Apple Butter Swirl Spice Cake

Apple Butter Swirl Spice Cake {}

Apple Butter Swirl Spice Cake {}

I must have been 10 or so when I first heard a song that inexplicably gave me pause.

I was sleeping over at my cousin’s apartment one warm summer night. I don’t remember what time it was. Time is insignificant to a child unless it’s “play time”; this wasn’t play time. It was bedtime on Saturday in Washington Heights.

Living in a predominantly Latino neighborhood in the late 80’s meant there was a party somewhere, everywhere. It was Saturday night, after all. The motto back in those days was: If there’s beer, loud music, and 4 people – There’s a party.

It was on this Saturday night when I heard it…

Cheo Feliciano’s “Amada Mia.

A music intro precedes the most romantically uttered words ever spoken in Cheo’s deep, silky smooth and soulful voice:

“Aaaaaamadaaaa Miiiiiiaaaa. Grata sorpresa la que me has dado…”

*Love sigh*…

Apple Butter Swirl Spice Cake {}

I can’t quite explain why the lyrics to this song resonated within my 10 year old soul, why it struck me so deeply. It spoke of love, of a man’s gratitude to finding his true love, a love that at 10 I had yet to experience. Yet with every word I knew: Someday this will be sung about me!

Apple Butter Swirl Spice Cake Apple Butter Swirl Spice Cake {}

As I heard the needle scratch the record and the song repeat, my heart swelled. Some kindred spirit felt as I did, perhaps was at this very moment dancing along with a loved one.  I hoped their love and the song would continue to play long after I fell asleep.

I didn’t hear the song again for 12 years. I came across it while glancing at a compilation salsa CD at Virgin Records (Do you remember Virgin Records? I’m so old…).

Today, 14 years following the night I reunited with Cheo’s “Amada Mia”, the song still shakes me to my very core. I melt when I hear the first two words of that beautifully composed Spanish slow jam:

“Ah-Amadaaaa Miiiiiiaaaa”

Now… Let’s talk about this cake, one that unexpectedly shook me to my very core in a whole ‘nother, yet similar way.

You see, I offered to bake for a friend who was hosting a fundraiser. Her goal is to continuously raise awareness for kidney disease, a disease she struggles with on a day to day. I planned a variety of goods, but was sort of stuck on the very last one.

The morning of the fundraiser, while frantically rummaging my cabinets and fridge for inspiration, I found 2 jars of apple butter. I was already bringing bars and brownies; baking one more bar would have been sort of redundant. I thought, maybe a cream cheese pound cake with an apple butter swirl?

Apple Butter Swirl Spice Cake {}

Honestly, I had no idea how this cake would turn out. Cream cheese pound cake by design has a great base: Butter, cream cheese, eggs, flour… Would I be improving or ruining it by adding spices and an apple butter swirl? Would I have enough time to bake something else should this cake fail?

The truth was I didn’t have a moment to spare. I took a gamble in my abilities to properly calculate a formula and went for it. I may have held my breath for 50 minutes… Once the cake cooled, I uttered a short prayer to the cake gods and whipped out my serrated knife. As I was cutting and packing a slice broke in half, which was good for 2 reasons:

  • I was able to taste a piece
  • I discovered the cake was real moist; a good thang…

Apple Butter Swirl Spice Cake {}

I don’t ordinarily say “wow” when I taste something I bake. Really… I’m not that serious. But, yea, wow… The spices and apple butter worked perfectly with a cream cheese base. The cake was moist, resplendent in fall spices, apples, and what seems to be a bit of caramel flavor. Once this cake hits the tongue it will karate chop your taste buds, bringing a smile to your face. It gave me pause; a sure winner, and a hit at the fundraiser.

Apple Butter Swirl Spice Cake {}

I have baked this cake six times since that fundraiser. Every time it gives me that same melting feeling; the feeling I was unable to explain at 10, but can explain now with two words:

“Amada Miiiiiiaaaa!!”

Apple Butter Swirl Spice Cake --
: Apple Butter Swirl Spice Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp cloves
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • LARGE pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup of apple butter

  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. 1 9×5-inch baking pan and dust with flour. Shake the excess flour and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and cream cheese. Stop the mixer as needed and scrape down the bowl to make sure the butter and cream cheese are evenly incorporated. Add the sugars to the butter and cream cheese mixture, and beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 3-4 minutes.
  4. Stop the mixer and once again scrape down the sides of the bowl. On medium speed, beat in one egg at a time, beating for about 30 seconds after each addition. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Beat in vanilla extract.
  5. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and add the dry ingredients all at once. Beat until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated, about 25-30 seconds or so.
  6. Spoon or pour half the batter into the prepared pans. Dot the batter with half the apple butter and with a skewer, toothpick, or knife, swirl the apple butter into the cake batter. You should have a bunch of pretty swirls. Add the remaining batter. Dot the remaining apple butter by the spoonful and swirl once more.
  7. Place in the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a skewer or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, or with just a few tiny crumbs.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 1 hour(s)

Number of servings (yield): 12


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