This was a first - cake inspiration from a nail artist!
I saw @Hannah Lee on Youki.com post Halloween Pumpkin Nail art, and the pumpkin accent nail looked like a PERFECT design for the front of a cake!
After you cover your pumpkin cake layers in orange frosting, you can free-hand the triangles and snaggletooth smile fondant shapes with a knife or find triangle and circle cutters online for super cheap – way easy and way cute! Recipes and links below!
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Pumpkin Cake Layers:
First note – you have options here!
You can use your favorite pumpkin cake recipe, you can use my Favorite Pumpkin Cake recipe, OR – you can you can do what I did this time around and ‘bakery-level-up’ a couple of boxed cake mixes!
To make the cake layers in the pictures, I used
- 2 spice cake mixes
- to make them taste richer, I replaced the combined 1 cup of oil the mixes called for with 1 cup unsalted butter (or 2 sticks, melted & cooled)
- 7 eggs
- replaced the 2 cups of water with 1 (15oz) can of canned pumpkin & 1 cup of buttermilk, (room temperature), &
- 2 tablespoons of clear vanilla extract!
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line four 7 inch pans (for taller layers) or three 8-inch cake pans with parchment rounds, and /or grease with non-stick or baker’s floured cooking spray.
Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined.
Mix together all wet ingredients (butter, egg whites, buttermilk, vanilla, and gel food color) in a large bowl with a wire whisk. Blend in cake mixes for 30 seconds, and then beat with a wire whisk or hand mixes for 2 minutes until well combined.
Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans (I find a kitchen scale helpful for this part). This guarantees your layers will bake to be the same height.
Bake for 35-37 minutes if using 8-inch pans, or 37-38 minutes for 7-inch cake pans (or until a toothpick comes out clean). Allow cake layers to cool for 10-15 minutes on a wire cooling rack before removing from pans – it helps to run an offset spatula or knife around the perimeter of the pan first. Cool completely before frosting. Set in the fridge or freezer to accelerate the cooling process if desired.
Once the layers have fully cooled, the caramelized bits can be trimmed from the sides / top of the cake using a serrated knife if desired. Be sure the layers are completely cooled or chilled before trimming. If you try to trim the layers while they’re still warm, they will crumble apart.
The lag time while you’re waiting for your cakes to cool is a great time to make your frosting and filling!
Whipped Cream/Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting:
8 oz (one package) cream cheese, softened
16 Tablespoons (two sticks) butter, softened
6-7 c powdered sugar
3-6 Tablespoons whipping cream
1 T clear vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt (if using unsalted butter)
Several large drops of orange (or red + yellow) gel food color
Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar alternating with milk until frosting reaches desired consistency. Add vanilla, salt (if needed) and food color and beat until well combined.
- 1 8- or 10 -inch cardboard cake circle (I prefer Wilton’s center-punched circles)
- Large piping bag & tip – I use this set of reusable large bags & tips more than almost any of my others!
- Optional – the gold sprinkle mix I used has been discontinued, but this gold sprinkle mix is almost identical!
- Cake leveler, cake turntable, large offset spatula, and pastry cutter/bench scraper - not all 100% necessary but incredibly helpful! (Here’s a link to the cake turntable I use)
- 1-2 ounces of fondant – Fondarific’s buttercream fondant is the best-tasting one I’ve found, and I just paint it with a bit of black gel food color and a new/food-safe paintbrush, but you could use black decorator fondant instead!
- large & small triangle cutters – mine came from a set similar to this one, but you could cut these out by hand with a knife as well!
- large & small circle cutters – again, I used the largest and 4th-largest cutters from this set, but you could free-hand this with a knife or use two glasses!
Once your cakes are cool, level them (if needed/desired). This can be done with a cake leveler or a large serrated knife and a ruler. Place a smear of frosting on your cake circle (to keep the cake from sliding while you decorate it) and center your first cake layer in the center of the circle.
Spread the layer with frosting, and add your next cake layer on top. Repeat the process with the rest of your cake layers, adding your last cake layer on top. (I put mine on upside-down so make shaping the frosting on top of the cake easier).
Now you're ready to crumb-coat . If you're unfamiliar with crumb-coating, it's just what it sounds like - a thin layer of frosting over the entire outside of the cake to keep crumbs out of your final layer.
Once your crumb coat has set (this takes about 5-10 minutes in the fridge), add your final layer of frosting and smooth. I like to use an offset spatula and bench scraper for this part. Once your cake is covered, place it into the fridge to set the frosting.
Onto the fun part! Decorating!
Roll out your fondant to about 1/8”, using a bit of cornstarch if needed to keep it from sticking. With a knife or cutters, cut out two large and one small triangle for the eyes and nose. With a circle cutter, cut a slightly-larger-than-half-circle shape. With a smaller cutter, cut out the center of the half-circle to make a mouth shape. Use a knife to cut a ‘snaggletooth’ out of the smile if desired!
Transfer the fondant shapes to the side of your cake – if you’re using white fondant, paint the shapes with a bit of black gel food color. (I sometimes prefer painting to using colored fondant because it gives the decoration a bit of shine).
Transfer your leftover frosting to a piping bag fitted with the tip of your choice (I used the largest star tip from the set linked above). Pipe frosting in small swirls around the top rim of the cake (I alternated large swirls with slightly smaller ones). Add some sprinkles around the top border of the cake, and around the base as well if desired.
Annnd you’re done! Step back and admire your beautiful cake!