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.
- 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 360 ml pumpkin puree
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans, dust with flour, tap out excess and set aside.
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 pumpkin puree and mix until combined.
Sift dry ingredients together (cake flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and ground ginger) and then add to pumpkin/egg mixture.
Mix in brandy/dark rum (I used dark rum) and vanilla. Gently stir in crystallized ginger.
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.
Let pans cool on a wire rack 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto rack and cool them completely.
For the Cinnamon Sugar Spread Filling:
In a medium bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon. Stir in the melted butter, vanilla and salt.
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!)
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.
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).
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.
Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate.
Chill cake layers until cold and firm. Slice all three cake layers in half horizontally, so you have 6 cake layers total.
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.
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.
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.
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!.
- 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!