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+ servings
A slice of three layer spice cake with cream cheese buttercream, and a bite taken.

High Altitude Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Buttercream

Heather Smoke
A very moist and soft spice cake, with subtle hints of cocoa and coffee, frosted with cream cheese buttercream.

All recipes on Curly Girl Kitchen are developed for high altitude at 5,280 feet.

5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American


  • Stand Mixer



  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • ¼ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder (such as Rodelle)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp coarse Kosher salt (if using table salt, use half the amount)
  • 1 ½ cups dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tbsp instant espresso powder
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract


  • 1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup (8 oz) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp meringue powder
  • tsp coarse Kosher salt (if using table salt, use half the amount)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract



  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray the bottoms of three 8-inch cake pans with non-stick baking spray.
  • In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, spices, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Whisk in the brown sugar.
  • In a separate bowl, stir together the water and espresso powder until dissolved. Whisk in the oil, eggs and vanilla.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and whisk until combined; the batter will be thin.
  • Divide the batter between the pans. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until the tops spring back when gently touched, and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Set the pans on cooling racks, cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel, and cool completely.


  • In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter for 1 minute until smooth.
  • With the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar, meringue powder and salt, mixing until combined. Add the vanilla.
  • Increase the speed to medium and whip for 4-5 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally, until light and fluffy.
  • Remove the cooled cakes from the pans. Stack, fill and frost the cakes with the buttercream.


Leftover cake should be stored in an airtight container or cake carrier, in the refrigerator, for up to 5 days.  Let the cake come to room temperature for serving.
Keyword Cream Cheese Frosting, High Altitude, Spice Cake
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