Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Check Icon Print Icon Note Icon Heart Icon Filled Heart Icon Single Arrow Icon Double Arrow Icon Hamburger Icon TV Icon Close Icon Sorted Hamburger/Search Icon
Recipe

Brown Butter Pumpkin Layer Cake

Featured in our 2019 Thanksgiving Guide
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

Rate or Review

Reviews (121 reviews)

  • lkk | 10/21/2019

    I saved this recipe last summer, because it sounded fantastic. Now that fall is here, I made two of these for the small restaurant I work for. I tripled the recipe to make six layers, so each cake had three layers. I used canned pumpkin and had to omit the crystallized ginger as we didn't have that. It was loved by all! It smelled so good baking that I had people walking past the restaurant come in to find out what the delicious smell was!

  • sbear | 10/07/2019

    It wouldn't be Thanksgiving (Canadian) without this cake! I make it as is, but always bake the cake a week or two before to free up some time for the pies that need to be made fresh. It freezes beautifully. I prepare the topping and frosting the day I plan to serve and it is as good as when I used to make the entire recipe on the same day.

  • Crisseyde | 09/20/2019

    This is a splendid cake, and much less finicky than I would expect for such great results. It's perfect for fall, and will definitely be on my Thanksgiving dessert table.

  • camille1207 | 07/26/2019

    If I could give this recipe 100 stars I would... truly a stunner, and always a huge hit. Quite honestly the best cake I’ve ever made/tasted. Do not leave out any steps or ingredients, I promise you won’t be disappointed. Thank you for this recipe - everyone in my family agrees that it’s simply the best.

Show More

Rate this Recipe

Write a Review

Delicious Dish

Find the inspiration you crave for your love of cooking

Fine Cooking Magazine

Subscribe today
and save up to 44%

Already a subscriber? Log in.

Videos

View All

Connect

Follow Fine Cooking on your favorite social networks

Subscribe

We hope you’ve enjoyed your free articles. To keep reading, subscribe today.

Get the print magazine, 25 years of back issues online, over 7,000 recipes, and more.

See my options