Introduction: How to Make Pumpkin Spice Cake With Layers and Frosting and Everything!

So, you would like to make dessert for the harvest season, but pumpkin pie seems so passe. Well, give pumpkin cake a try. This spiced treat includes a sweet caramel and cream cheese frosting that will knock your socks off - assuming you wear them.

I have adapted the recipe from Bon Apetit (you will notice the magazine in some of the pix), mostly because I just can't do exactly as told. Ever. My advice for those of you inspired by this Instructable is to follow the basic instructions and not to copy my actions - unless you like to take the long way.

Always make sure you have ingredients and hardware on hand BEFORE starting the project. Just this once, I was prepared and did not have to run out midway - thanks to my previous pumpkin torte success/debacle, I had already purchased heavy whipping cream.

The Hardware
2 9" round cake pans
big mixing bowl - or three, if you don't want to wash between steps
2 smaller bowls
A marvelous electric mixer - if not, then a sturdy spoon, lots of patience, and serious biceps.
a long serrated knife
a rubber spatula
a wide dull knife (aka frosting spatula)

The Cake Ingredients
3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 15 oz. can pumpkin pie filling***
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs

The Frosting Ingredients
1 1# box powdered sugar
1/2 cup + 1Tbsp heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 8oz. package cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

***The original recipe called for pure pumpkin , 1 1/2 cup sugar, and a host of spices. To save time, I hacked it and used Libby's pie filling, decreasing sugar. It worked.

Step 1: The Cake Batter

First, we assemble the cake. Preheat the oven to 350. Make sure the racks are centered - too high or too low and your cake will burn, baby, burn. Butter and flour the two cake pans, tapping out excess flour. This will enable your cakes to pop out nicely when done. I didn't actually have to do this because I have special nifty pans with arms that cut and relaease the bottoms. However, in the interest of instruction, I have shown this step for those of you who probably don't have weird kitchen gadgetry.
Whisk the first three ingredients in a large bowl. Realize you want to use this bowl for the next step and transfer the flour mixture to one of the cake pans temporarily. Alternately, start out using an extra bowl. Sigh.
Using electric mixer (see note on previous step under "Hardware") beat pumpkin, sugar, and oil in large bowl. I happen to have hazelnut oil, so I substituted about a 1/4 cup of it for some of the vegetable oil - should add a subtle flavor without changing the cake structure. Feel free to experiment, just don't change the total amount of oil. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating to incorporate between additions. Here the recipe called for 2 tsps of orange peel. Bleah. I skipped that and added some lemon peel instead. Your cat will be supervising, so make sure no fur gets in the food. Ugh. Add flour mixture and beat on low speed just enough to blend it. You want a light cake and beating the devil out of it will increase gluten production making for a more, ah, tough chewy cake. Can we say, "gross"? Now that the batter is ready, divide it equally into the prefloured and now empty cake pans.
Bake the batter until a toothpick inserted comes out clean - 35 minutes in my oven. Cool the cakes in pans for 10 minutes or so, then flip them out (nice to have a cooling rack for this) and turn them top side up to cool completely.
During the cooking time, you may realize the can of pumpkin filling you purchased was overly large. Since you have excess, you should utilize it by attempting the pumpkin torte again. Hey! By the time the cakes are done, you can toss it into the oven preheated to the same cooking temperature. What else to do on a rainy day but bake? Certainly not going to vaccuum...

Step 2: The Frosting

Cake is good, yes, but cake with frosting is better. So make some frosting. Sprinkle 1/2 cup powdered sugar over the bottom of a small skillet, cooking on medium heat until sugar melts. No need to stir yet, but I'm serious about the medium heat. Don't burn the sugar with impatience. Once melted, you can stir as needed, watching for a color change to amber - a coupla minutes. Now, stir in 1/2 cup cream, vanilla, and salt. (Useful to already have this mess mixed and ready to pour). The goo is going to bubble like a witches cauldron. Whee! Stir some more, dissolving any hard bits. Stir in that last teaspoon of cream, and let cool to room temperature in a small bowl. You have just made candy.
On to the next. Using the electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in a large bowl. Gradually beat in powdered sugar. How much? Well....I went off the recipe because I started with a big container of powdered sugar instead of a 1# box. Guesstimating as I mixed, I just kept adding sugar until the frosting attained a frostinglike stiffness. Realizing I would be adding soupy caramel, I aimed for extra stiffness. Then I began beating in the cooled caramel. This is where you can really go to town with an electric mixer. Whip it!
Time to put completed frosting into a small bowl, cover it and chill it until spreadable. Coupla hours. One of the pix is finished frosting - the leftovers, that is. It'll be used to make sandwiches out of the cake tops that get cut off in the following step. Waste nothing.

Step 3: Assemble the Layers

In order for your cake to have a uniform appearance, the layers need to be even. Cut the rounded tops off carefully using a loooong serrated knife. Be careful. I don't think anyone has posted an Instructable for reattaching lost fingers. Perhaps my next burning question?
Place 1st cake layer on a plate, cut side up. Spread about a 1/4 of the frosting on the top. Begin with a big glop in the center and gently work your way out using a frosting spatula or a very wide dull knife. Go all the way to the edge, maybe a little over. Trip over the dogs(large) on the way to grabbing the second cake. Curse and grab your toes, hopping up and down. Place the 2nd cake, cut side down, over the frosted layer. Frost the top first, and then the sides, smoothing to your satisfaction. I added some dried cherries and cranberries for decoration - use your imagination and be inventive with presentation.
Survey the enormous mound of dirty kitchenware with trepidation, and long for a dishwasher. Question whether the end result is worth the effort
Begin washing.

Step 4: Transporting and Serving

I was sharing my cake with friends, but not entertaining at home, so that cake had to travel. No cake should sit out in the rain, and it was pouring. I had a large Tupperware container but no lid (Did I see it out in the garage last week?). The cake went in the container and was given a plastic bag topper. Voila! Cake condom.
The cake arrived at its destination, safe from the elements and clouds of pet hair in my CR-V. The confection was sliced up and served with aplomb and gurgled murmurs of appreciation from attendant teenagers and adults.
Go bake a cake and invite some company over.