James Beard Award-winning Cookbook Author

Nora’s Chocolate Spice Applesauce Cake

~ by Guest Writer: Nora McDougall-Collins, Greg’s Geeky Sidekick

A Historic Recipe

When I was a teen, my Mother had the Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook. I looked at it some, but I wasn’t all that interested in cooking at that time in my life. I didn’t realize that in 1959, the adults in my world were still livingout the effects of WWII. My Mom’s family were farmers, so their stories were more about trying to get tires for tractors and providing a safe haven for displaced persons, rather than war stories. They had their own cooking tradition, which included ‘chili soup’ with macaroni, hamburger, vegetables and some chili powder. For those who are used to local chilies, powdered or roasted, this soup would not have won any chili cook-off.

Where they excelled was in baking. The original recipe (page 359)  for the adaptation below is titled “First Prize Apple Sauce Cake” for a time when the “official” competitions available to farm wives were County and State Fairs. For many, local fairs no longer mean a flurry of cookery, sewing and gardening, but the cake is still wonderful, both in memory and in reality.

… Is Still Current

I found the recipe in the book after my Mother passed it along to me. Most years, generous neighbors gifted us with surplus apples from their trees, and, like the long line of farm women in my family, I canned 50+ quarts of applesauce each season from their bounty. One year, a neighbor gave us some rather unpalatable transparent apples. They were large, but even with additional sugar, the applesauce was unpleasant. That is, it was unpleasant until it was added to the cake. This year, I was given apples from 4 different types of trees, some tart, some very sweet. The cake was a bit different with each type of apple, but the comments have been warm and generous for each batch.


For this recipe, Greg uses King Arthur flour. You can order King Arthur flour and flavorings through Greg’s King Arthur Affiliate site, which helps pay the costs of this website!

Nora's Chocolate Spice Applesauce Cake

Nora McDougall-Collins
This recipe is based on the First Prize Applesauce Cake recipe in the Farm Journal Country Cookbook, originally published in 1959.
4 from 1 vote
Course Dessert
Cuisine American


  • 2 mixing bowls
  • Baking pans. I use my bundt pans. The recipe makes 4 or 5 small bundt cakes or 1 large bundt cake.


Dry Ingredients

  • 4 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons cloves
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder

Other Ingredients

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts


Mix together dry ingredients

  • Gently spoon flour into mixing bowl.
  • Add soda, salt, spices and cocoa one at a time. Stir each addition with a lifting motion to add air into the dry ingredients.
  • Chop walnuts and add to dry mixture.

Mix other ingredients

  • In a large mixing bowl combine oil and sugar.
  • Heat applesauce. I measure the applesauce in a glass pour pitcher and heat it in the microwave 5 minutes, a minute at a time, stirring after each minute to distribute the heat.
  • Stir hot applesauce into oil and sugar mixture, blending thoroughly.
  • Preheat oven to 375
  • Add dry ingredients 1/3 at a time and mix. Mixture may bubble as baking soda reacts with the acid in the applesauce.
  • Generously grease baking dishes. I use a spray. I have tried flouring the pans, but this cake is turned out of the pan, and flour does not make the appearance very nice.
  • Distribute batter among the pans.
  • Bake for 30 - 35 minutes for small pans or 35 - 40 minutes for one large pan. Baking time may differ, based on pans and the type of oven.
  • Remove cake(s) in pans to racks for 5 minutes.
  • After 5 minutes, turn over onto rack.
  • If cake does not slide out easily, give the sides and top of the up-side-down pans a good, firm pat.
Keyword Applesauce, Cupcake

2 thoughts on “Nora’s Chocolate Spice Applesauce Cake”

  • 4 stars
    I was looking for this recipe since I don’t have the cookbook anymore. Thank you. Just to let you know – if you have a dark cake and you don’t want to flour the pan because of the appearance issues, just use cocoa, or a mixture of cocoa and flour.

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