As the temperature turns chilly and the holiday season nears, it makes me crave all the warm spices. This cake is adapted from my Zoë Bakes Cakes Yellow Cake, but with the quintessential fall spice blend added to the mix. You can buy Pumpkin Pie Spice in the baking aisle or make your own with individual ground spices from your pantry. See my notes in the recipe if you want to make your own.
A simple, but elegant cake, set tall on a cake stand makes for a beautiful holiday centerpiece. I like to decorate with edible tablescapes, like a beautiful fruit and cheese board.
When I was creating this table, I looked to old Dutch Master paintings for my color inspiration. Creating a mood board on Pinterest is a great way to find and collect inspiration. I shopped at Terrain once I had a vision and found linens, cake stands, place settings, and a decorative wreath that completed the look.
To match the deep flavor of the spice cake, I played with my favorite Swiss Meringue Buttercream and swapped in brown sugar and browned butter. It is the softest, richest, most luxurious buttercream I have ever made and worth the extra effort to brown the butter. The process of browning the butter and letting it cool until it is firm enough to use in the buttercream takes some time, so I recommend doing this part a day in advance. To balance out the richness of the cake I added a layer of cooked cranberries. So simple, but gorgeous and just what the cake needs for the holidays.
The sugared cranberries are a simple, beautiful last touch for the top. Just roll fresh cranberries in pasteurized egg whites and then dip in sugar. Let them dry for about an hour and they are ready to set on the cake. Decorating with fresh flowers is a beautiful way to finish a cake and you can use almost any flower if you wrap the stems in florist tape before setting them on the cake. Be sure to ask your florist or consult a trusted website, to make sure you are choosing flowers that are not poisonous.
The beauty of this cake is that you can bake it ahead and make the holidays more relaxed. I bake the cake layers, let them cool, wrap in plastic and freeze for up to 2 weeks. The buttercream can also be frozen, then let it come to room temperature several hours before using, and whipped smooth right before decorating the cake. You can decorate and refrigerate the cake the day before you are serving, but be sure to leave it at room temperature for several hours before serving, so the buttercream and cake layers have enough time to soften.
- 8 tbsp (113g) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (120g) mild-flavored oil such as vegetable oil
- 2 1/4 cups (450g) granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 4 eggs at room temperature
- 5 egg yolks at room temperature
- 2 2/3 cups (320g) all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt
- 2 1/2 tbsp pumpkin spice blend see notes for how to make your own
- 1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (120g) sour cream at room temperature
- Preheat the oven to 350°F / 175°C. Generously grease three 8-inch / 20cm cake pans, then line it with greased parchment paper.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium-high speed until creamy and smooth, about 1 minute.
- Turn the mixer speed to medium; add the oil, sugar, and vanilla to the butter; and beat for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is light in color and about double in volume.
- Turn the speed to low and add the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, mixing each until incorporated before adding the next. Scrape the bowl after each addition.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices.
- In a large measuring cup, whisk together the milk and sour cream.
- Add one-third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until combined. Scrape the bowl and add half of the milk mixture, mixing until combined. Repeat with another one-third flour, the remaining milk mixture, then finish with the final one-third flour, scraping the bowl and paddle after each addition.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Use an offset spatula to spread the batter evenly. Gently tap the pan on the counter several times to release excess air bubbles.
- Bake until a tester comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let the cake cool completely before removing from the pan by inverting onto a serving platter and decorate by layering the Brown Sugar Buttercream and Cranberry Filling between the layers and then covering the outside of the cake with more Brown Sugar Buttercream.
- In a medium saucepan cook the cranberries, sugar and vanilla extract until the cranberries pop, sugar dissolves and it becomes slightly thick, about 5 minutes.
- Allow the cranberry filling to cool completely before spreading in between the cake layers. It can be made days ahead.
Brown Butter Buttercream
- In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Cook until butter turns a medium-brown color and has a nutty aroma, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool until solid and room temperature.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer combine the egg whites and sugar. It will be very thick and grainy.
- Put the bowl over a double boiler and stir it with a rubber spatula until the sugar is completely melted. This can take several minutes. You want to brush the sides down with the spatula to make sure all the sugar is melted and no grains are clinging to the sides.
- Feel the egg mixture between your fingers to check for graininess. Once it is completely smooth and has no grains left, put it on your stand mixer and beat with the whip attachment on medium high speed.
- Beat it until it is light, fluffy, glossy and the bowl feels just about room temperature. If the whites are not cooled off sufficiently it will melt the butter when you add it.
- Once the egg whites are whipped and cooled, add the brown butter to it, 2 tablespoons at a time on medium speed.
- WARNING: After you have added about half of the butter, it may look curdled and runny, this is normal and you should continue adding the rest of the butter.
- Once you have finished adding the butter and it has mixed on medium speed for about a minute the buttercream should be creamy and glossy looking again. Add the salt, vanilla and any flavorings you choose.