Guys. I made the BEST PUMPKIN CAKE. EVER. And all my dog park friends can confirm because I brought them two rounds of tester cake. Heheh.
To be fair, I absolutely love anything that contains cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, especially when it comes in cake form. And I especially love pumpkin desserts. But like for real, this pumpkin cake is the best ever. It’s super moist from the addition of pumpkin puree, and perfectly flavored with pumpkin pie spice goodness.
And then there’s the cream cheese frosting. OH, THE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING. What a glorious thing, am I right?
Vanilla buttercream is fine and all, but I love using cream cheese frosting, especially when you’re dealing with a spice cake. Plus, the slight tang pairs perfectly with the sweeter salted caramel drizzle on top.
I kid you not, I have made this cake four times because I loved it that much. It’s like… fall gets all these fun desserts like donuts, pies, and muffins, but where are all the fall cakes? Cakes need fall too, people. And fall needs cakes.
Hope you enjoy this miraculous cake. It’s alright, I guess. 🙂
Tips on how to make cream cheese frosting
Before jumping into the recipe, I wanted to give you some pointers on the two trickier parts of this pumpkin cake recipe, the cream cheese frosting and the salted caramel sauce. I feel like most people have made a homemade cake before, but frosting and caramel sauce might be new territory for some of you!
To make a homemade cream cheese frosting, you’ll need a few basic ingredients (the most important of which being the cream cheese—full-fat is a must!). To make a super creamy frosting, your butter and cream cheese should be at room temperature. This is crucial, as your frosting won’t whip up properly if these two ingredients are cold.
Cream the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Then, add in some vanilla extract, salt, and most of the powdered sugar. I recommend adding the powdered sugar in stages for a few reasons. First, because it’ll likely puff up into your face when you turn on the mixer. Second, because you might like a tangier frosting than I do. Remember: you can always add in more sugar, but you can’t take it out!
As long as you keep these few simple tips in mind, your cream cheese frosting should turn out perfectly!
Tips on how to make salted caramel sauce
Making caramel seems scary, but the whole process actually takes less than 15 minutes. To make a basic caramel sauce, you’ll first add the sugar into a heavy bottomed sauce pan. No water or anything is needed, just the sugar! Heat the sugar for a good five minutes, stirring a few times to scrape the bottom of the pan. The sugar should melt fairly quickly and will start turning brown. Once it’s a lovely golden hue, remove it from the heat and add the butter.
When you add in the butter, the sugar will start to bubble like crazy. That’s totally normal! This is what you want to happen, actually. Stir everything together until combined, then pour in the heavy cream and return the pan to the stove for a few seconds. Add in the salt and set the caramel sauce aside to cool. Seriously, you’ll scald your tongue otherwise.
A word of warning: if you think the sugar has burned even a little bit on the stove, just chuck it into the trash. I hate wasting food, but burnt sugar is nasty stuff and it’ll completely ruin your caramel sauce. If this is your first time making caramel, don’t worry if it doesn’t turn out perfectly. You’ll get the hang of it quickly, I’m sure!
Alright, that’s enough chatting on my end. It’s about time you started baking!
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 8-inch cake pans and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin puree, sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt.
Incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet, stirring until well combined.
Evenly pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes minutes, then allow to cool completely before frosting.
To make the caramel, in a medium saucepan, heat the sugar on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. Use a spatula to occasionally stir the sugar, getting to the bottom of the pan.
Once the sugar is fully melted and turns a medium gold hue, remove from heat immediately and stir in butter. The mixture will violently bubble. Use your spatula to stir the butter and sugar until they melt together completely.
Next, pour in the heavy cream. Use your spatula to stir until everything is combined. Place back on the stove for about 30 seconds, stirring the whole time. Remove from heat, stir in salt, and allow to cool at room temperature while you make your frosting.
In a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add in the vanilla extract, salt, and powdered sugar and whip to combine, about 2 minutes more.
Place the first cake on a plate, then top with a large dollop of frosting. Layer the second and third layers, frosting in between each. Finish with frosting the outside of the cake with the remaining frosting.
Place the slightly cooled salted caramel in a squeeze bottle or piping bag with a small tip (if it’s feeling too solid, place in the microwave for 10 seconds). Starting from the center, squeeze out the caramel in a tight spiral, going all the way to the edge of the cake. When you’re at the edge of the cake, make small zig-zag-like movements to allow the caramel to fall off the side of the cake.
If you’d like, decorate the top of your cake with fresh figs, pomegranate, and blackberries 🙂