I’ve been experimenting with pumpkin cake recipes for a while now, and really wanted to create my own, using my vanilla layer cake recipe as a starting point.
After quite a bit of experimenting with different amounts of pumpkin, buttermilk, and egg whites, I finally found the perfect balance.
This recipe is wonderful because it’s moist and so flavorful, but it also has great structure! It can be carved and sculpted if the layers are chilled, and it stacks wonderfully.
One batch of batter can be used to make 4 seven-inch cake layers, or 4 thinner 8-inch cake layers.
Pumpkin Cake Layers
- 3 cups all-purpose flour (390 grams)
- 3 cups granulated sugar (600 grams)
- 2 1/2 tsp baking powder (10 grams)
- 1 tsp salt (6 grams)
- 2 tsp cinnamon (6 grams)
- 1 tsp ground ginger (3 grams)
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (2 grams)
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (226 grams) - 2 sticks
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract (8 grams)
- 1/2 cup pasteurized egg whites from a carton (or about 4 egg whites) (118 grams)
- 2/3 cup pumpkin puree (112 grams)
- 1 1/2 cups sour cream, room temperature (345 grams)
- 1/8 cup vegetable oil (28 grams)
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature (339 grams) - 3 sticks
- 1/2 cup full-fat cream cheese, room temperature (113 grams or 4 oz.)
- 7 cups powdered sugar (875 grams)
- 1/2 tsp salt (3 grams)
- 2 Tbsp heavy cream (or whipping cream) (29 grams)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (4 grams)
- Cake paint brushes
- Large piping bag
- orange, maroon, blue, green, and brown gel food coloring
- clear liquor or extract (i.e. vodka, gin, lemon extract, etc.)
Pumpkin Cake Layers:
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line four 7 inch pans or three 8 inch round pans with parchment rounds, and grease with non-stick cooking spray.
- Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment until fully combined.
- Mix chunks of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly.
- Pour in egg whites, and mix on low until just incorporated.
- Mix in the sour cream, then the pumpkin puree on a low speed.
- Add in vanilla and oil, and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on low speed for about 15 seconds.
- Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans.
- Bake for 33 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the pans to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan.
- Place cake layers 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.
- Use a serrated knife to level the tops of the layers, and save in a bowl to make the pumpkin stump.
Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting:
- While the cake layers bake and cool, make the cream cheese buttercream frosting.
- Beat the butter and cream cheese on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream.
- Once fully mixed, add in the vanilla and salt, and beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached.
- 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).
To Assemble This Pumpkin Cake:
- Stack and frost the pumpkin cake layers on a greaseproof cake board, using a dab of frosting to help stick the first cake layer to the board.
- Add an even layer of buttercream between each cake layer.
- Apply a thin coat of frosting around the cake, to fully cover the cake layers. Smooth using a bench scraper, then chill the cake in the fridge (20 minutes) or freezer (5 minutes) until the frosting is firm to the touch.
- Add a second, thicker layer of frosting to the cake, and smooth using a bench scraper.
- Chill in the fridge for at least an hour, then paint pumpkins around the cake using a mixture of gel food coloring and vodka (1 tsp of vodka mixed with 1-2 dros of gel food coloring).
- Paint multiple layers of the food coloring mixture to create dimension and depth, chilling the cake as need if the frosting begins to soften.
These cake layers can be made in advance!! Learn more about how far in advance they can be made, and how to properly wrap them in my post on how to make cake layers ahead of time.
Since this frosting will be used to decorate a cake, it is important to mix the buttercream on the lowest speed at the end of the process for a couple minutes, to get out any extra air that might have be incorporated during the mixing process.
You can also stir the frosting in a bowl with a rubber spatula, pushing it from side to side, to get rid of any air bubbles.This will make it easier to get super smooth sides on your cake!
Amount Per Serving Calories 533Total Fat 26gSaturated Fat 15gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 9gCholesterol 68mgSodium 236mgCarbohydrates 73gFiber 1gSugar 59gProtein 3g