Midnight Pumpkin Layer Cake

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Midnight Pumpkin Layer Cake
Happy spiced-cake season, friends! And while I've never really subscribed to limiting dessert-making to seasonally appropriate goodies, who the heck can resist an autumn-inspired cake, bar, cookie, or pie--not me (remember this and this?). The heart-warming fragrance in the house while they bake is alone enough of a reason to bake every spiced sweet we can think of. So in the name of autumn (and the name of awesomeness), I created this ooey-gooey, glossy, decadent, Midnight Pumpkin Layer Cake. Actually, I created 4 ooey-gooey, glossy, decadent Midnight Pumpkin Layer Cakes (and I wonder why it takes me so long to post sometimes), because the first 3 were all of those things, but they weren't "it." You know? The next question is, what did I do with the first 3, right? Ahem. #nomorejeansforsweetapolita So here's what I came up with: 2 layers of moist, spiced pumpkin cake sandwiching a layer of dark chocolate cake and layers of chocolate chip cream cheese filling and homemade salted caramel, all frosted in the most luxurious (thanks Tamar from Instagram for that adjective--you were right, there really is no other word for this!) dark chocolate glossy frosting I have ever experienced. A few simple edible gold stars to bring a hint of twilight to our "midnight" frosting, and we have officially have the Midnight Pumpkin Layer Cake. Midnight Pumpkin Layer Cake by Sweetapolita Let's take a minute to talk about this frosting. Oh, this amazing, rich, dark-as-night, over-the-top chocolaty frosting. Made on the stove top with butter, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, heavy whipping cream, sour cream, and vanilla, it's a dream to make, and clearly a dream to eat. I use my favourite extra dark cocoa powder, which lends to the intensity of the frosting, both visually and in taste, and the sour cream offers richness and a slight tang that balances out the extreme chocolate flavour (yet the actual taste of sour cream is not present). I first came across a recipe for glossy chocolate frosting here, but I found that no matter what I did (I tried the recipe twice) the frosting was too thin for me (very possible that it was because of my own occasional nerdiness--perhaps I didn't do something correctly since hers appears quite thick), so I modified the recipe to ensure a thicker version that holds up to frosting a taller cake and is stable enough for piping. I can't even get over this stuff. Midnight Pumpkin Layer Cake by Sweetapolita So here's a close-up of what's going on inside this cake--whoa! As I stare at this photo, I can't decide if it's the most beautiful hot-mess of deliciousness, or if it's just, well, a hot mess. Haha. This is how this cake looks inside when it's freshly assembled and hasn't had time to offer clean, precise cuts, and when I don't spend time styling the guts to ensure that they're somewhat tidy, but, really, don't we all just want to get up all in there and live happily ever after? After making it 3 times already, I was so eager to share that I just went for the gloriously gooey look. The cream cheese filling is essentially my cream cheese frosting recipe, but with a generous handful of mini chocolate chips. It's creamy-as-can-be and offers that notable tang that helps balance the sweetness of the salted caramel. What I love about using cream cheese filling/frosting in a cake is that it suddenly offers a cheesecake-like quality without having to go through the process of actually making a cheesecake layer for the cake (which in itself is amazing, but is a lot more involved than whipping up a quick batch of this filling). And if you're ever not sure if a cream cheese filling would work for a cake you're creating, just ask yourself if the flavours/ingredients you're using would work in an actual cheesecake--you'll find that the answer is almost always "yes." Midnight Pumpkin Layer Cake by Sweetapolita Here's the recipe for this decadent autumn-inspired layer cake (see below the recipe for my notes). It's so much easier to make than it looks, and I'm thinking that, together, we can kick up the ooh-and-ahh factor at family gatherings this season. Who's with me? ★

Midnight Pumpkin Layer Cake

Moist spicy pumpkin cake layered with dark chocolate cake, salted caramel, chocolate chip cream cheese filling, and topped with glossy, rich, and super-creamy dark chocolate frosting.

For the Chocolate Cake Layer:

  • 3/4 cup 80 g all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup 150 g sugar
  • 1/2 cup 60 g best-quality dark cocoa powder (see Sweetapolita's Notes)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup 120 ml buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup 80 ml hot coffee
  • 3 tablespoons 45 ml vegetable oil
  • 1 egg (room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Spiced Pumpkin Cake Layers:

  • 1 cup 200 g granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup 120 g packed light brown sugar
  • 3 eggs (room temperature)
  • 3/4 cup 180 ml vegetable oil (or sunflower oil)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups 300 ml pumpkin puree (canned)
  • 2 cups 260 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

For the Salted Caramel:

  • 1 cup 200 g sugar
  • 1/4 cup 60 ml water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup 120 ml heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Generous pinch of sea salt

For the Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Filling:

  • 1/2 cup 115 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups 190 g confectioners' sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 8 oz 250 g package of cream cheese, cut into cubes, very soft
  • 3/4 cup 120 g mini chocolate chips

For the Glossy Dark Chocolate Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup 115 g unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups 300 g sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups 150 g best-quality dark cocoa powder, sifted (see Sweetapolita's Notes)
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup 180 ml heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup 120 ml sour cream (full fat)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Edible gold stars (for decorating (see Sweetapoilta's Notes))

For the Chocolate Cake Layer:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray an 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and line the bottom with a parchment paper round.
  2. Into a large bowl, sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a medium measuring cup with a spout, combine the buttermilk, coffee, oil, egg, and vanilla.
  4. Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan.
  5. Bake on the middle rack until a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs, about 20 minutes. Try not to over-bake. Let cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then turn onto a wire rack until completely cool.

For the Spiced Pumpkin Cake Layers:

  1. Spray two 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and line the bottoms with a parchment paper rounds.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and eggs together on medium-high speed (I use #6 on KitchenAid) until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the oil and vanilla and beat on medium until combined, about 30 seconds. Add the pumpkin filling and mix until combined, about another 30 seconds.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, and salt, and with the mixer on the lowest speed, gradually add to pumpkin/egg mixture.
  4. Evenly distribute batter into the prepared pans (weigh them if possible with digital kitchen scale for 560 g per pan), smooth with a small offset palette knife and place in the center of the middle rack of the oven, about 2 inches apart. Bake until a knife or skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
  5. Let pans cool on a wire rack 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto rack and cool them completely.

For the Salted Caramel:

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir the sugar, water, and lemon juice until combined. Brush down the sides of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush and increase the heat to medium-high.
  2. Stop stirring, and let the mixture bubble until it reaches an amber colour, about 8 minutes. Promptly remove the saucepan from the heat and add the heavy cream and butter (be careful, as this will bubble and steam aggressively for a moment). No need to stir.
  3. Clip a candy thermometer onto the saucepan and return the mixture to medium-high heat until it reaches 248°F). Transfer the caramel to the heatproof bowl and stir in the vanilla and sea salt. As the caramel reaches room temperature it will become thick and spreadable. Store in a sealed jar in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

For the Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Filling:

  1. In a bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until very light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and salt, and beat on low speed until well combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat until very light and fluffy once again, about 6 more minutes. Add the softened cream cheese and beat until combined, about 1 more minute. Stir in the chocolate chips. Keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.

For the Glossy Dark Chocolate Frosting:

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the sugar, sifted cocoa powder, and salt and until everything is combined. The mixture will be very thick and grainy.
  2. Add the heavy whipping cream and sour cream and whisk until well combined. Continue to heat the mixture until hot to the touch, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla. Transfer the frosting to a heatproof bowl and let cool. Cover the frosting and refrigerate until spreadable, about 3 hours.

Assembly of the Midnight Pumpkin Layer Cake:

  1. Prepare the frostings and fillings by ensuring they are all at a spreadable consistency (if your caramel is too thick, you can microwave for about 10 seconds to soften). Put a dollop of chocolate frosting on an 8-inch round cake board (or cake plate) or 10-inch scalloped cake board.
  2. Put one of pumpkin layers top-up on the cake board or plate, and use a a small offset palette knife to spread one-half of the chocolate chip cream cheese filling evenly across layer. Use a clean small offset palette knife to spread one-half of the caramel on top, leaving about 2-inches away from perimeter of cake layer (the caramel will spread a bit more when cake is assembled). Place the chocolate cake layer on top and repeat with another layer of frosting and caramel. Put the final pumpkin cake layer top-down. Cover the cake with plastic wrap and wiggle the layers into place. Refrigerate the cake until stable, at least 30 minutes.
  3. Using a turntable, if possible, frost entire outside of cake with a layer of glossy chocolate frosting to seal in the crumbs. Chill until the frosting begins to firm-up, about 15 minutes. Repeat with another layer of frosting. Holding a tall pastry comb in your dominant hand, press it gently against the side of the cake at a 45° angle, and keep it steady. Use the other hand to slowly rotate the turntable until you have gone all the way around the cake.
  4. Fit a medium pastry bag with a medium-large closed star tip, such as 1M, and fill with the remaining chocolate frosting. Pipe a border around the top of the cake. Sprinkle on gold edible stars, if desired.
  5. Store cake in refrigerator and remove about 2 hours before serving. The cake will keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Sweetapolita's Notes:
  • For the chocolate cake and the glossy chocolate frosting I used Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder Extra Brute (extra dark), but you can use any good-quality dark cocoa powder you prefer.
  • For the gold star sprinkles, I use these Edible Gold Stars.
  • You can make the cake layers up to 1 day ahead, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature.
  • You can make the caramel up to one week ahead--keep covered in refrigerator. You can microwave the caramel in 10-second intervals when you need to use it for spreading in the cake. I recommend doubling the recipe for this caramel and using the rest of the batch on ice cream, waffles, pancakes, and more. It's truly amazing.
  • You can make the cream cheese frosting up to 1 day ahead, and keep covered in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before using.
  • You can make the glossy chocolate frosting up to 3 days ahead and keep covered in the refrigerator.
  • You're awesome. Now go make the heck out of this cake!
See you soon!

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  • Rosie Alyea
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