Are you ready for the deluge of all things pumpkin now that it is officially October? I am all about it! This year, I’m doing something new and launching Pass the Cookies Pumpkin Month! Every week I will be posting a pumpkin recipe or a roundup of some of my favorite pumpkin recipes. If you follow along on Instagram (which you should, it’s fun over there!), I’ll be tagging everything with #PTCpumpkinmonth and would love to see your pumpkin creations too! Tag me on Instagram if you make a pumpkin recipe and post it so I can share your excitement. You can find all of the pumpkin recipes from this month on the Pumpkin Month page in the header. We’re kicking off the month with pumpkin cake with brown butter frosting!
If I could be a dessert, this is probably what I would be. Pumpkin bread is my absolute favorite, and I’ve been told that brown butter is one of my signatures (and after looking at the recipe index, it might be true). The combination of the two in this cake is amazing and sure to start your fall off on the right foot.
I love love love this pumpkin pie cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting that I made a few years ago, but I recognize that it has a lot of pieces and a lot of steps, which is great for Thanksgiving or a fun seasonal dinner party, but isn’t ideal for a regular week. This pumpkin cake with brown butter frosting is the perfect solution. It uses the same base pumpkin cake recipe, but simplifies that fancy, multi-step recipe process down to a more manageable one.
The cake is perfectly moist and wonderfully spiced. As much as I love pumpkin (I did just declare it pumpkin month, after all), the brown butter frosting is my favorite part of this recipe. After one finger full, I declared it the best frosting I’ve ever made. Take that as you will. The nutty, warm brown butter flavor comes through so well and pairs amazingly with the spices of the pumpkin cake it covers. The combination is unreal.
Growing up, when we were short on time we would make boxed cakes and cover them in homemade frosting to trick everyone into thinking the whole cake was homemade. It was very sneaky. It is much easier to tell homemade frosting from store-bought icing than it is a homemade cake from a box cake mix. While you shouldn’t skip this delicious pumpkin cake, brown butter frosting would be an amazing one to use as your party trick on any cake later this season. I won’t tell ;)
Pumpkin cake with brown butter frosting is perfect for fall. It is wonderfully moist and filled with fall spices and that amazing nutty browned butter flavor to create the ultimate delicious seasonal combination.
- 2 ⅓ cups flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 ¼ cups (18 ounces) pumpkin purée
- 2 cups vegetable or canola oil
- 2 ⅔ cups sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- 6 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
- Toasted pepitas for decoration, optional
Brown Butter Frosting
- 1 ½ cups unsalted butter, divided (1 cup should be room temperature)
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter 3 8-inch round cake pans, then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper and butter that as well. You can also use non-stick cooking spray for this step.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Set aside.
In a stand mixer, combine the pumpkin, oil, sugar and salt. With the mixer on medium speed, add the egg yolks one at a time, making sure each yolk is fully incorporated (or almost fully incorporated) before adding the next. Scrape down the sides of the bowl when you are done.
With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture, just until the ingredients are incorporated. Do not over mix. Pour your batter into the bowl you just used for the dry ingredients (or into another large bowl) and set aside.
In the now semi-clean bowl of your mixer, whisk the egg whites until they are frothy and white. They will still be fairly liquidy, not fully whipped. Fold the frothy egg whites into the cake batter until they are no longer visible (but be careful not to over mix). Pour the cake batter into the pan and bake on the middle rack in the oven, with enough room for it to rise.
Begin checking the cakes after 35 minutes (mine have taken anywhere between 35-50 minutes), removing them when a toothpick or thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. The middle will set and cook a little longer from the heat of the pan as the cake cools. Let the cake cool in its pan on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes, or until the cake is pulling away from the pan. Transfer the cake onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
You can make this cake ahead of time! After it cools, wrap it well in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few days, or freeze for a few weeks. If you freeze the layers, let them thaw in the fridge before frosting them.
Brown Butter Frosting
Add 1 cup of room temperature butter to the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Brown the remaining ½ cup butter: Cut the butter into 1 tablespoon-sized pieces and place in a small saucepan over medium heat. Allow the butter to melt. Once melted, the butter will begin to bubble and foam. Stir until the butter begins to turn golden, the foam subsides a bit, and you can smell a nutty, buttery aroma. This may take 5-8 minutes. Once you see lots of golden brown flecks on the bottom of the pan (or mixed in with the foam), remove the butter from the heat and pour it into a heatproof bowl so it stops cooking. Place the bowl in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to cool. Once it is about the firmness of room temperature butter, add it to the mixing bowl with the rest of the butter.
Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, and cream and beat for 3-5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. If you want the frosting to be thicker, add more powdered sugar, a little bit at a time. If you want it to be runnier, add more cream, a few teaspoons at a time.
Assemble the cake
Place one layer of pumpkin cake on a cake stand. Spread about ¼ of your frosting evenly over the top. Optional: Sprinkle pepitas on top of the frosting (this adds a fun crunchy texture between the layers, but is totally optional.
Place the next pumpkin cake layer on top and repeat the process. Place the third cake layer on top of the frosting, then cover the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Optional: Place pepitas around the bottom of the cake and around the edges of the top of the cake.