This pumpkin cake is perfect for Fall! Moist and delicious pumpkin cake layers with a tangy cream cheese frosting and crunchy candied pecans.

Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Candied Pecans.

Happy Thanksgiving, Canadian friends!

I hope you’re celebrating it with friends and family. Ryan and I are hosting Thanksgiving dinner again this year — nothing fancy, just a large roast chicken using Ina’s recipe (it’s amazing) and some sides. We usually do a turkey on Thanksgiving, but there are always so many (too many) leftovers, and it’s just my parents coming over so we’re opting for a smaller bird. And, of course, this Pumpkin Cake will be served as dessert.

In true Olivia fashion (at least recently), I meant to get this recipe out weeks ago so that you too could have it for Thanksgiving. Alas, it was not meant to be. Too much life stuff (aka puppy) going on that has put a serious damper on my baking. It’s all good though, she’s adorable (most of the time), and growing so fast that I want to soak in the puppy time as much as possible!

Close up of pumpkin cake with a rustic cream cheese frosting.

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Last year I abstained from inundating you with pumpkin recipes and opted for some other Fall flavours like Pecan Pie Cake, Chai Cake, and Sweet Potato Cake. This year, I’m back with another Pumpkin Cake recipe for you!

My Pumpkin Spice Latte Cake is one of my most popular Fall recipes (for good reason, I think) so I wanted to take that recipe, tweak it for a larger version, and try it with some different flavours. Dare I say that the pumpkin cake recipe I bring you today is even better than that one.

Cross-section of pumpkin cake with candied pecans.

How to make this Pumpkin Cake Recipe

This is probably one of the easiest cake recipes I have on my blog. It’s a two bowl (one bowl if you’re lazy) method that doesn’t even require a mixer. All you have to do is:

  1. Whisk the dry ingredients together (skip this for one bowl)
  2. Whisk the wet ingredients & sugar
  3. Add the dry to the wet and mix until just combined

It does not get any easier! The most challenging part of this recipe for me, honestly, was the candied pecans.

Overhead shot of candied pecans on a pumpkin cake

How to make Candied Pecans

Who knew making candied pecans would be such a pain in the butt?? The recipe I have for you below is actually super easy, but I stumbled a couple of times in my experimentation.

I had this vision of what I wanted the candied pecans to look like: shiny and glossy, but not clumped together or glued with caramel. Most of the candied pecan recipes out there show sugary coated nuts, and that was just not the look I was going for.

Pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting on a rustic cake stand.

I opted to try a recipe I found online that seemed to have a technique that would work (albeit with some strange ingredients – milk??). It had a ton of great reviews, so surely it would not fail me. But fail me it did. I should have gone with my gut! The sugar mixture totally burned to the bottom of my pot before it was even supposed to be ready. Thankfully I had the sense not to throw $20 of pecans into it.

For attempt #2 I tweaked this recipe to see if that would work. The recipe is dead simple, which is a huge win-win for me.

You start with a frying pan over medium heat, and toss in the pecans to toast for about 3 mins or so (until they are fragrant). In the meantime, mix the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and when the nuts are ready, pour the mixture into the pan with the nuts and stir continuously for 5-10mins. I used two heatproof spatulas for this, which worked perfectly.

Now, as you’re candying the pecans, they’ll go from a liquid glaze to grainy and crystallized (aka the look I didn’t want), but you just keep cooking them and eventually they caramelize into a deep, dark, glorious color. Except that mine actually burned. SIGH. Some of them, anyhow.

Glossy candied pecans on a pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting.

My stove is the worst. The oven takes forever to bake anything, and the burners get WAY too hot. You literally cannot simmer on it. I should have lowered my temperature — noted for the future!

Funny thing though, as I was caramelizing the pecans I actually really liked the way they looked in the sugared/crystallized state! So much that I asked Ryan to pick up more pecans on his way home so I could redo them yet again.

You’ll notice that I actually ended up going with the shiny ones anyway, because they just look so pretty. Even though at one point I was convinced they looked like cockroaches on a cake, and panicked and added some chopped ones to try and hide that fact. I may have messaged 5 of my friends with a pic and a question: “Do these look like cockroaches?” This is my life, for real.

Here’s a shot without all the extra chopped pecans…. you can see where I got the idea, right?

Candied pecans on top of a pumpkin cake

Fall themed pumpkin cake with candied pecans.

ANYhow. I actually prefer the taste and texture of the sugared ones rather than the caramelized ones, but both are delicious, and the beauty of this recipe is that you can decide how you want them to turn out!

This candied pecans recipe is honestly so much easier and less time consuming than the others recipes out there, that I wonder why everyone doesn’t make their candied nuts this way?? I certainly will be in the future. Any other type of nuts should work equally well too, if you’re not a pecan fan!

Slice of pumpkin cake -- three layers of cake with candied pecans and cream cheese frosting.

I chose to pair this pumpkin cake with a simple cream cheese frosting, but it would go equally well with a plain vanilla frosting or a cinnamon frosting if you’re looking to amp up the spice even more!

If you’re a pumpkin spice fan or just looking for something delicious for your Fall & holiday dinner tables, this Pumpkin Cake with Candied Pecans will not disappoint!!

Looking for more Pumpkin Recipes?

Tips for making this Pumpkin Cake Recipe

  • The recipe as-is will also work in three 6″ pans but the baking time may vary.
  • To make cupcakes, all you need to do is reduce the baking time — start checking at 15mins or so.
  • The cooled cake layers can be baked ahead of time, double wrapped in plastic wrap, and frozen for up to 3 months. Take out 2-3 hours before assembly.
  • The frosting can be placed in an airtight container and refrigerated for 1 week for frozen for 3 months. Bring to room temp and rewhip before using.
  • You can make this pumpkin cake recipe in one bowl if you skip sifting the dry ingredients and just add them to the wet at once. It will work fine!
  • The candied pecans recipe works two ways: You can stop when the nuts look like they are covered in cinnamon sugar (my personal fave), or you can keep cooking them until they get a clear, dark caramel glaze.
  • Learn how to keep your cakes moist using Simple Syrup.
  • To help ensure your cake layers bake up nice and flat, check out my How to Bake Flat Cake Layers post!

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Pumpkin Cake with Candied Pecans

This pumpkin cake is perfect for Fall! Moist and delicious pumpkin cake layers with a tangy cream cheese frosting and crunchy candied pecans.

Course Dessert

Cuisine Cake

Prep Time 2 hours

Cook Time 45 minutes

Total Time 2 hours 45 minutes

Servings 16

Calories 851kcal

Ingredients

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 2 cups unsalted butter slightly chilled
  • 12 oz cream cheese slightly chilled, full fat, block not tub
  • 5-6 cups powdered sugar sifted
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Assembly:

  • 2/3 cup chopped candied pecans
  • whole candied pecans

Instructions

Pumpkin Cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350F and grease & flour three 8″ cake pans. Line with parchment.

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

  • In a large bowl, whisk together sugars, oil, pumpkin, vanilla, and eggs.

  • Add dry to wet and mix until just combined.

  • Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean (approx. 30-35 mins).

  • Cool in pans on wire rack for 10mins, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.

Candied Pecans:

  • Line a large baking sheet with parchment. 

  • Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add pecans and toast for approx. 3 mins, stirring often.

  • In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine sugar, cinnamon, water, and vanilla. Stir well.

  • When the pecans are fragrant, add sugar mixture into the pan. Stir constantly over medium heat for 5-10mins. I used two heatproof spatulas for this.*

  • Spread onto parchment lined baking sheet to cool. Separate them as best as possible with the spatulas.

Assembly:

  • Place one layer of cake onto a serving plate or cake stand. Top with 1 cup frosting and spread evenly. Sprinkle 1/3 cup chopped candied pecans over the top of the frosting (reserve the prettiest ones for the top). Repeat with next layer.

  • Place final cake layer on top and crumb coat the cake. Chill for 30mins.

  • Use the remaining frosting to cover the outside of the cake. Decorate the top and sides with a swirl if desired (I used a large offset spatula to do this). Decorate with whole and chopped candied pecans.

Notes

* The sugar syrup will coat the pecans and eventually turn grainy. You can stop here if you like or keep cooking/stirring until they are caramelized and golden. Watch them carefully as they will burn quickly near the end. Candied Pecan recipe adapted from The Cafe Sucre Farine.

Calories: 851kcalCarbohydrates: 88gProtein: 6gFat: 55gSaturated Fat: 28gCholesterol: 119mgSodium: 201mgPotassium: 290mgFiber: 3gSugar: 69gVitamin A: 4630IUVitamin C: 1.2mgCalcium: 104mgIron: 2.2mg

The nutritional information and metric conversions are calculated automatically. I cannot guarantee the accuracy of this data. If this important to you, please verify with your favourite nutrition calculator and/or metric conversion tool.

Originally published on Oct 5, 2018

Photo collage

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