A dense pumpkin cake covered in the fluffiest cream cheese frosting, caramel and pralines, because why not.
Fall cakes are my favourite!
I like the rich dense flavours and spices. I feel like nuts are welcomed. As is caramel. Pumpkin.
Not that I don’t like summer, but you know that feeling of happiness when you get to pull your favourite sweater and scarf out of the closet for the first time…. that is how I feel about fall baking.
I am so, so happy with this cake. I made a last-minute frosting decision and the light, creamy, whipped frosting was so perfect. I think because it is not as sweet as a traditional buttercream. And contrast well with the dense pumpkin and spice of the cake.
I’m not a fan of this trend of 4 or 5 layer cakes. Tall and skinny cakes don’t make sense to me. But “naked” cakes, that makes sense.
Icing is not my favourite thing. I like the cake.
If you wanted to keep this cake on the simpler side, you can skip the candied pecans and caramel… and add just enough frosting to finish the cake. So pretty….
As a cake baker, I appreciate the lack of leftover gobs of unwanted icing on plates.
And as a baker that can’t pipe a rose to save my life, I can bake, I can’t draw flowers in fondant, I appreciate the minimalistic beauty of a cake that looks like a cake. It’s kinda perfect.
How to make Pumpkin Spice Cake
This is a straightforward batter, cream the sugar and butter together, add some eggs then add the pumpkin. Flour needs to be gently mixed in, don’t over mix.
I’ve added some caramel to the layers. I needed to make this cake the day before, so I wanted to add just a little moisture to make sure the cake stayed soft and moist overnight. Store-bought caramel sauce did the trick.
Poke some holes in the top of each cake round so the caramel has somewhere to go…
The frosting is not a basic cream cheese frosting. I’ve used whipped cream to lighten the frosting and make the creamiest frosting ever. A not too sweet icing.
In between the cakes, I’ve added some chopped candied pecans to the frosting .. to add a little interest.
To finish off the cake, I’ve drizzled a bit more caramel sauce and topped with more of the candied pecans.
Some notes about this pumpkin cake:
- I’ve used caramel to keep the cake itself moist. Poke holes in the top of the cake rounds and drizzle each cake round with 1/4 cup of caramel while the cake is still warm.
- You can make the cake one day in advance. Just be careful when storing it. I like to stick a few toothpicks into the completely cooled cake and tent aluminium foil over the cake. At this point, it can be left on the counter or stored in the refrigerator overnight. Just be careful not to allow the foil to touch the sticky tops of the caramel-covered cake. It will stick and then tear a layer off of the cake when you try to remove it.
- Candied pecans can be store-bought. Really. Kinda like the caramel sauce, just buy it.
- If you want to make your own candied pecans, follow this recipe. It’s easy but takes a good hour plus cooling time.
- Same with the pumpkin spice blend. These can be tricky to find, you can easily make your own. And this only takes a few minutes, tops.
- The frosting should be made just before you are ready to assemble the cake. The frosting uses whipped cream and could deflate if you leave it to sit for a bit. I’m not gonna recommend that.
- That said, don’t try to frost the cake the day before.
- To make the frosting, make sure the ingredients and the bowl and the whisk are very cold.
- Once assembled this cake should be refrigerated until serving.
Pumpkin Spiced Layer Cake
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 3 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
- 2 tsps pumpkin pie spice
- 1.5 tsp baking powder
- 1 tso baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1-3/4 cups canned pumpkin puree
- 1/2 cup candied pecans chopped divided (optional)
- 1/2-3/4 cup caramel topping ready made, for ice cream (optional)
Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 oz block full fat cream cheese cold
- 1-1/4 cups whipping cream cold
- 3/4 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Prepare cake pans. I like to lightly grease mine with a small amount of butter and line the bottom with parchment paper.
- Preheat oven to 375
- In the bowl of a standmixer, add butter and beat slightly to soften and cream it. About 30 seconds. On medium speed, gradually add brown sugar and white sugar, adding 1/4 cup at a time. Beat until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add pie spice, baking powder, soda, and salt. Beat for at least 2 minutes.
- Add in eggs, one at a time. Beating well after each addition. Add pumpkin puree and vanilla and beat well and completely combined. Gradually add flours, about 1/2 cup at a time, beating at low speed, just enough to fold into the batter. Do not over mix. It's a very short mix after each addition. There should be floury bits left in the batter. Remove from mixer and finish mixing by hand. Divide batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans and bake, at 375, for about 25 minutes. The cake should be springy in the middle and a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.
- Cool cakes about 10 minutes in the pans before removing to a wire rack. Remove the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake rounds if using.Using the handle of a wooden spoon or the fatter end of a chopstick, poke holes in the top of each cake. Not all the way through, about half way through the cake layer. Holes should be about 1 inch apart. Drizzle the top of each cake round with about 1/4 cup of caramel sauce, spread evenly, getting some into the holes. Let cool completely. Make ahead: let caramel covered cakes cool completely. Then cover loosely and hold overnight. I usually stick a few toothpicks in the cake and tent aluminum foil over them. You will want to be careful to avoid the foil touching the caramel – as it will stick and pull the top layer of cake. Cakes can be stored in the refrigerator overnight at this point.
Make the whipped cream cheese frosting
- Make sure mixer bowl and whisk attachment are cold. Chill in the freezer for 15 mins.
- Add cream cheese and turn the mixer on low-med speed. Gradually add the heavy cream. Scrap the sides of the bowl down and continue to beat at low speed so that cream cheese breaks down into small pieces and becomes incorporated into the cream. Increase speed to high speed and whip until soft peaks form. This does not take that long. Add vanilla and icing sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, while running mixer at low speed. Once all sugar is added increase speed to high speed and whip until stiff peaks form. Use frosting right away for the best results.
Assemble the cake
- Optional: Take 1/4 of the frosting and fold in one-half of the chopped candied pecans. Otherwise use about 1/4 of the frosting as filling between the cake layers.
- Place one of the cake rounds in the center of your cake serving plater, caramel side up. Spread frosting and pecan mixture evenly over top of the cake layer. Place other cake round on top. Caramel side up. Spread remaining frosting on top and along sides of the cake. I prefer less frosting on the sides.Tip: for a "naked" cake look, use a piping bag to fill the seam between the two cake layers, then use the length of an offset spatula to spread and flatten the frosting. Removing any excess as you go around the cake.
- Optional: drizzle caramel sauce on the top of the cake and remaining chopped candied pecans evenly over the top.