Super moist pumpkin cake layers frosted with cream cheese frosting and filled with graham cracker crumbs and homemade salted caramel sauce. It’s got all the flavors of a caramel pumpkin cheesecake but in a layer cake.
Once upon a time I made these FABULOUS pumpkin cheesecake cupcakes and have had it on my to do list ever since to make a cake version. I wanted it to have the flavors of a caramel pumpkin cheesecake but in a layer cake form.
Why you’ll love this pumpkin cake
- Layers and textures are everything in a layer cake and this cake has moist pumpkin cake layers, silky cream cheese frosting, crushed graham cracker and homemade salted caramel sauce. It’s quite magical.
- The pumpkin cake can be used however you’d like. If you prefer it simple with just the cream cheese frosting, that works too!
- The cake can be made in different sizes (see below) and can easily be accommodated for dietary restrictions.
For more fabulous fall recipes, I think you’ll love my apple cider cupcakes and apple pie cupcakes and these cinnamon cupcakes are so underestimated. I also have chocolate caramel pumpkin cupcakes or download my maple pumpkin cupcakes with the form below.
- Flour: I use all purpose flour in most of my recipes and I HIGHLY recommend using a digital scale, as flour is so often over measured.
- 1:1 Gluten-free flour substitutes also work.
- Baking Powder & Baking Soda: We’re going to need both here, recipes with heavier ingredients like pumpkin, banana, etc. usually need a little more than normal leavening.
- Sugar: I used brown sugar (light or dark is fine) and granulated sugar in the cake batter, granulated sugar in the caramel sauce and powdered sugar in the frosting.
- Oil: I recommend a neutral oil like vegetable oil or canola oil. Olive oil will also work but may impart some flavor.
- Eggs: I use room temperature, large eggs. Place them in hot water for a few minutes if they’re cold.
- Pumpkin: I usually use Libby’s pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling). I’ve also used Kroger brand or Whole Foods 365 brand without any issues.
- Spices: I use a variety of spices but you can make your own pumpkin pie spice at home or you can just buy some. It’s just a combination of spices with a higher ratio of cinnamon.
- Cream Cheese: I recommend full-fat cream cheese here. Make sure to let it soften at room temperature so it can mix well with the butter.
- Butter: I use unsalted butter for my buttercreams and then add a tiny pinch of salt. If you like salted butter, feel free to use that instead.
- Make sure it’s at room temperature, not too cold and not greasy, when making the buttercream and caramel sauce.
- Heavy Cream: I use heavy cream for my salted caramel sauce and a little in the frosting.
- Make sure it’s at room temperature for the caramel so that it doesn’t violently bubble.
- I use it cold in the frosting but make sure to drizzle it in the frosting super slowly while the mixer is running so that it doesn’t split.
Step 1: Combine the wet ingredients – whisk together the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin really well until the batter is completely smooth.
Step 2: Add the dry ingredients – whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt into the wet ingredients until they’re completely combined.
Step 3: Distribute among the cake tins – (I did three layers in the photos but there is enough batter to make four layers. I baked three layers and they were way too tall so I ended up trimming them down and don’t want to reshoot just for that lol).
Step 4: Bake for 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool while making the caramel and before making the frosting.
Salted Caramel Sauce
Step 1: Make the caramel sauce by cooking water and sugar on the stovetop until it turns into an amber color. Remove from the heat.
Step 2: Add the butter and whisk until it’s combined. Then add the heavy cream and whisk until it’s smooth (if the edges of the pan have crusty sugar, leave that behind, don’t try to whisk it in).
Step 3: Pour the caramel into a heat safe bowl and add the salt and vanilla, whisking just until they’re combined. Cover and allow to cool completely to room temperature or chill in the refrigerator.
Cream Cheese Frosting
Step 1: Make the frosting by beating the room temperature butter with the cream cheese just until they’re combined.
Step 2: Add the powdered sugar and beat until it’s well combined.
Step 3: Drizzle in the heavy cream and vanilla and mix just until they’re well combined and smooth.
Step 1: Place the first layer of cake onto a flat surface and a thin layer of frosting on top of the first layer. Pipe a border of frosting around the edge of the cake.
Step 2: Fill in the border with crushed graham crackers and a generous drizzle of salted caramel sauce. Repeat with the next layers. Refrigerate or freeze the cake between stacking the layers so that it’s more stable.
Step 3: Refrigerate or freeze the cake when it’s fully assembled, until it’s firm before frosting the outside of the cake. Allow the natural border to develop at the top of the cake from scraping the frosting with cake scraper. Spread caramel on top inside the border or allow it to drip off if desired. Top with crushed graham crackers.
How to Frost/Decorate this Pumpkin Cake
I frosted the outside of the cake with cream cheese frosting because I wasn’t planning on making it fancy. It is very difficult to decorate with cream cheese frosting so unless you’re leaving it simple like mine, you might want to use another type of buttercream for decorating.
You can just follow the recipe as is and then do a layer of buttercream on top of the cream cheese frosting (once it’s firm) and proceed with decorating. OR you can replace the cream cheese frosting with a more stable buttercream.
For more on different types of frosting and how to use them, make sure to check out my cookbook Frosted and get my ‘part 2’ downloadable guide below.
Frequently Asked Questions
I just use canned pumpkin puree. Someday I’ll get to making my own pumpkin puree but that day is not today. I recommend Libby’s brand or something of similar consistency.
Make sure you don’t accidentally buy pumpkin pie filling.
This recipe can be baked in (round or square):
– Four 6 inch cake pans (my photos show 3, but there’s enough for 4).
– Two-three 8 inch cake pans (2 will be normal size, 3 will be thinner)
– Two 9 inch cake pans
– One 10 inch cake pan – poke holes in it, spread caramel sauce on top so it goes inside the cake and then frost with cream cheese frosting and top with crushed graham crackers!
– One 9×13 inch cake pan – poke holes in it, spread caramel sauce on top so it goes inside the cake and then frost with cream cheese frosting and top with crushed graham crackers!
Yes, my cakes all do well with a 1:1 gluten-free substitute
Yes, you can use dairy free cream cheese, butter and heavy cream if desired.
How to store these pumpkin cake
Make sure to keep the cake covered and refrigerated because of the cream cheese frosting. Serve cold or bring back to room temperature before serving.
If it’s longer you can freeze them and defrost a few hours before serving.
How to freeze cake
Bakes stay more fresh when they’re frozen. Place cake or cake slices in an airtight container and then place the container in a freezer bag.
You can also wrap it or each slice individually in plastic wrap (after it’s chilled so you don’t ruin the frosting) and then place those in a freezer bag so you can easily remove one at a time.
Freeze for up to a couple of months. Bring back to room temperature before serving.
Thanks so much for reading today’s post, if you have any questions just comment down below.
If you make my gorgeous pumpkin cake, I’d love it if you left a review for me. 🙂
As always, have a blessed day and happy baking!
Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- 3 cup (360g) all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp cloves
- 1 tsp ginger
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (200g) light brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1 cup (240mL) canola oil
- 1 (15oz) can pumpkin puree
Salted Caramel Sauce
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup (59mL) water
- 1/2 cup (118mL) heavy cream
- 1/4 cup (56g) unsalted butter softened
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 8 oz (1 brick) cream cheese, room temperature
- 4 cups (480g) powdered sugar, spooned and leveled
- tiny pinch of fine sea salt
- 2-3 Tbsp (30-45mL) heavy whipping cream, room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
- 3 sheets graham crackers crumbled
- Preheat the oven to 325F (162C) and grease and line four 6 inch cake pans (my pictures show three layers there's enough batter to make four).
- In medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices until they’re evenly distributed.3 cup (360g) all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, 1 tsp baking soda, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp fine sea salt, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp cloves, 1 tsp ginger
- In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin aggressively for 1-2 minutes, until they’re well combined.4 large eggs, 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar, 1 cup (200g) light brown sugar, lightly packed, 1 cup (240mL) canola oil, 1 (15oz) can pumpkin puree
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until they’re well combined.
- Distribute the batter evenly among the cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, just until the edges release from the pan and/or the center springs back when you press on it gently.
- Remove from the oven and flip over onto a tea towel. Allow them to cool completely before frosting.
Salted Caramel Sauce
- Place the sugar and water in a medium size heavy bottom sauce pan. Swirl the pan until the sugar is immersed in water. Place the saucepan over medium heat and allow the sugar to fully dissolve in the water, gently swirling the pan every minute or so.1 cup (200g) granulated sugar, 1/4 cup (59mL) water
- Bring the sugar and water to a simmer and lower the heat to low. Place the lid on the pan and allow the mixture to simmer until the color begins to darken to a light amber color, this should take about 10 minutes. Make sure to remove the lid and check the color at least every minute.
- You can gently swirl the pan every couple of minutes but DO NOT STIR IT WITH ANYTHING. If there are crystalized pieces of sugar on the sides of the pan, the steam running down from the lid should dissolve them but if it doesn’t, you can use a pastry brush wet with water to brush them away.
- Once the sugar is an amber color, remove it from the heat and stir in the butter. Pour in the heavy whipping cream while stirring constantly until it comes together.1/2 cup (118mL) heavy cream, 1/4 cup (56g) unsalted butter softened
- Pour the caramel sauce in a heat proof jar and stir in the salt and vanilla extract.1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Frosting
- Once the cake and caramel have cooled completely, place the room temperature butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using a whisk attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed for 1-2 minutes, until the color turns to a pale yellow.1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- Add in the cream cheese and beat at medium speed for a minute, just until they’re combined8 oz (1 brick) cream cheese, room temperature
- Add the powdered sugar and salt and mix on low speed, just until it’s combined. Turn the mixer to medium-high speed and beat the buttercream for 2-3 minutes, until all of the sugar is fully dissolved and the buttercream no longer feels gritty.4 cups (480g) powdered sugar, spooned and leveled, tiny pinch of fine sea salt
- Pour in 3 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream and vanilla bean paste and beat for another 1-2 minutes on high speed.2-3 Tbsp (30-45mL) heavy whipping cream, room temperature, 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
- Place the first layer of cake onto a flat surface. Spread a thin layer of the cream cheese frosting on top. Use a piping bag fit with a round piping tip to pipe a border of frosting around the edge of the cake (see photos).
- Sprinkle the crushed graham crackers within the border of piped frosting. Drizzle a generous amount of salted caramel sauce on top of the graham crackers but make sure to stay within the border of frosting so it doesn't leak out.3 sheets graham crackers
- Place the next layer of cake on top and repeat until the cake is fully assembled. Feel free to freeze the cake for 15-30 minutes between stacking each layer of cake.
- Once it's all assembled, refrigerate or freeze the cake until it feels firm. Then frost the outside of the cake.
- To leave a border at the top, spread the frosting on the cake and use a cake scraper to smooth it out, allowing it to naturally create that border at the top. Fill it in with the caramel sauce and top with some graham cracker crumbs.