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A slice of pumpkin cake with cinnamon meringue and layers of bittersweet ganache

Pumpkin Cake with Balsamic Cinnamon Meringue and Bittersweet Ganache

A twist on basic pumpkin cake, this pumpkin spice cake is covered in beautifully torched balsamic cinnamon meringue with bittersweet ganache between the layers. This cake is made of several recipes from my book, Zoë Bakes Cakes.
Course: Dessert


Bittersweet Ganache, at room temperature (see note)

  • 1/2 cup (120ml) heavy whipping cream
  • 4 oz (113g) bittersweet chocolate finely chopped

Pumpkin Cake Layers

  • 1 recipe pumpkin bundt cake baked in three 8" round cake pans recipe linked below

Fluffy Swiss Meringue Topping

  • 1 1/2 cups (360ml) egg whites (from about 7 eggs) at room temperature
  • 3 cups (600g) granulated sugar
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp aged balsamic vinegar Go with an aged balsamic that is nice and syrupy.
  • 1 tsp cinnamon


Bittersweet Ganache

  • Note: The ganache needs to be set to room temperature. This takes several hours, so you can do this the day before assembling the cake.
  • In a medium saucepan over low heat, warm the cream until just simmering. Turn off the heat and add the chocolate. Swirl the pan to make sure all of the chocolate is submerged in the hot cream. Let sit for 3 minutes and then gently stir until smooth.
  • Transfer the ganache to a container, cover, loosely (you don't want condensation to form), and store at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Pumpkin Cake (Baked in three 8-inch rounds)

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and line three 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper.
  • Prepare the pumpkin batter as directed in the recipe linked above, Pour 3/4 of the batter evenly into the prepared pans and smooth it out with an offset spatula. Tap the pans gently on the counter to remove any air pockets.
  • Mix the remaining batter with the cocoa and spices. Spoon the cocoa/pumpkin mixture into evenly spaced, this stripes over the pumpkin batter in the pans (you can also use a pastry bag for this task).
  • Use a thin knife or skewer to draw zig-zag lines through the batter to create a marble pattern in the batter.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Cool and remove from pans.

Cake Assembly

  • Place one layer of the cake on a serving plate. Cover with 1/2 cup spreadable ganache. Top ganache with another layer of cake. Spread the remaining 1/2 cup ganache and top with last layer of cake. Set aside while you make the meringue. 

Fluffy Swiss Meringue Topping

  • In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, bring 1 inch / 2.5cm of water to a simmer.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg whites, sugar and salt; place over the simmering water; and stir with a rubber spatula until the mixture is hot and all of the sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes.
  • Remove the bowl from the heat and place onto the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, then beat on high speed until very thick and glossy and stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes. Once it is done whipping to its full glory and stands tall when lifted from the bowl, mix in 1 1/2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. These flavor additions are optional, but super tasty.
  • Reserve 1 cup / 60g of the meringue topping. Use a metal spatula to spread a thick layer of the remaining meringue evenly over the cake.
  • Take a blob—yes, a blob—of the reserved meringue between your fingers and press it against the meringue on the cake. Pull the blob away from the cake, it will break off in a wispy curl. The thicker the blob you lay down as a foundation on the cake, the bigger the curls will be. It may take a few times to get the hang of it, but then you'll be off and running. Plus, it's fun.
  • Once you have the cake fully set with the curls, hold a kitchen blowtorch about 3 inches / 7.5cm from the cake, so just the tip of the flame is hovering over the cake. Keep the torch moving so it doesn't burn the meringue. The tip of the curls will set fire, blow them out as you go. The burnt tips are a lovely contrast and add a wonderful flavor.
  • Serve the cake immediately or store in the refrigerator, uncovered, for up to 24 hours. Once the cake is cut, cover the cut surface with plastic, but don't cover the meringue spikes.


Bringing the ganache to room temperature takes some time, so I suggest you make it the day before assembling the cake.