Pumpkin Pie Layer Cake made with brown sugar PUMPKIN CAKE with nutty brown butter and graham cracker buttercream - perfect for any autumn gathering or Thanksgiving!
It's not uncommon for anyone working in the food publishing business to bake and create dishes totally out of season. As food bloggers, we agree to making Christmas cookies in July, storing seasonal rhubarb and cranberries in the freezer just in case, and sourcing holiday decor to fit our needs. Content that goes to print needs to be created months in advanced and even copy for online publications or sponsored posts needs to be approved weeks prior to going live. So when I actually get to bake a recipe that mirrors the season we are in, I get pretty excited.
Well, technically, I made this cake just for fun. This is not sponsored nor part of any other project, so I suppose I could have made it at any time I wanted. But my house is usually filled to the brim with cakes and recipes for different assignments that I don't really bake for "fun" at the moment...
Canadian Thanksgiving was a few weeks ago, and this Pumpkin Pie Layer Cake was the star of our dessert table. I knew that I would already be trying to pawn off leftover dessert recipes from that week's testing to my fiends and family. Sure all the desserts would taste good, but I wanted something that wasn't already sliced into or had sat around while I took photos and such in the days prior to our gathering...
Okay, so I did snap some pics of it sliced, as you can see, but you know what I mean, right? Anyways, this Pumpkin Pie Layer Cake recipe is adapted from my first cookbook Layered. I absolutely love this recipe and figured Canadian Thanksgiving would be the perfect occasion to recreate it. And since Canadian Thanksgiving is at the beginning of fall and over a month before American Thanksgiving, I knew it would be the perfect cake to share with you all today as we head into peak pumpkin season!
It doesn't take much to get anyone excited about pumpkin cake. You know any good pumpkin cake recipe will be moist, tender, and full of warming, fall spices. This version is no exception. I used brown sugar to add depth (trust me, it really makes a difference!) and my ration of spices (although a couple teaspoons of pumpkin spice blend would also work).
Like I always do, I had to change up the recipe from the original version (even when I wrote the original, lol). I combined the brown butter filling and graham cracker buttercream into one! The brown butter adds a beautiful caramel flavor to the buttercream and the graham cracker crumbs contribute texture to the otherwise tender cake and silky frosting. As mentioned in my notes, the texture improves the second day as the crumbs soften up a bit and the pumpkin cake will stay moist and fresh for several days, so feel free to make in advanced.
Not only did my family get to enjoy this cake a couple weeks ago, this recipe is my contribution to this year's Virtual Pumpkin Party! Now you all can make and enjoy it too! Yay!! What is a virtual pumpkin party you ask? It's when a bunch of us bloggers share our favorite pumpkin recipes each year. Or as Sara more elegantly puts it "An annual explosion and celebration of pumpkin recipes that are delivered to the internet by food bloggers from around the world on a single day in October."
Pumpkin Pie Layer Cake Recipe
adapted from Layered
Brown Sugar Pumpkin Cake
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup grapeseed oil
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups pumpkin puree
Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans and set aside. Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the oil, brown sugar and granulated sugar for about 3 minutes. With the mixer on low, add in the eggs, one at a time. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
With the mixer on low, add in the dry ingredients in two additions, mixing well in between. Just as the last streaks of flour begin to disappear, stop the mixer. Add in the pumpkin and mix until combined.
Evenly distribute the batter between the two pans and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans. Once cool, carefully slice each cake in half horizontally with a serrated knife to create four even layers.
Brown Butter Graham Frosting
3 cups unsalted butter, divided
6 large egg whites
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 to 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
pinch cinnamon to taste
Place 1 ½ cups of butter in a light-colored medium saucepan. Over medium-low heat, melt then brown the butter. Turn the heat to medium-high and brown the butter, about 8 minutes. Stir the butter to keep the milk solids from sticking and burning to the bottom of the pan. When done, the butter will be very fragrant and nutty, light-medium amber in color, with dark brown bits at the bottom of the pan. Strain the browned butter with a mesh sieve into a heat-safe container and chill in the refrigerator until it reaches the same consistency as room temperature butter.
Bring the remaining 1 ½ cups butter to room temperature. Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Gently whisk them by hand to combine. Fill a medium saucepan with a few inches of water and bring to a simmer. Place the mixer bowl on top of the saucepan with create a double-boiler. Whisking intermittently, heat the egg mixture until it reaches 160°F (70°C) on a candy thermometer. Carefully fit the mixer bowl back onto the stand mixer.
With the whisk attachment, beat the egg white mixture on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes, the mixture holds medium-stiff peaks and the outside of the bowl returns to room temperature.
Turn the mixer down to low and add in the vanilla, unsalted butter, and browned butter, a couple tablespoons at a time. Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk for the paddle attachment.
Turn the mixer to medium-high and beat until the buttercream is silky smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the graham cracker crumbs and cinnamon. Mix until combined.
pre-made pie crust
sweetened whipped cream
Place one layer of cake on a cake board or serves dish. Spread on about 1 cup of buttercream and smooth with an offset spatula. Top with the next layer of cake and repeat with remaining layers. Frost the cake with the remaining buttercream.
To decorate, pipe dollops of whipped cream and finish with a pie crust cut-out. Serve at room temperature.
I found that the texture of the graham crackers in the buttercream improve after about a day or so. Store in the refrigerator overnight and let stand at room temperature about an hour before serving.
For the pie crust cut-outs, simply bake about 375 until puffed and golden (about 8 to 12 minutes). Sprinkle on some cinnamon or freshly grated nutmeg before baking.
Since the amount of whipped cream is so small, I just whisked by hand. A great arm work-out before eating cake!! Sweeten with a few tablespoons of sugar per cup of cream, or to taste. Whisk until medium-stiff peaks.