Anne Byrn’s 1917 Applesauce Cake

$2.21 recipe / $0.25 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.74 from 30 votes
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A couple weeks ago I got an email from fellow cookbook author, Anne Byrn, who I had worked with a couple years back when she was passing through town promoting one of her cookbooks. Anne wrote to let me know that she just released a new cookbook, American Cake, which features iconic American cakes and the history and stories that surround them. She was gracious enough to let me share one of the recipes with all of you, so I chose this 1917 Applesauce Cake.

A class casserole dish with baked Applesauce Cake, a fork resting in the dish, a cup of coffee on the side.

About the Book, American Cake

Okay, let me just say that American Cake is absolutely stunning. It’s a hardcover book full of beautiful photography and fascinating stories to go along with each recipe.

The recipes are arranged in chronological order from the mid 1600’s through the present and Anne discusses the changing culture of each era and how events shaped the use of ingredients and baking styles of the time.

I could happily cozy up in a corner with this book and read it like a novel. It’s so much more than just recipes and is perfect for history buffs. It’s definitely going on my holiday gift guide this year! You can read more about the book and find out where to buy it here.

About the Apple Sauce Cake

I chose to make the 1917 Applesauce Cake because of its simplicity. It has only a few ingredients and is easily made vegan for my vegan friends (just replace butter with a solid plant-based fat, like shortening or coconut oil).

But most of all, this cake is not too-too sweet or rich. The warm spices make it perfect for fall or pairing with a rich cup of coffee. The small amount of fat in this cake means that it feels fairly light on the stomach and I didn’t feel weighed down afterwards.

…Although I have to admit, that scoop of vanilla ice cream that I put on top made it absolutely heavenly! Something about the mix of cool and warm, vanilla and spices. Oh yes.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this recipe and I can’t recommend this book enough!

Can I Make This Cake Vegan?

Yes! This recipe is SUPER simple to convert into a vegan cake. Simply replace the 2 Tbsp butter with cooking oil and you’re good to go!

Close up of one square of Applesauce Cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.
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Anne Byrn’s 1917 Applesauce Cake

4.74 from 30 votes
The 1917 Applesauce Cake from Anne Byrn's new book American Cake is light, sweet, and full of warm spices. No Eggs, one easy swap to make dairy-free!
Author: Ann Byrn
Servings 9 1 piece each
Prep 15 minutes
Cook 35 minutes
Total 50 minutes


  • 1 cup sugar ($0.16)
  • 2 Tbsp butter (plus some for the pan) ($0.31)
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce ($0.64)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (plus 1 Tbsp) ($0.19)
  • 1 tsp baking soda ($0.04)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon ($0.05)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves ($0.05)
  • 1/4 tsp salt ($0.02)
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg ($0.03)
  • 2/3 cup raisins ($0.72)


  • Allow the butter to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Coat the inside of an 8×8-inch baking dish with butter.
  • In a large bowl, cream together 2 Tbsp of butter and the sugar using a hand mixer or mixing by hand with a wooden spoon. Add the applesauce and stir to combine.
  • In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, salt, and nutmeg until well combined.
  • Pour the flour mixture into the applesauce mixture and stir just until combined.
  • In a separate small bowl, toss the raisins with about 1 Tbsp flour until they are lightly coated. Fold the flour coated raisins into the cake batter. Spread the cake batter into the prepared baking dish.
  • Bake the cake for 30-35 minutes, or until the the center springs back when pressed. Let the cake cool for 15 minutes before slicing into 9 pieces.

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Serving: 1ServingCalories: 262.73kcalCarbohydrates: 54.61gProtein: 3.13gFat: 3.86gSodium: 240.04mgFiber: 2.17g
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Scroll down to see the step by step photos!

Anne Byrn's American Cake Book Cover

How to Make Applesauce Cake – Step by Step Photos

Anne Byrn's American Cake open to 1917 Applesauce Cake

I just wanted to give you a little sneak peek inside the book. Like I said, the photography is GORGEOUS and each recipe comes with an awesome little story about the cake and how it is representative of what was going on in the country at the time. This 1917 Applesauce cake uses really basic ingredients and is considerate of ingredients that were rationed during WWI. Sounds like a perfect fit for today’s budgets, too!

Glass dish being greased with a piece of butter

Start out by greasing the inside of an 8×8-inch baking dish (or similar size-mine is more like 7×9). Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Cream Sugar and Butter mixed together with a wooden spoon in a bowl

In a large bowl, cream together 2 Tbsp butter and 1 cup sugar. I decided to use a wooden spoon so I could feel like I was making this in 1917. Just kidding! The beaters for my hand mixer were dirty and I was too lazy to go wash them. Jokes on me though, because this definitely took more effort with a wooden spoon than it would have taken to wash the beaters. SMH.

Stir Applesauce into butter and sugar mixture

Stir in one cup of unsweetened applesauce.

Flour and Spices in a separate bowl

In a separate bowl, stir together 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground cloves, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp nutmeg until well combined.

Combine wet and dry ingredients

Combine the applesauce mixture with the flour mixture…

Applesauce Cake Batter finished in a metal bowl with wooden spoon

And stir just until combined.

Floured Raisins

In a separate bowl, toss 3/4 cup raisins with about 1 Tbsp flour until they’re coated. There is a note in the book about how coating the raisins in this manner helps them stay suspended in the batter instead of sinking to the bottom. Cool! Once coated, fold the raisins into the cake batter.

Applesauce Cake Ready to Bake

Spread the cake batter into the prepared dish.

Baked Applesauce Cake

Bake the cake for 30-35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the center springs back when you press on it lightly. You can also give it the toothpick test and insert a toothpick into the center. If it comes out clean, it’s done. If it comes out coated with wet cake batter, then it needs a few more minutes.

Applesauce Cake cut into squares, one square on a small plate o the side, dusted with powdered sugar

Let the cake cool for about 15 minutes, then slice into 9 pieces and serve. I accidentally sliced mine into 12 pieces and they were a tad small, so I would suggest nine.

Close up of one slice of Applesauce Cake with a second slice and cup of coffee in the background

You can give it a light dusting of powdered sugar, or go big and add a big ol’ scoop of ice cream.

Overhead view of one slice of Applesauce Cake with a scoop of ice cream on top, being eaten with a fork.

What? I had to eat it before the ice cream melted. ;D

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  1. Wow this was good, and somehow seemed perfect for Easter, with golden raisins. I used parchment paper in a 8 x 8 pan, and replaced butter with avocado oil. It turned out deliciously moist after 40 minutes. Unsweetened applesauce is a must, because a whole cup of sugar is added. Next time, I will try adding some orange zest to the dry ingredients and see what happens! :)

  2. This looks amazing. Any thoughts from anyone who’s tried gluten free? I’m going to try it with an all-purpose 1-1 blend and report back.

  3. Made this cake and it was a terrific smell in the oven for fall!! I left out cloves (not a fan) and used vegan butter. The texture was wonderful. It’s a perfect simple snacking cake. I did need to bake for 35 minutes. One of my favorite things to make in the fall is applesauce in my crockpot. I used applesauce from a jar for the recipe tonight but wondering if anyone has tried to make this with homemade applesauce? I can’t help but thinking a fresh, chunky applesauce instead of store bought might be amazing here?

  4. Every summer my grandma would always make me a homemade birthday cake and I would choose applesauce cake or carrot cake and they were the best tasting cakes ever . Thanks for the recipe so I don’t have to look for her recipe.

  5. I really like this cake and have made it many times. Each time I have such difficulty getting the center of the cake to bake all the way through. I have adjusted the baking time and the temperature and have yet to get the middle to not be too soft and underbaked. Please advise what to do. You say “baking dish” so I’ve used a glass baking dish and have adjusted the temperature accordingly. Such good flavor but really frustrating that I have extra time in the kitchen popping it in and out of the oven to no avail. Thanks for your guidance in this