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Recipe

Brown Butter Pumpkin Layer Cake

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Scott Phillips

Servings: 8 to 12

A gingery glazed nut topping and brown-butter-spiked cream cheese frosting are the finishing touches for this spectacular spiced pumpkin cake. Double the topping if you want to pile the nuts on as shown in the photo.

For more side Thanksgiving dessert recipes visit The Guide to Thanksgiving Dinner.

Ingredients

For the purée

  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 medium-large Sugar Pie pumpkin, cut in half from stem to bottom and seeded

For the cake

  • 6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter; more for the pans
  • 9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pans
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 3/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk

For the topping

  • 1-1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup pecans
  • 1/2 cup unsalted, raw, hulled pepitas
  • 2 Tbs. firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. chopped crystallized ginger

For the frosting

  • 4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 5 oz. (1-1/4 cups) confectioners’ sugar

Nutritional Information

      Calories (kcal) : 660
      Fat Calories (kcal): 320
      Fat (g): 36
      Saturated Fat (g): 18
      Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 4
      Monounsaturated Fat (g): 11
      Cholesterol (mg): 115
      Sodium (mg): 440
      Carbohydrates (g): 80
      Fiber (g): 2
      Protein (g): 7

Preparation

Make the pumpkin purée

  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Brush a 9×13-inch baking dish with the oil. Put the pumpkin halves in the dish cut side down and bake until tender when pierced with a fork, about 45 minutes. Let cool. Peel the pumpkin and purée the flesh in a food processor until smooth. You’ll need 1-1/2 cups of the purée for the cake. Refrigerate or freeze any remaining purée for another use.

Make the cake

  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

    Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans with removable bottoms (or butter two 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, butter the parchment, and flour the pans).

    Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown, about 4 minutes. Pour into a small bowl and let stand until cool but not set, about 15 minutes.

    In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves. In a large bowl, whisk 1-1/2 cups of the pumpkin purée with the granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and buttermilk until very well blended. With a rubber spatula, stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Gently whisk in the brown butter until completely incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.

    Bake the cakes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 28 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto racks, remove the pan bottoms or parchment, and cool completely.

Make the topping

  • Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the pecans and pepitas and cook until the pecans brown slightly and the pepitas begin to pop, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the brown sugar and salt and stir until the sugar melts and the nuts are glazed, about 2 minutes. Stir in the ginger. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool in the skillet.

Make the frosting

  • Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown, about 4 minutes. Pour into a small bowl and let stand until the solids settle at the bottom of the bowl, about 5 minutes. Carefully transfer the bowl to the freezer and chill until just firm, about 18 minutes. Using a spoon, carefully scrape the butter from bowl, leaving the browned solids at the bottom; discard the solids.

    Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light in color and the brown sugar has dissolved, 2 minutes. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar and continue beating until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.

Assemble the cake

  • Put one cake layer on a cake plate. Spread 1/2 cup of the frosting on the layer. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the nut mixture over the frosting and top with the second layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Arrange the remaining topping in a ring 1-1/2 inches in from the edge of the cake and serve

Make Ahead Tips

You can make the purée up to 2 days ahead. The assembled, frosted cake can be covered with a cake dome and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Serve at room temperature.

Tip

You can substitute canned pumpkin purée for homemade, if you like.

Reviews

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Reviews

  • Rendggr | 12/03/2016

    I have been making this cake for years. It was featured on the cover of the magazine and I bought it just because that cake looked so good! I made it the next day and it has been a requested cake in my family ever since. It is absolutely the BEST pumpkin cake I have ever had. It's a little bit of work but worth every bit of it. Make it, and you won't be disappointed!

  • Krispie | 10/23/2016

    Delicious and beautiful. I made the cake a few days ahead and refrigerated it and then frosted it the day of so I didn't mess up the frosting. I will definately make again

  • dme500 | 10/18/2016

    I made this cake plus 2 other great desserts for a large party. This plate was the only one scraped clean. I got so many compliments on it I could have had investors in a bakery. I did do a couple of things differently...I didn't have pepitas and I forgot the ginger; the topping was fabulous anyway. And, I happen to love the browned, salty milk solids that the browned butter leaves,(I used salted butter) so I put them in the frosting, and I think that's what made it wonderful. I didn't add the vanilla like some suggested, but I will next time. I think this frosting could be easily used on a boxed spice cake mix, and be awesome. Amazing recipe!

  • Ladyfish65 | 11/17/2015

    I have been wanting to make this cake for like, a couple years. Oh, I should have made it sooner. This cake is out of this world, delicious. So flavorful, moist with a nice balance of flavors. Its deeply satisfying! I did add two teaspoons of vanilla. And in the frosting I added a 1/2 cup of butter and more confectioners sugar. Had enough to frost the cake with about 1/2 cup left over. I am posting it to my blog Lori's Lipsmacking Goodness on Saturday.

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