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Ghost Cake

This adorable ghost cake is made with tender pumpkin cake layers and fluffy buttercream frosting. It’s just as delicious as it is cute!

I was so torn on what flavor to make this cake, but since the ghost was holding a pumpkin and this cake is for Halloween, I figured pumpkin cake layers were appropriate.

image of a cute ghost cake that's been frosted with buttercream frosting and made with pumpkin cake layers

If you want to make a vanilla version of this cake, I recommend using my vanilla layer cake recipe to make 4, 6-inch cake layers.

Making this Ghost Cake: Step-by-Step Tutorial

Let’s walk through each step of this cake together to make sure it turns out as amazing as possible! I’ve also shared a video tutorial below.

I figured it might be helpful to know what tools I use too, so I’ve shared a list below.

Not all of these are mandatory, but they make the process a lot easier. If you don’t have all these things on hand, feel free to improvise and work with what you have.

Step 1: Bake the Pumpkin Cake Layers

First we set to work on the pumpkin cake layers. Line four, 6-inch round cake pans with parchment rounds and grease with non-stick baking spray or homemade cake release.

Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans and bake for 34-38 minutes.

Let the layers cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around the perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan.

Flip the cake layers onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

Level three of the cake layers with a serrated knife once they’re fully cooled. Leave one of the cake layers with a rounded top. Trim the top of the rounded cake layer to give it a domed shape like in the pictures above.

image of pumpkin cake layers being trimmed with a serrated knife

Stack the cake layers on top of each other and trim them like in the picture above to give the ghost a slightly tapered shape and a rounded head.

If you make these in advance, wrap and freeze them at this point. Take them out of the freezer about 20 minutes before you want to assemble the cake.

Step 2: Make the Buttercream Frosting

Next, we work on the buttercream frosting. I chose to make this cake with regular vanilla buttercream, but you can use cream cheese buttercream if you want!

I find regular buttercream is easier to smooth, which is why I chose to use it for this design.

If the frosting seems too thick after mixing all the ingredients, add in additional heavy cream or milk (1 tablespoon at a time). Or if the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (1/4 cup at a time).

image of vanilla buttercream being mixed that's smooth

If you’re unsure how thick your frosting should be, you can learn what consistency you’re looking for in my frosting consistency post.

My buttercream naturally turns out pretty white because of the butter I use, but if you’re struggling with this I recommend checking out my white buttercream tutorial.

Wait to color the frosting until we’ve crumb coated the cake. Cover the frosting flush with plastic wrap and set aside.

Step #3: Stack and Frost the Cake Layers

Stack and frost the cake layers on a greaseproof cake board using a dab of frosting to help stick the first cake layer to the board.

Start with one of the leveled cake layers first and spread an even layer of frosting on top of it. Repeat with the remaining leveled cake layers. Top it with the rounded cake layer.

image of pumpkin cake layers that have been stacked with buttercream frosting

Stacking the cake layers in this order should give our ghost a nice shape.

Spread a thin coat of frosting around the cake that fully covers the cake layers. Smooth using an offset spatula or small acetate sheet.

image of a pumpkin cake being crumb coated

Then chill the cake in the fridge (20 minutes) or freezer (5 minutes) until the frosting is firm to the touch. This makes it easier to get a perfect second coat of frosting.

Step 4: Color the Buttercream

While the cake chills, color the buttercream. It’s going to sound crazy, but all the frosting can be colored in one bowl. We start with the lightest colors and work our way to the darkest, so it works out great!

Scoop about 1/4 cup of buttercream into a bowl and color it orange with a squirt of orange gel food coloring. Place in a small piping bag fit with a small round piping tip.

Add about 2 tbsp of buttercream into the same bowl and color it pink with a squirt of pink gel food coloring. Place in a small piping bag fit with a small round piping tip.

Scoop about 2 tbsp of buttercream into the same bowl and color it green with a squirt of green gel food coloring. Place in a small piping bag fit with a small leaf piping tip.

Add about 2 tbsp of buttercream into the same bowl and color it brown with a squirt of brown gel food coloring. Place in a small piping bag fit with a small round piping tip.

Scoop about 3 tbsp of buttercream in the same bowl and color it black with a squirt of black gel food coloring. Place in a small piping bag fit with a small round piping tip.

Step 5: Frost and Decorate this Halloween Ghost Cake

Then place the remaining, uncolored buttercream in a large piping bag and add a second layer of white frosting around the cake. Pipe squiggly lines of frosting at the base of the cake to give our ghost a ruffled look.

image of a ghost cake being frosted with buttercream frosting to make it have a cute ruffled base

Smooth the frosting with a large offset spatula and a small acetate sheet.

Trace out where you want the ghost’s face and pumpkin to go with a toothpick or scribe and a circle cutter. Use the black buttercream to pipe on the ghost’s facial features.

image of a circle cutter being gently pressed into a ghost shaped cake to outline where to pipe the ghost's face and pumpkin that it will hold

If you don’t feel comfortable piping on the face, you can also use black fondant instead of buttercream.

Use the pink buttercream to pipe on the ghost’s cheeks.

Pipe a pumpkin underneath the ghost’s face and a small bow on the side of the ghost’s head with the orange buttercream.

Then pipe on the ghost’s arms with white buttercream. Use the brown and green buttercream to add a stump and leaf onto the pumpkin, then enjoy!

image of a cute ghost cake that's been frosted with buttercream frosting

Pumpkin Layer Cake – Substitutions and Swaps

Below are some swaps and substitutions that can be made in this recipe.

  • All-Purpose Flour – This recipe works best with all-purpose flour, but you can use cake flour or a gluten free flour blend if needed.
  • Unsalted Butter – If you only have salted butter on hand, you can use it in place of the unsalted butter and omit the salt in this recipe. You can also use vegan butter in its place!
  • Egg Whites – You can also use 2 large eggs or if you have an egg allergy you can use an egg replacer like this. However, it will slightly change the color and texture of these cake layers.
  • Pumpkin Puree – Unsweetened pumpkin puree works great in this recipe. Make sure you’re not accidentally using pumpkin pie filling.
  • Sour Cream – You can also use full fat yogurt, buttermilk, whole milk, or an alternative yogurt or milk (almond, soy, oat) if you’re dairy free.
image of a slice of moist pumpkin layer cake that's been cut into to show how tender the cake layers are

Buttercream Frosting – Substitutions and Swaps

  • Unsalted Butter – If you only have salted butter on hand, you can use it in place of the unsalted butter. Just be sure to omit the salt that this frosting recipe calls for. You can also use vegan butter in its place (and omit the salt)!
  • Heavy Cream – Whole milk or alternative milk (soy, almond, oat) will work fine in this frosting recipe if that’s what you have on hand.
  • Gel food coloring – Natural food coloring (like squid ink) or liquid food coloring can be used if needed.

Making This Ghost Cake in Advance & Storage Tips

Make your cake layers in advance and freeze them. It breaks the process up and makes it more approachable.

Make your frosting ahead of time or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.

A frosted cake can last in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to a month. The buttercream locks in all the moisture, keeping the cake fresh and delicious!

If you cut into the cake and have leftovers, use any remaining frosting to cover the cut section to keep it moist and store in the fridge for up to a week.

image of a cute ghost cake that's been frosted with buttercream frosting

Tips for Making the Best Ghost Cake

  • Ingredients at room temp mix together better! Set out any cold ingredients ahead of time.
  • Properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure, then level) or use a kitchen scale to measure the dry ingredients.
  • Make sure your buttercream is the right consistency before frosting your cake. It will help give your cake proper structure and make it easier to decorate.
  • If you’re having a hard time making bright white frosting, check out my white buttercream tutorial.
  • Chill the cake layers in the freezer for about 20 minutes before assembling the cake. This makes them easier to stack and frost.
  • Crumb coat and chill your cake, then pipe on a second layer of frosting. This will make it so much easier to frost this cake.
  • Use an acetate sheet to make the frosting super smooth.
  • Make this ghost birthday cake vegan or dairy free if needed! Use your favorite type of dairy free milk to replace the sour cream and heavy cream and use vegan butter sticks in place of the butter. I recommend using additional pumpkin puree in place of the egg whites.
image of a fork about to cut into a slice of pumpkin layer cake

Let Me Know What You Think!

If you make this Halloween ghost cake, I’d love to hear what you think! Let me know by leaving a rating and comment below.

If you plan to share on social media, you can tag me @chelsweets and #chelsweets so that I can see your amazing creations on social media.

Other Recipes You Might Like:

Yield: 24

Ghost Cake

image of a cute ghost cake that's been frosted with buttercream frosting and made with pumpkin cake layers

This adorable ghost cake is made with tender pumpkin cake layers and fluffy buttercream frosting. It's just as delicious as it is cute!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes

Ingredients

Pumpkin Cake Layers

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (375g)
  • 3 cups granulated sugar (600g)
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder (10g)
  • 1 tsp fine salt (6g)
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon (6g)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger (3g)
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (2g)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (226g)
  • 1/2 cup pasteurized egg whites from a carton or about 4 egg whites, room temperature (120g)
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree (165g)
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream, room temperature (360g)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (8g)

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temp (452g)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste (12g)
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt (3g)
  • 7 cups powdered sugar (875g)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream or whipping cream (60g)

Ghost Cake Decorations

Instructions

Pumpkin Cake Layers:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C. Line four 6-inch round pans with parchment rounds and grease with non-stick cooking spray. You can also use this recipe to make 3, 8-inch cake layers but your ghost will end up being quite a bit shorter than mine. If you don't have that many cake pans, the batter can sit at room temperature for a few hours. Bake as many layers at a time as you can at a time.
  2. Mix 3 cups all purpose flour, 3 cups sugar, 2 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ginger, and 1/2 tsp nutmeg together in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or hand mixer until fully combined.
  3. Mix 1 cup of room temperature, unsalted butter slowly into the dry ingredients on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture looks like moist sand.
  4. Pour in 1/2 cup of egg whites and 2/3 cup of pumpkin puree. Mix on low until just incorporated. Then mix in 1 1/2 cups of sour cream and 2 tsp of vanilla extract on a low speed. If you want to color these cake layers, add in the gel food coloring during this step. I added in a small squirt of orange gel food coloring.
  5. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then beat on a medium speed for about a minute to make sure everything is properly mixed together. This also helps lighten the texture of the cake layers a bit.
  6. Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. Bake for 34-38 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs. Let the pans cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around the perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan.
  7. Place the cake pans into the freezer for 45 minutes to accelerate the cooling process. Once the layers are fully cooled, carefully flip the pans and remove the layers from the pans.
  8. Level three of the cake layers with a serrated knife once they're fully cooled. Leave one of the cake layers with a rounded top. Trim the sides of the rounded cake layer to give it a domed shape like in the pictures above.
  9. Then stack the cake layers on top of each other and trim the sides like in the picture above to give the ghost a slightly tapered shape. If you make these cake layers in advance, wrap and freeze them at this point.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:

  1. While the cake layers bake and cool, make the vanilla buttercream frosting.
  2. Beat 2 cups of unsalted butter on a medium-high speed for a mind with a paddle attachment until smooth. It should become lighter in color.
  3. Mix in 1 Tbsp of vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp salt on a low speed.
  4. Slowly mix in 7 cups of powdered sugar on a low speed. Add 1/4 cup of heavy cream halfway through to make the frosting easier to mix.
  5. Continue to mix on a low speed for a few minutes until the desired consistency is reached. 
  6. If the frosting is too thick, add in additional cream (1 Tbsp at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).
  7. Stir the frosting by hand with a rubber spatula for a couple minutes to make the frosting extra smooth. This will help push any excess air out the frosting and get rid of any pesky little air bubbles.
  8. Cover the buttercream flush with plastic wrap to prevent crusting, then set aside.

Assembling This Ghost Cake:

  1. Stack and frost the cake layers on an 8-inch greaseproof cake board using a dab of frosting to help stick the first cake layer in the center of the board.
  2. Start with one of the leveled cake layers first and spread an even layer of frosting on top of it. Repeat with the remaining leveled cake layers. Top the cake with the rounded cake layer. Stacking the cake layers in this order should give our ghost a nice shape.
  3. Once all the cake layers are stacked, spread a thin coat of frosting around the cake. Smooth using a bench scraper, then chill the cake in the fridge (30 minutes) or freezer (10 minutes) until the frosting is firm to the touch. This makes it easier to get a perfect second layer of frosting.
  4. While the cake chills, scoop about 1/4 cup of buttercream into a bowl and color it orange with a squirt of orange gel food coloring. Place the frosting in a small piping bag fit with a small round piping tip.
  5. Place about 2 tbsp of buttercream into the same bowl and color it pink with a squirt of pink gel food coloring. Place the frosting in a small piping bag fit with a small round piping tip.
  6. Scoop about 2 tbsp of buttercream into the same bowl and color it green with a squirt of green gel food coloring. Place the frosting in a small piping bag fit with a small leaf piping tip.
  7. Add about 2 tbsp of buttercream into the same bowl and color it brown with a squirt of brown gel food coloring. Place the frosting in a small piping bag fit with a small round pip
  8. Scoop about 3 tbsp of buttercream in the same bowl and color it black with a squirt of black gel food coloring. Place the frosting in a small piping bag fit with a small round piping tip.
  9. Then place the remaining buttercream in a large piping bag and add a second layer of white frosting around the cake. Pipe squiggly lines of frosting at the base of the cake to give our ghost a ruffled look. Smooth the frosting with a large offset spatula and a small acetate sheet.
  10. Trace out where you want the ghost's face and pumpkin to go with a toothpick or scribe. Use the black buttercream to pipe on the ghost's facial features. If you don't feel comfortable piping on the face, you can also use black fondant instead of buttercream.
  11. Use the pink buttercream to pipe on the ghost's cheeks.
  12. Pipe a pumpkin underneath the ghost's face and a small bow on the side of the ghost's head with the orange buttercream. Then pipe on the ghost's arms with white buttercream. Use the brown and green buttercream to add a stump and leaf onto the pumpkin, then enjoy!

Notes

Ghost Cake Recipe Variations

This recipe can be used to make 4, 6-inch cake layers, 4, 7-inch cake layers, or 3, 8-inch cake layers.

This recipe can also be used to make a sheet cake! One batch will make 2, 9-inch x 13 inch cake layers that are about 1 inch tall. Bake at 350°F/175°C for 30-35 minutes.

Tips for Making this Easy Ghost Cake

  • Properly measure your flour. Either spoon it into the cup measure, then level with a knife or use a kitchen scale.
  • Make sure your ingredients are at room temperature to help them mix together better.
  • Chill the cake layers in the freezer for about 20 minutes before assembling the cake. This makes them easier to stack and frost.
  • Crumb coat and chill your cake, then pipe on a second layer of frosting. This will make it so much easier to frost this cake.
  • Make sure your buttercream is the right consistency before frosting your cake. It will help give your cake proper structure and make it easier to decorate.

Making this Ghost Cake in Advance and Storage Tips

Make the cake layers in advance and freeze them. It breaks the process up and makes it more approachable.

Make the frosting ahead of time too or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.

A frosted cake can last in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to a month. The buttercream locks in all the moisture, keeping the cake fresh and delicious!

If you freeze this cake, transfer it to the fridge the day before you plan to eat it to help minimize temperature shock and reduce condensation.

If you cut into the cake and have leftovers, use any remaining frosting to cover the cut section to keep it moist and store in the fridge for up to a week.

Nutrition Information

Yield

24

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 570Total Fat 29gSaturated Fat 17gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 10gCholesterol 80mgSodium 247mgCarbohydrates 76gFiber 1gSugar 61gProtein 4g

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