This snacking-style brown butter pumpkin cake is packed with pumpkin puree and pumpkin spice. One bowl, super easy to make and yields a single layer, ultra soft and moist pumpkin cake slices. The cake is topped with a crispy pumpkin spice sugar topping. All around it’s just perfect for any fall occasion.
EBC has another sister recipe! But let’s backtrack…
You might wonder, why would I need a pumpkin cake every day? Well you probably don’t ;p but the idea behind this recipe (and the original everyday butter cake) is that they’re so easy to make (one bowl! Just a whisk!) and you get this really unpretentious cake that is absolutely perfect in all the ways a pumpkin cake should be: so soft, moist, and has that signature pumpkin spice flavor.
I started working on this from my everyday brown butter cake (which came from everyday butter cake, which in turn came from a pound cake recipe). Pumpkin obviously adds so much moisture to a cake batter and while I estimated I’d need to reduce the sour cream, in the end a few recipe tests told me the cake was just best without it altogether. I also opted against cake flour because I wanted a heavier flour that could absorb all that added moisture.
And then – pumpkin spice got added to that signature crispy sugar topping you all love so much =) I can’t wait for you to make this, and hope it’ll be on a regular rotation for all your fall gatherings!
Butter: Unsalted or salted (if salted reduce the salt added to the recipe to ½ tsp). Cold is fine.
Sugar: Light or dark brown sugar. I used light in the cake pictured. The sugar should be soft and moist. If you have large sugar clumps, press them out so they don’t bake in a clump.
Vanilla: pure vanilla extract. Vanilla paste works too.
Pumpkin: Canned pure pumpkin puree, NOT pumpkin pie filling (that has added sugars to it). My guess is the recipe will work with a butternut puree as well but I haven’t tried it.
Salt: Fine sea salt. Fine so it dissolves quickly into the batter. Sea salt is less ‘salty’ in flavor than table salt. If you’re using table salt, halve the amount.
Eggs: whole large eggs. Place them in a bowl of warm water to bring them to room temperature before you make the batter.
Baking powder: Check the date to make sure it’s fresh.
Pumpkin pie spice: You can buy this in a jar or make your own by combining cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger and cloves if you want. I really love using freshly grated nutmeg if I have it on hand. For a PS
Flour: All purpose flour. I use king arthur but any AP should do fine.
Organic sugar: The bigger granules of organic sugar make it excellent for topping. If you don’t have it you can also use turbinado sugar (raw) or just fine granulated.
Start by preparing your baking dish and preheating the oven. To prep the baking pan (metal is ideal for better heat conducting) lay a sheet of parchment paper over the greased pan (the grease helps the parchment paper hold it’s place) to create an overhang.
Brown the butter: it’s best to use a light colored frying pan so you can see the color of the milk solids as they separate and toast. Set the butter in the pan over medium heat and cook until the solids have turned a warm brown. Immediately transfer to a large, heatproof bowl.
*Remember, if you leave it in the hot pan the butter will continue to cook and then it will burn.
Add the spice, vanilla and salt. Let the hot butter cool slightly then whisk in the sugar.
*If you add the sugar too soon you risk scrambling the eggs in the next step. We don’t want that!
Whisk in the eggs one by one, until the mix is fluffy, shiny and cohesive: you don’t want to see any butter separated from the mix. The goal with a vigorous whisking is to get the eggs and fats to emulsify.
Whisk in the pumpkin puree.
*Measure your flour carefully (if not using a scale): fluff the flour with a fork then sprinkle it into the measuring cup. Level the cup too.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet.
Whisk to just combine: don’t overdo the mixing, we don’t want to develop any gluten here. Once the flour is blended in, pour the batter into the prepared pan.
For the topping: mix together the granulated sugar and pumpkin spice. Sprinkle and spread a generous layer of sugar over the batter.
Bake the cake: until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean or you can press the top and it springs back (this is a little tougher to do with a sugared topping because the sugar is hot and will burn – be careful!).
I haven’t done it in a few years but it is possible and can be fun. In the past I’d follow Alton Brown’s guide: slice a sugar pumpkin in half, place it face-down on a baking sheet and roast for about half an hour. The puree is a little more watery in my experience and when you are measuring for a baked recipe I’d stir it well so you are getting a good mix of flesh and moisture.
Yep. I’d venture it would make a dozen cupcakes. Fill the cups 2/3 full and bake them at 350 F for about 20 minutes.
Given that there’s no sour cream in this recipe I can totally see someone wanting to make it full dairy free to accommodate any family allergies. You can use a dairy free butter like miyokos butter which can be browned and treated like real butter.
Alternatively you could use an oil, although it will change the texture of the cake. If you’re subbing oil, avocado is quite lovely with it’s buttery consistency. I’d use about 165-180g of oil to replace the butter.
I totally see someone wanting to make this for a big fall gathering and needing to double it so the answer is maybe. There is the possibility that double the batter will struggle to bake in the center, there’s also the chance that if the pan’s height is too low, the batter will spill out of the edges of the pan. So if you wanted to cover all your bases you could just make it twice.
That said, I think with a 2.5 or 3 inch high pan and careful monitoring of the cake (so it doesn’t over brown while cooking fully – you can always tent it) could yield a perfectly wonderful, very large cake.
My view is that the best frosting for a a pumpkin spice cake is cream cheese based; the tangy and creaminess of it goes very well with the warm spices of fall. Bake the cake without the topping and let it fully cool before frosting.
To make a cream cheese buttercream: use the back of a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to press down on half of a brick (113g) room temperature cream cheese (it must be room temp!) then beat it with 113g or 1 stick of room temperature butter, 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, a pinch of salt and 1-2 cups powdered sugar (confectioners’ sugar). Use more sugar as needed to create a stiffer buttercream. If it gets too thick, use milk to thin it out.
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