Surprisingly light, pleasantly spicy, and easy to make, this two-layer cake deserves a place on your table from now through Christmas. Brown sugar buttercream frosting complements it perfectly without overwhelming; it allows the flavor of the cake to shine through.
Oh . . . you may have noticed that I decorated this one for Halloween. A little gross, with a tipped over wheelbarrow that spilled its pumpkins on the ground, next to a trowel and straw hat that have been abandoned because the unlucky gardener—who had obviously gotten on the bad side of a huge garden spider—has been wrapped tightly in the spider’s silk. A lot of webs, a little blood . . . good times! You may not want to decorate your cake like this for Thanksgiving, but it’s a slam-dunk winner for a Halloween party.
This blog is about the cake and frosting, but I’ll also tell you what I used for Halloween decorations at the bottom of the post, in case you want to creep out your family and friends.
|Pumpkin Spice Cake
- 2½ cups cake flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- 2 cups sugar
- 1¼ cups cooking oil
- 1 cup solid pack pumpkin
- 4 eggs
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1½ cups butter - room temperature
- ½ cup shortening
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 6-7 cups powdered sugar
- Cream or milk (if needed)
- CAKE: Heat oven to 350 F. Place rounds of parchment in two 9-inch round cake pans. Spray sides and parchment lightly with baking spray (like Baker's Joy). Or grease and flour the pans and place a parchment round in the bottom of each.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat the sugar, oil, and pumpkin well.
- Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly and scraping the side of the bowl with each addition.
- Combine buttermilk and vanilla.
- Add half of the flour mixture to the bowl and mix until incorporated. Add half of the buttermilk mixture and mix until incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl and repeat. Mix just until the batter is smooth.
- Divide evenly between prepared pans. Bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out cleanly when inserted in the middle of one cake. Don't overbake or cake will be dry.
- Cool for a few minutes on rack, then turn out of pans to cool completely.
- In a large bowl, beat the butter and shortening together until smooth. Add brown sugar and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes.
- Slowly add powdered sugar until desired consistency, scraping the sides of the bowl often. Beat 2-3 minutes. To achieve a good spreading consistency, add a little cream or milk if too thick, or if mixture is too soft, add a little more powdered sugar. This frosting needs to be soft and easy to spread, because the cake is very light.
- Place one cake on serving plate and cover the top with a generous amount of frosting. Place second cake on top (flattest side up) and press gently to level it. Cover entire cake with remaining frosting.
- Decorate if desired with finely chopped nuts, sprinkles, or holiday candies.
So, stop here if you are making this cake for Thanksgiving or Christmas (or any other festive occasion). If you want to know how I made my Halloween decorations, read on.
The toppings on my cake were a mishmash of ideas.
When I frosted my cake I pressed “dirt” onto the top. (Chocolate and regular graham crackers, finely crushed and blended.)
The wheelbarrow was made from red fondant, with long cinnamon stick handles. The wheel was two candy melt discs stuck flat side together (heat one side briefly on a warm saucepan, then press together). wrapped in a strip of licorice to look like a tire. Use a little melted Isomalt (more about this stuff later) or melted candy melt as glue. If using Isomalt, be careful, and use gloves! A thin piece of cinnamon stick was pushed through the center of the candy melts to act as an axle, then both sides were stuck to the long handles. A little black licorice was also used as a trowel, with a handle made from a Kraft caramel.
I made a small batch of simple shortbread for the fence in the background. I have a fence cookie cutter, but you could just make posts. I also used the cookie dough to create the straw hat.
The poor gardener was made by wrapping cotton candy around a head, two arms, and two feet made from white chocolate. I added a little pink, orange, and brown to get a flesh color, but it could have used a bit more. I poured it into molds. What, doesn’t everyone have body part molds??? If not, you could use candy clay, fondant, or gum paste to create your own. Or just use cotton candy and let everyone imagine there is a person in it. (Oh, and I painted some hair and two eyes on the head with food coloring.)
They all looked a little too jolly to be victims, so I wrapped the cotton candy up over their mouths. Silenced!
There was some trial and error (and possibly some foul language) when it came to that spiderweb. I played with spun sugar with very limited success, and finally broke down and used Isomalt. If you’ve never used Isomalt, it’s similar to sugar but stays clear when heated, instead of amber, and is a little more forgiving. It’s hot hot HOT, so if you play with it, please be careful. I like to use it for windows in my gingerbread houses, so had some on hand. (I order the crystals through Amazon.) There are some wonderful videos online, but basically I just heated it until it melted, cooled it briefly, and when it thickened slightly I used a fork to drizzle/whisk it over the entire garden scene (not too much, just a hint of webbing) and then on a large piece of parchment. First I aimed at making “spokes”, then went in circles around and around. Dip, whisk. Once it cooled, I trimmed it to size carefully with scissors and placed it over my garden scene.
I used black fondant to shape the spider. (Hint: stick those legs on with a little water. They tend to drop off at inopportune times, otherwise.)
I bought the candy pumpkins. (I do have limits to my patience!) For the blood oozing out of the man’s mouth and down the side of the cake, I remelted the remaining isomalt and added a little red food coloring. Powdered food coloring is best, but I didn’t have any, so used paste. It thickens really quickly when you do that, so I had to work fast. Drizzle! (Or just buy a tube of red cake gel.)
That’s it. Gross cake accomplished!
Happy Halloween. (Sweet dreams . . . bwa ha ha.)