It’s fall and there’s pumpkin everywhere (which is great!). Two friends just got engaged and for the surprise party I baked a pumpkin cake with a cream cheese frosting. This cake has a great fall flavor, is moist and who doesn’t like cream cheese frosting?
I made this cake twice and my series of events for the first one were: make the batter + bake the cake; make frosting while cake bakes; take cake out and let cool (while I went for a bike ride to a quarry); trim the cake layers (I had different sized pans); frost cake adding a dusting of cinnamon then skip refrigerating the whole cake and eat it right away! (This resulted in a slightly runny frosting which still tasted great but didn’t look as nice as it could have.) I’ve included my learnings below, enjoy!
Pumpkin Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 3/4 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup light-brown sugar packed
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil split into 3 tablespoons and 5 tablespoons
- 4 eggs large
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 15 oz canned pumpkin 100% pumpkin, not the pie mix
- 1/2 cup milk
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 10 oz cream cheese softened
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 5 cups powdered sugar
- ground cinnamon for garnish
Preparation: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut parchment paper to fit the inside of 3 round cake pans. To do this I typically rip off a piece of parchment larger than the pan and place it inside, then run a knife around the edge pushing the parchment to the edges. Then remove and cut using scissors along the guide you just created. This will ensure the best fit to your pans and is the quickest in my experience. Grease pans and put the parchment circles in them.
Mix dry ingredients: In the large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger; set aside.
Mix milk and pumpkin: In a large measuring cup (or another bowl) whisk together the milk and the pumpkin; set aside.
Make batter: In a stand mixer, cream together the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil until fluffy. Stop mixer at least once and scrape down the sides. Make sure it is fluffy and light in color. Then mix in remaining vegetable oil. Add eggs one at a time and add the vanilla with the last addition. For the next steps it might be helpful to cover your mixer with a dish towel to prevent the dry ingredients from going everywhere. Add 1/3 of the dry mixture (mix until combined), then add 1/2 of the pumpkin mixture (mix until combined). Continue in this pattern until all is incorporated (ending with dry mixture).
Divide the batter between your three pans, smoothing tops and tapping on your counter to get out any air bubbles. Bake in preheated oven for about 30 minutes. It may take longer depending on your oven - they are done when a toothpick comes out clean. Once you remove allow to cool slightly before removing from pans. When removing, slide a knife around the edges and you should be able to gently tip them out onto the cooling racks. Cool completely before frosting them (or before wrapping in plastic to leave until next day). Trim all cakes to be the same size if you had mis-matched pans. I found the layers to be easier to work with when I left the parchment circles on them. These don't need to be refrigerated but the cakes are easier to work with if you refrigerate/ freeze them a bit before assembling (less crumbs).
Make frosting: Cream together the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add vanilla. Add powdered sugar in batches and cover with a dish towel to prevent it from covering your kitchen! When you've finished adding all the sugar, scrape down the sides and mix again ensuring it's smooth. It makes about 3 cups.
Assemble and frost cake: Look at your three cake layers and set aside the one with the most defined edges (to be used as top layer). Set one of the other two down on the serving plate you'll be using and remove parchment paper. Spread a layer of frosting on it, getting close to the edges (maybe about a 1/2 cup of frosting). Add the next layer and gently push down then remove the parchment. Add another layer of frosting. Then add the final layer (the one with the best edges). Using the offset spatula, drop about half of the remaining frosting on the top and spread it across and push it towards the sides making sure the cover whole top. Then if there's a bit of frosting on the edges I like to gently spread this down and across the sides. Add more frosting to the sides as needed and continue to spread until covered. Taking the remaining frosting, add it in small portions on the tip of the spatula to the cake to make the small round swirls. This creates a nice rustic, handmade look and doesn't take a ton of time. Finish it off by lightly sprinkling cinnamon over the top and sides (try it not over the cake to get the feel for your sieve first and how gently you need to add it).
Refrigerate the entire finished cake and take out before serving so it is closer to room temperature. Once chilled as an assembled cake it should cut very well. Keep remaining cake in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
Recipe adapted from Cooking Classy