About this cake.
We were faced with a fridge full of stuff people enamored with fall buy: canned pumpkin, apple cider, cream cheese. Meanwhile, I was in a baking mood but couldn’t decide what to make: apple cider donuts? Pumpkin bundt cake? Cream cheese danishes? Well, yes to all, but my waistline doth protest.
So one evening, in a rare burst of spontaneous baking, I set out to make a cake using only what we had in our fridge. Normally my layer cake baking is a 2+ day affair, mainly because I have an active toddler who only naps once a day. But fueled by coffee and inspiration from a little too much Great British Baking Show, I was determined to churn something out.
The result? I present to you the Fall Cliche Cake: pumpkin spice cake layers glued together with maple cream cheese frosting, drizzled with mulled apple cider caramel sauce. This is the cake version of what you order when you can’t decide between a Pumpkin Spice Latte and a Caramel Apple Cider and you hope your significant other orders one so you can actually have a bit of both. This is what you want to eat while admiring the fall foliage and wearing your boots and chunky sweater. All in all, this took me about 4 hours start to finish (not including the scrub-down of the kitchen, sadly), and I couldn’t be more pleased with the result. In fact, this cliche may become our new tradition.
This cake was also created with a party in mind — a Virtual Pumpkin Party hosted by bloggers Sara at Cake Over Steak and Aimee at Twigg Studios. It’s an honor to be able to participate in this take-over-the-internet-with-all-things-pumpkin recipe extravaganza with so many talented bloggers. I just wish the party were in person so I could try all the amazing dishes. Please check out the entire recipe list at the bottom of this post!
A few recipe notes:
- If you don’t have mulled cider sitting around in the fridge, you can make this with regular apple cider. Or, steep your cider with a cinnamon stick, a few cloves, a couple star anise, a few cardamom pods, and a chunk of nutmeg for as long as you can, then proceed with the recipe. Alternatively, you could add a pinch of cinnamon to the caramel when you add the vanilla.
- Use COLD cream cheese for the frosting. I know, I thought the same thing…room temperature everything! But the cold cream cheese actually doesn’t take that much longer to incorporate, plus it helps the frosting keep its body a bit better instead of becoming a soft, unworkable mess.
- Layer cakes are much easier to assemble when the cake is completely cooled, preferably chilled. Normally I make the layers a day ahead and chill them overnight, but in this case I just stuck them, uncovered, in the freezer for about 10 minutes after they’d come to room temperature. Worked great.
- There is enough frosting here to scantily ice a 3-layer, six inch cake. If you want to go fully frosted, double the recipe.
Fall Cliche Cake
For the pumpkin spice cake:
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (100 g) packed light brown sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 3/4 cup (180 ml) grapeseed oil
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) pumpkin puree (I used canned)
- 2 cups (260 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
For the maple cream cheese icing:
- 150 g unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/4 c (180g) powdered sugar
- 200 g cream cheese, COLD and cubed
- 1-2 Tbsp maple syrup
For the apple cider caramel sauce:
- 2 cups apple cider (preferably mulled)
- 1 cup (200 g) light brown sugar, packed
- 1 Tbsp corn syrup
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 generous pinch sea salt
- Chopped pecans
- Pumpkin seeds
- Fresh thyme branches
For the Pumpkin Spice Cake Layers:
- Spray three 6-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and line the bottoms with parchment paper rounds. Spray and flour the pans.
- In the large bowl, beat the sugar and eggs together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the oil and vanilla and beat on medium until combined, about 30 seconds.
- Add the pumpkin and mix until combined, about another 30 seconds.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and salt, and with the mixer on the lowest speed, gradually add to pumpkin/egg mixture.
- Evenly distribute batter into the prepared pans (weigh them if possible with digital kitchen scale for about 370 g per pan), smooth with a small offset palette knife and place in the center of the middle rack of the oven, about 2 inches apart. Bake until a knife or skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes.
- Let pans cool on a wire rack 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto rack and cool them completely.
For the Maple Cream Cheese Icing:
- Beat butter until pale, about 2 minutes.
- Add powdered sugar and continue beating until frosting is very pale and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add cream cheese and beat until just smooth. Beat in maple syrup a tablespoon at a time, tasting after the first to check the flavor. Add the second if necessary. Use immediately.
For the Apple Cider Caramel Sauce:
- Add the apple cider to a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat and bring to boil. Allow the apple cider to cook down to about 1/3 cup.
- Add the brown sugar and corn syrup and stir just until the sugar is dissolved. Heat without stirring until the mixture reaches 240F on a candy thermometer.
- Remove from heat and stir in butter, heavy cream, and vanilla. Return to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the caramel thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon.
- Remove from heat and add a pinch of sea salt; stir to combine. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before transferring to a heat-safe jar.
- Store at room temperature for 3 days or in the fridge for several weeks.
- Level your cakes (this is easiest to do when they’re completely cool; I like to stick them in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes right before assembly). Choose a layer for the bottom and put bottom-side down on a cake board.
- Spread about a 1/2 cup of icing evenly over the layer, followed by a generous drizzle of caramel sauce. Repeat with the next two layers, ending with just a layer of frosting on the top. Add a thin layer of icing over the entire cake. Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes to set.
- When the cake is chilled and the caramel is your desired drizzle consistency (test a drip on the side to see), drizzle the caramel on the sides and spread a layer on top. I like to use a squirt bottle for the side drips, but you can use a spoon or just pour over the top and nudge it to the edges with a palette knife if you’re brave.
- Decorate with chopped pecans, pepitas, and thyme branches, if desired.
Virtual Pumpkin Party!
Cake Over Steak • Quick Pumpkin and Kale Risotto + Arancini
Twigg Studios • Sausage Stuffing Baked in a Pumpkin
Donuts, Dresses and Dirt • Pumpkin Spice Latte Popsicles
Cloudy Kitchen • Pumpkin Cake with Vanilla German Buttercream
Vegetarian Ventures • Smoky Pumpkin & Black Sesame Hummus
Eat Boutique • Pumpkin Scallion Dumplings
A Little Saffron • Pumpkin Stuffed Shells
Two Red Bowls • Pumpkin & Maple Caramel Baked French Toast
Wallflower Kitchen • Mini Pumpkin & Cinnamon Sugar Donuts
Wit & Vinegar • Pumpkin Butterscotch Banana Split
Style Sweet CA • Pumpkin Creme Brulee Cake
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With Food + Love • Cinnamon Raisin Pumpkin Seed Bread
Sevengrams • Vegan Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream
Jojotastic • 1 Pumpkin, 2 Ways: Pumpkin Trail Mix & Dog Treats
Grain Changer • Pumpkin Spice Baked Oatmeal
Girl Versus Dough • Pumpkin Cranberry Flax Crisps
Earthy Feast • Pumpkin Grits + Pumpkin Home Fries + a Fried Egg
Harvest and Honey • Truffled Pumpkin Papardelle Alfredo with Frizzled Sage
Tasty Seasons • Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake
Broma Bakery • Pumpkin Butter Pop Tarts
Tending the Table • Roasted Pumpkin and Barley Salad
The Sugar Hit • Super Soft Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
Delicious Not Gorgeous • Waffles with Spiced Pumpkin Butter and Brown Sugar Walnut Crumble
Taste Love and Nourish • Pumpkin Bread Pudding
The Green Life • Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chunk & Hazelnut Skillet Cookie (Vegan)
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Appeasing a Food Geek • Cheese Fondue Stuffed Roasted Pumpkin
SweetPhi • Pumpkin Chili Biscuit Bake
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Mademoiselle Poirot • Cinnamon-Pumpkin Mousse on Honey Panna Cotta topped with Hazelnut Brittle
Heart of a Baker • Pumpkin Sticky Buns with Vanilla Bean Frosting
Flourishing Foodie • Massaman Curry with Pumpkin and Chickpeas
Ginger & Toasted Sesame • Pumpkin Jeon
Lindsay Jang • Best Ever DIY Pumpkin Spiced Latte
Fix Feast Flair • Hokkaido Pumpkin + Sage Mac and Gouda
Will Frolic for Food • Pumpkin Kale Patties with Coconut Cilantro Rice
A Couple Cooks • Pumpkin Pecan Baked Steel Cut Oats
Vermilion Red • Pumpkin Pie Souffle
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Displaced Housewife • Brown Butter Pumpkin Donuts
Sweet Gula • Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
La Pêche Fraîche • Pumpkin and Condensed Milk Cakes
Kitchen Konfidence • Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi with Rosemary Brown Butter Sauce
Loves Food, Loves to Eat • Savory Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Kale & Caramel • Goat Cheese & Sage-Stuffed Pumpkin Challah
Okie Dokie Artichokie • Pumpkin Chorizo Chili with Sweet Potatoes + Pinto Beans
Salted Plains • Easy Pumpkin Bread
Liliahna • Chicken Legs with Pumpkin and Tortellini
TermiNatetor Kitchen • Whole Wheat, Pumpkin & Brown Sugar Brioche
Vermilion Roots • Sweet Rice Dumplings with Pumpkin
Celebrate Creativity • Pumpkin Mini Cheesecake Tarts
Serendipity Bakes • Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake
So Much Yum • Vegan Maple-Glazed Pumpkin Spice Doughnuts
The Brick Kitchen • Pumpkin, Pecan & White Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches
Lisli • Pumpkin Pie Cake
Cookie Dough and Oven Mitt • Pumpkin Pie Dip
Fig+Bleu • Pumpkin Granola
The Speckled Palate • Pumpkin Caramel Cream Cheese Swirl Blondies
Floating Kitchen • Chicken and Pumpkin Chili
The Wood and Spoon • Pumpkin Pecan Cake with Burnt Sugar Frosting
Fork Vs Spoon • Pumpkin Streusel Muffins
Lemon & Vanilla • Pumpkin and Coconut Caramel Flan
Dunk & Crumble • Pumpkin Chocolate Icebox Cake
Chicano Eats • Pumpkin Butter Pan de Muerto
On the Plate • Pumpkin Pancakes, Salted Caramel & Pecans
Rough Measures • Cosy Pumpkin Spice Latte (Caffeine and Dairy Free)
Brewing Happiness • Pumpkin Ginger Breakfast Cookies
A Butterful Mind • Pumpkin Cheesecake with Vanilla Whipped Cream
The Little Loaf • Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Fork to Belly • Pumpkin Gnocchi
The Little Epicurean • Chocolate Hazelnut Pumpkin Pie
Bourbon and Honey • Spicy Roasted Pumpkin with Honey and Feta
What to Cook Today • Spicy Pumpkin Noodle Soup
Food by Mars • Pumpkin Pie (Grain-Free, Diary-Free)
The Bojon Gourmet • Pumpkin Butterscotch Pudding
Oh Honey Bakes • Pumpkin Cake with Gingersnap Toffee
Long Distance Baking • Layered Pumpkin Cheesecake
The Jam Lab • Pumpkin Madeleines Dipped in White Chocolate
The Lemon Apron • Pumpkin Gingerbread Loaf with an Olive Oil Glaze
Sun Diego Eats • Thai Pumpkin & Sticky Rice Cakes
A Cozy Kitchen • Pumpkin Chai Scones with Black Tea Glaze
A Cookie Named Desire • Pumpkin Shrubs
Eating Clean Recipes • Vegan Pumpkin Chia Pudding
Kingfield Kitchen • Vegan Fresh Pumpkin Soup
Drink and Cocktail Recipes • Pumpkin Dirty Chai
The Pig & Quill • Pumpkin Sage Cannelloni (Dairy-Free)
My Lavender Blues • Pumpkin, Banana & Olive Oil Bundt Cake
Betty Liu • Pumpkin + Pear Butter Baked Melty Cheese
Happy Hearted Kitchen • Cinnamon Roasted Pumpkin with Tahini Yogurt + Hazelnut Dukkah
InHappenstance • Pumpkin Scones with Maple Butter
Live Eat Learn • Pumpkin Gingerbread Hot Cocoa