Now, I know Thanksgiving is over, and it’s probably time to kick the Christmas season planning and posting into high gear. Pumpkin doesn’t exactly scream Christmas to me, but this pumpkin spice layer cake is way too good not to share with you guys immediately.
The recipe combines three layers of spiced pumpkin cake with a butterscotch pecan filling and a brown sugar frosting that may just be my new favorite frosting ever. I kept finding myself sneaking spoonfuls of frosting out of the bowl, which is always a good (yet bad) sign. At first, the cake sounds like it’s going to be tooth-achingly sweet, but it really isn’t. The cake layers themselves are more spice than sweet, and the fact that the frosting is a Swiss meringue buttercream really helps balance out the sweetness of the butterscotch filling.
This cake looks majorly impressive, but truly isn’t that difficult to make. Swiss meringue buttercream is my absolute favorite for decorating – it’s really the only time that I don’t struggle with cake layers sliding all over the place. A little extra work up front in making the frosting goes a long way when it comes to assembling the final product!
Christmas season or not, I think it’s safe to say your family and friends will love this cake, so give it a shot!
For the cake:
- 2½ cups (10 5/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 2½ tsp. baking soda
- 1¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
- ¾ tsp. ground cloves
- 1¼ tsp. salt
- 2½ sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1¼ cup (9 3/8 ounces) tightly packed light brown sugar
- 1¼ cup (9 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
- 5 large eggs
- 1½ tsp. vanilla extract
- 1¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
- 1¼ cup buttermilk
For the filling:
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
- Small squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- 1¼ sticks (5 oz.) unsalted butter, cut into 5 pieces
- 1 cup chopped toasted pecans
For the frosting:
- 5 large egg whites
- 1 2/3 cups (12 1/2 ounces) brown sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 3 sticks (12 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Grease and flour the edges of 3 8-inch round cake pans,shake out the excess flour, and line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, spices and salt; set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Blend in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in the vanilla extract and the pumpkin puree. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix each addition just until incorporated.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared baking pans. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until the cake layers are set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes total. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 20 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and let cool completely.
To make the filling, scald the cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until just beginning to steam. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and lemon juice and whisk to combine. Heat over medium heat, leaving the sugar undisturbed until it begins to melt. Once the sugar has begun caramelizing, stir gently until all the sugar is melted and has turned a golden amber color. Remove from the heat and slowly pour in the heavy cream, whisking constantly. Be careful, as the mixture will bubble violently while you are adding the cream. If any bits of butterscotch harden up or seize during this process, return the saucepan to low heat and stir until everything has melted back together. Once the cream is fully incorporated, whisk in the butter.
Cool the butterscotch in the refrigerator at least 45 minutes, until the mixture is no longer warm to the touch. Place the chilled butterscotch in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on high speed for about 2 minutes, until it has thickened and is smooth. Fold in the chopped pecans.
To make the frosting, combine the egg whites, brown sugar and salt in a double boiler or heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160°F on an instant read thermometer and the sugar has dissolved. As the mixture gets closer to the desired temperature, whisk constantly to prevent the egg whites from scrambling. As soon as the mixture comes to 160°F, transfer it to a stand mixture. Whisk on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated. If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more. It will come back together, I promise!
To assemble the cake, place one of the layers on a serving platter. Top with half of the butterscotch pecan mixture, smoothing it out in an even layer with an offset spatula. Top with a second cake layer and spread that with the remaining butterscotch filling. Place the final cake layer on top. Using the brown sugar buttercream, spread a thin crumb coat over the top and sides of the assembled cake. Place the cake in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to set the crumb cake. Continue to frost the top and sides of the assembled cake with the remaining buttercream. Garnish as desired – I used cinnamon sugar and pecan halves.