pumpkin spice and all that’s nice…

I have become obsessed.  Obsessed with this cake.

I’ve been looking for a good pumpkin spice cake recipe and haven’t seen anything that really caught my fancy.  That is… until I saw that cake.  It’s looks pretty darn delicious doesn’t it????  Well… I think it does.  I have heard it is.  I’ve baked it twice already…. and I still have yet to have a piece (unbelievable I know!!!).

How could this be you might ask?  Well…

My friend Tanya (the gongshow gardener) sent me an email from Kazakhstan asking me to bake her mother’s birthday cake.  First off… getting an order from Kazakhstan is pretty darn cool.  Secondly, the fact that Tanya thought of me when she was ordering her mum’s cake is doubly cool… Obviously I said yes… and then pestered her with questions; the most important being, “what kind of cake does your mom like?”  Response:  “she doesn’t really have a sweet tooth… and no chocolate.”  Seriously?  Seriously.

Ok… I can work with that.  No sweet tooth… how about carrot cake?  Or lemon cake?  Or apple spice cake?  Perhaps even my marble cake – it’s not too sweet?  And then I mentioned the cake on the cover of fine Cooking magazine – this brown butter pumpkin layer cake.  That was the one.  Both Tanya and I were excited about it;  me because I was going to get to try the recipe, and Tanya because it was the perfect dessert for a Thanksgiving weekend birthday dinner.  EXCELLENT!

I can vouch four things about this cake:

1.  The batter is RIDICULOUSLY, insanely, DELICIOUS.  I licked the bowl while I was waiting for the cake to finish baking (waste not want not).

2.  It smells incredible; the blend of cinnamon, ginger, cloves… they just permeate the kitchen (heck, my entire apartment) and make you feel warm inside. 

3.  I heart brown butter buttercream.  It’s not too sweet… again, I know this because I kinda (totally) licked the spatula when I was finished…

4.  It’s super easy to make.  Especially if you decide to use canned pumpkin purée… which really… isn’t cheating.  Don’t feel bad if you use canned pumpkin… I did – sometimes you just don’t have enough time in the day… ya know?

This is the kind of cake that you’ll make once and go back to over and over again.  I promise… even if you don’t think you like pumpkin… try it.  Pretty please… you won’t regret it.

This cake is made in a couple of stages – don’t be put off by it… it’s worth the effort.  And each step doesn’t take very long to complete.  I know you can do this.  Really… you can :0)

brown butter pumpkin layer cake


1 1/2 c. pumpkin purée (either from scratch or from a can)

3/4 c. salted butter

2 c. flour, sifted

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

3/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1 1/2 c. white sugar

 2/3 c. firmly packed brown sugar

2 eggs

1/3 c. buttermilk (add 2 tsp of lemon juice to regular milk if making from scratch)

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt your butter.  Cool, swirling occasionally until the butter turns that nutty golden-brown colour, about 4 minutes.  Pour it into a small bowl and let it stand until cool (but not set), about 15 minutes.

At this point I preheat my oven.  Ensure that the rack is in the centre of the oven, and then set it at 350 F.  Spray two 9-inch round pans with non-stick spray (this batter also works for one 13-inch round, which is what I did).  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt and cloves.  Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand-mixer, beat together the pumpkin purée,  white sugar, brown sugar, eggs and buttermilk until very well blended (a couple of minutes on medium speed). 

Turn off your mixer, add the dry ingredients, and mix until just combined.  Add the melted butter to the batter and beat until completely incorporated.  About 30 seconds.

Pour the batter in the pan(s) and bake for about 28 minutes (the 13-inch round took 40 minutes). 

You want the tester inserted in the centre to come out clean.  Let the cake(s) cool slightly in the pan(s), turning them out and cooling completely on wire racks.

Easy eh?  Move onto step two – the frosting.

brown butter cream cheese buttercream


1/2 c. salted butter

8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature

1/4 c. firmly packed brown sugar

1 1/4 c. powdered sugar, sifted

1 tbsp milk (as needed)

Begin by melting the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat.  Again, you want the butter to get to that nutty-brown stage – about 4 minutes.  Pour the melted butter into a small bowl and let stand for about 5 minutes (the solids settle at the bottom of the bowl).  Place the bowl in the freezer and chill until just firm – about 18 minutes.  Once firm, remove the bowl from the freezer and scrape the butter from the bowl – I used the browned bits in my buttercream – but you don’t have too.  They might not incorporate completely into the buttercream (tiny little lumps) – but I like the flavour it adds to the buttercream (makes for a very intense frosting).

In the bowl of your stand-mixer, beat together the butter, cream cheese and brown sugar on medium-high speed; it’ll lighten in colour and become fluffy (as the brown sugar dissolves).  Turn off the mixer, add the powdered sugar and gradually increase the speed of the mixer: add milk to help everything incorporate as needed.  I let my mixer go for about 10 minutes at a medium-high speed; allowing my buttercream to get nice and fluffy.


Let’s make the crunchy, nutty topping k?

nutty topping


1 1/2 tbsp salted butter

2/3 c. whole pecans

1/2 c. unsalted, raw, hulled pumpkin seeds

2 tbsp firmly packed, brown sugar

pinch of coarse sea salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the pecans and pumpkin seeds – and stir them well to cover them in melted butter. 

Keep a close eye on those nuts!  You don’t want them to burn (I did… I had to make this topping twice)… it should take about 2 minutes.  Then sprinkle in the brown sugar and salt – the sugar will melt and glaze the nuts.  Stir in the cinnamon and remove the skillet from heat.  Allow the mixture to cool in the pan.

Are you ready to assemble the cake? 

If you’ve made two 9-inch rounds, place one cake on your plate.  Spread 1/2 cup of frosting on the layer, sprinkle 1/2 c. of the nut mixture over the frosting.  Top that with the second cake round.  Again, frost the top and sides of the cake.  Arrange the remaining nuts on top of the cake – either just along the outside… or all over (like I did with my one larger cake).

Isn’t it beautiful?  Aren’t you proud of yourself for making this?  :0)

It is no hardship to make this cake.  Just writing this blog makes me want to go home and make it again.  Only this time… I would have a piece.  A nice, big piece ;0)


9 thoughts on “pumpkin spice and all that’s nice…

  1. I love pumpkin and anything baked with spices! I’m seriously going to have to try this cake and yes the brown butter frosting as well. If it is a good as your buttercream was then I’ll be a happy baker!

  2. I tried to make brown butter just to see and it worked! so I kept it for something special and used it in a batch of fennel seeds cookies (refregirator roll) and it worked! I could taste it and it gave the cookies a little “Scotisch” smell. what about using scotch whisky as well?
    love pumpkin cake and I wrote down the recipe, thanks!

  3. I just bookmarked this recipe yesterday and I know I’ll be making it soon. Yours looks fantastic, and I totally agree about keeping the brown butter bits in the icing. Mmm.

  4. Pingback: Tweets that mention pumpkin spice and all that’s nice… « the twisted chef -- Topsy.com

  5. I have been on this ridiculous pumpkin kick lately. I’ve made pumpkin bread, muffins, pancakes, soup…this cake looks like it’s right up my alley. It would also make a great thanksgiving dessert giving all those pies a run for their money. Thanks!

  6. Allo Lynne,
    Cake looks great, pumpkin is one of my favorites to bake with…
    Nice to see you this weekend, here’s the link to the awesome carrot cake I was telling you about.
    Bourke street bakery, that’s the name!
    Hope you have fun trying out this nice “twisted” version of the traditional style recipe we are used to.
    BTW, love your blog, keep it up!


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