour works perfectly for this recipe, so to duplicate that perfection, use Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Blend (in the RED bag!). See the "Ingredient and Substitution Notes" section above for more info about the flour needed for this recipe.
- Measure and have all your ingredients ready to go before starting. This will make the process run smooth, quick, and easy. Make sure all of your ingredients are at room temperature.
- Measure your ingredients correctly. Too much flour in this recipe will result in a dry, crumbly cake. I highly recommend using a scale (this is one I have (Amazon Link) and my weight measurements when baking. If you don’t have a scale, lightly spoon the flour into your measuring cup until it is overflowing and then drag the flat edge of a butter knife across the top to level it off. (NEVER dunk the measuring cup into the flour to fill your measuring cup because this will guarantee an incorrect measurement of up to 1.5x more flour and a recipe fail.) Learn more about how to measure flour correctly.
Tips for Success (continued)
- Use parchment paper to line the pan. A square piece of parchment paper placed on the bottom of your pan will ensure your cake comes out of the pan clean. You can buy parchment squares that will fit your 8 x 8 pan perfectly, or you can cut parchment paper to fit.
- Make sure your baking soda is fresh. This ingredient makes the cake rise. Baking soda that is not fresh and active will result in a flat, gummy cake.
- Don’t over-bake. If over-baked, you'll end up with dry, crumbly cake. See the section above called "How to Know When It's Done" for more details.
- Read this post from top to bottom before you start. I’ve included a lot of tips and tricks so you get things right. Also read through the actual recipe before getting started.
- Follow the recipe exactly as it’s written for the very best results.
Are you new to vegan gluten-free baking? If so, be sure to read all of my vegan gluten-free baking tips!
Frequently Asked Questions
Applesauce, depending on the cake recipe, can be a great 1 to 1 or partial replacement for fat. It's a good option for those who eat oil-free and a way to cut back on calories. Applesauce keeps your baked goods moist because of its water content and it also adds a little fibre and nutrients to your treats. Note that applesauce may not always be a perfect replacement for the oil in your recipe, it has its limitations, so follow the recipe for the best results.
Yes, because of the water content in applesauce, if the recipe ingredients are properly balanced, it will make your cake moist.
Always use the type the recipe calls for, but in general, plain, smooth (not chunky) unsweetened applesauce without any extra sugar or flavour is the best type of applesauce to use for baking. To control the flavour and sweetness in your recipe, avoid using applesauce that has any added sugar, corn syrup, artificial flavours, or spices.
Applesauce is simply cooked and puréed apples so it's naturally gluten-free, but just in case, always read the label for notes about cross-contamination or added ingredients that may contain gluten.
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And If You Like This Recipe...
You may also like these other easy vegan gluten-free apple recipes:
Vegan Gluten-Free Applesauce Cake
- 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
- 6 tablespoons water
- 1 ½ cups (210g) gluten free flour blend **see important notes about flour below**
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup (57g) unsalted vegan butter softened
- ¾ cup (113g) coconut sugar
- 1 cup (246g) unsweetened plain applesauce
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup (65g) raisins
- powdered sugar For sprinkling on top of the cake (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C).
- Line an 8 x 8 baking pan with parchment paper, set aside.
- Prepare your flax eggs by whisking together ground flax seeds and water. Set aside to thicken.
- In a large bowl, add the gluten-free flour blend, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, salt. Whisk well to combine and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, add the butter, coconut sugar, and flax eggs. Using an electric mixer, beat until blended and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Stop to scrape down the sides of your bowl when needed. Add the applesauce and vanilla, mix again until everything has blended.
- Gradually add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and mix on low speed with your electric mixer or with a wooden spoon until a thick batter has formed.
- Stir the raisins into the batter.
- Using a rubber spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan, spread it evenly, and smooth out the top.
- Bake for 23-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Take care not to overbake or the cake will dry out.
- Remove from the oven and let the cake sit in the pan for 10 minutes.
- Remove the cake from the pan, peel off the parchment from the bottom of the cake and place it right side up on a cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting or dusting with powdered sugar, slicing, and serving.
- If using, add a little powdered sugar to a small sieve and shake it over the top of the cake.
Cinnamon Buttercream (Optional)
- Add butter and salt to a mixing bowl and using an electric mixer, beat until blended and creamy, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add powdered sugar and mix at low speed. Stop occasionally to scrape down the sides of your bowl.
- Slowly add milk, continuing to mix. Stop occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
- Add the vanilla and ground cinnamon, mix at low speed.
- Turn the mixer up to medium speed and mix until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Stop occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Mix for a couple more minutes if you want a creamier, fluffier frosting.
- Frost the top of the cake when it has fully cooled.
- Please read all of the information and FAQ info above, as well as the notes below before making this recipe.
- This recipe makes 9 squares but you can cut the pieces smaller if you'd like.
- It's important to know that different gluten-free flour blends use different ingredients and ratios, so results will always vary if you substitute. I have never used any other brand of flour to make this recipe (other than Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour (Amazon link) with the red label, NOT the blue label), so please know that your results may not be the same as mine if you substitute with another gluten-free flour blend. The weight listed above is for this specific brand of flour. See the "Ingredient and Substitution Notes" section above for more info about the flour needed for this recipe.
- This recipe will NOT work with coconut flour or any other single gluten-free flour, you must use a gluten-free blend, the one mentioned above for the intended results.
- If you don't need the recipe to be gluten-free, you can use 1 ½ cups (188g) of all-purpose white four instead. Don't over mix the batter.
- Make sure to measure your flour correctly.
- Any type of neutral flavoured oil can be used in place of vegan butter, such as avocado or safflower. Melted coconut oil can also be used, but if you do use coconut oil, make sure that all of your ingredients are at room temperature so it doesn't harden when it's added to the recipe.
- If you're using powdered sugar to dust the top of the cake, only add it just before serving. If the cake is stored with powdered sugar on top, it will melt and disappear into the cake when leftovers are stored.
- You can plump up your raisins by soaking them in warm water, draining, and patting them dry before adding them to the batter. Learn more about that method here.
- Storing Leftovers: Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days. After two days, place the container in the refrigerator for another 2-3 days. Serve cold or bring to room temperature before serving.
- Nutrition info is based on 1 of 9 pieces of cake without powdered sugar or frosting on top and with the recipe made as written. Info is only to be used as a rough guide. Click to learn how nutrition info is calculated on this website.