Pumpkin Bourbon Cake

1 cake
1 hr 23 min

Pumpkin+Bourbon – you basically can’t go wrong here.

I mean, unless you dislike Bourbon, in which case you can sub in TONS of other liqueurs – I’ve used coffee liqueurs, and Bailey’s was a huuge win! I’m still undecided as to whether I like the fact that pumpkin is a seasonal flavor. I LOVE pumpkin, and I’m pretty sure I’d love to have it around all year.

But then….would it really be as fun when it comes back every fall? Jury’s out. I’ll give it a bit and then decide.

The *for sure* thing though – this cake was a HUGE hit with my coworkers, and had been absolutely decimated by the time I took my first break of the day! Recipe below!

(Note - many of my in-recipe links don't work on this page; see IntensiveCakeUnit.com/pumpkin-bourbon-cake if there's a link you need!)

Recipe details

  • 1  cake
  • Prep time: 45 Minutes Cook time: 38 Minutes Total time: 1 hr 23 min
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  • Pumpkin Cake Layers: 
  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3 c. granulated sugar
  • 3 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 t. vanilla extract 
  • 1 t. cinnamon (this brand is my favorite!)  
  • 1/2 t nutmeg 
  • 5 eggs 
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature (or buttermilk powder with water is an option if you can’t find liquid buttermilk at your grocery store!)
  • 1 c pumpkin puree
  • 1/8 cup (28 grams) vegetable oil

Frosting / decorations

  • 8 oz (one package) cream cheese, softened
  • 16 Tablespoons (two sticks) butter, softened
  • 6-7 c powdered sugar
  • 3-6 Tablespoons whipping cream 
  • 1 T clear vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t. salt (if using unsalted butter)
  • Additional supplies / decorations:
  • - 1 8- or 10 -inch cardboard cake circle (I prefer Wilton’s center-punched circles) or an 8” acrylic cake disc (I started using these so I wouldn’t waste so many cake circles!)
  • Brown Sugar Bourbon (or bourbon/liqueur of your choice – I’ve also done a Bailey’s Pumpkin cake that turned out AMAZING!)
  • Mini pumpkin – color of your choice, but I found a cute white one that I liked!
  • Sprinkle mix of your choice – I used ‘Old Fashioned’ by FancySprinkles
  • Cake leveler, cake turntable, large offset spatula, and pastry cutter/bench scraper - not all 100% necessary but incredibly helpful! (Here’s a link to the cake turntable I use)



Instructions: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line three 8-inch cake pans with parchment rounds, and /or grease with non-stick or baker’s floured cooking spray. Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and spices) in a stand mixer until fully combined. Mix chunks of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture starts to look like crumbs. Stir in eggs, and mix on low until just incorporated. Mix the pumpkin puree into the buttermilk and pour the mixture into the dry ingredients in two installments, on a low speed. Add in oil, and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium speed for 20-30 seconds, until the mixture becomes smooth. Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans (I find a kitchen scale helpful for this part).
Bake for 35-37 minutes if using 8-inch pans, or 37-38 minutes for 7-inch cake pans (or until a toothpick comes out clean). Allow cake layers to cool for 10-15 minutes on a wire cooling rack before removing from pans, and cool completely before frosting. Set in the fridge or freezer to accelerate the cooling process if desired. 
Once the layers have fully cooled, the caramelized bits can be trimmed from the sides / top of the cake using a serrated knife if desired. Be sure the layers are completely cooled or chilled before trimming. If you try to trim the layers while they’re still warm, they will crumble and break.
While you're waiting, make your frosting! 

Frosting / decorations

Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar alternating with milk until frosting reaches desired consistency. Add vanilla and salt if needed and beat until well combined. Save and add later – orange and red gel color for the outer frosting layers ((I used Americolor Orange and Americolor Super Red)
Once your cakes are cool, level them (if needed/desired). This can be done with a cake leveler or a large serrated knife and a ruler. These cake layers bake fairly flat though, so I didn't trim much from the tops. Place a smear of frosting on your cake circle (to keep the cake from sliding while you decorate it) and center your first cake layer in the center of the circle. Drizzle 2 ounces (about 1/8 cup) of bourbon over the cake layer, as evenly as possible so you don’t create large soggy spots. Spread the layer with frosting, and add your next cake layer on top. Repeat the process, adding your last cake layer on top. (I put mine on upside-down so make shaping the frosting on top of the cake easier). 
Now you're ready to crumb-coat . If you're unfamiliar with crumb-coating, it's just what it sounds like - a thin layer of frosting over the entire outside of the cake to keep crumbs out of your final layer. Once your crumb coat has set (this takes about 5-10 minutes in the fridge), add your final layer of frosting and smooth. I like to use an offset spatula and bench scraper for this part. Next, add orange gel color to about 1 cup of your remaining frosting, and add a layer of orange frosting about 2/3 of the way up the side of the cake. Smooth with your bench scraper, and repeat the process with red frosting around the bottom 1/3 of the cake. Sprinkles are optional, but I thought the red/orange/gold Old Fashioned blend from FancySprinkles made the base of the cake more fun! Wilton’s Gold Edible Glitter is another fun option. Center your pumpkin on top of the cake – and you’re done! Enjoy!


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