Birthday Spice Cake

Every day is a gift. But some days are packaged better.
― Sanhita Baruah

My husband’s birthday was last week and his request: Spice cake.

Is this in my top 3 cakes I like?

Top 10?

To be honest, it wouldn’t even make a list of cakes I would think about eating or consider making. I have made this cake probably 5 times.
ALL of which have been on my husband’s birthday—we have been married 11 years, you do the math.

To be fair, I am not really a cake person. And, it’s not MY birthday so because I am a good wife—this is debatable—I always agree to make it. But because we are at the tail end—hopefully—of a pandemic, AND it was a milestone birthday for him—50—I decided to make the cake—from scratch.

So I started looking through the throngs of cookbooks I have (I <3 cookbooks and probably have at least 50) and I only found three different versions.

It would seem that spice cake isn’t on very many people’s top 10 favorite cakes.

Anyway, I found one in Rare Recipes and Budget Savers, another in The Modern Family Cookbook, and one in The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook. The fact that it was in ATK (yes, we are on a nickname basis) elevated my opinion of spice cake,

I mean ATK is —in my mind— the #1 cooking experts, science AND cooking/baking… what else is there? And if Dan Souza would like to cook with me, that would be just fine. I’d deep clean my kitchen for that. 🙂 But I digress…

I showed my husband the recipes.
Why? I do not know…I would have had a better chance of him being interested in deep cleaning the kitchen because Dan Souza was coming over.

In the end—it broke my heart a little—I went with the one in The Modern Family Cookbook the Fifth Printing, February 1969. I had ALL the ingredients (including fresh lemon and orange for the icing recipe).

However, I am glad I did. Spice cake is still not my favorite cake, but with a couple of changes— to the icing—this is the ONLY spice cake I will ever make.

Chris’ Birthday Spice Cake

How did I forget to add sugar to this pic? I think I did that last time…Photography will improve, I promise!

Preheat oven to 375º F.

The instructions say to sift flour, measure, and resift 3 times with soda and salt.
Since I didn’t do it even once, I certainly didn’t do it THREE times. I also don’t own a sifter. If I were to get one, it would be this one with the ATK stamp of approval.

Combine cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves (and optional cayenne) and mix with boiling water.
You know in cooking how they talk about blooming spices in oil for cooking…I assume that boiling water and spices is the equivalent for baking.
And it smells AWESOME!

Boiling water with spices=blooming spices for baking…who that was a thing? P.S. It smells SO good!

The one ingredient I didn’t have was buttermilk, but there are plenty of milk to buttermilk hacks. You have to do this early because it needs a couple of minutes to take effect. Set aside until you need it.

Cream butter (or coconut oil/shortening), then add sugar.

Continue mixing until well incorporated and fluffy.

Beat eggs and then add to creamy/fluffy wet ingredients.

Add bloomed spice mix to egg/sugar/butter mixture.

Look at all that spice goodness, it is amazing how it changes everything in the end.

Mix until well combined (I say this a lot).

Alternate adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk in three or four batches. Beginning and ending with flour. Make sure fully incorporated after each addition.

Evenly add batter to two 9-inch well-buttered and parchment-lined cake pans.

E wanted to help and she knows how to flatten the cake batter in a cake pan,

Bake at 375º F for 25 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched with a finger.

Cool in pans for about 5 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack.

They look beautiful…it’s a good thing you can’t see the one on the right, icing hides the good AND the bad.

Cool completely BEFORE frosting.

Orange Butter Frosting

Sorry I have NO pictures of this—honestly…my picture taking leaves something to be desired so I doubt you miss them.

Cream butter until smooth, add powdered sugar gradually.

Add salt and vanilla and corn syrup (I used agave as a substitute)


Add lemon and orange juice as well as orange rind.

Combine well.

Thinly ice layers together then ice as a whole

Don’t judge my icing inabilities.

This is supposed to make 10 to 14 servings…not really in my house. 🙂

Before the end of the night, another piece was gone. And the rest didn’t even make it to dessert the next day. I think it was a hit!

And that’s it! A birthday cake for the guy who doesn’t want to be difficult, but insists on being different 🙂

hugs and kisses from Maria

P.S. Come back, my next project is a knit flower for my new hat. 🙂 Pattern will be included.

Chris's Birthday Spice Cake

Classic spice cake recipe with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Cool 1 hour
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 8 people


  • 2 cups Flour you can use cake flour if you have it
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp Cloves
  • ½ tsp Nutmeg
  • 1 pinch Cayenne Optional
  • tbsp Boiling Water
  • ½ cup softened Butter Or Coconut oil/Shortening
  • cup Sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • cup Buttermilk


  • Preheat oven to 350º F
  • Combine flour, soda, and salt. Set aside.
  • Combine spices and mix well with boiling water. Set aside.
  • Cream butter with sugar.
  • Add eggs to creamed butter and sugar. Continue to mix until creamy.
  • Stir spice mixture into creamed mixture.
  • Alternate adding flour and buttermilk. Starting and ending with flour. Beat until fully incorporated and mixture is smooth.
  • Split cake batter into two 9-inch cake pans.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top springs back with a finger touch.
  • Cool in pans for 5 minutes before fully cooking face up on a cooling rack.
  • Frost (see frosting recipe).
Keyword Cake, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, spice

Orange Butter Frosting

An accompaniment to Chris's Birthday Spice Cake
Prep Time 20 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 8 people


  • ¼ cup Butter softened*
  • 2 cup Powdered Sugar
  • ¼ tsp Salt
  • 1 tbsp Agave Honey, White Corn Syrup or Simple Syrup are acceptable alternatives
  • 1 tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 tbsp Orange Juice
  • 1 tsp Orange zest


  • Cream butter and powdered sugar together until smooth.
  • Beat in salt and agave until smooth.
  • Add lemon and orange juice as well as zest. Again mix until smooth.


*Cream cheese would be a great tasty replacement for butter.
Keyword Cake, Frosting,

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