(Originally published on Delish.com)
You might be reading this thinking, do we really need another recipe with the words ‘pumpkin spice’ in the title? The pumpkin spice crazy seems to have reached an unprecedented level of insanity this year (case in point: pumpkin spice deodorant exists), but I think it’s important to remember where it all started … with simple homemade baked goods. I’m up for trying almost anything pumpkin spice flavored, but no craft beer or piece of candy in the world can hold a candle to a big piece of pumpkin spice cake slathered with cream cheese frosting.
I admit that the idea of making and decorating a layer cake might seem intimidating. And yes, it does take longer than baking a batch of pumpkin muffins. But if you break the process down into its different steps, it really isn’t so much work. Plus, it’s a fun Saturday project if you have a friend to help.
I’ve always thought decorating a cake is the most frustrating part of the process. You’ve succeeded in baking relatively even cake layers, they’ve miraculously come out of the pans without sticking, you’ve got your frosting and your spatula and then … your cake goes from object of beauty to kindergarten art project in a matter of minutes.
Thankfully, Ina has shared some cake decorating tips with me that make frosting the cake (almost) as satisfying as eating it. First, know that the layers will be easier to frost, and less likely to turn into a pile of crumbs, if you let them firm up in the refrigerator for a few hours first. (I recently made this cake one day in advance and then assembled it the next day for a friend’s birthday party.)
Second, arranging strips of parchment paper beneath the cake on the serving plate will make for a spotless presentation—simply remove the strips when you’re done and the edges of the plate will be completely clean.
Third, using a metal spatula to frost the cake and running it under hot water every now and then while frosting (make sure to dry it afterwards) will help you “iron” out and bumps and lumps in the icing, and will give the cake a smoother, more professional-looking finish.
And most importantly, don’t worry if your decorating job is, well, elementary. This isn’t Cake Boss. The cake will still be delicious and full of pumpkin goodness even if it looks like a total mess, and you can always aim for perfection next fall!
Pumpkin Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Salted Pumpkin Seeds
For the Cake:
- 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin, not pie filling
- ¼ cup whole milk
- 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups brown sugar, lightly packed
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 2 (8 oz.) boxes cream cheese, at room temperature
- ½ lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 (1 lb.) box confectioner’s sugar, sifted
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (optional)
For the Salted Pumpkin Seeds:
- ½ cup pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 1/8 tsp kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 350. Grease the bottom and sides of 2 (9 x 2-inch) round cake pans with butter or non-stick spray. Line the bottoms with parchment paper, and grease and flour the pans.
In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt. In a separate bowl, combine the pumpkin, milk and vanilla extract.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or, using a hand mixer) beat the sugar, oil, and eggs on medium-high speed for 2 minutes, until slightly thickened. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the pumpkin mixture to the batter in three parts, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.
Divide the batter evenly between the pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the cake springs back lightly when pressed and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans for fifteen minutes, then turn them onto a wire rack to completely before frosting.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or, using a hand mixer) beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla on medium speed until smooth. On low speed, slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until just incorporated.
In a small sauté pan, heat the pumpkin seeds, brown sugar and salt over low heat. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring almost constantly, until the sugar has melted and the pumpkin seeds are lightly toasted. Remove to a plate to cool completely.
To assemble the cake, place one layer on a flat serving plate, rounded side down, and spread with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side down, and frost the top and sides of the cake. Decorate the cake with salted pumpkin seeds.
Serve immediately or keep in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped, for up to 3 days. Let the cake sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.