I equate birthday cakes with love.  The entire time you bake a birthday cake, you are focused on the person you are making it for and are intent on making that person happy. You might even be thinking about how happy you are that this individual was born all those years ago, if you're mushy like that.  I made a cake this week for Ethan's birthday, and loved every minute of it.  He turned the big 2-4, a seemingly unremarkable age - unless you have a really killer birthday cake. Unbeknownst to him, I had invited a bunch of our friends over for a little surprise party for cake after supper, which gave me the perfect excuse to finally make that triple-layer cake I had been ogling - because you just can't whip up that kind of decadence on any old day! 
Now, you're probably thinking that only a fool would make a pumpkin cake in the middle of June. Wrong! The middle of June is exactly when you should make all things pumpkin, because how long has it been since your last pumpkin spice latte? Or pumpkin chocolate chip cookie? That's right, the end of November! And that is simply too long. I am under the persuasion that pumpkin is so delicious it should be enjoyed more than one season out of the year.  Plus, my mother-in-law made an amazing strawberry shortcake just a couple of days prior - Ethan's favorite - so I had to come up with something new. 

This triple layer cake was such fun to put together. I even invented my own frosting recipe along the way, although admittedly, it wasn't intentional. But more on that later.  Let's focus on the rich, pumpkin goodness of each outstanding layer of cake for now. 

I had trouble finding the canned pumpkin at the store.  I searched in all the canned goods, not sure whether to consider it a canned fruit or vegetable.  I perused the baking aisle, too, passing over sugar and flour and semi-sweet chocolate chips more than once. Pride kept me from asking the shelf stocker where to find canned pumpkin in June.  Finally, nestled inconspicuously between some canned squash and the candied yams on the bottom shelf, I laid eyes on the puny row of pumpkin. I snatched a couple, just in case I have an insatiable craving for pumpkin chips cookies this July and cannot find any more in the store.  

After finding the pumpkin puree, the rest of the cake was really quite simple.  It just required some whisking, beating, and pouring of ingredients that you already probably have at home. I used 8-inch round pans for the cake because those were what I had, but it would be beautiful as a taller cake with 6- or 7-inch round pans, as well. 
Give the cakes plenty of time to cool.  They need 15 minutes to cool in their pans, and then at least another hour on the rack.  If you take a close look at the cake on the right, you'll notice the whole bottom fell off.  I am painfully impatient when it comes to baking, and wanted that puppy out of the pan!  I paid for it with a crumbly bottom.  But hey, if a crumbly bottom means an excuse to take a nibble or two, it's all good, right? 

The frosting is the real crowd-pleaser, though.  And when we're honest with ourselves, we all know that cakes are simply a frosting delivery system.  My plan was to make a gorgeous Swiss merengue buttercream, but in the process of double-boiling the eggs, I heated them too fast and scrambled them.  With people arriving shortly at our house and the stress of trying not to blow the surprise, I cut my losses and whipped something together I knew would be good: butter and cream cheese.  I didn't have any confectioner's sugar to create a classic cream cheese frosting, but I thought dark brown sugar would pair nicely with the pumpkin in the cake.  So, I sifted it to make it finer, dumped it in, added a little cinnamon and vanilla, and beat that frosting with my KitchenAid until it was holding lovely, smooth peaks.  I taste-tested a huge gob on my finger and confirmed that yes, it was amazing.  You really can't go wrong with butter and cream cheese. 

I had fun assembling this cake.  It's satisfying when the components of your cake are finally ready to come together into one glorious creation.  Frosting this is easy; take a rubber spatula and slather it all over every naked piece of cake you see.  Make sure to put plenty between each layer, as this is the glue that will hold your cake together.  This recipe made so much frosting that even after frosting the frosting, I still had spoonfuls left over.  It refrigerates well, so if you anticipate making another baked treat within a day or two, hold on to the leftovers and use them on cupcakes or cinnamon buns or something of the sort. 

A little sprinkling of pecans and brown sugar on the frosting elevates this cake from homey to elegant.  Needless to say, Ethan loved it, and our guests did, too.  And I even managed to keep the surprise from him, making it the first successful surprise party in our home. I'm hoping there will be many more surprises - and cakes - to come. 

Recipe for Triple Layer Pumpkin Cake with Dreamy Brown Sugar Cream Frosting
For the Cake:
  • 3 cups super-fine cake flour, or all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup salted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree

For the Frosting:
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 8 oz. package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 cups sifted dark brown sugar, plus extra for garnish
  • 2 1/2 tsp vanilla 
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, for garnish

To Make the Cake: 
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the first 6 ingredients. 
  3. Beat together the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar using a stand mixer or electric beater until creamed and fluffy (about 2 minutes).
  4. Add the vanilla extract and beat until mixed.
  5. Beat the eggs in one at a time, making sure each is completely mixed before adding the next.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each egg.
  6. At low speed, begin to mix in the pumpkin puree and flour mixture, alternating between the two. Begin with the flour mixture and end with the flour mixture. 
  7. Divide the batter evenly between 3 well-greased 8" round pans and cook for 30 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. 
  8. Cool on wire racks in pans for 15 minutes. Then, flip the cakes onto racks and remove from pans.  Allow to cool completely, at least 1 hour. 

To Make the Frosting:
  1. Cream together butter and cream cheese using an electric mixer, mixing at medium speed for about 2 minutes. 
  2. Add cinnamon and vanilla and mix until combined.
  3. In 1/4 cup portions, begin to add the brown sugar, adding gradually to make sure all the sugar dissolves.  If you desire a sweeter frosting, add an extra 1/4 cup of sugar. 

To Assemble:
  1. Apply frosting liberally to the top of one cake using a rubber spatula.  
  2. Put the second cake on top of the first, then repeat.  Do the same with the third cake.
  3. Using the spatula, take a large amount of frosting and drag it around the outside of the cakes, until all layers are covered.
  4. Garnish with chopped pecans and a dusting of brown sugar.
Cake recipe adapted from The Cake Merchant. 


03/03/2016 12:24am

I have to say that this is my very favorite cake to date, and I get compliments and requests for it from the people I've shared it with. It is moist, rich and decadent. Thanks for the recipe.


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