It’s October and pumpkin recipes are hitting hard on my blog feeds and Pinterest right now — and it all looks so good. I was due to make my next cake, so scoured recipes for the perfect chocolate pumpkin cake. Yes, I need chocolate in my cake. But I’m a chocolate purist. I don’t want my pumpkin bits mixed up with my chocolate bits. So I came up with this chocolate pumpkin cake with spiced brown butter frosting. The layers keep the two flavors separate, and the brown butter frosting is so incredible, I wrote a blog about it.
This cake looks beautiful with the deep orange pumpkin layers and dark chocolate layers all wrapped up in vanilla bean-specked white frosting. My husband says it’s my best so far. It’s fun to see my baking abilities improve now that I’m up to my sixth chocolate cake (not in my lifetime, but documented on my blog). I tried piping on a few of my other cakes, and wasn’t very good at it. This time I used the back of a spoon to swirl the frosting around once it was on the cake. It worked like a charm.
The cake recipes are pretty basic and I’ve made the chocolate recipe before. I just halved the cake recipes and they cooked up moist and delicious. The cake stays moist in the fridge for a while, too. Mine is going on day three and was even left cut and uncovered for a day. The frosting is adapted from a cooked flour frosting recipe by Leelabean Bakes. This is probably the hardest part of the recipe, since there are some extra steps and lots of waiting for things to chill before proceeding to the next step. It’s all worth it, though. Browning the butter gives it a nutty flavor that matches perfectly with the pumpkin cake.
Serve this cake at your holiday party and you will get rave reviews. I promise. If you do, please take a pic and send it to me…I’d love to see it recreated in someone else’s hands.
- 1 cup white sugar
- ½ cup vegetable oil (I like to use walnut)
- 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cups sugar
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon espresso powder
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- 4 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cup salted butter (if using unsalted butter, add ¼ teaspoon of salt)
- 1 vanilla bean, split (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
- 3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C. Grease 2 8” round cake pans and line with parchment.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a mixing bowl.
In another mixing bowl, beat together sugar and oil on low. Add the vanilla and pumpkin puree. Beat in one egg at a time and then gradually add the flour mixture. The resulting batter will be thick. Add it to your pan and give it a tap on the counter to settle it evenly.
Bake in the oven for about 35-40 minutes. The pumpkin layer will take longer to cook than the chocolate layer, so be ready with a toothpick (I use a long bamboo skewer) to test for doneness.
Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder in a large mixing bowl.
Using your hand or stand mixer on low, add the milk, vegetable oil, egg and vanilla to the flour mixture. Beat on medium speed until well combined. Reduce speed to low and carefully add the hot water. Mix on high for about a minute, scraping the sides.
Pour into the cake pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, until your cake tester comes out clean.
Allow cakes to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the pans to cool completely on a wire rack.
Using a bread knife, cake cutter or dental floss, slice through each cake horizontally. Assemble with the a chocolate layer on the bottom. Frost with a big dollop of frosting. Add a pumpkin layer, frost. Add a chocolate layer, frost. Then the last pumpkin layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake, using the back of a spoon to make the swirls.
If you are using a vanilla bean, you first need to infuse your milk/cream. This adds an extra step, but all of those vanilla bean specks are worth it. Add the milk, cream and split vanilla bean to a small saucepan. Heat on low for about 10 minutes. Don’t let it come to a boil. Remove the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the milk/cream. Allow to cool completely.
Add the butter to a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk until it foams, then carefully watch until you see brown specks at the bottom of the pan. Don’t let the butter blacken. Remove from the heat and strain the butter. Chill until solid, about 20 minutes. Remove from the fridge, and allow to come to room temperature.
Now that everything is cool, we can start to make the frosting. In a small bowl, whisk the flour into about ¼ of the cooled milk/cream mixture. Once it’s formed a nice paste without lumps, add to the rest of the milk/cream. Add the sugar and heat on low, whisking so you don’t get any lumps. Once hot, the mixture will thicken.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. You can stir periodically over a bowl of ice, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate to speed up the process. If you don’t stir or cover, it will form a skin and create lumps.
Add the room temperature browned butter, pumpkin pie spice and nutmeg to a mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed until light in color and fluffy. Add the milk mixture (and vanilla extract, if using), and beat until smooth and fluffy.