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This gorgeous layer cake, by New Orleans-based cookbook author and food blogger Joy Wilson, is a must-try for pumpkin spice fans. The frosting, which has ribbons of homemade caramel throughout is best applied with a small offset spatula for a beautifully swirled look. You can make the cake layers up to three days in advance, and store (covered) in the refrigerator. 


Credit: Alison Gootee; Styling: Suzonne Stirling

Recipe Summary

6 hrs
8 hrs 10 mins
50 mins
Serves 10 to 12


Cake Layers


Instructions Checklist
  • Prepare the Caramel: Bring sugar, water, and corn syrup to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium, stirring once or twice. Continue to cook, without stirring, until mixture is a medium amber color, 8 to 9 minutes. Remove from heat, and immediately add heavy cream and butter (mixture will boil and foam). Whisk until well blended, and whisk in salt. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill until cold, about 4 hours.

  • Meanwhile, prepare the Cake Layers: Place oven rack in center of oven; preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 2 (9-inch) round baking pans with cooking spray; lightly dust bottoms and sides of pans with flour.

  • Sift together flour, sugars, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk together pumpkin, buttermilk, oil, water, eggs, and vanilla in a medium bowl until well combined. Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture; whisk gently until just blended but no lumps remain. Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool Cake Layers in pans 20 minutes, and transfer from pans to a wire rack. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

  • Prepare the Frosting: Beat cream cheese in bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment on low speed until softened, about 1 minute. Add butter and beat on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Add powdered sugar, heavy cream, vanilla, and salt. Beat on low until incorporated; increase speed to medium until combined and thick but still spreadable, about 2 minutes. Chill 30 to 45 minutes before assembling cake.

  • Place 1 Cake Layer, top side up, on a cake plate. Dollop with about 1⁄2 cup of the Frosting, and spread evenly. Top with second Cake Layer, top side up, and dollop with another 1⁄2 cup of Frosting. Spread top and sides with a thin layer of Frosting. Chill 20 minutes. Take Caramel out of refrigerator, and let stand 20 minutes.

  • Generously swirl Caramel into remaining Frosting, keeping swirls large in mixture. Spread along top and sides of cake in a few swoops so it looks rustic. Chill 1 hour before slicing and serving.