My son calls this the Halloween Cake. Why? Well it has pumpkin in it of course.
Pumpkin in a cake? Yes! Stick with me for a minute. The Halloween Cake a.k.a my Spiced Pumpkin Layer Cake is layers of warmly spiced pumpkin and walnut cake sandwiched with fluffy cream cheese maple frosting topped with decadent salted caramel and sprinkled with crunchy toasted walnuts and sea salt. If you love carrot cake, then you’ll love this, pumpkin in a cake is just like carrots in a cake. This is seriously the perfect (and pretty easy) winter cake for impressing your friends, or just eating yourself, I’m not judging.
I have been struggling to get this post out for a number of days. My little munchkins (a.k.a. my four year old and one year old boys) have been keeping me quite busy adjudicating wrestling matches, body slam competitions and slugging championships. No one told me that this would be part of my job description before their teenage years. I can’t just blame them though, every time I have thought about this blog post or sat down at my computer there is a whole lot of nothing going on upstairs in my brain. Generally there’s not much (well at least not many coherent things) happening up there but this has been a seriousl ghost town complete with those little tumble weed thingees you always see on Roadrunner cartoons.
My Spiced Pumpkin Layer Cake is definitely a delicious thing (I’m so humble right?). However, I just can’t seem to write a darn thing about it. So to keep you folks interested we are going to go completely random here. I just read Amy Schumer’s autobiography and it was AWESOME! She had all these lists of funny facts about her self peppered through the book. Now I’m just regretting mentioning Amy Schumer because you are now expecting some fantastically funny list that’s going to have you in stitches and calling up SNL because you have found the next big comedian. No I’m a food blogger not a comedian sorry, but we all love spying on other people (don’t deny that you’ve never watched reality TV or Facebook stalked your ex). So here is a list of 10 things you (probably) don’t know about me:
1. I can strip and assemble a military assault rifle…blindfolded.
2. Everyday after lunch I need to eat exactly six pieces of Whittaker’s 72% Dark Ghana Chocolate (no substitutions).
3. …I may have OCD?
4. I love plane food. Those little compartmentalised trays rock my world.
5. I still want to be an Astronaut when I grow up.
6. I meditate everyday.
7. I have to make my bed perfectly everyday.
9. I have no idea how to use Twitter (not a great thing for a blogger to say).
10. I have not had a hangover since July 2012 due to this simple equation: KIDS + HANGOVER = A SPECIAL FORM OF HELL
So there you have some gossip on me if you ever need to blackmail me for cakes.
Why post the Halloween Cake in June? Well, it’s the middle of winter here in New Zealand and I think the warming spices and the combo of walnuts, pumpkin and caramel are totally winter and autumn flavours. That’s not to say it isn’t delicious anytime of year. I love this cake because the cake itself is just so easy to make. You all know how much I hate creaming butter, well no creaming in sight today! Just drizzle in the oil. I’ve made the cake into four layers because I think it looks pretty in photos, but the recipe below is just for two layers which I would normally do and makes it much easier to assemble. Okay, so I have almost convinced you how easy this delicious cake is, apart from the caramel *sideways glance*. Jokes. I put off making my own caramel for years, convinced it was difficult but it really isn’t. Follow the steps below and I guarantee you’ll have delicious decadent caramel. Don’t be tempted to take any lazy short cuts like I may or may not do *another sideways glance*. You must have warm cream to add to the caramel or it will cease up into a big ball. Alternatively you could always just buy a jar of store bought caramel – who doesn’t love a good shortcut?
So right now the cake is sitting on my bench and I’m trying to convince my son that no, it is not Halloween and you’re not going to be given lots of treats. Wish me luck.
Spiced Pumpkin Layer Cake
- 1 1/2 cup plain all purpose flour
- 1 cup wholemeal flour
- 1 1/2 cup caster sugar or golden caster sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 Tbsp pumpkin spice see note
- 3/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
- 1 can pumpkin puree see note
- 2/3 cup cold-pressed neutral oil (such as rice bran or grapeseed)
- 1/2 cup full fat milk
- 3 free-range eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Icing
- 250 g/ 1/2lb cream cheese, softened
- 125 g/4.4oz unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups icing (confectioners sugar)
- 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
- 4 Tbsp maple syrup
- 1 cup caster sugar
- 1 cup cream
- 50 g/1.8oz unsalted butter, cubed
- 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 cup toasted walnut halves
Preheat oven to 180C/350F on bake. Grease and line two 20cm/8in.
In a large bowl whisk together wholemeal flour, plain flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda and pumpkin spice. Mix through 3/4 cup chopped walnuts.
In a medium bowl mix together the rest of the cake ingredients.
Make a little well in the middle of the dry ingredients, pour in the wet ingredients and mix together. Don’t over mix.
Pour into preprepared tins and bake for 25-30min or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the cakes.
Allow cakes to cool in tins for 10min before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
While the cakes are cooking make the caramel.
Sprinkle 1/4 cup of sugar over the bottom of a heavy based medium saucepan (I like to use my Le Creuset Dutch Oven for this) over medium heat. Once the sugar has almost completely melted (it will become a deep golden colour) sprinkle another 1/4 cup, allow to melt and repeat until you have used up all the sugar. Allow to melt completely and turn a deep golden brown colour. You can stir the sugar as often as required while it is melting, but the less you can do the better as less lumps will form which take longer to melt. Using this ‘dry’ method of melting sugar means that you can stir the sugar as often as you like, if you use the alternative method with added water then you cannot stir the sugar while it is melting or it will crystallise.
While the sugar is melting place the cream in a small saucepan and heat over low heat until you see bubbles forming around the edge of the pan.
When the sugar is golden, remove from heat, add the hot cream and stir vigorously to combine. Caution the sugar is very hot and the mixture will bubble up when you add the area but it will subside relatively quickly and form a gooey, velvety caramel sauce. Place back on the heat and stir through the butter until melted and fully combined. Remove from the heat.
If you cream is too cold when you add it to the sugar then your caramel can seize up. If this happens then you can sometimes recover it by putting it back on the stove over medium heat, continue to stir and heat the caramel until it bubbles this will melt the seized caramel.
Sprinkle in your sea salt then set aside to cool. You may want to transfer the caramel to another dish and place in the fridge to speed up the cooling process. The caramel must be at room temperature or cooler when pouring over the cake or it will melt the cream cheese frosting.
Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
While the cake and caramel is cooling make the cream cheese frosting.
Place cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until fluffy, about 5 min.
Add the icing sugar and maple syrup then beat for another 10 min until pale and fluffy.
Drizzle in vanilla and beat until combined.
Cream cheese frosting is best made on the day of serving but can be made a day in advance and stored in an air tight container in the fridge. When ready to frost your cake give the frosting a quick beat in the electric mixer to make it soft again.
If your cakes aren’t completely flat (normally mine aren’t) cut the domed tops off to make them flatter. Place the first cake bottom side down on a stand. Dollop on about 1 cup of frosting and spread over the cake.
Place the second cake on top, upside down so that the bottom, flat-side is on top. This gives you a nice flat top to your cake.
Spread a thin layer of frosting around the sides of your cake and put the rest of the frosting on top. Flatten the top with an offset spatula and using the offset spatula or pastry scraper, run it around the sides of the cake to create a semi-naked look. Place in the fridge for 20-30min to firm up the frosting.
Remove cake from fridge and drizzle over the caramel. Place straight back in the fridge to set the caramel for 20-30min. It’s not essential that you place your cake in the fridge for these steps but it does give your a more polished looking cake, especially in warmer weather. I didn’t place it back in the fridge in the photos you see so that the caramel would drip all the way down the sides.
Remove from the fridge again, decorate with toasted walnuts, flowers and sea salt. Best served day of making but will keep for up to 3 days in an airtight container.
Note 1. Here’s my favourite recipe for pumpkin spice. Some have mace in them but I prefer this one from Betty Crocker. Feel free to search the internet or experiment to find your favourite combination of spices.
3 Tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 1/2 tsp ground cloves
Note 2. In the USA you can purchase canned pumpkin puree. I purchase this from an American store we have here in Auckland, New Zealand. If you can’t find this then it’s easy enough to simply make your own. Take a butternut pumpkin, half it, remove the seeds and roast in the oven for 45-50min at 200C/400F until tender. Allow to cool slightly, peel then blend the flesh in a food processor or blender. Measure out 425g/15oz for the cake and either freeze the rest to use for future cakes, eat as is or use it in my Roasted Butternut Pumpkin and Sage Soup.
If you like spiced cakes then you may also like:
- Honey, Orange and Cardamon Cake
- Gingerbread Loaves with Brandy Cream Cheese Frosting
- Plum and Pistachio Cake