So, believe it or not, I have never been a big pumpkin fan. I have always gravitated towards apples in the fall instead of pumpkin spice everything nice. Over the last few years, I am slowly coming around to *some* things pumpkin. So, a few weeks ago, when I had a Halloween themed cake idea, I knew that it had to be something pumpkin.
I tossed around a few flavor ideas. I thought perhaps a chocolate cake with a liquid pumpkin cheesecake and salted caramel frosting. I mulled over that idea for a few days, but it didn’t seem quite right. So, when I decided that maple would be a better flavor combination, and I should make the cake pumpkin, it all came seamlessly together.
And since just the cake itself wasn’t enough for me, I decided to throw some meringue ghosts on top, as well as my beloved candy pumpkins. Because it’s Halloween! Even though it’s my least favorite holiday, I still like to bake for it. Any excuse to bake a themed dessert, right!?
So let me break this cake down for you. First, we have an uber soft/moist pumpkin cake with all the right spices, then there is a maple cream cheese frosting that is to die for, tthhheennn a chocolate crumble. To finish, I dotted the top with homemade ghost meringues and candy pumpkins. Because you know, excess is what I am about when it comes to cakes.
Of course, with this type of cake, there is time involved. The meringues take the longest, but you certainly don’t have to include them. But they’re awfully cute! This will be a showstopper at any Halloween party. Or an impressive dessert for your family that your kids will love. Either way, make it, love it! Or you could forgo the meringue ghosts and make this for Thanksgiving. See what I did there? Always planning ahead!
For the cake
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 can pumpkin purée (make sure it’s purée, not pie filling)
- 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the chocolate crumb
- 105 grams (2/3 cup) all-purpose flour
- 4 grams (1 teaspoon) cornstarch
- 100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
- 65 grams (2/3 cup) cocoa powder
- 4 grams (1 teaspoon) kosher salt
- 85 grams (6 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
For the maple frosting
- 6 ounces full-fat cream cheese, softened
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
For finishing touches (optional)
- meringues (with mini chocolate chips as eyes)
- candy pumpkins
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour the edges of a quarter sheet pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, brown sugar, granulated sugar, pumpkin purée, and vanilla extract until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until completely combined.
- Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool completely.
- To make the crumble, reduce the oven temperature to 300ºF. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, cornstarch, sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Mix on low speed until combined. Add in the melted butter and mix until the dry ingredients start to form small clusters. Spread the clusters on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, breaking them up occasionally. Remove from the oven. The crumbs will dry and harden as they cool. Cool completely before using.
- When ready to assemble the cake, make the frosting. Combine the butter and cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high until smooth and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the mixer on low speed, mix in the confectioners’ sugar. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until combined. Scrape down the sides and mix in the maple syrup. Beat on medium-high speed until fluffy, 3-4 minutes.
- To assemble the cake, invert the cake from the sheet pan onto a work surface. Use a 6-inch cake ring to cut out 2 circles from the cake (these will be the top two layers.) Wipe off the cake ring and place it in the center of a sheet pan lined with clean parchment or a silpat. Use a strip of acetate to line the inside of the cake ring. Use scraps from the leftover cake to place in the ring and tamp together in a flat, even layer.
- Carefully spread 1/3 of the frosting in an even layer over the cake. Sprinkle 1/3 of the chocolate crumbs evenly over the top of the frosting. Press down gently to anchor in place. Gently tuck a second strip of acetate between the cake ring and the top 1/4-inch of the first strip of acetate. Set a cake round on top of the frosting, and repeat the layering process once more (frosting then crumbs) Place the remaining cake layer on the chocolate crumbs. Cover the top with the remaining 1/3 of the frosting and garnish with the remaining chocolate crumbs.
- Transfer the assembled cake to the freezer and freeze for a minimum of 12 hours to set the cake and the filling. At least 3 hours before you are ready to serve, remove the pan from the freezer, pop the cake out of the cake ring, and peel away the acetate layers. Transfer to a cake round and platter and defrost for at least 3 hours before slicing and serving. Right before serving, top with ghost meringues.