Let’s start out today’s post with a simple math problem.  Pumpkin cake + butterscotch filling + brown sugar icing = best cake EVER!  I’m sure it has something to do with my deep love for all things pumpkin and fall-related, but truly, this cake is amazing.  I organize a pumpkin carving party every year for my friends, and brought this for dessert this year.  It was definitely a hit!  The butterscotch filling and brown sugar icing really augment the delicious fall flavors of the pumpkin cake, and create much more interesting and complex dessert than a pumpkin cake frosted with traditional cream cheese frosting.  In particular, I adore the butterscotch filling, and I am of course now looking for other ways I can incorporate it into my daily meals – haha :P

Beautiful butterscotch.  Mmmm.

This recipe was slightly challenging.  The cake itself presented no problems at all and came out perfectly done, yet still very tender and moist.  Then came the butterscotch.  I followed the recipe exactly, yet when I added the first portion of cream to the caramelized sugar, the sugar seized up into a nearly rock hard ball on my whisk.  I was very upset and almost threw in the towel, but just the thought of bringing a pumpkin cake with boring old cream cheese frosting to my party was enough to make me persevere.  I put the mixture back on the heat, added the rest of the cream, and simply stirred until it became smooth again and, well – like butterscotch.  Once I stirred in the pieces of butter and smelled the final product, I knew I was back on track.  The brown sugar icing was easy enough to make, but was pretty runny initially.  I just refrigerated it for 20-30 minutes to allow it to set up before decorating the cake.  Overall, this may seem difficult to some, but really it was totally worth the effort.  I can’t wait to find another occasion to make it – maybe a Wednesday night?  Sounds good enough to me!

Yummy, yummy butterscotch filling – my new favorite thing!

Really not good lighting from the party, but a shot of the inside.

Pumpkin Cake with Butterscotch Filling and Brown Sugar Icing


For the cake:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. ground nutmeg

½ tsp. ground cloves

1 tsp. salt

1 ½ cups pumpkin puree

1 cup buttermilk

2 sticks unsalted butter

1 cup tightly packed light brown sugar

1 cup sugar

4 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract


For the filling:

¾ cup heavy cream

¾ cup sugar

¼ tsp. fresh lemon juice

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 4 – 1 oz. pieces

¾ cup chopped nuts, such as pecans or walnuts (optional)


For the icing:

2 cups tightly packed brown sugar

1 cup heavy cream

2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 8 – 1 oz. pieces

¼ tsp. cream of tartar



Line the bottoms of 2 round 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper.  Grease the parchment, as well as the sides of the pans.  Preheat the oven to 325°.  Center a rack in the oven.


To make the cake, combine the flour, baking soda, spices and salt in a medium bowl.  Set aside.  In a small bowl, combine pumpkin puree and buttermilk and mix until smooth.  Set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars.  Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Increase to high speed and beat for an additional 2 minutes.  Scrape down the bowl.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well, and scraping down the bowl between additions.  Add the vanilla extract and beat on high for 30 seconds.  With the mixer running on low speed, alternate adding the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients.  Mix until just combined.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to finish mixing the batter, until smooth and thoroughly combined.


Immediately divide the batter between the prepared cake pans, spreading evenly.  Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pans 10 minutes.  Invert onto a wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely.


To make the filling, heat the cream in a saucepan over medium-low heat until hot (do not allow to boil or simmer).  Combine sugar and lemon juice in a separate saucepan and stir with a whisk to combine (the sugar will resemble moist sand).  Caramelize the sugar for 4-5 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a whisk to break up any lumps.  Remove the saucepan from the heat.  Add the hot cream, one half at a time.  Add the butter, one piece at a time, stirring to incorporate completely before adding the next piece.  Cool in the refrigerator 45 minutes.  Place in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on high speed for 2 minutes, until light (but not fluffy).  Add the chopped nuts and stir to incorporate.  Set aside.


To make the icing, heat the brown sugar, heavy cream, 2 – 1 oz. pieces of butter, and cream of tartar in a 2-3 quart saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, while bringing the mixture to a boil.  Allow the mixture to continue boiling while stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.  Transfer the bubbling hot mixture to a stainless steel bowl and allow to stand at room temperature for 1 hour before proceeding.  Place the cooled mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat on low speed for 30 seconds.  Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes, adding the 6 remaining pieces of butter one at a time, until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Increase the speed to high and beat for an additional 2 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat on high for an additional 1 minute until light and fluffy. 

To assemble the cake, place one of the pumpkin cake layers on a cake platter or a cardboard cake circle.  Spread butterscotch filling evenly on top of cake.  Top with remaining layer of cake, pressing down firmly.  Frost sides and top of cake with brown sugar icing.  Use remaining frosting to pipe decorative accents onto top and bottom edge of the cake.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes before cutting and serving.

Source: adapted from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody