Sugar & Spice Delight Cake

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Well it seems that, somehow, between hours of mad baking, book writing, recipe testing and getting my cakelets back to school, it became autumn. I’m pretty sure it was summer last time I looked out the window, but nope–not so much! And when there are crisp winds, changing leaves and backpacks, my head and heart naturally say it’s time for sugary, spicy, pumpkiny baked delights . . .

And although I was certain that the Autumn Delight Cake from last year was my go-to for towering sugar and spice cravings, I decided to go for a true pumpkin version and then switch up the fillings and frostings. Tradition pumpkin pie is one of my favourite desserts of all time, and covered in real whipped cream and sprinkles of cinnamon and sugar is the ultimate. But to me, where there is cinnamon there should be gooey cinnamon buns. My heart is divided!

So this cake is an ode to my love for pumpkin pie, cinnamon buns and, well, cake.

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So what is the Sugar & Spice Delight Cake exactly?

Well, it’s 6 thin layers of moist pumpkin and crystallized-ginger cake topped with a layer of super-cinnamony and buttery Cinnamon Sugar Spread Filling (think the middle of a Cinnabon), which is then topped with fluffy-as-air Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream and then the layered cake is covered in that cream-cheesy, sugary frosting fluffiness that usually adorns those beloved Cinnabons. Oh and some cinnamon and sugar sprinkled whipped cream poofs on top never hurts either. So I guess what I’m trying to say it you must bake this cake! Bake it, eat it, share it, marry it. I’m certain you won’t regret any of those decisions.

I actually made this cake twice for this post. The first time I found it had too much pumpkin puree and too much crystallized ginger, so I did the whole thing again (while my husband shook his head with utter confusion), and that was that. Guys, honestly, it really came together in taste the way I hoped, and it is really is a sugar and spice delight. It is decadent, but the whipped cream filling is so light and airy that it really balances it out.

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Yep.

So more specifically, the pumpkin & ginger cake layers are essentially the sweet potato cake layers (minus the sweet potato and add the pumpkin) from my Autumn Delight Cake, the Fluffy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting is from my Cinnabon-Style Gourmet Cinnamon Buns, and the Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream Filling is that found in many of my cakes (I love this stuff). The Cinnamon Sugar Spread, though, is something that is really simple yet goodness-me, so amazing. Who knew melted butter, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla could be so awesome? Actually, I think we all knew that, but I just never thought to spread it in my cakes until now. You can also smother it on pancakes, waffles, toast . . . spouses. Anything.

As a side note, I know some of you have had issues in the past with getting the Whipped Cream Filling recipe to come together, so I’ve modified it slightly for ease. You shouldn’t have any issues now! We add less confectioners’ sugar and sprinkle it in once the whipped cream begins to thicken, so basically we’re just whipping cream (in a super cold stainless bowl) before adding the confectioners’ sugar and stabilizing gelatine mixture.

Stabilized whipped cream makes the most amazing filling because, like I mentioned above, it’s light as air and not sweet at all. It can also stand the weight of the layers, which comes in handy! I turn to this often when I want to include other really sweet elements into the cake, and as much as I love sweet frosting, I find it too much when it’s both inside and outside the cake. You know? It’s also great when you want to pipe whipped cream on top of a cake, as it will remain stable for days (in the fridge, of course).

So, let’s make this cake!

November 28th, 2013 Note: I’ve increased the flour for the cake layers, to ensure the cake doesn’t get over-taken by the pumpkin’s moisture. There shouldn’t be any trouble with this issue now.

December 31st, 2013: I’ve also decreased the pumpkin puree, so the cake should bake up nicely and not be over-powered by the pumpkin.

Sugar & Spice Delight Cake

Yield: One 6-layer, 8-inch round cake

6 layers of moist pumpkin & ginger cake smothered in buttery cinnamon sugar and filled with vanilla bean whipped cream and frosted in Cinnabon-style cream cheese vanilla frosting.

Ingredients

    For the Pumpkin Ginger Cake:
  • 2 cups (400 g) sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1-1/4 cups (315 ml) sunflower oil (or vegetable, safflower, canola oil)
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) pure pumpkin puree (canned works well)
  • 3 cups (345 g) cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon (7 g) ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons (8 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (7 g) salt
  • 1 teaspoon (3 g) ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1.5 g) ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) brandy or dark rum
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup (60 g) chopped crystallized ginger
  • For the Cinnamon Sugar Spread Filling:
  • 1 cup (200 g) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) ground cinnamon (I love Vietnamese Cinnamon for its intensity)
  • 1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • For the Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream Filling:
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) cold water
  • 1 packet (1 tablespoon) unflavoured gelatin (such as Knox brand)
  • 2 3/4 cups (660 ml) whipping cream (35-37% fat), cold, divided
  • 1/2 cup (65 g) confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla bean paste, or pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • For the Fluffy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • 1 package (250 g) cream cheese, softened 30 mins
  • 1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, softened 30 mins
  • 4 cups (500 g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoon (5 ml) clear vanilla extract (or pure vanilla extract)
  • 1/8 teaspoon orange flavor oil (or 1/4 teaspoon orange extract), if possible

Instructions

    For the Pumpkin Ginger Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans, dust with flour, tap out excess and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and eggs together on medium-high speed (I use #6 on KitchenAid) until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the oil and beat on medium until combined. Add the cooled pumpkin puree and mix until combined.
  3. Sift dry ingredients together (cake flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and ground ginger) and then add to pumpkin/egg mixture.
  4. Mix in brandy/dark rum (I used dark rum) and vanilla. Gently stir in crystallized ginger.
  5. Evenly distribute batter into the prepared pans (weigh them if possible with digital kitchen scale for 560 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. (Depending on your oven, you will likely need to bake 2 pans, followed by the third.) Bake until a knife or skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
  6. Let pans cool on a wire rack 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto rack and cool them completely.
  7. For the Cinnamon Sugar Spread Filling:
  8. In a medium bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon. Stir in the melted butter, vanilla and salt.
  9. For the Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream Filling:
  10. In a small stainless steel bowl, place the cold water and sprinkle with the gelatin. Let sit for at least 10 minutes. In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup of the cream just to a simmer, then stir into the gelatin mixture until the gelatin has dissolved. Refrigerate, stirring frequently, until cool but not set, about 8 minutes. (Be careful to keep your eye on it, or you'll end up with Panna Cotta!)
  11. In a chilled stainless steel mixer bowl with a chilled whisk attachment, beat the remaining whipping cream until it thickens just slightly, and then add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla bean paste and salt until very soft peaks begin to form, about 1 minute. Very gradually add the gelatin mixture and continue beating until medium-firm peaks form (should be thick enough to spread, but not spongy). Keep covered and chilled until ready to use.
  12. For the Fluffy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:
  13. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend the cream cheese and butter for 6 minutes on low speed (#2 on KitchenAid Mixer).
  14. Add 2 cups (250 g) of the confectioners' sugar and mix for 1 minute on low speed. Add the remaining icing sugar and mix for an additional 2 minutes. Add the flavors and mix for 1 minute on medium-high speed.
  15. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate.
  16. Assembly of the Sugar & Spice Delight Cake:
  17. Chill cake layers until cold and firm. Slice all three cake layers in half horizontally, so you have 6 cake layers total.
  18. Smear a small dollop of the frosting on the plate, pedestal or cake board, and place your first layer cut side up (so bottom of the cake layer is touching plate), and spread 1/5th of the Cinnamon Sugar Spread Filling on the layer, followed by ~3/4 cup of Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream Filling with a small offset palette knife, leaving 1" or so around the edge.
  19. Repeat previous step until you get to the final cake layer. Place last layer face down, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and chill cake for at least 30-40 minutes to set.
  20. Frost entire cake with a thin "coat" of Fluffy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting and chill until firm, about 30 minutes. Repeat frosting, using a turntable and palette knife to create texture (as in photo)--use one hand to turn the turntable and hold the palette knife in the other hand. Keep palette knife in place and let the turntable do the moving. Top with dollops of the remaining Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream Filling. Sprinkle with cinnamon and white sugar. Chill cake to set.
  21. Finished cake can be kept at room temperature for up to 8 hours. Keep refrigerated if longer than 8 hours, but serve at room temperature (although it does taste very good cold!.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • Pumpkin cake is similar to other spice cakes, carrot cakes, etc. in that it not only lasts several days in the refrigerator but almost gets better with age. It retains its moisture so well that you can make it up to two days ahead, chill and serve at room temperature, however it also tastes great cold!
  • The cake layers are essentially the same as the Sweet Potato Cake layers from the Autumn Delight Cake, but with pumpkin puree in place of the sweet potato puree and less crystallized ginger.
  • If you’d rather not be bothered with slicing the baked layers, you can always serve this as a 3-layer cake–I doubt anyone would complain!
  • The Cinnamon Sugar Spread Filling can be made the day ahead and covered in plastic wrap. To soften for spreading, simply microwave for about 10 seconds, or until it has softened enough to spread. On a sidenote, this spread is amazing on toast, pancakes, waffles or pretty much anything. And just when you thought cinnamon was cinnamon, there are several varieties, and each one will yield a very different taste in your baked goods.
  • The Fluffy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting is very fluffy and almost “loose” because we’ve beat the cream cheese to smithereens, but it tastes so good and creamy this way. I personally like using a really soft frosting consistency when frosting a cake, but it does take getting used to it wanting to slip and slide. If you find it too soft you can refrigerate the frosting itself until more firm, and in turn if you over-chill it and it’s too firm, you can soften in the microwave in very short intervals (about 10 seconds). It’s very forgiving. Just be sure to “beat” any air pockets out of it with a rubber spatula in a back-and-forth motion against the sides of the bowl.

Good luck & enjoy!

Related posts:

Autumn Delight Cake

Autumn Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

So it turns out this cake has more ingredients than any cake I have ever made! And when I started to write the cake description in the blog title, I realized that there are 18 words and two ampersands in the name. Yep. Okay, ready? The Autumn Delight cake is a 4-Layer Sweet Potato & Ginger Layer Cake with Toasted Marshmallow Filling, Candied Pecans and Brown Sugar & Cinnamon Buttercream. When I tried to edit that, I realized that each one of those ingredients are key, and I couldn’t bare the thought of taking any words away. Okay, you’re right, I’m just being silly, but most importantly I am really excited about this cake. In my heart, I am drawn to all thing pastel and sprinkly, but there is a big part of me that just loves autumny, spiced flavours. At this time of year, my sister-in-law, Mary, makes that gorgeous southern sweet potato casserole dish that you have likely heard of or tried, that marries sweet potatoes, brown sugar, marshmallows, vanilla and pecans, and I thought it would be a nice treat to create a cake version of that dish. So on with the apron and into the kitchen I went . . .

Autumn Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

What I love about this recipe is how moist, creamy, and unexpected some of the elements are. I made a sweet potato layer spice cake and added a generous quantity of crystallized ginger for texture and taste to the cake layers themselves, and then filled the cake with whipped toasted marshmallow filling (remember the one from this cake?) that I sprinkled with candied pecans for crunch (you even get those little buttery brown sugary bits that fall off the pecans every now and then). Since the filling was quite sweet, I decided to frost it with a Brown Sugar & Cinnamon Swiss Meringue Buttercream that is fluffy, satiny and perfectly brown sugary and not-too sweet, in true Swiss Meringue Buttercream fashion. The neat part about making Brown Sugar Buttercream is that you essentially just switch the white sugar for brown sugar, and voila! The taste is really quite different and it was the perfect addition to this concoction–particulary when topped with a generous handful of the candied pecans and crystallized ginger.

Autumn Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

So think about it this way: Every bite is crunchy, then brown sugar creamy, then dense, moist & spicy, then sweet and crispy, oh, and then crunchy, and then dense, moist & spicy, and then sweet and crispy, and oh, yet again crunchy, then dense, moist & spicy, then, alas, sweet and crispy, and then dense, moist & spicy. Help me, Rhonda.

Autumn Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

If the sweet potato thing is throwing you off your dessert-loving game, well, don’t fear. It’s much like carrot cake or pumpkin cake, and the texture is like no other–it’s dense yet light all at once. You have my word. I wasn’t sure either, but now I am pretty certain.

Autumn Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

I once wrote that the Zingy Orange Ginger Carrot Cake with White Chocolate Icing is my ultimate-tasting cake, and I have always stood by that statement because I meant it. Well, this cake comes a close second or possibly ties for first. Or possibly the unthinkable: it could be even better.

If you make this cake, just know that it does take some time, but I felt it was completely worth it, and I think it would make an incredible addition to any Thanksgiving event or any autumn day.

Autumn Delight Cake

Yield: One 4-layer, 8-inch round cake

Sweet Potato & Ginger Layer Cake with Toasted Marshmallow Filling, Candied Pecans and Brown Sugar & Cinnamon Buttercream

Ingredients

    For the Cake Layers:
  • 3 large sweet potatoes (about 900 g)
  • 2 cups (400 g) sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1-1/4 cups (315 ml) sunflower oil (or vegetable, safflower, canola oil)
  • 2 cups (230 g) cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon (7 g) ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons (8 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (7 g) salt
  • 1 teaspoon (3 g) ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1.5 g) ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) brandy or dark rum
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (120 g) crystallized ginger, chopped
  • For the Filling:
  • 16 large white marshmallows
  • 1 cup (125 g) icing sugar (confectioners' or powdered), sifted
  • 1 cup butter (227 g)(2 sticks), at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 jar (213 g) marshmallow cream (such as Marshmallow Fluff)
  • For the Buttercream:
  • 5 large egg whites (150 g))
  • 1-1/4 cups (250 g) light brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks)(340 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • a few pinches of cinnamon, to taste
  • For the Candied Pecans:
  • 2 tablespoons (28 g) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons (24 g) brown sugar
  • 1 cup (100 g) pecan pieces

Instructions

    For the Cake Layers:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans, dust with flour, tap out excess and set aside.
  2. Place the sweet potatoes on a microwave-safe plate and pierce them with a fork. Microwave until they are tender (about 7-8 minutes each side). Carefully remove the skin when cool enough to touch, and mash the flesh into a coarse puree.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and eggs together on medium-high speed (I use #6 on KitchenAid) until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the oil and beat on medium until combined. Add the cooled sweet potato puree and mix until combined.
  4. Sift dry ingredients together (cake flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and ground ginger) and then add to sweet potato mixture.
  5. Mix in brandy/dark rum (I used dark rum) and vanilla. Gently stir in crystallized ginger.
  6. Evenly distribute batter into the prepared pans (weigh them if possible with digital kitchen scale), 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 40 minutes.
  7. Let pans cool on a wire rack 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto rack and cool them completely.
  8. For the Filling:
  9. Place marshmallows on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Place on lower rack of oven, and broil marshmallows until nice and brown on top, between 30-60 seconds. Remove pan from oven and gently turn the marshmallows over, and broil until they are golden brown. (Be sure to keep an eye on them--they burn very quickly.)
  10. In an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine butter and icing sugar on low until blended, about 1 minute. Add vanilla and mix on med-high for about 3 minutes.
  11. Add marshmallow cream and toasted marshmallows, and mix on lowest setting for about 1 minute.
  12. For the Buttercream:
  13. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 160°F, or if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
  14. With whisk attachment of mixer, begin to whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10 minutes or so). *Don't begin adding butter until the bottom of the bowl feels neutral, and not warm.
  15. Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth). *If mixture is too runny, refrigerate for about 15 minutes and continue mixing with paddle attachment until it comes together. Add vanilla and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined. Add cinnamon to taste and blend.
  16. For the Candied Pecans:
  17. Melt the butter in a small pan. Mix in brown sugar, and add the pecans. Toss to coat.
  18. Cook on medium low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Be sure to watch carefully so they don’t burn.
  19. Turn out onto parchment paper or aluminum foil and let cool for 5 minutes; break apart into smaller pieces if using halves.
  20. Assembly of the Autumn Delight Cake
  21. Slice both cake layers in half horizontally, so you have 4 cake layers.
  22. Place the first layer on a plate, pedestal or cake board cut side up (so bottom of the cake layer is touching plate), and spread ~3/4 cup of Toasted Marshmallow Filling with a small offset palette knife, leaving 1" or so around the edge. Sprinkle with a handful of candied pecans pieces.
  23. Repeat previous step until you get to the final cake layer. Place last layer face down and chill cake for 30-40 minutes.
  24. Frost cake with Brown Sugar Buttercream and top with a generous handful of candied pecans and crystallized ginger.
  25. Finished cake can be kept at room temperature for up to 8 hours. Keep refrigerated if longer than 8 hours, but always serve at room temperature (Swiss Buttercream should never be served cold, as it goes back to a cold-butter texture).

Notes

* You can make buttercream ahead and keep in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week, leaving out at room temperature when needed, re-whipping in mixer for 5 minutes.

**Can freeze buttercream for up to 6-8 weeks. To thaw, place on counter overnight, and rewhip for 5 minutes with paddle attachment in an electric mixer. If not satiny enough upon rewhip, take 1/3 of buttercream and microwave in a microwave-safe container for ~8 seconds, then add back to mixing bowl and remix with remaining buttercream.

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[cake layer recipe adapted from Martha Stewart]

[candied pecan recipe adapted from Creative Culinary]

Good luck & enjoy!

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