Applesauce is a slightly misunderstood ingredient in baking these days. It is often described as a “fat replacer” when it is no such thing. Applesauce is a semi-solid ingredient (basically a liquid, since it doesn’t fall into the dry ingredient category) that can add moisture to some types of baked goods. It helps out in lower fat treats because it can prevent, or at least mitigate, dryness, and it has a very mild flavor so it usually isn’t very noticeable. By itself, it doesn’t tenderize baked goods like oil and butter do, so recipes where people have gone overboard with the substitution of fat for applesauce often turn out gummy and sticky.
This isn’t to say that applesauce doesn’t have a place in baking. The way that it adds moisture is not just because of the apple juice portion of the sauce. It comes from all those little bits of apple that spread out in a cake or cookie dough and release moisture over time. This can actually help keep a baked good fresh-tasting, if you don’t go overboard with it. This Applesauce Chocolate Layer Cake is a perfect example of a good use of applesauce. It doesn’t “replace” anything in this recipe, it just serves its own purpose. The applesauce is used as the main liquid in the recipe, where other cakes might use milk or sour cream, and it works out beautifully. It also helps to making the cake a good choice for those who prefer their cakes to be dairy-free. This recipe comes from the LCBO magazine and is available online, although my copy was thoughtfully clipped out and mailed to me by a chocolate cake-loving friend.
This cake is moist and fluffy, with a very good chocolate flavor – more dark chocolate than milk chocolate. The unsweetened applesauce and unsweetened cocoa powder keep the cake from being too sweet, in spite of the fact that there is a fair amount of sugar in it (less than some chocolate cakes I’ve made, however). The fluffiness comes from the applesauce and from the fact that the egg whites are separated, beaten to soft peaks and folded into the batter. You can use any kind of frosting you like for this cake. Chocolate frosting is good if you’re trying to please a crowd of chocolate lovers, and vanilla is good for contrast. If you want to stick with the dairy-free aspect, use a meringue or marshmallow-based frosting.
Applesauce Chocolate Layer Cake
(from the LCBO magazine)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1Â½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups unsweetened applesauce
Preheat the oven to 350F and line two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. Grease the pans and the paper well.
In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, 1 cup of sugar, vanilla extract and 3 egg yolks until smooth.
In another large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.
In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy at low speed. Turning the mixer up to medium-high, gradually blend in the remaining 3/4 cup sugar and keep beating until the egg whites reach soft peaks. Set aside for the moment.
Alternating additions, blend dry ingredients and applesauce into the oil mixture. Start and end with additions of dry ingredients and mix only until no streaks of flour remain. Stir in 1/3 of the egg whites to lighten up the batter. Fold in remaining egg whites in two or three additions, mixing only until no streaks of egg white remain and color is uniform.
Divide batter evenly into prepared pans.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Turn cakes out onto a wire rack and remove parchment circles, then allow them to cool completely before frosting.
Buttermilk Chocolate Frosting
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2-3 cups confectionersâ€™ sugar, divided
6 tbsp buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
In a small, microwave safe bowl, melt together butter and unsweetened chocolate. Heat in 30-45 second intervals, stirring frequently, until mixture is smooth. Cool for 10-15 minutes, or until mixture is at room temperature.
Transfer butter mixture to a larger bowl. Beat in cocoa powder, 2 cups confectioners sugar, buttermilk and vanilla, beating until frosting is smooth and slightly fluffy. Add additional confectionersâ€™ sugar to thicken, if needed (depending on the weather, you may need more one day and less another). Frosting should be at room temperature before using.
StephJune 12, 2009
I totally agree! That’s why I tend to stay away from applesauce recipes because I’m afraid it will turn out gummy. It looks really good, but folding egg whites is always tricky for me!
Baking and MistakingJune 12, 2009
Hmmmm looks interesting. I’ve done applesauce a few times, but it isn’t the same. If I give this one a try I’ll let you know!
CookiePieJune 12, 2009
YUM – that cake looks amazing! I love applesauce in cakes — definitely not in place of fat, but it adds such a nice moistness and tangy flavor. Delish!
Marisa (Trim The Fat)June 12, 2009
Oh my, I am very sorry I saw this cake! So amazing! I must make this SOON!!!
AnhJune 13, 2009
The cake looks amazing. I have yet used applesauce in anything. you have tempted me to try!
Heather PeskinJune 13, 2009
What a lovely cake! I must try using apple sauce.
EmilyJune 13, 2009
looks awesome. I have a favorite chocolate cake recipe already, but this still looks worth a try. I have to say that your chocolate frosting is THE BEST ever. I’ve been using it for months ever since you posted it with the mocha loaf cake. It’s phenomenal especially between the layers of a loaf cake. Love your recipes! Unlike some other food blogs which I read for “fun”, yours are actually doable!
KatrinaJune 13, 2009
Sigh! I just opened a big jar of applesauce yesterday. Hmmm, what should I do with it? 😉 Great looking cake!
TerryJune 13, 2009
Wow!!! That cake looks great. I use applesauce when I bake because any kind of oil gets my acid reflux acting up. I am going to save this recipe so I can make it as soon as I am off this stupid diet to heal my stomach.
BakuganJune 13, 2009
its so yummy!i like it very much!
Avanika (Yumsilicious Bakes)June 13, 2009
This is the first time I’ve seen applesauce used a main ingredient, and not as a substitute. I’d love to have a slice of this 🙂
Wheeler's CrewJune 13, 2009
Your cake looks absolutely delicious! I’d really like to make one. Do you know if egg substitute will beat into peaks like the egg whites in the recipe? Thanks for adding non-dairy tips!
Alisa - Frugal FoodieJune 13, 2009
Well explained on the applesauce! I definitely agree that some fat is required for tender baked goodies.
KelseyJune 14, 2009
This looks delicious, I can’t wait to try it. I love the use of applesauce, it adds great flavor.
Lori @ RecipeGirlJune 15, 2009
I would try this! I often experiment w/ applesauce when baking, but like you… I’ve found that there’s got to be a little fatty somethin’ in there to make it turn out just right.
doreenJune 15, 2009
Looks SOOooOO good! How much frosting does your recipe yield?
Fruity FelineJune 16, 2009
The cake looks awesome but it has a plain chocolate topping, it can be made more exciting and color full by adding some chocolate dipped strawberries on top of it. Strawberries make a best combination with chocolate.
Annie MouseJune 16, 2009
I get LCBO magazines every so often and I have been eyeing this recipe ever since I first saw it, Now I’m more convinced to try it!
lisaJune 17, 2009
OMG. it looks so good Nicole!!you are the best . I will try this this weekend !WOW
bobJune 25, 2009
Dutch process cocoa? Or natural cocoa? Does it matter? Shirley O. Corriher in her book Bakewise says the two types of cocoa are rarely interchangeable. Thanks.
NicoleJune 25, 2009
Bob – You should have good results with both types of cocoa powder in this cake, so use whatever you have on hand.
staceyJuly 21, 2009
very very yummy!!!!!
moderni kuchyneJuly 31, 2009
Very yummy indeed 🙂 But the cake looks better on photo than in real.
kuchynske studioJuly 31, 2009
This cake is ingenious.
JoanneAugust 10, 2009
Don’t know if you check old comments, but I just made this in cupcake form for my daughter’s 3rd birthday. They turned out great, and I felt good about the applesauce in the recipe (even though most of the kids mainly wanted the frosting). For the frosting I used sour cream instead of buttermilk and barely had enough powdered sugar, but it was all still delicious. Thank you.