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In the Kitchen

Pumpkin Layer Cake

November 9, 2023

This fluffy pumpkin cake layered with buttery caramel sauce and luscious hint-of-pumpkin frosting makes this the perfect Thanksgiving (or anytime!) dessert. It can be baked in 8-inch pans for a more traditional 2-layer size, but 6-inch layers give the dramatic height and beauty to qualify it for more formal holiday affair!

In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, milk, oil and eggs until smooth. Whisk in the cake mix and pumpkin pie spice, then use a rubber spatula to stir just until mixed.

Scoop 1 cup batter into each 6-inch pan and smooth tops. Bake for 15-17 minutes, until cake springs back when gently pushed with a finger on the outer edge. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pans, then invert onto a cooling rack. Repeat with remaining batter. Let cakes cool completely.

To assemble, slice the domed tops off each cake round to make them flat. Place one layer, cut side up, on a cake plate. Spread ½ cup of the frosting on top, then drizzle 2 tablespoons caramel sauce.

Spread frosting on top, drizzle caramel sauce, then arrange a handful of pecans. Sprinkle flaky sea salt on top. For a caramel drip, squeeze caramel sauce in one spot on the top edge of the cake until it starts to drip down the side. Repeat in a few spots around the cake edge.

Pumpkin Layer Cake
Serves 8 to 10

Pumpkin Cake:

1 cup canned pumpkin (from a 15 oz can)
½ cup milk
1/3 cup oil
3 eggs
1 box yellow cake mix
1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

Whipped Pumpkin Frosting:
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
½ cup canned pumpkin
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
¼ cup caramel sauce, plus extra for drizzle

4 or 5 wooden dowels or skewers, for assembling
½ cup toasted pecans, for topping
Flaky sea salt, for topping

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line the bottoms of two 6-inch round baking pans with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, milk, oil and eggs until smooth. Whisk in the cake mix and pumpkin pie spice, then use a rubber spatula to stir just until mixed. Scoop 1 cup batter into each 6-inch pan and smooth tops. Bake for 15-17 minutes, until cake springs back when gently pushed with a finger on the outer edge. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pans, then invert onto a cooling rack. Repeat with remaining batter. Let cakes cool completely.

To make the frosting, beat cream cheese and butter together until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and pumpkin pie spice; mix until smooth. Mix in the pumpkin.

In a separate bowl, beat heavy whipping cream and powdered sugar until medium peaks form. Fold into the bowl of frosting until no streaks remain.

To assemble, slice the domed tops off each cake round to make them flat. Place one layer, cut side up, on a cake plate. Spread ½ cup of the frosting on top, then drizzle 2 tablespoons caramel sauce. Invert another cake layer on top (so the flat bottom is up), then spread ½ cup more frosting and drizzle 2 tablespoons caramel. Repeat with the 3rd cake layer and frosting; top with 4th cake layer.

Before frosting the top layer, place dowels next to the cake and use sharp scissors to cut dowels as tall as the top cake layer. Push one into the center of the cake, then the other 4 in a large square between the center and outer edge. Spread frosting on top, drizzle caramel sauce, then arrange a handful of pecans. Sprinkle flaky sea salt on top. For a caramel drip, squeeze caramel sauce in one spot on the top edge of the cake until it starts to drip down the side. Repeat in a few spots around the cake edge.

Serve within an hour or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving. Cake can be made 1 day before serving.

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