Sunday, November 19, 2017

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cake

Pumpkin Cake, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Pumpkin Bundt Cake, Thanksgiving CenterpieceHappy Thanksgiving week, everyone!  I start this week with a grateful heart for the wonderful life I share with my husband and our little boy.  Our life together is everything I've ever wanted and more, and I'm thankful every day that he chose me, that he shows me how much he loves me through all the things he does for me and our son.

We won't be having a big family dinner this year - although we'll still make all the traditional favorites, because Thanksgiving dinner leftovers are one of the good things in life.  My husband dry-brines the turkey, which gives it the most beautiful golden brown crispy skin, and he also makes amazing creamy scalloped potatoes.  And on Wednesday, I'll start the prep-work on all the other dishes...
There's my favorite, the sweet potato casserole with brown sugar pecan streusel topping, homemade cranberry raspberry sauce, brussel sprouts, roasted beets (per my husband's request and against my will), stuffing with apples and herbs, and pecan pie with ice cream.

To start the week off, though, I made a pumpkin cake.  It's not the first pumpkin cake I've shared on my blog, but it is the first one I decorated to actually look like a pumpkin.  The cake is the recipe I always use - brown-buttery and rich and beautifully spiced - and the batter is baked in two bundt pans and stacked together to resemble a pumpkin.  Frosted with a sweet and tangy, spiced cream cheese buttercream, I think it makes the prettiest pumpkin cake I've ever seen, not to mention tasty.  And wouldn't this make a spectacular centerpiece for Thanksgiving dinner?

Pumpkin Cake, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Pumpkin Bundt Cake, Thanksgiving Centerpiece

Baby Boy, Halloween costume, elephant costume, pumpkins, Thanksgiving

Baby Boy, Halloween costume, elephant costume, pumpkins, Thanksgiving

Baby Boy, Halloween costume, elephant costume, pumpkins, Thanksgiving

Pumpkin Cake, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Pumpkin Bundt Cake, Thanksgiving Centerpiece

For the stem, I dipped large pretzel rods in chocolate, and I love how their rough, uneven texture really does resemble the stem of a pumpkin.  And because I have a silicone leaf mold that can be used for either chocolate or fondant, I made chocolate leaves as well.  I've made chocolate leaves before by using real maple leaves to make an impression in the chocolate before peeling it away, and while stunning, they are far more time consuming than just pouring melted chocolate into a mold.  After the chocolate hardened, I brushed it all with an edible bronze shimmer powder which not only conceals any bloom you sometimes get on chocolate after melting and cooling it, but gives it a beautiful, luminous finish.

When our maple tree started dropping its leaves, our back yard was blanketed in a gorgeous array of color, and our 1-year-old just loved playing in the leaves on those warm October days.  One day, I set up a little photo shoot of him wearing his elephant Halloween costume, and he sat there happily playing with leaves, pumpkins and sunflowers while I got a few photos.  But with snow on the forecast a few weeks ago, we had to get the leaves raked up and turned into mulch for the garden, and with the weather turning chillier, Phoenix and I don't spend nearly as much time outside playing in the grass as we used to.  But cold days means lots of snuggling inside and getting ready for the holidays, and that's just fine with me.

I'd love to hear about your Thanksgiving traditions and what you're planning to cook and bake this week.  I hope you all have a lovely holiday!

Pumpkin Cake, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Pumpkin Bundt Cake, Thanksgiving Centerpiece

Baby Boy, Halloween costume, elephant costume, pumpkins, Thanksgiving

Baby Boy, Halloween costume, elephant costume, pumpkins, Thanksgiving

Pumpkin Cake, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Pumpkin Bundt Cake, Thanksgiving Centerpiece

Pumpkin Cake, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Pumpkin Bundt Cake, Thanksgiving Centerpiece

Pumpkin Cake, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Pumpkin Bundt Cake, Thanksgiving Centerpiece

Pumpkin Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
  • 20 ounces pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 5-6 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon meringue powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • orange gel food coloring
Stem and Leaves.
  • 3 large pretzel rods
  • chocolate candy melts or chocolate
  • leaf mold for chocolate and/or fondant
  • edible bronze shimmer powder

Preheat the oven to 350.  Thoroughly grease all the crevices of two identical bundt pans with non-stick spray.

Place the butter in a saucepan over medium low heat.  Melt the butter, and then continue to cook, swirling occasionally, until nutty brown solids form on the bottom of the pan.  Set aside to cool for about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the browned butter with the pumpkin, brown sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla until smooth.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir just until moistened.  Divide the batter evenly between the pans and smooth out the surface of the batter.

Bake the cakes for about 27 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Set the pans on a wire rack, covered loosely with a clean kitchen towel and cool completely.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth.  With the mixer on low, gradually add 5 cups of powdered sugar, the cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, salt, meringue powder, vanilla and a few drops of orange food coloring.  Beat the buttercream on medium speed for several minutes, scraping the bowl down occasionally, until very light and fluffy.  If the buttercream is too soft, add up to 1 additional cup of powdered sugar; if it's too thick, add milk, a tablespoon at a time.  It should be thick enough to hold its shape.

To assemble the cake, place one of the cooled cakes with the rounded side down on a cake board or cake pedestal.  Spread the flat side with buttercream and place the other cake on top with the rounded side up so that you have a round, pumpkin shaped cake.  Frost all over with a thin layer of frosting, or a crumb coat, then refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Don't skip the step of crumb-coating the cake - your frosting will not stick to the cake if you try to pipe it directly onto a naked cake without a crumb coat.

For the final layer of frosting, I find it easier with this shape of cake to put the frosting in a piping bag and pipe it on in vertical rows just to get it onto the cake.  Then, take an icing spatula and drag it through the frosting from bottom to top, making it as textured as you like.

Stem and Leaves.
These can be made a day in advance so that the chocolate can set and harden.  Start with half a bag of chocolate candy melts, and melt more as you need them, melting them according to the instructions on the package.

To make the stem, first secure the 3 pretzel rods by tying a piece of twine around one end to hold them together.  Holding that end, dip the other end in the chocolate, and use a spoon to drip more chocolate halfway up the pretzels.  Shake off the excess and place on a piece of parchment paper to cool and harden.  Once hardened, repeat and dip the same end a second time for the best coverage.  Once that end has hardened, untie the other end and coat that end in chocolate as well.

For the leaves, spoon the melted chocolate into your molds, let harden, and then pop out.

After the chocolate is completely re-hardened, you can brush them with the shimmer powder.  Insert the stem into the middle of the frosted cake, piping a little more frosting around the stem to fill in the hole.  Garnish with the leaves.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen


  1. It's a gorgeous cake..

    Baby steals the show..his face is so so cute Heather..and his wee feet ..beautiful TG post!!

  2. You have a beautiful blue-eyed doll living in your house. It must be wonderful to awaken each morning with that beautiful smile just for his Mom. Have a blessed Thanksgiving. I just started reading your blog and am enjoying it very much. As I'm elderly and unable to stand to bake anymore, I still love reading recipes and seeing your beautiful photography.

  3. The cake is beautiful, Heather! I have to agree w/one of the previous people commenting, tho - Phoenix steals the thunder w/every photo he's in! Those gorgeous blue eyes.....! He's absolutely adorable!! I did notice that our traditional Metzger hollovchas are missing from your Thanksgiving menu; I'm surprised Jamie isn't adding those to your table! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving - hugs to all of you!!!

    1. He usually does, but with it being just us this year, it was just too much food. But we're going to make it for another meal soon!


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