Pumpkin Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting

This impressive Pumpkin Cake features a salted caramel frosting and is perfect for holiday entertaining! This moist and flavorful pumpkin cake recipe is topped with candied pecans and more salted caramel creating the most PERFECT cake for fall! Love pumpkin? Make sure to try this Pumpkin Spice Cutout Cookies and Pumpkin Muffins!

pumpkin layer cake on white cake stand with salted caramel frosting and sauce dripping from the top and covered with candied pecans text overlay at top

Pumpkin Cake

This Pumpkin Cake recipe is the ultimate fall dessert! This beauty starts with moist, flavorful, pumpkin cake, then gets dressed with layers of incredible salted caramel frosting, a generous garnish of candied pecans, and even more gorgeous caramel!

Each component is delicious on it’s own… and combined they create a truly impressive treat! 

I sure hope you give it a try this holiday season!

Pumpkin Spice Cake

This cake recipe is liberally spiced with cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg. These spices give so much flavor and warmth to this pumpkin spice cake recipe and really make it the ultimate fall dessert. Perfect for the holidays, this cake would be epic on your Thanksgiving or Christmas dessert table.

Pumpkin Cake Ingredients

It always amazes me that with some time and care, simple ingredients can become incredible things! Flour, sugar, butter, pumpkin… each quite humble on their own, yet they can sure do amazing things together!

When I take the time to make desserts from scratch, it’s important to me to use high quality ingredients. My fridge is always stocked with Challenge butter and cream cheese, key ingredients in so many amazing desserts! I love knowing Challenge dairy products are made using fresh, local milk and cream with no hormones, additives or fillers! Just fresh, pure ingredients!

slice of pumpkin cake sitting on white plate with caramel drizzling down the sides the whole cake is in the background

Cake Breakdown

This pumpkin cake has several components and although none of the steps are terribly difficult, the cake does take some time to complete.

Feel free to break up the work by making the cake and the caramel sauce a day ahead, as described in the “notes” portion of the recipe below.

Using the recipe below you will have extra salted caramel sauce left over… believe me, this is a good thing!  Store the caramel in a jar in the fridge for up to 1 month.  Warm in the microwave as needed… or eat it right from the fridge, I wont tell!

As a time-saving alternative, feel free to use a good quality store-bought salted caramel sauce.  My personal favorite is Trader Joe’s Fleur de sel Caramel Sauce.

For the cake:

  1. Grease and lightly flour the sides of your baking pans, and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the pumpkin, sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla together.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and stir until completely combined.
  5. Divide batter into prepared pans and bake cakes until the tops are slightly rounded and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. 
  6. Cool the cakes in the pans about 10 minutes, then remove and cool completely on a cooling rack.

Make the Caramel Sauce:

  1. Warm heavy cream in a bowl in the microwave.
  2. In a large saucepan, add the sugar, corn syrup, and water and stir to combine.
  3. Cook, stirring gently, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is bubbling.
  4. Stop stirring and allow the mixture to boil undisturbed until it begins to darken in color. You want the mixture to reach a honey color, but no darker. 
  5. Once removed from heat, carefully and slowly pour in the warm heavy cream (the mixture will hiss and bubble). Stir to full incorporate the cream.
  6. Add butter and salt and stir to combine. Stir in vanilla extract.
  7. Allow sauce to cool, then pour into a jar. Cool to room temperature, cover jar and refrigerate.

top down view of pumpkin cake with salted caramel frosting on white cake stand with candied pecans on top

Prepare Candied Nuts

  1. Stir together pecans, brown sugar, butter and water to a heavy bottom saucepan and cook over medium heat. 
  2. Let it come to a boil, and continue cooking while stirring occasionally, until most all of the water has evaporated. About 5- 10 minutes.
  3. Remove pan from heat and add salt and cinnamon. Stir well.
  4. Spread the nuts onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet and break up any large clusters. Allow to cool.

Make the Salted Caramel Frosting

  1. Beat cut up cold butter until smooth.
  2. Add cream cheese and blend until fully combined and smooth.
  3. Add about half of the powdered sugar, then while the mixer is running, pour in the cooled caramel sauce.
  4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Continue blending and add the remaining powdered sugar, vanilla and salt.

The frosting should be thick, creamy and fluffy. If by chance you kitchen is very warm, or the caramel sauce was too warm when you added it, place the bowl of frosting in the fridge to firm up, then beat once more before use.

interior of pumpkin cake shown on white cake stand with slice removed

Tips and Suggestions

  • When making the caramel sauce, please note that the syrup will change from light in color to dark very quickly, so it’s important to watch closely and remove the pan from the heat as soon as it’s light-medium honey color.
  • Let the caramel and cakes cool completely before frosting

How To Frost the Cake

This pumpkin cake recipe is a “naked cake” meaning that I chose to leave the edges of the cake unfrosted. Not only does it look beautiful, but it’s much easier to frost a cake this way. Here is what I did:

  1. Let the cakes cool completely. They can even be refrigerated for even less chance of crumbs in your frosting. 
  2. Split cakes in half  with a large serrated knife keeping them as even and level as possible.
  3. Begin with a layer of cake on the plate or cake stand of your choice. Add a layer of frosting by piping a large spiral, then spread as needed with an offset spatula. Alternatively, scoop a large dollop of frosting onto the cake layer, and spread as needed with an offset spatula. Add a drizzle of caramel sauce on top of the frosting.
  4. Repeat layers of cake, then frosting, then a generous caramel drizzle. Leftover caramel can be served with the cake if your family and friends want a little extra (they will!).
  5. Add a generous topping of candied nuts on top of the cakes and around the bottom edges if desired.

FAQs

Can I use a different size cake pan? I used 2, 6″ pans and baked them for about 40 minutes. If you are using 8″ pans the time will be a bit less (check after 25 minutes). Cupcakes will bake in 22-24 minutes. (See notes below on cake sizes.)

Can I use store bought caramel sauce? Absolutely. There is a lot going on in this cake so if make the caramel sauce seems a little bit too much to take on, feel free to use your favorite store bought sauce in it’s place.

Do I have to make the candied pecans? No. This pumpkin cake recipe is amazing on it’s own and although the candied pecans are the perfect complement to this cake but in looks and taste, they can be omitted if you prefer.

Can I use pumpkin pie spice instead of the individual spices? Yes. One tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice can be used in place of the spices listed.

How should I store leftovers? What leftovers?? Just kidding. If there is, by chance, any leftover cake, wrap with plastic wrap and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Make sure to follow along on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest!

More Pumpkin Recipes 

  1. Pumpkin Bread
  2. Baked Pumpkin French Toast
  3. Pumpkin Cheesecake Trifle
  4. Mini Pumpkin Cheesecake
  5. Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

How To Make Pumpkin Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting

top down view of pumpkin cake with salted caramel frosting on white cake stand with candied pecans on top

Pumpkin Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting

This impressive Pumpkin Cake features a salted caramel frosting and is perfect for holiday entertaining! This moist and flavorful pumpkin cake recipe is topped with candied pecans and more salted caramel creating the most PERFECT cake for fall! Truly the perfect fall dessert!
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 50 mins
Total Time 1 hr 50 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 12
Calories 864 kcal

Ingredients
 

Pumpkin Cake

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 15 oz pumpkin puree 1 can, 1 3/4 cups
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil I usually use light flavored olive oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Salted Caramel Sauce

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt such as good quality sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Candied Nuts

  • 2 cups pecans roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Salted Caramel Frosting

  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 1/2 sticks
  • 4 oz cream cheese 1/2 block
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup caramel sauce from recipe above, or good quality store-bought, see notes
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions
 

Prepare the cake

  • Preheat oven to 350*F., grease and lightly flour the sides of your baking pans, and line the bottoms with parchment paper (see notes for pan sizes).
  • In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices, then set aside.
  • In another large bowl, whisk the pumpkin, sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla and stir (stir vigorously by hand or on medium speed with an electric mixer for 30 seconds or so).
  • Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and stir until completely combined.
  • Divide batter into prepared pans and bake cakes until the tops are slightly rounded and a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean (no wet batter).  I used 2, 6" pans and baked them for about 40 minutes.  If you are using 8" pans the time will be a bit less (check after 25 minutes).  Cupcakes will bake in 22-24 minutes. (See notes below on cake sizes)
  • Cool the cakes in the pans about 10 minutes, then (carefully) remove from pans and cool fully on a cooling rack.

Make the Caramel Sauce

  • Warm the heavy cream in a bowl in the microwave and then set aside.
  • In a large saucepan, add the sugar, corn syrup, and water.  Stir gently to incorporate the ingredients.
  • Cook over medium to medium-high heat, stirring gently, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is bubbling.
  • Stop stirring and allow the mixture to boil undisturbed until it begins to darken in color.  You want the mixture to reach a honey color, but no darker.  The syrup will change from light in color to dark very quickly, so it's important to watch closely and remove the pan from the heat as soon as it's light-medium honey color.
  • Once removed from heat, carefully and slowly pour in the warm heavy cream (the mixture will hiss and bubble).  Stir to full incorporate the cream.
  • Add butter and salt and stir to combine.  Add vanilla.
  • Allow sauce to cool a bit, then pour into a jar. Cool at room temperature, then cover jar and store in the refrigerator.

Prepare Candied Nuts

  • Add pecans, brown sugar, butter and water to a heavy bottom saucepan and cook over medium heat.  Stir to combine ingredients.
  • Allow the mixture to come to a boil and boil, while stirring occasionally, until most all of the water has evaporated (so there is not much sauce in the pan, it's move of just a coating on the pecans), about 5- 10 minutes.
  • Remove pan from heat and add salt and cinnamon.  Stir well.
  • Spread the nuts onto a parchment paper covered baking sheet and break up any clusters. Allow to cool.

Make the Salted Caramel Frosting

  • Cut cold butter into a few large pieces and then, in the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter until smooth.
  • Add cream cheese and blend until fully combined and smooth.
  • Add about half of the powdered sugar, then while the mixer is running, pour in the caramel sauce.  The caramel sauce should be no warmer than room temperature.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Continue blending and add the remaining powdered sugar, vanilla and salt.
  • The frosting should be thick, creamy and fluffy.  If by chance you kitchen is very warm, or the caramel sauce was too warm when you added it, place the bowl of frosting in the fridge to firm up, then beat once more before use.

Assemble the cake

  • Level and split cake layers as desired.
  • For easy assembly, add the frosting to a large piping bag fitted with a large round tip.  This is optional.
  • Begin with a layer of cake on the plate or cake stand of your choice.  Add a layer of frosting by piping a large spiral, then spread as needed with an offset spatula.  Alternatively, scoop a large dollop of frosting onto the cake layer, and spread as needed with an offset spatula.  Add a drizzle of caramel sauce on top of the frosting.
  • Repeat layers of cake, then frosting, then a caramel drizzle.
  • On top of the cake add a generous topping of candied nuts.
  • Enjoy!

Video

Notes

Prepare ahead - This cake has several components, but the work can be broken up over 2 days. Feel free to bake the cake and make the caramel sauce a day in advance. Keep the cake covered in plastic wrap, and at room temperature. Keep the caramel sauce covered in the fridge. If the caramel sauce is made ahead you will need to warm it just a bit in the microwave so it's pour-able.
Cake sizes - The cake pictured is a 6" cake. I baked two 6" pans of cake (which were later split in half), plus had a little batter left over to make 3-4 cupcakes. If you want to make an 8" cake you can divide the batter into two or three pans. If using 8" pans the cake will be not nearly as tall as the cake pictured.
Caramel Sauce - The caramel sauce listed is not terribly hard to make, and truly delicious, but you can save a bit of time by skipping the homemade sauce and using a good quality salted caramel sauce of your choice. My favorite store-bought sauce is Trader Joe's Fleur de sel Caramel Sauce.
Ingredient note - I used Challenge brand butter and cream cheese, but feel free to use any high quality brand of your choice. Using unsalted butter is the standard for most baking, but if you only have salted butter you will need to reduce or eliminate the added salt.

Nutrition

Calories: 864kcalCarbohydrates: 103gProtein: 7gFat: 50gSaturated Fat: 27gCholesterol: 121mgSodium: 571mgPotassium: 218mgFiber: 3gSugar: 78gVitamin A: 6377IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 92mgIron: 2mg
Keyword caramel frosting, pumpkin cake
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Originally published October 5, 2015.t

 

Happy  baking!

Disclosure – I created this recipe as part of an ongoing partnership with Challenge Dairy.  Partnering with brands I love allows me to provide you high quality content at no cost to you.  I only work with brands I use and love.  All images, text and opinions are my own.

Simply the PERFECT cake for fall! Moist and flavorful Pumpkin Cake is paired with Salted Caramel Frosting, Candied Pecans and even more amazing caramel!

60 comments

  1.  Good morning I just bake this cake in a sheet pan and it turned out marvelous. The caramel was so easy to make and the icing is fabulous.  I am going to substitute sweet potato next time I bake. I think that would be fabulous as well. 

  2. Hey I want to make this cake but I would have to make it 2 nights before the event. So how do I store it and will it stay fresh?

  3. Most excellent. Great Taste and texture for the cake. The icing was good too. I only used one and a half cups of powdered sugar, not two.f Turned out absolutely delicious and everyone loved it.

  4. Oh my goodness! This is truly a work of art! I’m sure it tastes delicious too!

  5. Looks amazing!!!

  6. I’ve made this cake twice and received rave reviews both times!
    Well worth the effort!

  7. Made this cake for a colleague’s birthday. I now have two orders for Thanksgiving! I wanted to try a different flavor profile using sweet potato. Would sweet potato work?

  8. I used 2-8 in pans and sliced the cooled cakes in halves to get 4 slices …
    Delicious, made a huge hit for my sister’s birthday party.  I served 20 generous pieces and had leftovers… yeah!
    Absolutely worth doing again… scrumptious!

  9. Could the corn syrup be substituted with maple syrup? 

  10. Hi, what a beautiful cake! I am planning on making this cake tomorrow and I was wondering if the ingredients make 3 cakes or just one in a pan?

    • The ingredients listed produce the one cake shown, a multi-layer cake. See the “notes” section at the bottom of the recipe for details on various cake pan sizes.
      Happy baking!

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