Pumpkin Spice Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

Nov 01 2008

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Okay, I’ll admit it: this is pulled straight from an issue of Bon Appetit.

I’m only willing to deal with a certain amount of complexity in a recipe, and this one is right at the far edge of what I’m willing to do. The cake itself is easy, though I usually go with boxed cake.

I balked at the frosting. Which is not even difficult to make; it’s just that it involves a significant amount of effort just to make…frosting. Especially when I have a foolproof frosting recipe (dump a box of powdered sugar in a bowl and add hot water in spurts, stirring, until you get a spreadable frosting).

Anyway. I made it, and it does make a delicious cake, with a surprising mix of flavors. The caramel cream cheese frosting feels pleasantly complex on the tongue, and the cake feels smooth, dense, and very dessert-like.

It’s worth the effort, for me, though this will probably be relegated to the “once per year” category.

At least I conquered the frosting.

Prep time 1.5 hours, total time 2.5 hours, plus 2 hours to chill the frosting

Software

The Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

1 15-ounce can pureed pumpkin

1 ½ cups sugar

1 ¼ cups vegetable oil

4 large eggs

2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel

Chocolate chips (optional garnish)

The Frosting

1 1-pound box powdered sugar

½ cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt

1 8-ounce package cream cheese

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter

Hardware

Large bowl

Mixing/blender bowl

Small frying pan

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350° F, then prep two cake pans (I spray ‘em with cooking spray, and cut out circles of parchment paper and lay them inside, and spritz them with cooking spray). Whisk all the dry ingredients except the sugar in a bowl. In the mixing/blender bowl, beat the pumpkin, sugar and oil until combined, then add the eggs 1 at a time. With the mixer at low speed, slowly add the flour mixture just to blend.

Divide the batter between the two pans, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 33 minutes (note that one layer may bake faster than the other). Cool in pan for 10 minutes or so, then invert on a wire rack and completely cool. Wash both bowls.

To make the frosting, first put the cream cheese and butter out on the counter. Sprinkle ½ cup powdered sugar into the small pan. Cook over medium heat, without stirring, until the sugar melts, then stir occasionally until the sugar turns a beautiful, deep amber color (should only take a minute or two). Carefully stir in ½ cup cream, vanilla, and salt (watch for spattering). Stir until any caramel bits dissolve. Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon cream. Strain, if possible, then cool the caramel to room temperature.

(I didn’t really have anything with which to strain the caramel, so I didn’t. I’m a rebel. Had no problems.)

Sift remaining powdered sugar into the mixing bowl, then add the cream cheese and butter, and mix. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar, then the cooled caramel. Cover and chill in the fridge until firm enough to spread, about 2 hours.

Now, assemble the cake. Trim excess off the top of each layer, put the first layer down, and spread slightly less than half the frosting on it. Let the frosting ooze down the sides, then firm it up. Put the top half on, and spread the remaining frosting on it. Use a knife dipped in hot water to spread the frosting; much easier.

Optionally, sprinkle chocolate chips on top.

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