December 13, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Layer cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

Is it so wrong to eat birthday cake for breakfast? Yeah, I didn't think so, either.

I relish the opportunity to make fancy cakes, since I so rarely get the chance. I guess that's not exactly fair---I could make a fancy cake anytime, really, but that would be a dangerous, dangerous idea. I reserve my fancy cake baking to birthdays. Usually my own.

This year I was agonizing over two really amazing-sounding recipes, but an informal poll on the Recipes For Laughter facebook page proved the pumpkin spice cake the most popular. I'm glad it was. It's hard to say which aspect of this cake was my favorite. The cake itself has the perfect dense-but-fluffy crumb---maybe even the platonic ideal of a birthday cake crumb. The combination of spices in this cake was truly spot on. The spices made this cake seem more pumpkin-y than any other pumpkin dessert in my recent memory, yet the flavor was not at all overwhelming (as some heavily
spiced cakes tend to be). This cake had a perfect balance of warm spices and pumpkin flavor. It easily could have been my favorite part of this cake...if it weren't for the frosting.

By now you may have picked up on the fact that I am an unrepentant cream cheese frosting enthusiast. Give me any excuse to top something with cream cheese frosting, and I will. But, this cream cheese frosting was a revelation. You make a quick and easy caramel from powdered sugar and heavy cream, then mix it into your typical cream cheese frosting. I love caramel nearly as much as I love cream cheese frosting, so this was a match made in frosting heaven. It was bordering on cloyingly sweet, so if you are not really into that, I would recommend adding less powdered sugar or adding more cream cheese to mellow out the sweetness a little.

I think this cake would have been even more perfect with some candied pecans on top, but I ran out of time before my guests arrived. I guess I should stop throwing myself birthday parties...

Ok, that's not going to happen. There's no way I'm giving up an excuse to make myself fancy cakes. Even if that means I have to eat cake for breakfast for days afterward.

Pumpkin Spice Layer Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
For the Frosting:
  • 1 pound of powdered sugar, divided (from a 1 pound box, or approx. 3 1/2 to 4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temp.
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temp.
For the cake:
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    T's cake-slicing ability is unmatched.
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg*
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 15-ounce can of pure pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans, tapping out any excess flour.
  2. Sprinkle 1/2 cup powdered sugar over the bottom of a small non-stick skillet over medium heat. Cook without stirring until the sugar melts. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is a deep amber color, about 2 minutes more. Stir in 1/2 cup cream, vanilla and salt--be careful, as the mixture will bubble up. Stir until any caramel bits have dissolved. Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon of cream. Strain caramel sauce into a small bowl and cool to room temperature.
  3. Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder and spices (through cardamom) in a large bowl.
  4. In another large bowl, beat pumpkin, sugar and oil with an electric or stand mixer. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating to incorporate between each addition. Mix in orange peel. Add flour mixture, beating on low just enough to blend.
  5. Divide batter between prepared pans and bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean--about 33 minutes. Cool in pans on racks for 10 minutes. Carefully invert cakes onto rack and then turn them top-side up to cool completely.
  6. While the cakes are baking, sift the remaining powdered sugar into a medium bowl. Using an electric or stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl. Gradually beat in powdered sugar. Beat in the cooled caramel. Cover and chill frosting until firm enough to spread, about 2 hours.
  7. When cakes are cool, use a long serrated knife to cut the rounded top of off of one of them, leaving a flat surface. Place that cake on a cake plate cut-side up and cover with 3/4 cup of frosting. Place second cake on top. Cover top and sides of cake with remaining frosting.
Serves 12-16

Note: Cake can be made up to 2 days ahead. Just cover and chill. Let stand at room temp. 2 hours before serving.
*Buy whole nutmeg wherever bulk spices are sold. Whole nutmeg looks expensive, but if you just buy one (which is more than enough for this recipe) it will probably cost you less than a dollar. Grate the nutmeg with a microplane or the finest holes on your grater just before using.

1 comment:

  1. Looks yummy, but I got a trick for T for even better cake slicing technique: Wipe off the blade after EVERY cut, that way you don't end up with the bits of cake at the top of the slice, and the frosting stays pretty.


Please leave a comment!