Dinner Party: Browned Butter Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Browned Butter Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting


Holy hot pants, Batman! This recipe is indescribably awesome. The cake was moist, flavorful, rich and tasted appropriately pumpkin-y. The cream cheese frosting really accented it well.

I think what I like most about this confectionary creation is that both the cake recipe and the frosting recipe stand well on their own. They make one heck of a dream team, but they could definitely release successful solo albums if they so desired.

I love cinnamon (see: Cinnamon and Banana Crumble Muffins)! The cinnamon worked beautifully in this cake, both highlighting the sweetness and the pumpkin flavor simultaneously. It was just really great. Not overwhelming in anyway, and my dad said he would have liked it if I hadn’t told him there was pumpkin in it (high praise from a man who would form a lobbyist group against vegetables).

A slice of yumKeep it easy on the frosting though. While the frosting recipe I’ve listed below (from Cake Boss by Buddy Valastro) is just dreamy, overindulging on the frosting could cause the end result to be a little too sweet. I made one batch of frosting, and used about ¾ of it to frost the cake. My guests and I felt this was appropriate. There was enough frosting to add a presence, but not enough to over sweeten and steal the show. Note: I take a little bit of sugar with my sugar… so if I’m putting out a potential sugar overload advisory then take heed.

A word on cream cheese frosting: it melts.

I would not recommend it for a frosting amateur, like myself.

The cake is so moist!

The cake is so moist!

You have to work very quickly, because as it warms up, it melts and thins and becomes a sticky mess. I was legitimately up to my elbows in frosting. I had grander design plans, but ended up not being able to execute them. At one point I found myself torn between throwing the half frosted cake at the wall and crying in a cream cheese covered heap on the floor. The spiky frosting design you see in the picture was a last minute improvisation, which I undertook to save my sanity.  All things considered, I think Plan B worked better than I initially hoped for (success?).

So, if you glean any value from my blog (any at all) I hope it is that cream cheese frosting is not for the faint hearted and heavy handed.

But then again… anything that tastes that good is surely worth the effort!

Happy Eating 🙂

Cream Cheese Frosting (Cake Boss, Buddy Valastro)

16 oz cream cheese

8 tbsp unsalted butter (softened at room temperature)

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 cups powdered sugar

  1. Put the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and paddle at medium speed until creamy (approx. 30 seconds).
  2. With the motor running, pour in the vanilla and paddle for 30 seconds. Add the sugar, a little at a time, and mix until smooth, approx 1 minute after the last addition.
  3. Use right away (seriously!), or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Snowflake Cake: To Fondant or Not to Fondant?


If you look closely, you should be able to see the sparkle from the cake dust. It creates a very nice snowy effect.


Having the fondant stick around an edge was tricky. I think it worked reasonably well.

If you are anything like me, then you love to watch baking shows. I like the ones with competitions, the ones about a bakery and the good ol’ fashioned this-is-how-you-make-this-at-home ones. I like it all.

While salivating in front of my TV I did notice that fondant has become very trendy. I come from a family where everyone has a homemade birthday cake, and frosting from a can is unthinkable. I don’t even like thinking about it now.

I had never tried a cake with fondant. I had no idea what it was really like. It was just a big sugary question mark in my mind. I had heard some rumours that fondant isn’t very tasty. Maybe I’m too conventional, but I was apprehensive about putting something that isn’t tasty on my very tasty cake.

Still, some of the work that people do with fondant is really amazing. I always marvel over Cake Boss and Ace of Cakes (not the surrounding drama, just the cake decorating). Fondant enables you to do decorative things that are probably impossible to do with buttercream. Also, a layer of fondant over your cake creates a nice, neat, flat surface, which is harder to do with buttercream (you may have noticed that my frosting skills can use some improvement).

There are definitely valid reasons to use fondant. My question was, “Is it really worth it?” Expertly decorated or not, cakes are meant to be eaten. I have an endless amount of appreciation for extreme cake decorating (when the cake looks like a pirate ship, or the Eiffel Tower etc), but if the taste does not live up to the pretty picture… then I just don’t see the point!  So to bring an end to a lot of ado… I went to Michael’s and bought fondant.

My initial reaction is that kneading it into a workable texture is a lot like playing with Play Dough. No complaints from me there. My next step was to do the obvious: rip off a tiny piece and taste it. Now I have complaints: I found it to be flavorless and it felt like I had swallowed some gum. Footnote: you can flavor fondant, but that isn’t going to fix the gum-like consistency issue. Still, I’d come so far… I took out the rolling pin and covered my counter in confectionary sugar. In my opinion, the time to back out is well before you’ve made a mess of your kitchen.

I made some very pretty snowflakes (I felt like being festive for the holiday season), which I dusted in pearl cake dust (also, from Michaels. I am definitely a big fan of the cake dust). I pressed the snowflakes onto the cake (vanilla buttercream is the most delcious adhesive). The snowflakes that bend around an edge in the cake did not stick quite as well as the ones that were completely flat, but I suppose that is to be expected.

I thought the cake was very pretty (for a first fondant attempt). I would like to be a little more ambitious next time. Still, this was only my first date with fondant, so I’d like it get it know it a bit better before things get wild.

Much to my relief, on the finished product, you could not even taste the fondant. It seems that in small doses, fondant blends into the background, which is a good thing. I’ve never tried a cake that has a lot of fondant on it. I encourage anyone who has to leave a comment sharing your thoughts. I don’t know what to expect from a cake with a lot of fondant, but I am curious.

I also readily acknowledge that I did not make my fondant myself. I don’t know that it would make a significant difference in taste. I find that DIY is usually better than store bought. The reason I did not make the fondant from scratch is that since I had never used it, I really had no idea what kind of consistency I should be looking for. By the time I finish using the package of fondant I bought, I will probably be comfortable enough to try making it myself.

I’ve included the recipe for both the vanilla cake and vanilla buttercream. I love them individually and together. I’ve experimented with different recipes on occasion, but this is what I always come back to. Some things are classic for a reason.

I am planning to make from scratch a very extravagant gingerbread house. Keep on watch for the results. I may even break out the fondant.

Happy Eating 🙂

Vanilla Cake

2 2/3 cup sifted flour

3 ½ tsp baking powder

¾ tsp salt

¾ cup butter

1 2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

3 eggs

1 cup milk

  1. Lightly butter and flour 2 9’’ cake pans and preheat oven to 375F
  2. Cream butter, sugar and vanilla extract.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
  4. In a separate bowl (I just use the measuring cup) combine flour, baking soda and salt.
  5. Alternate between adding flour mixture and milk to the butter mixture.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Allow the cakes to cool before removing from pans. The cakes should be completely cool when you frost them.

Vanilla Buttercream

1 lb Domino Confectioners 10-X Sugar

½ cup soft butter

1/8 tsp salt

2 tsp vanilla extract

3-4 tbsp milk

  1. Cream 1/3 of sugar with butter and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Blend in vanilla extract, 2 tbsp milk and remaining sugar into the mixture.
  3. Gradually still remaining milk into frosting until desired spreading consistency is reached.