Sugar & Spice Delight Cake


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.


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.



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.


    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


    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!

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Cinnabon-Style Gourmet Cinnamon Buns

Cinnabons via Sweetapolita

I’m pretty certain that I spent a good portion of my late teens in line at Cinnabon with my friends. At the time, it was all new to us, and definitely “all the rage,” well, rightfully so — they are downright incredible cinnamon buns with the most addictive smothering of snow white frosting. At the risk of stating the obvious, I’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth. For me, cake makes the world go round and pies, cookies, and such certainly do their part, that’s for certain, but cinnamon buns, well for me they are the ultimate. So much so that I often trade the idea of my own birthday cake in for a box of fresh Cinnabon cinnamon buns. Literally. Don’t even worry about singing Happy Birthday; just put a birthday candle in one, and we’re good.

I have to admit, though, that one of two things has occurred since those younger days when I used to eat them so often: 1. The crafty folks at Cinnabon have gradually, as with many food chains, made their product smaller (and smaller), or 2. The cinnamon buns have remained the same huge size, but my appetite and sweet tooth have increased so much that as gargantuan as Cinnabons are, eating one just simply doesn’t cut it anymore. I fear that #2 is the harsh reality, and I find that just a tad disturbing. As seasoned as I was at eating them when I was younger, it would still take me an average of 2 sittings to finish one, and oh the price I would pay in bellyaches, but wow, was it worth it. Always. Remember how amazing that last bite, right in the middle, was?

Cinnabons via Sweetapolita

When I thought about making cinnamon buns this past week, I knew in my heart that I wanted to find a recipe that was as close to the Cinnabon version as possible, but since I’ve never attempted any version before, it was tricky knowing how they would turn out, or how close I could get to the real thing. I spent a lot of time, over the past few weeks, searching for the perfect version, with high hopes of discovering some kind of clone recipe out there, and I’m excited to report that with a little bit of this one and a little bit of that one, these are really, really close!

They could even be exact, it’s hard to know, but I took them out of the oven last night around 11:00pm, and while my little family was sleeping peacefully, I engaged in what was the single-most heavenly dessert experience of my life: warm, buttery, gooey, fluffy cinnamony buns one-minute-old from of the oven. In all of my life I’ve never eaten a gourmet cinnamon bun fresh out of the oven like that. I had my frosting all ready to go (wait until I tell you about the frosting–incredible!),  just moments before I took the tray out of the oven. I placed the tray onto the cooling rack, reached over for my little offset palette knife, and smothered one of them in the creamiest, fluffiest, cream-cheesey, lemony & vanilla-y, frosting ever created.

I’m pretty sure I wound up in a semi-conscious state of bliss-and-being at that moment, but I do recall telling myself that it was the best thing I had ever eaten. As in ever. I also recall repeating steps 1-4 a few more times, then putting everything away, turning off the lights in the kitchen and going straight to sleep. I’m sure that did a world of good for my part in the upcoming bikini season, but honestly, it was a force beyond my control.

Cinnabons via Sweetapolita

Now, I know at first glance you might think that looks like too much frosting for one cinnamon bun, but trust me, this isn’t your average sugary-sweet white frosting. This is, I have to say, the highlight of these cinnamon buns — and that says a lot, considering the insane deliciousness of the buns themselves.

As I mentioned, it’s angelically light, lemony, vanilla-y, cream-cheesey, and overall like nothing that’s ever come out of my mixer in the past. I found a recipe online from the “Gordon Family,” through The Fresh Loaf, that was promised to be an actual clone of the Cinnabon dough, filling, and frosting. I actually ended up using the frosting recipe from them, and the actual dough and filling recipe from another source that vowed it was the ultimate recipe (I modified ever-so-slightly). So, as a result of combining some of the best recipes out there, these were as good as I’d hoped and, dare I say, really simple to make. I don’t know why I had it in my head that they would be complicated, or why I’ve never tried it before.


Call me old-fashioned, but baking homemade cinnamon buns for my little girls and watching them eat them up with glee together, makes me feel that same mommy bliss that folding and putting away little wee clothes gives, and assures me that it’s always worth the effort. That’s a lot of sweetness pouring out of a single photo.

If you would like to make these at home, here is the recipe (oh please, friends, make them!):

Cinnabon-Style Gourmet Cinnamon Buns

Yield: 12 large rolls


    For the Dough:
  • 1 (7 g) package dry yeast
  • 1 cup (237 ml) whole milk, warm
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (75 g) margarine (or 80% margarine 20% butter spread)
  • 1 teaspoon (8 g) salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3-1/4 cups (410 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (105 g) bread flour
  • For the Filling:
  • 1 cup (220 g) packed light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons (36 g) ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup (75 g) margarine (or 80% margarine 20% butter spread)
  • For the Frosting:
  • 1/2 cup (114 g) cream cheese, softened 30 mins
  • 1/2 cup (114 g) margarine, softened 30 mins
  • 1-3/4 cups (220 g) icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla flavour (alcohol-free, if possible)
  • 1/8 teaspoon lemon flavour (alcohol-free, if possible)


    For the Dough:
  1. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk. Add sugar, margarine, eggs salt then flour and mix well.
  2. Knead the dough into a large ball, using your hands dusted lightly with flour. Put in a bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  3. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface, until it is approx 21 inches long by 16 inches wide. It should be approx 1/4 thick.
  4. For the Filling:
  5. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon.
  6. Assemble the Rolls:
  7. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  8. Spread the softened margarine over the surface of the dough, then sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon evenly over the surface, leaving about 1-inch untouched around edges. Gently roll into a fairly tight roll, trying to keep the filling inside.
  9. With a sharp knife, slice into 12 pieces. Place on prepared cookie sheet about 2" apart. Cover with lint-free cloth, and let rise for another hour.
  10. Bake in 400°F on rack just above centrer, for about 10 minutes, or until light golden brown.
  11. Cool on cooling rack and gently place into airtight container when cool.
  12. For the Frosting:
  13. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend the cream cheese and margarine for 6 minutes on low speed (#2 on KitchenAid Mixer).
  14. Switch from the paddle to the whisk attachment and whip for 10 more minutes at medium-high (#6)
  15. Add 1 cup (125 g) of the icing sugar and mix for 1 minute on low speed. Add the remaining 3/4 (95 g) cup of icing sugar and mix for an additional minute. Add the flavors and mix for 1 minute on medium-high speed.
  16. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate. Top warm, fresh-baked rolls generously with frosting.


*Microwave for 15-20 seconds to reheat.

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[dough & filling recipe slightly adapted from Group Recipes]

[cloned cinnabon frosting source: Gordon Family]

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • I came across an 80% margarine 20% butter spread at my local grocer, which is what I used for the dough, filling and frosting. If you can’t find such a thing, go with the recommended margarine or butter.
  • Since this recipe was designed as a scientific mission to clone the Cinnabon frosting, you might enjoy reading it precisely as it was shared by the Gordon Family (here). In their words on the frosting: There are several steps involved in the preparation of the frosting. But it is not difficult, and you’ll be surprised at the wonderful results you achieve. For the fluffiest frosting, use Vanilla and Lemon flavors that do not contain alcohol. A total of 50 minutes is required to prepare the frosting, from start to finish. We normally prepare the frosting while the rolls are rising.

Photo Props: For those of you who have an interest in some of the quirky vintage food props I use on occasion, I wanted to share that the props in this post are my two favourite vintage baking items in my collection. The “Scanlon Bakery” wooden tray was something I found near me, in an antique shop in Orono, Ontario. I did some research on the bakery’s history (my history fascination is always in the back of my mind when antique shopping!), but all I could find at first attempt, was that it was a family-run bakery on Yonge Street in Aurora, Ontario (north of Toronto).

I read that a couple bought it and operated it in the 1960′s, which suggests that it’s been around a lot longer than that. I only discovered this last year (even though I’ve had it for several years) when I read an obituary for that woman. The tray used to sit on my kitchen counter with cookbooks in it, but I’ve since minimized the counter, and was happy to tie it into a photo shoot.  Now who were the Scanlons and when did they open this bakery (which is no longer known as Scanlon Bakery)?  This inspires me to go do more research and learn  more about the original owners and when the bakery was opened initially. If I had more time, I could exercise my genealogy skills, and get to the bottom of it!

*Update: For those of you on the edge of your seats about my Scanlon Baking tray ;), I discovered that in 1950, there were 8 Scanlon Bakery locations across the Toronto area. I wonder which one it was from!

The “Sucre” tin is a gem I found, also in Orono (at a different shop), and is something they picked up from Montreal. Sadly, I don’t know anything else about it, aside from the fact that it rocks my world. It sits on my kitchen counter filled with sugar, next to my huge glass jar of flour. Just in case you were curious!

Good luck & enjoy!

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