Brown Butter Pumpkin Layer Cake
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.
Serves 8 to 12
For the purée
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 medium-large Sugar Pie pumpkin, cut in half from stem to bottom and seeded
Tip: You can substitute canned pumpkin purée for homemade, if you like.
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
Make the pumpkin purée
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Brush a 9x13-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.
nutrition information (per serving):
photo: Scott Phillips
From Fine Cooking 107
, pp. 80-81
November 18, 2010
This is a stunner - for the eyes and the tastebuds. Let me start by saying this was the first cake I've ever made so you don't need to be a pro to do this. As per other reviewer's suggestions, I amped the flavour in the cake (2t dried ginger, 1t pumpkin pie spice, 1/8t nutmeg, 1.5t cinnamon, 2 t fresh minced ginger, 2t vanilla extract and 2t molasses) and it was perfect. I also added 1t vanilla to the icing. This cake is moist and very rich and was just as good, if not better, in the days after making it. I also used the brown butter technque for the topping - out of this world. Just let the butter brown in the pan before throwing the pecans and pepitas in. I timed it so that it browned but had not yet created the dark brown separated bits as I didn't want them incorporated in the topping. Also I'm a big ginger fan so I ampled up the crystallized ginger in the topping. Definitely double the icing and topping (although you will have a little left over of both but I'm sure you can find a way to deal with this!) Solidifying the butter was the only tricky part, especially if you double the amount. It takes longer with double the amount and it's easy to let it go past solidified to frozen. In this case, you may get flecks of butter in the icing (I did and no one noticed). I think I could have rectified this by overbeating the icing but I didn't realize what happened at the time. This is a decadent cake, reminiscent of harvest time and prosperity!
So, I made this cake as my flagship dessert for a Fall Harvest Celebration party, and let me just say that this is one of the best cakes I have ever made! This cake can and should win awards. It didn't last more than 10 minutes and that's only because there was a line. The simple flavors of the pecans, peptias and ginger enhanced the flavors of the cake (and it makes a beautiful decoration on the cake), and the icing, well, can you say OMG? Amazing. It was decadent! The down side for me was that it seemed to take forever to make; however, if you can follow instructions, this cake is extremely easy to make. Great recipe, highly recommend, five stars all the way, hands down!
Followed the recipe to the letter with these additions:
First off, I added 2t. vanilla to the cake it really ramped up the flavors in combination with the brown butter. The cake isn't a light and fluffy type cake. In order to achieve that one would have to use baking powder along with soda or remove the moister from the pumpkin puree. That would improve the structure of the cake, yet mine was not at all gummy or to dense. Also, you need to double the frosting and the nut topping, they both are a tad stingy in my opinion. The frosting also really benefited by the addition of 1t. of vanilla too, again just added another layer of flavor and complexity to the frosting. I would also suggest if you have a vanilla bean you could use that instead of adding extract for the frosting. To remove the solids from the browned butter for the frosting the easier way is to stain the butter through a fine mesh stainer lined with a piece of paper toweling or a coffee filter. That will remove all the unwanted bits for the frosting. Then proceed to chilling with no fear of getting any solids into your frosting. This cake is really good! I loved the consistent flavor profiles of nutty, caramelize, and salty-sweet, starting with the cake, to the frosting, to the nut topping!
Made the cake this weekend for a "Thanksgiving Recipe Trial Run" dinner party, and everyone loved it. Agree with other reviewers -- canned puree works just fine. If I made it again, I would add slightly more spice, without overwhelming the brown butter taste. The frosting is incredible -- note to Danamay07, your frosting will never be "sparkling white" because there's brown sugar in it. Also, I made cake layers the night before, hoping flavors would meld in the fridge, but I think it made this very moist, dense cake a little gummy (I served cake at room temperature). As others have noted, the salt in the topping really balances the sweet. However, I'd coarsely chop the pecan halves -- they looked too big mixed in with the pepitas and ginger.