It’s really starting to feel like November around here. Just the other day I was musing about how sunny and glorious it was as I crossed the Bay Bridge on my way home from work. And now I’m wearing leg warmers in bed.
November. Goodbye, daylight. Hello, scarves and coats and extra layers. Goodbye, stone fruit and tomatoes. Hey there, pumpkin recipes.
This one caught my attention as I was flipping through the pages of Bon Appetit Desserts, in search of a cake to bake for Rodney’s birthday. It sounded promising – pumpkin and spices and a caramel cream cheese frosting. And it was good. But it needed a little bit of a boost. So I made it a second time and doubled up on the spice and added an extra spoonful of sugar, which seemed to do the trick.
I wish I could tell you that this cake is full of pumpkin flavor. But it’s not. It’s a subtle pumpkin cake, which makes it an excellent platform for this insane caramel cream cheese frosting. And candied orange. Seriously, the caramel cream cheese frosting is a winner on its own; it’s like your favorite cream cheese frosting, but with a deepness and complexity that only caramel can provide. And the candied orange adds a bit of brightness and texture that really ties it all together. Something about this cake just screams autumn. It’s here. Get used to it.
pumpkin layer cake with caramel cream cheese frosting
adapted from Bon Appetit Desserts by Barbara Fairchild
for the frosting:
4 cups powdered sugar, divided
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
for the cake:
3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
1-1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1-1/4 cups vegetable oil
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
for the garnish:
candied orange peel*
*Candied orange peel is available seasonally at most grocery stores or year round at specialty shops. Or you can make it yourself. (I’ll post a recipe soon. Promise!)
For the frosting:
Sprinkle 1/2 cup powdered sugar over bottom of small nonstick skillet. Cook over medium heat until sugar melts (do not stir). Continue cooking until sugar turns deep amber, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes. Carefully stir in 1/2 cup cream, vanilla, and salt (mixture will bubble vigorously). Stir until any caramel bits dissolve. Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon cream. Strain into small bowl. Cool caramel to room temperature.
Sift remaining powdered sugar into medium bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and butter. Gradually beat in powdered sugar. Beat in cooled caramel. Cover and chill frosting until firm enough to spread, about 2 hours.
For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides, tapping out any excess flour. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and spices. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the pumpkin, sugar, and oil. Add eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate between additions. Mix in orange peel. Add flour mixture; beat on low speed just to blend. Divide batter between the prepared pans.
Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 33 minutes. Cool in pans 10 minutes. Invert onto rack, then turn top side up and cool completely.
Using long serrated knife, trim rounded tops from cakes. Place 1 cake layer on cake plate, cut side up. Spread 3/4 cup frosting over the bottom layer. Place second cake layer, cut side down, atop frosting. Cover top and sides of cake with remaining frosting, creating a smooth surface.
Sprinkle candied orange peel over top of cake. Cut into wedges and serve.
If you plan to make the cake in advance, cover with cake dome or large bowl and chill. Let stand at cool room temperature for 2 hours before serving. Can be made up to two days in advance.