I asked Tech Support what dessert he would like for Father's Day, and he asked for spice cake. He's like that: very fond of old-fashioned bakes like spice cake and peanut-butter cookies. He is a great admirer of the basics, done to perfection. What a great excuse to browse through old cookbooks! I immediately brewed a fresh pot of tea and
wasted a morning started doing research.
The cake was an unqualified success. The final result was moist with applesauce, with baking scent that lit up the whole house. The aroma reminds me of late summer in the Carolina mountains, where every country road seems to lead to an apple orchard with a roadside stand. Of course, I had to frost this with cream cheese icing. Even the Resident Food Critic said you couldn't tell it was gluten-free. There might have been some unseemly fighting over the last piece.
A note on the amounts: when I was making the cake, I was worried I was adding too much of the spices. The amount of cinnamon, for example, is more than many large cakes require, and this cake is pretty small. But the results were spectacularly delicious, so I'm glad I didn't skimp on the spices.
The genesis of this cake was "Hot Applesauce Cake" from The Fannie Farmer Baking Book (1984). Older cookbooks seem to have a plethora of spice cake recipes, so I agonized a bit over the final choice. When converting regular recipes to gluten-free, I've sometimes found the results to be a little dry, and I thought the applesauce sounded like it would be moist (I was not wrong about this!) However, I wanted to make a layer cake (they always seem more festive to me), and many applesauce cake recipes were presented only as sheet cakes - would they fall apart when layered? Gluten-free cakes are prone to that as well. "Hot Applesauce Cake" was presented as a layer cake, so I had more confidence it would hold up.
Adapting the recipe was pretty straightforward: I left out the raisins and nuts (we are purists here at Half-Size Haven). I also left out the mace, because I didn't have any, but I doubled up on the nutmeg to make up for it. I can't remember what mace tastes like, but I'm pretty sure we didn't miss it. Then I halved all the ingredients and started baking.
Incidentally, why "hot" applesauce? I have no idea. Mine was not hot, but I did microwave it for a few seconds to take the chill off. I rarely buy applesauce, preferring what I make myself, which tends to be quite thick. However, I am pretty sure any applesauce at any temperature would work in this recipe.