Pumpkin Muscovado Layered Cake With Maple Pecan Clusters

I had a hankering for a really delicious layered pumpkin cake. I reached for the brown sugar. Nope, we need something more. We need jazz hands. I reached back in and grabbed the muscovado. Yes. Yes, this will do just fine.

I didn’t want to make a cake with a million jazz hands because that can be overwhelming. Too many jazz hands and I just want to take an Advil and call it a day. So I pulled back a bit on the frosting and made it a classic spiced cream cheese. It’s a classic for a reason. Cause it works. And I will fist fight anyone that says that cream cheese and pumpkin weren’t created by the gods specifically to be eaten together. Because they would just be wrong.

And then, as I tried to sleep, I had visions of streusel meets granola meets Milk Bar crumbs and without haste Maple Pecan Clusters were born and holy shit if it’s not the best thing you will ever stuff in your mouth at such a fast pace you might even stop tasting things. And you’ll definitely start talking and writing in run-on sentences if you eat them too.

At one point when I was testing this cake I just started pulling hunks off of one of the test layers and smearing it with frosting and topping it with a cluster. These are not the actions of someone that wants to fit into their clothes come Friday night. These are the actions of someone that is well aware that sweats are a fine work uniform for their particular profession and pajamas are optional (but encouraged). I’m one step away from robes and midday martinis channeling my inner Hawkeye, swapping scalpels for spatulas.

So all of this was happening when imagine my horror mid-way through said layer when it dawned on me that I actually have to leave the house (in clothes) this weekend. I have to shed my slippers and comb my hair…maybe even apply some blush or cover up a blemish. Sheer. Utter. Horror.

Then I realized something extremely important. Come in tight and listen… Age has gifted me something of extreme value…something written about in ancient texts. Something I’m going to share with you today. And while it is cruelly taking away any last remnants of my metabolism (otherwise the above several paragraphs wouldn’t exist), it is slowly robbing my skin of elasticity and my mind of the ability to remember why I walked into any particular room at a given time, it has gifted me with the ability to give negative twenty-five shits about certain things. Things that would have sent me into a tizzy tailspin at an age when my skin was dewy and my frame lithe. So it is with that mantra, of the negative twenty-five shits, that I continued to grab chunks of cake, slather them in buttercream topped with clusters and shovel them into my mouth as I photographed this cake. I may even have wiped my face on the hem of my shirt. I quickly pushed any concerns about things with zippers and buttons and waistbands to the back recesses of my brain and continued to eat without a care in the world.

Where I do give twenty-five shits is this blog and making sure the recipes work and how things look and I labor over the photos. Is this good enough? Do I like it? Can I do better? Blah blah blah. Anyone in ear shot would shoot me. It was Satan’s armpit hot when I was photographing this cake and instead of struggling to find space in my not one BUT TWO fridges and/or freezers to stash this gem to firm up a bit I thought, oh, it’ll be fine. It’s not that hot. But it was. And she slid a bit on her foundation and come morning when I wanted to photograph her she was doing a Southern California Pisa thing. I was pissed. I mean, stark raving mad pissed. The cake is perfect. Bakes like a charm. A real beauty. I don’t have bloody time to make one more freaking layered pumpkin cake in 1000 degree weather before I hop on an airplane and pretend likes it’s Spring Break 2000 because mentally I’m already at 20,000 feet and climbing.

So I asked those of you on Instagram if you’d rather wait for perfect (in my eyes) pictures of a cake with military-like 90-degree sides or you’d be happy with a slight askew one but a kick-ass recipe. You all said askew. And that, my friends, is why we’re friends. So thank you. And here she is. I tried to photograph her so you couldn’t see the leaning and bulging of frosting…it’s not bad, right? Good news, I will be making this again soon. Probably next week. And I’ll do some more photos. And I’ll be in my pajamas and I can guarantee you I will be shoveling this into my mouth without any care or desire to squeeze my body into anything other than sweats in the near future. And I might just have a martini while I’m at it.

My friend would say that was a lot of shit for a nickel.

She might be right.

Before We Get Started 

  • Pumpkin. We’ve talked about this before and I mean it, only get 100% pumpkin (no pie filling) and only buy Libby’s. This isn’t an ad it is strictly the facts. I have tested organic, store brands, you name it, I’ve tested it. Libby’s is the most pumpkin of any canned pumpkin out there. Do it.
  • Muscovado. If I haven’t convinced you to buy some yet, you must. The time has come. It’s so perfect for fall. BUT, if you’re holding your ground brown sugar will do in a pinch.
  • Frosting. Wait until your cake has cooled completely and if it’s warm out consider chilling your cakes first, in a flat layer on a baking sheet. Do as I say, not as I do.
  • Chilling. If you do opt to chill the cakes prior to frosting, I give strong preference to a quick stint in the freezer over the fridge. The latter can dry things out a bit.
  • Pans. If you use a pan larger or smaller than a 6-inch cake pan you will need to adjust your bake time accordingly.
  • Decorating. I have fully confessed before that decorating cakes is not my strength. I work really hard to get us where we are and then I throw flowers and whatever else I can around the cake to hide any flaws. If I wanted to hide that fact from you I would say I’m into rustic cakes. So do your best in smoothing things out and then if you’re feeling it throw some flowers about the cake. Done.
  • Clusters. You will seriously die over these clusters. You can make the cake without them if you’re short on time, but they make this cake next-level fab. You will have leftovers. Store them in an airtight container in the freezer for about one month. Or throw them in a bowl with some milk and call it breakfast.
  • Mixer. I reference my electric stand mixer in each step, but you can always mix by hand. Also, since we are using it every step of the way, take the time to rinse it out between making the cake, clusters and frosting.

Let’s bake some pumpkin magic, shall we?

Pumpkin Muscovado Layered Cake With Maple Pecan Clusters

Makes One 6-Inch 3-Layer Cake

INGREDIENTS

  • 12 tablespoons (6 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup muscovado or brown sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (not pie filling; 100% pumpkin)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves

For the Pecan Clusters

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon real maple syrup
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/3 cup pepitas, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

For the Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoon milk or more to thin

INSTRUCTIONS

For the Cake

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and grease or spray with nonstick three 6-inch cake pans.
  2. Place the 6 ounces butter, granulated sugar and muscovado in an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on medium until creamy and well blended, about 3-4 minutes. Add in the pumpkin and mix for 1 minute more. With the mixer on low, add the eggs one at a time mixing completely before adding in the next. Add the water and vanilla and run the mixer on low for 1 minute more.
  3. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt, allspice, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Pour into the stand mixer and mix on low until barely combined and you still see streaks of flour. Take the bowl out of the mixer and gently fold the batter several more times until you see no more streaks. Distribute the batter evenly amongst the three prepared pans (about 2 1/2 cups-ish of batter per pan). Tap each pan on the counter several times to release any trapped bubbles.
  4. Bake the cakes in the center of the oven for 32-35 minutes. I like to lightly press the center of the cakes to see if they’re done…if they spring back they are done. If they leave a bit of an indent, they need a bit more time in the oven. Let cool for 30 minutes in the pan, then run a knife around the edge of the cake and gently turn out onto a cooling rack. I like to hold one hand on the top of the cake to help it out. If it resists coming out, let it cool a bit more in the pan. Cool completely before frosting.

For the Clusters

  1. Reduce your oven to 300 degrees F and cover a rimmed baking sheet in parchment paper.
  2. Place the 4 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Once the butter has melted, turn the heat up to medium and stir and watch until you start to notice little golden bits settling on the bottom of the pan and you smell a nutty, caramel aroma. Immediately transfer to a heat-safe bowl (taking care to get all those yummy golden bits from the bottom of the pan) and whisk in the water and maple syrup and set aside.
  3. Place the flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, corn starch, cinnamon and sea salt in an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and run on low for 1 minute to mix. Drizzle the brown butter mixture over the top, sprinkle in the pepitas and pecans and run the machine on low for several minutes more until it has the consistency of wet sand. Remove the bowl from the mixer and spread across the parchment-covered baking sheet, squeezing to form small clumps. Place on the center rack of the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Let them cool on the baking sheet; they will crisp up as they cool. Once cool, store leftovers in an airtight container in the freezer for later use.

 

For the Frosting

  1. Place your softened butter and cream cheese in the electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and run on medium until thoroughly combined. Add in the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and run the machine for 2 minutes more or until thick and creamy. Add in the milk to thin a bit. Check the consistency. Add more milk in small, 1 teaspoon bits if it needs to be thinned further.

To Assemble

  1. To frost, set one layer on a cake plate right side up, frost, sprinkle with clusters and place another layer on top. Frost, sprinkle and repeat the remaining layers. Finish by frosting the sides of the cake. Grab some seasonal flowers, rid them of bugs and nature and arrange them along the side of the cake. Boom. You’re a cake boss.
On My Mind
  • In Mandarin I would say méiyŏu…I got nothing for you guys because in less than six hours I’m getting on a plane. Yippee! I hope you love/enjoy/make this cake. It will blow your mind. Really.
  • Sending you all heaps of love + light!

Rebecca xoxo

 

 

21 Comments

  • Makos(@thehungrybites) 2017/10/19 at 8:43 PM

    Pumpkin, muscovado, pecan clusters! This cake has it all!
    Do you think using butternut squash puree will be the same?

    Reply
  • petwone 2017/10/18 at 8:39 AM

    And how many of you are salivating right now? Lol…

    Reply
  • Aixa 2017/10/14 at 4:19 PM

    Wonderful lack of self consciousness. I prefer askew, too, but your askew photos are so beautiful. I have to look for you on Instagram.

    Reply
  • dailyfresheat 2017/10/13 at 2:31 AM

    This looks so good and delicious

    Reply
  • Jessica 2017/10/12 at 4:24 PM

    I’m curious to see how many fist fights over cream cheese you’ve found yourself in haha! This cake looks fantastic, and you’ve convinced me to create something with muscovado soon!

    Reply
  • Traci | Vanilla And Bean 2017/10/09 at 11:12 PM

    Muscovado… I’m convinced! But for the pumpkin… roasting and purree’ing at home then tossing it in the freezer is the route I take. The flavor is over the top! But, okay.. if I find myself in a pinch and neeeeed to buy canned, I’ll give Libby’s a go, just because you said so! Now, this cake. What a fabulously delicious layer cake, Becca. And I just don’t think any other icing would do here either! Pumpkin + cream cheese.. there’s just no other. BTW – your cake is perfect, as is your blog and I know, my dear, your growing wiser as each day passes by! Screw the zippers and buttons! lol! MWAH!

    Reply
  • Sabine @ Also The Crumbs Please 2017/10/04 at 5:35 PM

    I’m in love, Rebecca! I’m sure that mine will never be THAT beautiful like yours.

    Reply
    • Rebecca Firth 2017/10/05 at 2:00 AM

      I 100% believe your’s will be just as beautiful if not more so!!! Enjoy!!! xoxo

      Reply
  • cakespy 2017/10/04 at 11:53 AM

    Oh my goodness. This looks lovely and the flavor is a little bit different than the average pumpkin cake, which I love! Inspiring and lovely.

    Reply
    • Rebecca Firth 2017/10/05 at 1:59 AM

      The flavor is just enough different to be interesting but not so much that you miss the classic. Thank you so much!! xox

      Reply
  • Mary Ann | The Beach House Kitchen 2017/10/02 at 1:35 PM

    Hilarious post!! So fun to read!
    She’s total beauty, as are you Rebecca, PJ’s and ALL! My son Sean LOVES carrot cake, so the next time he’s home to visit this beauty will be making an appearance at our table! Those pecan clusters!! OMG! I’d have a HUGE problem with portion control with this one!

    Reply
    • Rebecca Firth 2017/10/02 at 7:19 PM

      Thank you so much Mary Ann!!! I was so tired when I wrote this and it’s a wee steam of consciousness…but heartfelt!! ;) …PS I just got a text that you sent donuts to my hotel room–you are so sweet and amazing!!!! I can’t wait to get back and have some!!! xoxo

      Reply
    • Alice Shirley 2017/10/12 at 10:05 PM

      SO true! Can I just say Rebecca- YOU ARE THE REASON IM GETTING FAT!!! Everytime Im thinking of dieting come onto your website and I get peckish! Great Blog Post, cant wait for more- Alice xox

      Reply
  • Laura | Tutti Dolci 2017/10/02 at 2:16 AM

    I love her and she’s a total beauty!! And pumpkin + cream cheese frosting forever and always!

    Reply
    • Rebecca Firth 2017/10/02 at 7:19 PM

      Thank you so much Laura!!! I swear we have the same palate!!! xox

      Reply
  • Karen @ Seasonal Cravings 2017/10/01 at 10:43 PM

    She is gorgeous girl and we love you no matter what! Simply…gorgeous!

    Reply
    • Rebecca Firth 2017/10/02 at 7:20 PM

      Awww, thank you Karen!!!! Much love to you!!! xox

      Reply
  • Hilary 2017/10/01 at 2:53 PM

    I love everything about this!!! A lotta shit for a nickel!!

    Reply
    • Rebecca Firth 2017/10/01 at 3:26 PM

      A lotta shit for a nickel. Sigh. ;) You’ll love this cake!!! xoxo

      Reply
  • Kenny 2017/09/30 at 4:53 AM

    Wow! These look great can’t wait to make this!

    Reply
    • Rebecca Firth 2017/09/30 at 4:54 AM

      Thank you so much Kenny!!!! I hope you do!! xx

      Reply

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