I first made this cake five years ago, back in the early days of this blog.  Now as I reflect on that time, I realize it was probably one of the first legit layer cakes I had ever made.  Not only was it an impressive, drool worthy combination of pumpkin cake + butterscotch filling + brown sugar frosting, at the time it gave me confidence to know that yes, I could successfully make a cake with multiple components.  My cake assembly and decorating skills did leave much to be desired, but we all have to start somewhere right?

A cake this decadent is certainly something best saved for special occasions only.  It has made rare appearances over the past few years and each time I have tweaked it just a bit.  A few weeks ago my youngest brother celebrated a birthday and when he requested a pumpkin cake, I decided it was time to update the recipe and photos for all of you.  Because this cake does not belong buried deep in the archives.

Note: Since people always ask for a photo of the inside: Per my usual birthday  policy, I do not photograph the sliced cake.  Birthdays are about the birthday honoree, not the perfect photo!  The assembly shot above will have to do.  Thanks for understanding!


For the cake:

  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • ¾ tsp. ground cloves
  • 1¼ tsp. salt
  • 1¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
  • 1¼ cup buttermilk
  • 2½ sticks (10 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1¼ cup tightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1½ tsp. vanilla extract

For the filling:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Small squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • 1¼ sticks (5 oz.) unsalted butter, cut into 5 chunks
  • 1 cup chopped toasted pecans

For the frosting: 

  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 2/3 cups brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 sticks (12 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature


  • 01

    To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Butter and flour the edges of 3 8-inch round cake pans and shake out the excess.  Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper.  Combine the flour, baking soda, spices and salt in a medium bowl.  Set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugars.  Beat together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Blend in the eggs one at a time, mixing well, and scraping down the bowl between additions.  Blend in the vanilla extract and the pumpkin puree.  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Mix in each addition only just until incorporated.

  • 02

    Divide the batter evenly between the prepared baking pans.  Bake, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until the cake layers are just set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20-22 minutes total.  Let cool in the pans about 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and let cool completely.

  • 03

    To make the filling, heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until warm (not boiling).  In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and lemon juice and stir with a whisk to combine (the sugar will resemble moist sand).  Allow the sugar to sit undisturbed until it begins to melt and caramelize.  Once melting begins, continue to stir gently until all the sugar is melted and has turned a golden amber color.  (Watch carefully, as burning can happen in the blink of an eye or a few minutes sucked into social media.)  Remove the saucepan from the heat and carefully add the heavy cream in a slow drizzle, whisking constantly to incorporate.   Whisk in the butter, one chunk at a time, stirring to incorporate completely before adding the next portion.

  • 04

    Cool the butterscotch in the refrigerator at least 45 minutes, until the mixture is no longer warm and has a slight chill.  Place the chilled butterscotch in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on high speed for about 2 minutes, until it has thickened and is smooth.  Fold in the chopped pecans.

  • 05

    To make the frosting, combine the egg whites, brown sugar and salt in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F  on an instant read thermometer and the sugar has dissolved.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer.  Whisk on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.  (The bowl should be cool to the touch.)  Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.  If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (or longer – don’t worry, it will come together!)

  • 06

    (Level cake layers if necessary.)  To assemble the cake, place one of the layers on a serving platter.  Top with half of the butterscotch pecan mixture and smooth in an even layer.  Place a second cake layer on top of the filling and spread with the remaining filling.  Place the final cake layer on top.  Frost the top and sides of the assembled cake with the brown sugar buttercream.  Use a pastry bag with a decorative tip to pipe additional accents on the cake if desired.  Garnish with the cinnamon sugar and pecan halves.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.


  • Emily @ Life on Food

    This cake is lovely. Certainly birthday worthy!

  • Megan Schwark

    Wow! This is definitely going on my list to try! How do get your frosting so smooth and perfect?

  • Amelia

    Mmmm! I love this cake, especially the buttercream. I love the brown sugar flavor over white for this time of meringue buttercream. It’s unlike any other flavor.

  • Liz @ Tip Top Shape

    I always love your cakes – this one does not disappoint!!

  • Stephanie @ PlainChicken.com

    what a beautiful cake!

  • Mimi

    Love your little note about the policy! :) That happens to be the case for my cakes too. The only time I’ve ever gotten a slice picture is from leftover cake!

  • Christy Yoder

    Oh my gosh this looks divine.

  • annieseats

    Yep, that’s the only way I get a slice shot. But it rarely works out that I actually do. I don’t mind one bit though!

  • annieseats

    I found this tutorial from Zoe Bakes to make a huge difference for me. I watch it almost every time I frost a cake, just as a refresher. http://zoebakes.com/2011/06/07/how-to-video-smoothly-buttercream-a-cake-recipe-included/

  • Koko @ Koko Likes

    WOW this looks beyond

  • Can I just say that I love that policy you have? It’s so refreshing to see a blogger place experience over documentation from time to time!

  • Jenny

    Do you recommend a crumb coat for this cake?

  • Bridian

    how do you clean up the slight bit of frosting that inevitebly ends up on the stand around the base of the cake? any time i try to wipe it off i mess up the frosting. i’ve tried moving it to a clean stand after frosting but that usually end worse. any tips?

  • Steph in Lex

    The original post of this recipe has been languishing in a binder on my kitchen counter for years! So this post is a reminder that I need to make this ASAP, given my deep and abiding love of pumpkin, butterscotch, and pecans. I am a little wary of the frosting including egg whites, though–it seems to be my baking Achilles heel.

  • i personally love the fact you never slice the cake until it’s time for the birthday person :)

  • Warm Vanilla Sugar

    This cake is gorgeous Annie! I love that filling :)

  • I made this cake a few years ago for my best friend’s boyfriend’s birthday and it was a HUGE hit. One of my favorite cakes EVER.

  • This looks delicious! I totally agree with you that birthdays aren’t about blog pictures :)

  • This cake looks like absolute perfection! I’m not much of a cake maker – I can’t decorate them but I think I have to try again with this one here!

  • Dajana

    The cake looks absolutely gorgeous

  • Tracy

    Beautiful cake! I’m so glad you’re bringing back old recipe!

  • BrodyL

    This looks unbelievable! One thing: what temperature should the cakes bake at? Thanks!!

  • Ali @ Solano’s Kitchen

    This looks like it’s going to have to go right on the Thanksgiving list! :)

  • Marina

    Annie, this looks amazing! I’d love to make it for Thanksgiving. Do you have any suggestions as to how to break down the steps so that the entire cake doesn’t have to be made in one day? Thanks!

  • Beautiful cake!

  • ptbakeaholic

    Wow, this looks amazing! I just discovered your site tonight and after poking around a bit, I can’t wait to try out some of your recipes. I just wanted to add that from my perspective as an MS4 you are my hero!

  • Karen @ The Food Charlatan

    This cake looks so good Annie! I’ve seen a billion recipes for pumpkin cookies, cheesecakes, pies, bars…but no cakes. Yum.

  • annieseats

    Aw, you are so sweet. Don’t worry, it just keeps getting better. Good luck with your training!

  • annieseats

    I almost never make cakes or cupcakes on a single day, but instead over the course of 2-3 days. You can bake the cake one day, and then fill/assemble/frost the next, or even spread that out as well. It’s very adaptable.

  • annieseats

    Added that. 350 ˚ F. Sorry for the omission.

  • annieseats

    I generally use strips of parchment paper or wax paper around the edges at the bottom of the cake. Once the cake is fully frosted and chilled well, you ca remove the paper strips carefully and then the bottom edges look decent. If there are still imperfections, a piped border around the bottom edge can always cover them up.

  • annieseats

    Oh yes, I always use a crumb coat. It makes such a difference!

  • annieseats

    Thanks dear :) I appreciate it.

  • Jordan

    I was going to try to make this in cupcake form…would the frosting portion be enough to frost the amount of cupcakes the batter will make? (based on you estimates?)

  • Two Red Bowls

    That frosting looks unreal, it’s so smooth and perfect! Amazing. And love your policy on not taking photos when you’re baking cakes for others — that’s keeping your priorities straight :) I’m definitely guilty of getting carried away thinking about the photography and letting it get in the way of what really matters, which is feeding others and making them happy!! Thanks for that, and this gorgeous cake!

  • annieseats

    I think I would probably 1.5 this just to be on the safe side for a batch of 24 cupcakes.

  • Cheryl Hatfield

    I made this for a potluck at work this week. The cake was incredible! The cake is super moist and the butterscotch filling was beyond awesome.
    I’d never made butterscotch before and was a tad worried, but it turned out perfectly. Thanks for great instructions :)
    I saved a piece for my husband – who does not like pumkin – and he said that this was the best cake I’d ever made.
    I’ll definately make it again.

  • grandbabycakes

    What a stunning cake! The butterscotch pecan filling has to be incredible with the pumpkin flavored cake.

  • Lyba

    seriously perfect.

  • Marie

    Hello! This cake sounds like everything I’ve been looking for in a Thanksgiving dessert and I am excited about the final product. I just attempted the butterscotch filling and something seems to be off and am wondering if it has something to do with my technique or if this isn’t supposed to have a strong butterscotch flavor. Mine is more of a caramel color and even though it isn’t burnt, should I have stopped it earlier on while it was more gold? I’ve made butterscotch before but, I’ve always used brown sugar which I thought was one of the main factors separating butterscotch from caramel so maybe that’s where the taste discrepancy is coming from. Can I sub the white sugar for brown?

  • annieseats

    I have read about the differences between butterscotch and caramel before and no one seems to fully agree on what differentiates the two. Personally in this recipe, I think it is the butter that makes the difference. I’ve never had a caramel sauce with that much butter and I don’t think it smells like butterscotch until most of the butter is added. I have made recipes labeled as butterscotch before with both white and brown sugar so I don’t think that is the difference. The only difference between white and brown sugar is about a teaspoon of molasses (per cup of sugar) so I wouldn’t think it would make that big of a difference anyway. In any case, I’m not exactly sure what might have gone wrong with yours or if something actually did. I would just try again and hopefully it will work better this time.

  • Stephanie

    Hello! I’m having difficulty with the carmel filling. Its getting to hard and sticking to the bottom of the pan… Am I not whisking it fast enough or not enough lemon juice? It’s turning to rock candy to the bottom of the pan? and just leaving cream. help?!

  • annieseats

    My guess is either the cream isn’t warmed when you add it or you need to add it more gradually, whisking each addition well before adding more.

  • Heather

    I’m wondering if anyone has tried to make this as a filled cupcake

  • annieseats

    I have made these as filled cupcakes. They were great!

  • Annie @ Annie’s Cooking Lab

    I made this over the weekend for a bake sale and oh my goodness. It was unbelievably good! I didn’t have any issues with the butterscotch filling like some people reported, it came together very easily for me. The frosting was my favorite part- it tasted like a brown sugar marshmallow. Yum!