Anne Byrn’s 1917 Applesauce Cake

$2.21 recipe / $0.25 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.75 from 27 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.

Anne Byrn’s 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

4.75 from 27 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 mins
Cook 35 mins
Total 50 mins


  • 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 8x8-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
Read our full nutrition disclaimer here.
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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 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. Absolutely amazing cake recipe!! Very inexpensive and is not a sweet cake mix. My spouse can’t eat sugary desserts and he really enjoyed this!! I am adding this one to my recipe book for sure. A must have if you have children that like cake. Next time I am going to try homemade apple sauce from our apple tree. Apple pieces along with the raisins will make an awesome combination, plus great way to use up the apple tree apples. Thank you for sharing this amazing recipe! 😀

  2. I love the taste of this but I have continued to have problems getting the center to cook enough.  I raised the temperature to 360 and bake it 35 minutes and it’s still doughy in the middle.  I’ve also kept it at 350 and continued up to 40 minutes with the peripheral pieces borderline over baked and the center still doughy.  Anyone else have this problem?  What do you suggest?

    1. Hmm, I’ve never encountered that problem. I wonder if reducing the applesauce slightly might help by reducing the moisture a bit?

    2. That’s occasionally happened to me, too, maybe to a lesser degree than what you’re describing. I’m trying to remember what I did – maybe cover the pan with foil towards the end? I haven’t minded a little softness because there’s no eggs anyway, but it does crop up for me once in a while.

  3. Made the recipe mostly as printed, except I think I may have undercooked mine a bit due to cooking for a little over 20 minutes. I thought the spice was nice and forward in this recipe. For those who think it doesn’t taste like much of anything, remember to sniff your spices before using! I suspect some may be using old, less pungent spices. I ground up whole clove and microplaned some nutmeg for extra fresh flavor. This recipe is light, warm, spicy, and good! I will make it again.

  4. hoping you can help me out….i have made this recipe and it’s amazing, but I accidentally picked up strawberry applesauce this time and afraid it will be weird in this, can i make modifications so it works or is there another recipe you could suggest? thx in advance!

    1. Hmm, unfortunately, I’ve never had strawberry applesauce so I’m not sure how it would work in this recipe or anything else you could use it for. :(

    2. I looked up “desserts using strawberry applesauce” and saw a Google listing for strawberry applesauce muffins. Try Googling that! Sounds like a great place to experiment :)

  5. I was looking for a simple breakfast cake that used applesauce and was low-calorie as far as cakes go. This one really satisfied me. The cake has an apple flavor in the background but it’s more of a raisin-spice cake than an apple cake overall, which is fine by me especially in winter season. The spices aren’t overpowering but they are definitely there, the only thing I changed was that I more than halved the cloves because freshly ground cloves are an extremely dominant spice. I also soaked the raisins in some wine that I had beforehand because I like plump raisins, but that’s totally optional. 
    Also, this cake only has two tablespoons of oil/butter and still tastes good with good texture (and no eggs!). I was a bit skeptical about that but it worked.
    Overall, it reminds me of certain old-fashioned autumn/winter sweets like grape must sweets. I will mak it again for sure.

  6. Delicious and easy! Left out raisins and added splash of vanilla extract; will make again and again. 

  7. I usually LOVE all the BudgetBytes recipes. This cake was okay but a little strong as far as spices go but Im sure that’s just my personal preference. Still delicious but I would halve the amount of spices if I make this again. 

  8. I have made this cake many times since getting Ann Byrne’s cookbook. It is so easy to make and delicious! I find I need to bake it longer than suggested, however.

  9. Made this today! Incredibly easy, and a great way to use up a jar of applesauce that always seems to sit unused in my fridge! Like others, I upped the spices fourfold and used only a scant cup of sugar.

  10. Even with all of my modifications, this is simply delish! I subbed in one third white whole wheat flour, reduced the sugar to two-thirds cup of loosely packed brown (it sounded better than my only other sugar option: demerara), and used only half the amount of raisins. Based on other reviewers, I bumped up the spices too. My cake turned out a little more rustic-looking than the pics here, but it works for me and clocks in at just a smidge over 200 calories per square. 😊,

    Amusing note: I must have checked and re-checked the recipe at least a dozen times while mixing it. No eggs. Nope. Not a one.

  11. This is a wonderful cake, perfect with a cup of tea or coffee. I don’t usually like raisins but I can’t imagine this cake without them. I have Anne’s cookbook, AmericanCake and I love it!

  12. It’s a bit out of season, but I just made this cake. I reduced the sugar to 3/4 of a cup but otherwise followed the instructions. Perfect, and so easy! I also ordered a copy of the cookbook for my Mom, who will love the stories. 

  13. I made this a couple of weeks ago, and found it promising, but a little heavy/dense/sticky, and the batter was so thick that it was hard to spread out in the pan — certainly unlike any sort of cake batter consistency I’ve encountered before. I had more or less doubled the spices, but thought they still seemed kinda wimpy, and could really be punched up further yet! So today, I made it again and did three major things differently: (1) I beat an egg into the creamed butter/sugar (for added batter moisture and extra leavening), and a splash of vanilla; (2) I used cake flour instead of all-purpose, for a finer crumb (actually, I don’t typically have cake flour on hand, so I used the standard substitution — for each cup of AP flour, replace 2 Tbsp of flour with 2 Tbsp corn starch); (3) I punched up all the spices — more or less quadrupled the cinnamon and nutmeg, doubled the cloves (freshly ground), and added a generous amount of ground ginger, allspice, cardamom, and even a bit of freshly-ground black pepper. Perhaps this is more “spicy” than the creator of the recipe had in mind, but it conformed much more closely to what I had envisioned when I read the recipe! I thought the result was terrific (and so did everyone in my choir, to whom I served it during rehearsal break)! Will make again with these mods.