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Pumpkin-Pecan Cake with Brown Sugar and Bourbon Glaze

Scott Phillips

Servings: 10 to 12

This cake’s warm spices are complemented by bourbon or Cognac and the crunch of sweet candied pecans. Bake the cake at least a day ahead to let the flavors deepen.


For the cake

  • 4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened; more for the pan
  • 13-1/2 oz. (3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pan
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1-1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 3 Tbs. bourbon or Cognac
  • 1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2-1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 15-oz. can pure pumpkin purée
  • 4 oz. (1 cup) pecan halves, toasted and chopped

For the candied pecans

  • 2 Tbs. packed dark brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp. mild honey, such as clover
  • 3 oz. (3/4 cup) pecan halves
  • Vegetable oil, for the pan

For the glaze

  • 3/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbs. light corn syrup
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. bourbon
  • 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 4 oz. sifted confectioners’ sugar (1-1/4 cups)
  • 1/8 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Nutritional Information

  • Calories (kcal) : 820
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 370
  • Fat (g): 42
  • Saturated Fat (g): 14
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 9
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 16
  • Cholesterol (mg): 115
  • Sodium (mg): 370
  • Carbohydrates (g): 105
  • Fiber (g): 4
  • Protein (g): 8


Make the cake

  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter and flour a 10- to 12-cup tube pan.
  • In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, and cloves. In a measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, bourbon, and vanilla.
  • In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy. Gradually add the oil, beating until combined. Add the brown sugar. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well on medium-high speed after each addition. Beat in the pumpkin.
  • Reduce the speed to low, slowly pour in the buttermilk mixture, and mix until combined. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the batter, mixing just until combined. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the pecans. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and tap the pan on the counter once or twice to settle the batter.
  • Bake until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it, 45 to 55 minutes. Leave the oven on. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10 to 15 minutes and then invert the cake onto the rack, remove the pan, and let cool completely, at least 3 hours.

Make the candied pecans

  • Heat the brown sugar, honey, and 1 Tbs. water in a 1-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the pecans and stir until coated. Spread the pecans curved side up on an oiled rimmed baking sheet and bake in the 350°F oven until fragrant and shiny, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer the pecans with a metal spatula to parchment to crisp and cool completely, about 20 minutes.

Glaze the cake

  • Set the cake on a rack over a rimmed baking sheet.
  • In a 3-quart saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, bourbon, and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Add the cream, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Continue to boil, stirring occasionally, for exactly 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Gently whisk in the confectioners’ sugar and the vanilla until completely smooth. Let stand until the glaze is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon but still warm and pourable, 3 to 8 minutes. If a skin forms, gently stir it back into the glaze with a spatula; don’t over-stir or the glaze may crystallize.
  • Pour the glaze slowly and evenly over the cake. Decorate with the candied pecans while the glaze is warm. When the glaze is set, after about 15 minutes, transfer the cake to a serving plate.

Make Ahead Tips

You can make the candied pecans up to 1 week ahead and store in an airtight container.

For the best flavor and texture, the cake should be baked at least 1 day before serving, and it can be stored (unglazed) at room temperature for up to 2 days: set the completely cooled cake on a plate, wrap tightly in 2 layers of plastic wrap.

The unglazed cake can be frozen for up to 1 week: Set the completely cooled cake on a 10-inch cardboard cake round. Wrap tightly in 2 layers of plastic wrap, then in foil, and freeze. Up to 10 hours before serving, remove the foil but not the plastic wrap from the cake. When completely thawed, unwrap and glaze the cake.

The cake can be glazed up to 10 hours before serving. Keep the cake at room temperature after glazing.


Rate or Review

Reviews (14 reviews)

  • User avater
    MaryANeal | 03/27/2019

    Very sweet pumpkin cake with brown sugar.

  • User avater
    PamelaJLewis | 10/08/2018

    Fantastic Cake.......

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