‘The Waltons’: Olivia Walton’s Famous Applesauce Cake Recipe

Food was a big part of family life on The Waltons. The show’s family dinner scenes are famous (though shooting them was reportedly not so much fun). And whenever the family had something to celebrate, there was a good chance mom Olivia Walton (Michael Learned) would whip up her applesauce cake recipe. If you’ve ever wanted to recreate the magic of a Walton family celebration by serving this treat, you can.

The origins of ‘The Waltons’ 

Black and white photo of the Walton family at the dinner table
Front row L-R: Michael Learned, Kami Cotler, Ralph Waite, Eric Scott, Judy Norton Taylor and Mary McDonough. Back row L-R: Jon Walmsley, Will Geer, David Harper and Tom Bower | CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

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The story of The Waltons begins with Earl Hamner Jr. In 1961, he wrote a novel titled Spencer’s Mountain that was inspired by his childhood in rural Virginia during the Great Depression. It was the basis for a 1963 movie of the same name starring Henry Fonda and Maureen O’Hara.

His childhood also inspired his 1970 book, The Homecoming. It became a TV movie, The Homecoming: A Christmas Story, in 1971. That film was so successful that CBS decided to create an entire series focusing on the close-knit Walton family and their adventures. Hamner provided the narration at the beginning and end of the TV episodes. 

‘The Walton Family Cookbook’ includes a recipe for applesauce cake

The Waltons was popular enough to inspire a cookbook, which was published in 1976. The Walton Family Cookbook includes recipes from Waltons cast members, including Learned, Judy Norton (Mary Ellen Walton), Ralph Waite (John Walton), and Ellen Corby (Grandma Walton). For instance, Waite contributed a pot roast recipe, and Learned provided recipes for French onion soup and blue cheese dressing.

It also features the Hamner family applesauce cake recipe. And it offers instructions for making the boozy bourbon frosting that tops the dessert.

How to make ‘The Waltons’ applesauce cake 

Bundt cake with white frosting
Cake with white icing | Jessica J. Trevino/Detroit Free Press/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

To make The Waltons‘ applesauce cake, you’ll need the following ingredients. 

  • 3½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • Pinch of salt 
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground cloves 
  • 2 teaspoons nutmeg 
  • 1 cup chopped black walnuts 
  • 2 cups light raisins 
  • 1 cup butter 
  • 1 cup sugar 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 2 cups applesauce 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 3-quart cake mold and set it aside. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a separate bowl, combine ½ cup of the flour and spice mixture with the nuts and raisins. Set both aside. 

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter until it is light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar, beating until smooth. Vigorously beat in the eggs. Mixing well, gradually stir in the flour and spice mixture, alternating with the applesauce. Add the raisins and nuts. Add the batter to the prepared cake mold. Bake for 1 hour. 

As the cake bakes, prepare the frosting (recipe below). When the cake is done, remove it from the oven and cool it in the pan for 10 minutes. Then, remove it to a cooling rack. Once the cake is completely cool, decorate it with the whiskey frosting, slice, and serve. 

To make the whiskey frosting, you will need: 

  • ¼ cup of butter
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar 
  • Pinch of salt 
  • 1 tablespoon cream
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon

Cream the butter in a bowl. Gradually add the confectioners sugar and salt. Then, add the cream and bourbon, whipping until completely smooth.