Auntie’s Spice Cake

Gorgeously fragrant and richly flavoured with warming spices, this vintage recipe for my Auntie’s Spice Cake has been in my family for four generations.

Aunties Spice Cake

My maternal Great Aunt, Margaret, whose spice cake recipe this is, was known simply as ‘Auntie’ by her two nieces and five great-nieces. She figured hugely in my mother’s reminiscences about her childhood and my cousins often mention her fondly. Sadly she died before she met her sixth great-niece who is, as you may have guessed by now, me.

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I know Auntie only through the wonderful stories I have been told and a few things left to me. The beautiful burgundy blown glass vase with she gave my mother for her 21st birthday sits on the table beside my bed. I wear the ruby and diamond ring she left my mother from time to time, and wonder what she felt like as she wore it. Did Auntie wear it every day, or just for special occasions as I do? I feel a special connection with Auntie when I sit at her writing desk in our library, pen in hand.

My cousin Holly beside Auntie's desk.

My cousin Holly beside Auntie’s desk.

I wonder about the person who had such a profound effect on the women in my family and wish that I had had the chance to know her too.

One thing I do know about Auntie is that she was a very good cook. I have several of her handwritten recipes and this Spice Cake is one of them.

Aunties Spice Cake

The mixing method is one developed before the days of electric mixers, the eggs whites whipped and then folded in at the end to help the cake rise. It sounds cumbersome, but actually it’s very easy, and it makes a spice cake that tastes better than any I have ever tasted. As I whip the egg whites in the electric mixer, I think of Auntie whisking them by hand in a kitchen back in the 1930’s and 40’s. The world may have changed, but Auntie’s delicious recipe for spice cake has stayed the same.

Aunties Spice Cake

Auntie Margaret’s Spice Cake
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk or sour milk
  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup soft brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
  2. Grease and flour a deep 8 inch (20 cm) round pan or an 8 x 8 inch square pan. You can use a loose-bottomed pan if you prefer as it makes it easier to remove the cake after baking.
  3. Whisk the baking soda into the buttermilk or sour milk. Set aside.
  4. Sift the flour, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg into a mixing bowl. Set aside.
  5. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Set aside.
  6. Put the butter and brown sugar in a mixing bowl and beat together thoroughly.
  7. Stir in the egg yolks until well blended.
  8. Stir the buttermilk and soda mixture, along with the vanilla, into the egg yolk mixture. Blend thoroughly.
  9. Stir the flour and spice mixture into this batter, beating thoroughly.
  10. Fold the egg whites gently but thoroughly into the batter.
  11. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, levelling the top a bit with a knife.
  12. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  13. If you plan to remove the cake from the baking pan, cool in the pan for ten minutes before turning out and cooling on a wire rack. Otherwise just allow the cake to cool in the pan. (If I make the cake in a square pan I serve it cut in squares straight from the pan. If I use a round pan, I generally remove the cake and serve it from a serving plate.)
  14. When completely cool you can frost with your favourite buttercream or spiced icing. Browned butter icing is also very nice with this cake.

More Delicious Old Fashioned Recipes

Old Fashioned Banana Cake

Old Fashioned Applesauce Pecan Brownies

Old Fashioned Chocolate Chip Cookies

Old Fashioned Oatmeal Raisin Muffins

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Article by April Harris

April has written 1280 great articles for us.
April is a writer, recipe developer, frequent traveller and blogger sharing travel, food, and style. Based in the south of England, April is a British Canadian who is passionate about family, hearth and home, healthy living (with treats!) and the transformative power of travel.
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  1. It’s what we call here a traditional cake and we love it!

  2. looks delicious….just mouthwatering!

  3. I love this recipe! When I was a little girl, my Mom would make a spice cake and it was my favorite. I am not actually a big fan of chocolate cakes, but I could eat spice cake everyday of the week! Thank you so much for sharing this special recipe on #cakefriday!

  4. How fun that it’s your Aunt’s recipe! I have a bunch of handwritten recipes from my grandmother and I love them! The cake looks so fluffy and delicious! Definitely want to try it!

  5. Oh I just love old recipes. They are simple, but always wonderfully flavored. I can’t wait to try this:)

  6. Pinning this right now! Looks perfect for elevenses and coffee. 🙂 Thanks for sharing. I often find the old handwritten recipes are the best.

  7. This looks DIVINE! I love spice cakes, and this one reminds me of my childhood. I bet the buttermilk adds something extra special. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  8. I just pinned your delicious recipe from Full Plate Thursday, thanks for sharing!
    Miz Helen

  9. What a lovely cake filled with love form your Aunt. 🙂

  10. This sounds a very delicious recipe and I can imagine the aroma when this is baking is out of this world! I love the story behind it, always makes recipes come alive. Thanks so much for sharing!

  11. l love treasured family recipes that span generations…thank you for sharing!

  12. I absolutely LOVE spice cake. What a great recipe!!!

  13. Tampa Cake Girl says:

    What an amazing recipe! Love the history and photos with this yummy recipe April. I have pinned and shared it! ❤️❤️❤️

  14. Hey April, I love your post about your Auntie and her beautiful, delicious cake. Thank you so much for sharing both. Auntie must have been a tremendous person.

  15. What a wonderful cake and delightful story.

  16. How wonderful!! I love the passing down of family recipes! Its amazing how a single bite of something can bring us right back a moment in time or immediately thinking of a loved one! Thanks so much for sharing this delicious recipe!

  17. G’day Gorgeous recipe and photo! Are you sure your Auntie is not mine as have those handwritten cards and the handwritten re my reles looks the same too! lol
    Pinned and shared! Cheers! Joanne

  18. prepared this for my partner this evening. it turned out moist and full of flavor. wouldnt change a thing. topped it with homemade buttercream icing with allspice mixed in. i recommend actually making this cake, instead of talking about it.
    thanks for this recipe. ill be making this time and again.

    • I am so glad you and your partner enjoyed the recipe as much as my family and I do! Thank you so much for letting me know. I like your idea of mixing allspice into buttercream – that sounds lovely!

  19. This sounds so lovely!! I love all of these spices! 🙂

  20. what a yummy recipe I love spice cakes in general, its funny you mention about the ring jewellery especially due to the connectivity of the metals holds many past memories which is maybe what you can sense. lovely post 🙂 k x

  21. Wow, thanks for sharing this & about your aunt, I love reading things like this, I’m sure your great aunt Margaret was lovely. It’s amazing you have her handwritten recipes, so nice to have to pass down through generations. x

  22. Pinned and tweeted. Thanks for linking up at the LET’S GET REAL WEEKLY LINK PARTY. Auntie’s Spice Cake will be my feature this week on Thursday.

  23. April, a perfect cake! And I love family recipes and how you sprinkled some spice on top of the frosting, something I do from time to time (when I remember!).

  24. April, I adore discovering treasured family recipes and your beloved Auntie’s cake looks scrumptious! I am thinking my in-laws would love it and hope to make it for them soon. Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful cake with us!

  25. Hi April,
    Your Aunties Spice Cake looks delicious with a special blend of spices. I love family recipes and what they represent in our life. Thanks so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday and have a great weekend!
    Miz Helen

  26. Hey April! I have been looking for a spice cake recipe and this one sounds amazing! Looks so moist! Your Aunt truly must have been a great cook! I am going to make it for my parent’s anniversary ( 30 years!! ) since they had spice cake at their wedding. How many layers does this make?? Just curious.

    • Hey Amelia, It really is delicious! What a lovely idea to make it for your parent’s anniversary. I always make Auntie’s Spice Cake as one layer but it’s quite thick as you can see from the picture. You could make it into two smaller layers – just bake it for a bit less time. I’ve never done it before but I’d start with about 15 to 20 minutes per thinner layer. You’ll need to keep an eye on it though. Or you could double the recipe for two thicker layers, or four thinner ones. Let me know how it goes! I’d love to see a photograph 🙂

      • Tried the cake back in October and my goodness! So yummy and moist. I did two 6 inch pans and did it for about 22 to 25 minutes and turned out perfect! I am going to make it for my Thanksgiving dessert because everyone loved it so much! Super flavorful compared to other spice cake recipes. You can tell why it’s been passed down! Thanks for your suggestions!

  27. I am going to make this! I have everything in the house, and we’re going to a potluck tonight! Thank you. Love seeing the old recipe card too.

  28. I LOVE family recipes like this! My grandma has a whole box and I have worked my way through about half of them. Such a great way to really connect with family <3

  29. I love reading through my Nana’s hand written recipes-it certainly makes me feel a lot closer to her and I love how tangible it is. Thinking about whipping egg whites by hand though makes my arm hurt. Anyway, this recipe is perfect-all that spice!

  30. This is a great looking cake! Family recipes passed down are always the best

  31. I love spiced cake! Gorgeous photo!


  1. […] there are so many favourites! I guess it would have to be my Great Auntie Margaret’s Spice Cake. I came across the handwritten recipe in my late mom’s recipe box. To my knowledge, no one in […]

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