How to make a perfect old-fashioned spice cake

How to make a perfect old-fashioned spice cake

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Step-by-step guide to a perfect old-fashioned spice cake (1950s)

Old-fashioned spice cake — one of the most flavorful of all cakes — is becoming increasingly popular these days. 

The secret of an excellent spice cake, says Duncan Hines, America’s foremost authority on good eating, is in the skillful selection and blending of the spices so that no single spice is permitted to overpower the others. If the cinnamon, nutmeg or allspice, ginger or clove predominates, it’s like a raw barb on the tongue.

Another suggestion by Hines is to select a frosting that will complement the spice flavors — and not dominate them. He suggests a seafoam frosting made with brown sugar.

Old-fashioned spice cake

How to make a perfect old-fashioned spice cake

Old-fashioned spice cake

Yield: 12
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Additional Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes

The secret of this delicious old-fashioned spice cake is in the careful selection and blending of the spices, so no single spice overpowers the others.


  • 2-1/4 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 3/4 cup shortening, butter or margarine
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk or sour milk


  1. Before you take a step, read this recipe through. Then get out all the necessary equipment and ingredients.
  2. Now measure all ingredients accurately using standard measuring utensils. We can’t overemphasize how important accurate measuring is.
  3. Start your oven at 350 (F) or moderate.
  4. Next, heavily grease bottoms and sides of three 8-inch cake pans with shortening (do not use any salted fat).
  5. Then coat pans with flour by sifting a little into each pan and shaking vigorously so there is a film of flour over bottoms and sides.
  6. Dump out any surplus. This device helps baked cakes to drop from pans easily.
  7. Sift flour, then spoon lightly into a standard measuring cup and cut off excess to make a level cupful. Do not shake flour down into cup.
  8. Sift flour again, this time with the baking powder, baking soda, salt, cloves, cinnamon and pepper. Right here, if your brown sugar is lumpy, sift or roll it.
  9. Now, with your nice clean hands, work or cream the shortening, butter or margarine with a beating motion until it looks like whipped cream.
  10. At this point, begin to work in the brown sugar a little at a time; next the granulated sugar.
  11. Add vanilla extract.
  12. Continue creaming until mixture is very fluffy and the grains of sugar almost disappear. This is a bit of a chore, but it’s the trick that makes a wonderful texture.
  13. When sugar is all in, add the eggs, unbeaten, one at a time, beating hard after each addition. From here on, work fast. Don’t fool around!
  14. Now you begin to add the flour mixture.
  15. Sift about 1/3 into the batter and stir it in. Do not beat.
  16. Then add about 1/2 of the buttermilk or sour milk and stir it in.
  17. Repeat these operations, ending with flour.
  18. Pour batter into greased pans, dividing it evenly.
  19. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until cake edges leave sides of pans.
  20. Remove from oven, allow to cool about 5 minutes before turning out on a cake rack to cool thoroughly.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 435Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 59mgSodium: 375mgCarbohydrates: 66gFiber: 1gSugar: 29gProtein: 7g

Click Americana offers approximate nutrition information as a general reference only, and we make no warranties regarding its accuracy. Please make any necessary calculations based on the actual ingredients used in your recipe, and consult with a qualified healthcare professional if you have dietary concerns.

The 6 steps to a perfect spice cake recipe

By Vilya Y. Steck and Marjorie Griffiths – McCall’s Magazine, 1952

1. Grease bottoms and sides of pans. Then sift a little flour into each and shake hard so pans are well floured. Dump out surplus. This helps cakes drop from pans easily.

How to make a perfect old-fashioned spice cake (1)

2. Measure flour carefully. Sift first, then spoon lightly into standard measuring cup. Cut off excess to make level cup. Sift with remaining dry ingredients, then sift again.

How to make a perfect old-fashioned spice cake (2)

3. Cream thoroughly. Work or cream shortening, butter or margarine until soft and light. Then work in brown sugar gradually, next granulated, until mixture is very fluffy.

How to make a perfect old-fashioned spice cake (3)

4. Add eggs, unbeaten, one at a time to sugar mixture, beating very, very hard after each egg has been added. Beating is important here to put air into your Spice Cake.

How to make a perfect old-fashioned spice cake (4)

5. Add flour and milk alternately (important for a creamy batter). Start with 1/3 flour. Stir only until mixed. Then stir in 1/2 buttermilk or sour milk. Repeat, ending with flour.

How to make a perfect old-fashioned spice cake (5)

6. Divide batter in pans. Then bang pans once sharply on table top to distribute air equally through cakes and to prevent air tunnels. Don’t be afraid of this trick, it really works.

How to make a perfect old-fashioned spice cake (6)

How to frost it? Check out one of these vintage recipes! Get the classic 7-minute frosting recipe, plus a dozen variations to try

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