This glorious pumpkin cake features several layers of flavour: a delicately crumbed cake with nutty undertones of browned butter, surrounded by creamy, slightly tangy cream cheese frosting, topped with the piquant spiciness of crystallized ginger in the nut medley. Stupendous!

The beguiling pictures shown in Fine Cooking’s Issue 107 drew me in, but the outstanding reviews sealed the deal. The cake is universally loved, and with good reason. The original recipe calls for roasting a pie pumpkin, but frankly, this step can be dispensed with. Canned pumpkin puree is consistently good, and the brown butter featured in both the cake and frosting provides more than enough depth of flavour.

People reported issues with the frosting (too high a ratio of fat to icing sugar); I concurred and adjusted accordingly.



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Pumpkin Cake with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

Delicately moist pumpkin cake surrounded by luscious brown-butter cream cheese frosting, topped with spicy crystallized ginger, pepitas and pecans.



For the cake

  • 170 g or 6 oz unsalted butter; more for the pans
  • 255 g or 9 oz unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pans
  • 1½ tsp baking soda
  • 1½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ¾ tsp table salt
  • ¼ tsp ground allspice
  • 300g or 10½ oz granulated sugar
  • 133 g or 4.7 oz firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 337 g or 12 oz pumpkin puree
  • 2 large eggs
  • 80 g or 1/3 c buttermilk

For the topping

  • (42 g or 1½ oz unsalted butter
  • 170 g or 6 oz pecans
  • 170 g or 6 oz unsalted, raw, hulled pepitas
  • (50 g or 1¾ oz firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ½ tsp table salt
  • 40 g or 1.4 oz chopped crystallized ginger

For the frosting

  • 113 g or 4 oz unsalted butter
  • 227 g or 8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 50 g or 1.8 oz firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 340 g or 12 oz confectioners’ sugar


Make the cake

  1. Position a rack in the centre of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F Convection or 350°F.
  2. Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden brown (about 4 minutes). Pour into a small bowl and let stand until cool but not set (about 15 minutes).
  3. Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans with removable bottoms (or butter two 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, butter the parchment, and flour the pans).
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and allspice. In a large bowl, whisk the pumpkin purée with granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and buttermilk until very well blended. With a rubber spatula, stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Gently whisk in the brown butter until completely incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.
  5. Bake the cakes until a tester inserted in the centre comes out clean (about 30 minutes). Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto racks, remove the pan bottoms or parchment, and cool completely.

Make the topping

  1. Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the pecans and pepitas and cook until the pecans brown slightly and the pepitas begin to pop (about 2 minutes). Sprinkle in the brown sugar and salt and stir until the sugar melts and the nuts are glazed (about 2 minutes). Stir in the ginger. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool in the skillet.

Make the frosting

  1. Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden brown (about 4 minutes). Pour into a small bowl and let stand until the solids settle at the bottom of the bowl (about 5 minutes). Carefully transfer the bowl to the freezer and chill until just firm, (about 15 minutes). Using a spoon, carefully scrape the butter from bowl, leaving the browned solids at the bottom; discard the solids.
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat the browned butter, cream cheese, and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light in color and the brown sugar has dissolved (2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar and continue beating until fluffy (1 to 2 minutes). Don’t overbeat or the icing will split.

Assemble the cake

  1. Put one cake layer on a cake plate. Spread 1 cup of the frosting on the layer. Sprinkle 1 cup of the nut mixture over the frosting and top with the second layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Arrange the remaining topping in a ring 1½ inches from the edge of the cake and serve.


  • I was a bit concerned that the brown sugar/nut mixture would clump and stick to the pan, but have no fear. Just stir it once or twice while it’s cooling and it will remain crumbly and easy to spread, leaving an easy clean-up. You will likely have some topping left over – lucky you! It’s terrific on ice cream, yoghurt or cooked oatmeal.
  • Author: Helen Kain


  • Serving Size: Serves 8-10.

I’m sharing this post with Between Naps on the Porch.