Things have been quite around here for awhile, but what better way to come back than with two of my favorite things: pumpkin and cake! I made this beautiful cake for a friend’s baby shower a few weeks ago and it was so delicious, and quintessentially fall, that I had to share it. Not to mention, I’m loving the semi-naked cake look. It’s elegant and rustic all at the same time!
First, let’s talk cake. A lot of pumpkin recipes can be dense because pumpkin provides extra moisture, but that’s not ideal for a three layer cake. Instead, this cake is fluffy and moist. It’s also loaded with all of the warm, fall spices that we’ve come to know and love as “pumpkin spice”. It may seem like a lot of spices, but I promise they just blend together with the pumpkin and give it that perfect pumpkin flavor.
Pumpkin cake would not be complete without cream cheese frosting, but this frosting brings the cake to a whole new level. I’ve made a lot of delicious frostings, but this one might actually be my favorite. I’m talking about browned butter cream cheese frosting. Yum! Browning the butter gives the frosting a nutty, caramel flavor which pairs amazingly well with the tangy cream cheese. Add in the fluffy, pumpkin spice cake and it’s a match made in heaven!
I know baking a cake isn’t everyone’s idea of a fun afternoon, but this cake is so easy and freezes really well. These turned out great as cupcakes too, if that’s more your thing, or you could even call them “muffins” without the frosting 😉 (check the notes section for adaptations). This cake would be a great addition to a Thanksgiving menu, especially for people who don’t like pie (and you can make it ahead!). It was perfect for a fall-themed baby shower and would even be great on a rainy, fall weekend (I’m looking at you, Pacific Northwest). However and whenever you make this cake, I really hope you do!
Pumpkin Spice Layer Cake with Browned Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
Servings: 12-16 slices
For the pumpkin cake
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup canola oil
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
11 ounce pumpkin puree
For the browned butter cream cheese frosting
3/4 cup (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 and 1/2 8-ounce blocks (12 ounces) full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
4 cups (480g) confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
To make the pumpkin spice cake
Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line 3, 6-inch round cake pans with parchment paper, then spray with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the canola oil, sugar, vanilla, eggs, and pumpkin until combined. Gradually add the dry ingredients until smooth and no lumps remain in the batter.
Divide the batter evenly among the cake pans. Bake 25-30 minutes, until the tops are just set, and no longer wiggly in the center. Remove and let cool five minutes, then run a knife around the edges of the pan and turn the cakes out onto a cooling rack. Cover and let the cakes cool completely before assembling.
To make the browned butter cream cheese frosting
Place 8 tablespoons butter in small saucepan. Melt over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Allow the butter to brown lightly until it smells toasted, about 5 minutes. Stir often.
Remove from heat, and immediately pour into a heat-proof bowl. Refrigerate until solid.
In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the solid brown butter on high speed until creamed.
Add remaining 4 Tbs room temperature butter and beat until smooth.
Add the cream cheese and beat on high speed until combined, smooth, and creamy.
Add 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then switch to high speed and beat for 1 minute.
To assemble the cake
Using a serrated knife, cut off any rounded tops on the cake layers, ensuring each layer is level.
Place the first layer on a cake board, plate or cake stand.
Spread 1/3 of the buttercream over the cake. Repeat with second layer and top with third layer. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow layers to set.
Frost top and outside of cake with remaining buttercream. Use a bench scraper to smooth out the frosting on the sides of the cake. Chill again for at least 30 minutes to set cake.
Serve cake at room temperature. Store in the fridge for up to 4 days.
1. I scaled this recipe back so it would yield 3, 6-inch layers of cake. The original recipe would have made 4 layers, but 3 layers was tall enough for my liking. If you would like a fourth layer of cake, or extra mini-cupcakes as shown in the pictures, scale the recipe up by 1/3 (multiply all ingredients by 1.333). You’ll find the directions for mini cupcakes below.
2. To make cupcakes or mini-cupcakes, line cupcake pans with liners. Bake regular size cupcakes for 18-22 minutes and mini cupcakes for 10-12 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack before removing from cupcake pans. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
3. The cake layers freeze wonderfully. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in refrigerator overnight before assembling cake.
Pumpkin pie is, without a doubt, my favorite type of pie. I always, and still do, greatly anticipated Thanksgiving because that meant there would be pumpkin pie for dessert. Luckily, I grew up in a family of pumpkin pie lovers so Thanksgiving was not the only time we would have pumpkin pie each year. I have a very distinct memory of visiting my Great Grandpa Frank’s house one afternoon and arriving just as he pulled a pumpkin pie out of the oven. Even though I prefer chilled pumpkin pie, I’ll never forget eating a warm slice of pie on a fall afternoon with him.
Fall abruptly ended here last weekend with the arrival of 5 inches of snow. As excited as I am for winter, I’m not quite ready for this beautiful season to end. After missing out on fall for the last 3 years, I want it to last forever! So even if the weather won’t cooperate with my wishes, my baking and the smells coming from the oven can.
I’ve been thinking about making pumpkin cookies since the leaves barely started changing colors, (maybe this little announcement had something to do with that) but didn’t get around to making them until this past week. As soon as I took my first bite of these, I knew I had to share the recipe with all of you!
It’s November, which means pumpkin spice everything has been around for 2 months now. As someone who grew up loving pumpkin anything, long before pumpkin spice was a thing, I really don’t mind the craze. For me though, pumpkin is a food that should be celebrated in November, when Thanksgiving and pumpkin pie are most prominent, hence the reason for sharing this recipe now (It’s definitely not because moving halfway around the world, being new homeowners and filling the important role of Matron of Honor in your sister’s wedding pushes back all of your blogging timelines. Definitely not because of that.) Living in Japan for the past three years meant that we missed out on most of the pumpkin spice things, as their version of the pumpkin craze is much different than America’s (you can read about it here). For the most part, I was totally ok with that, but the thing I missed most was pumpkin spice in my latte (or Americano, if you really know me). I’ve always loved putting cinnamon in my coffee so adding pumpkin spice syrup is even better for this pumpkin loving girl. The only thing that really bothers me about the syrup from coffee shops is, what the heck is in it? Why does it turn my coffee orange?!? As someone who prefers a more natural approach to food and loves to try out recipes, I decided to develop my own pumpkin spice syrup. It’s been in the works for the past few years, so I wasn’t totally deprived in Japan, but I finally hit on my perfect version this year.
Pumpkin pie has always been one of my favorite desserts. It’s no surprise since everyone in my family seems to love it too. I have numerous memories of eating pumpkin pie throughout my childhood. Whether it was Thanksgiving, a family gathering or just lunch with my great grandpa on a Sunday, if it was fall, then you could expect pumpkin pie for dessert.
Japan loves Halloween. It’s a fairly new holiday here, as it used to only be celebrated by foreigners before it became popular among the locals too. Every store and restaurant has displays and decorations (some will even give a discount if you show up in costume this weekend) and all of the typical treats and candies have special Halloween packaging. There are costume contests and other Halloween type events at the local malls and trick or treating on base for all of the military and local Japanese kids. Since pumpkins are so iconic in America surrounding Halloween, Japan has also adopted this specialty flavor for the month of October. As exciting as this may sound, it’s not the typical pumpkin spice flavor that Americans know and love. In Japan, their “pumpkin” is what we know as kabocha squash. You can imagine how this has become very disorienting when buying, for example, pumpkin Kit-Kats and having them taste like raw squash, and not like the warm fall flavors that we are accustomed to. (My apologies again to my siblings and everyone else that I convinced to try the “pumpkin” Kit-Kats I brought back with me.) The pumpkin ice cream that I found was better, probably because it was made by Häagen Dazs, but the best thing I’ve had was the pumpkin ramen from one of our favorite ramen shops. To summarize my taste testing experiences so far, pumpkin specials in Japan are much better when they are savory rather than sweet.
The summer after my sister and I graduated from college, we found ourselves with a half-used bag of brown rice flour. Not wanting the flour to go to waste, or miss out on an opportunity to bake, we searched for a new recipe. We decided upon pumpkin granola bars, which I quickly fell in love with, or rather, with the concept of. I loved making my own granola bars. I could control the ingredients, they were always in the freezer for a mid-morning snack or quick breakfast at work and it gave me an excuse to bake every couple of weeks. I’m also in love with anything pumpkin, so pumpkin granola bars should have been perfect for me, but they weren’t. The recipe was loaded with sugar and oil and not much else. The bars were dry, but when I tried to add more moisture, they got gooey. My sister and I both tried to tweak the recipe, but after a few years and more changes than I can count, I still wasn’t satisfied.
One day, I had the brilliant idea to check Pinterest (duh!). At first, I just wanted to find similar recipes so I could continue to try to fix the one I was using. But then, I stumbled upon this particular recipe. It seemed too good to be true. Ground flaxseed. Almond milk. Chocolate chips! Pumpkin!!