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, ½ cup of buttermilk, (room temperature), & ½ cup of Eagle Rare Bourbon
- 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)
Save and add later – 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 and salt if needed and beat until well combined.
Maple Bourbon Filling:
This step is optional, but I wanted a little bit more kick in between the cake layers, so I took about ¾ c of frosting from the mixer bowl and stirred in 2 teaspoons of maple extract (/mapeline) and 2 Tablespoons of Eagle Rare bourbon – OMG, it was SO good! Maaaybe the best part of the cake right here.
- 1 8- or 10 -inch cardboard cake circle (I prefer Wilton’s center-punched circles)
- Small piping bag & tip – this set has been one of my favorites!
- Large piping bag & tip – I use this set of reusable large bags & tips more than almost any of my others!
- about a Tablespoon of gold sugar pearl sprinkles
- 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)
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.
Pipe a rim of cream cheese frosting around the outer edge, and spread half of your maple bourbon filling in the center.
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. I made my last layer of frosting VERY thin, creating a semi-naked cake style that allows bits of the cake layer to show through! Once your cake is covered, place it into the fridge to set the frosting.
Onto the fun part! Decorating!
Add a bit of orange food color to the rest of your frosting, turning it a light orange. I wanted a bit of an ombré effect up the side of the cake, so I piped more light orange at the top.
Add a few more drops of orange food color to the remaining frosting, and continue piping small dots/rosettes to the side of your cake until it’s covered.
I added a rope border with a mix of the light and dark frostings – you can see bits of the technique in my video, or this real-time video tutorial shows the entire process!
Add a few small swirls/spots of frosting to your cake top, and decorate the frosting with gold sprinkles to your liking.
Annnd you’re done! Step back and admire your beautiful cake!
Make this recipe? Let me know how it went - or find me on Instagram or Facebook and tag @IntensiveCakeUnit in your photo!