This Pumpkin Spiced Buttermilk Layer Cake with Maple Buttercream is a perfect recipe for Thanksgiving or Christmas!
I’ve never been very good at creating a work/life balance. It was easy when I worked for someone else. Every week, 40 hours were spent mostly sitting in front of a desk with breaks for lunch and meetings. Now that I work for myself, my weekdays and weekends are very similar. My mornings and evenings are very similar. I space out the work, but it’s always there.
I don’t mean to sound like I’m complaining because I really enjoy what I do. But I’m still trying to figure out how organize my time. Right now I never completely turn off. It causes me to crash more than I’d care to admit. I think I’ll figure it all out soon. It’s just one of those things.
This buttermilk cake has a slightly different texture than my other layer cakes. The combination of buttermilk and pumpkin puree creates an incredibly moist texture but this in turn makes the cake itself more delicate. It takes slightly longer to bake. The first time I made this recipe I didn’t do a great job scraping the bottom of the mixer and it caused the cake to bake unevenly. So make sure you scrape down the bowl at least twice to be safe. Handle the finished cakes with care while assembling and frosting. Typically I bake layer cakes the day before frosting them so they can chill overnight in the refrigerator.
I am often asked how I get such clean slices of cake. My method: use a long, sharp knife. Run it under hot water, wipe it dry and immediately cut one slice in a straight down, non-sawing motion. Don’t pull the knife up, pull it straight out toward you. Then repeat the process for the other side, starting with the hot water. That’s how I do it!
It also helps to work with cake that has just been removed from the refrigerator, when the buttercream is more firm. This is less helpful when using a frosting that is not butter based (for example, whipped cream).
Italian Meringue Buttercream
If you’re new to working with meringue buttercream, I strongly recommend checking out my Buttercream Basics post! It’s full of information and useful tips for beginners and more advanced bakers alike.
Homemade Buttermilk Substitute
Did you know you can make homemade buttermilk from scratch to use in this recipe? Save yourself a trip to the store by checking out my post How To Make Buttermilk Substitute!
Pumpkin Spiced Buttermilk Layer Cake with Maple Buttercream
For the cake:
- 10½ ounces all-purpose flour
- 3 ounces (9 tablespoons) cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 1/2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
- 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
- 9 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
- 21 ounces granulated sugar
- 6 large eggs, room temperature
For the buttercream:
- 7 1/2 ounces granulated sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 5 large egg whites
- 16 ounces unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
Prepare the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place an oven rack in the middle position. Lightly spray the bottom of 3 8-inch cake pans with baking spray and then cover them with parchment rounds. Set aside.
- Whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and pumpkin pie spice in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, pumpkin puree and vanilla extract.
- In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on low speed for 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, allowing each egg to incorporate before adding the next. Scrape down the sides of the bowl all the way to the bottom. With the mixer still on low speed, swiftly alternate between adding the dry and liquid ingredients over the course of a minute. Scrape down the sides well, making sure to reach the bottom of the bowl. Turn the mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Give the batter one final stir by hand to make sure the batter is completely incorporated.
- Distribute the batter evenly between the 3 prepared cake pans, using a spatula to even out the tops.
- Bake until the a toothpick comes out of the center of each cake clean, approximately 36-40 minutes. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pan before removing.
Prepare the frosting:
- Add sugar and water to a medium sized sauce pot. Cover and turn the heat to high. Once the liquid begins to simmer and steam has developed, remove the cover (this helps prevent crystallization). Using a candy thermometer, cook the sugar to the soft boil stage, 235-240 degrees F.
- While the sugar is cooking, whisk the eggs on high in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment until a soft peak has formed.
- Turn the mixer speed down to medium low and very slowly pour the syrup down the side of the bowl into the egg whites. Don’t pour the hot syrup directly into the meringue or you’ll get scrambled eggs.
- Once the syrup is completely incorporated, turn the speed to high and allow the meringue to continue to form a stiff peak while cooling down. Mix on high until the meringue has reached room temperature. To speed up this 15-20 minute process, ice packs can be placed around the bowl.
- Once the meringue is room temperature, slowly begin incorporating the soft butter on medium speed. Don’t rush this step. Once all of the butter has been incorporated, turn the mixer speed up to high and slowly add the maple syrup.
Assemble the cake:
- Place the first layer of cake on a revolving cake stand and remove the parchment paper. Placing a cardboard round below the cake is optional but will make transporting the cake easier after it is assembled.
- Spread approximately one cup of buttercream on the cake and spread it around evenly with an offset spatula. Add more buttercream as needed to reached the desired thickness. Repeat with the second and third layer (don't forget to remove the parchment each time). Use an offset spatula to apply a thin layer of frosting to the side and top of the cake. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set this first layer of buttercream. Remove from the refrigerator and cover the entire cake with a final layer of frosting.
- Cake is best when served at room temperature.
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons fresh ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cloves
Please read my full post for additional recipe notes, tips, and serving suggestions!
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