Pumpkin Spice Layer Cake with Toasted Walnut Buttercream

Pumpkin Spice Layer CakeAh! The circle of life.

Last week we experienced a loss in our household. The good news is that it wasn't a person or a pet. It wasn't even a plant.

It was a treadmill. My treadmill. My BELOVED treadmill.

Allow me a moment to compose myself before continuing. I really loved that treadmill. In the meantime, look at this picture of a cake:


So you're probably thinking, "What's the big deal? Lighten up, J. It's a freakin' treadmill."

You don't understand. I purchased this particular treadmill, Old Faithful, back in 1997. It has traveled cross-country with me twice and resided in four states. It has lived with me longer than my husband or my oldest dog.

My conservative estimate is that I used it 300 days out of the year, averaging about 5 miles per use. So let's do a little math, shall we?

5 miles X 300 days X 15 years = 22,500 miles

So I traveled from Los Angeles to New York City almost ten times on that machine -- almost one time around the earth......and all while watching DVR episodes of House Hunters, Fashion Police, and Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team (it's an entertaining show -- don't judge).

Pumpkin cake5

This was such a humid summer in Las Vegas -- and we don't do humidity here -- so Eric had a tough time completing some of his longer marathon training runs outdoors. Because he looked like death every time that he would return from his "fun" hobby of running, I took pity on the poor guy. As a result, I did something that I never do:

I offered him the use of my treadmill.

The first 20 miler went fine, although it pained me to hear the repeated thud thud thud as Eric ran for 2-½ hours straight. Halfway through the second 20-miler, the thudding stopped.

Eric emerged from the workout room, still out of breath. "Hey -- I think your treadmill just died." My expression in response must have been meaningful, because he immediately said, "I'll go get another one."

Our new addition arrived two days later, complete with all sorts of bells and whistles that weren't available waaaaaay back in the 20th century. When the delivery guys saw my old treadmill, you would have thought they were looking at an ancient Egyptian relic.

"Whoa. I haven't seen one of these things in YEARS. They don't even make that brand anymore. That must be really old."

 Uh, thanks guys. Your tip just went down.


And what better way is there to welcome a new addition to the house than with a cake? OK, I know that's a stretch.  I just felt like making a cake. Perhaps this is because I haven't made one in a while.....or perhaps this is because I now have a new and improved way of working off the calories.

It may not yet feel like fall outdoors, but that doesn't mean that it can't smell and taste like fall indoors, right?  This moist and flavorful pumpkin spice cake is topped with a luxurious and nutty buttercream.Here are my extra tips for making this autumn inspired dessert:

  • I originally wanted to make a toasted pecan buttercream, but alas, I was fresh outta pecans. So I moved on to walnuts (they're less expensive anyhow), and made the walnut buttercream.  The buttercream would work just as beautifully using a pecan paste, hazelnut paste or even a macadamia nut paste.  Simply substitute your preferred nut of choice for the walnuts and proceed as directed.
  • Once baked and cooled, the cake layers can be tightly wrapped in plastic and frozen for up to two weeks. Thaw them at room temperature before proceeding.
  • If you don't want to commit to such a massive cake (and it is pretty massive), you can turn this recipe into cupcakes.  Fill cups about ⅔ full and bake at 350F 18-22 minutes.
  • For a cleaner finish when icing the cake, do a "crumb coat" first.  Once the layers have been stacked, spread a thin layer of buttercream onto the sides and top of the cake (see below).  Chill the cake for 30 minutes.  This will seal in any loose crumbs so that they don't appear on the finished surface.  Use the rest of the buttercream for a second coat of frosting.


Pumpkin Spice Layer Cake with Toasted Walnut Buttercream

Printable Recipe

Serves 12-16


Cake Layers

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground allspice

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup canola or safflower oil

4 large eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

15 ounce can pumpkin puree

¾ cup unsweetened apple sauce

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup shredded sweetened coconut (optional)

1 cup golden raisins (optional)

Walnut Paste

6 ounces chopped walnuts

½ cup confectioners' sugar


6 large egg yolks

¾ cup sugar

½ cup light corn syrup

4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

⅛ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350F°. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with non-stick baking spray and set aside. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and nutmeg. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat oil and eggs on medium speed until light, 3 minutes. Add both sugars; beat 2 minutes more. Beat in pumpkin, applesauce and vanilla.  On low speed, add flour mixture, beating until just combined. Stir in coconut and raisins, if using.

Evenly distribute cake batter into the prepared pans and transfer to the oven. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. Let pans cool on a wire rack 15 minutes. Invert cakes onto rack; cool completely.

Make Toasted Walnut Paste: Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Place the walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast them for 10 minutes, until fragrant.  Cool 10 minutes. Place walnuts and confectioners' sugar in work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process until walnuts are very finely ground. Continue to process until the nut mixture until smooth and a "paste" texture forms.

Make the buttercream while the cake is baking:  Beat the egg yolks in the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high until very thick, about 5 minutes.  Combine the sugar with the syrup in a small saucepan, and set over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until the mixture comes to a full boil.  Immediately scrape the mixture into a heatproof 1-cup glass measure.  With the mixture on high speed, pour a few tablespoons of the sugar mixture into the yolks and beat for a few seconds.  Repeat until all of the syrup has been added.  Beat until the bowl has cooled to room temperature.  On medium speed, beat in the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition.  The frosting will begin to come together after all of the butter has been incorporated (it will look curdled first, but be patient and it will come together beautifully!).  Scrape the bowl and beat in the vanilla and salt.  Add the Pecan Paste and beat until well combined and smooth.

Cut each cake layer in half horizontally, creating four layers (trim any mounds off top of layers so that they are flat). Set one later, cut side up, on a cake round or cake plate and spread a layer of buttercream on the surface.  Stack next layer on top and spread with a layer of buttercream. Repeat frosting-and-stacking process until each layer is frosted. Spread remaining frosting on sides and top of cake. Chill for 1 hour for easier slicing or serve immediately if you can’t wait!

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  1. Thank you , Lisa!  Im so envious of you east coasters this time of year.  It was still 100 today. Ugh.  What I wouldnt give to go to a New Jersey apple orchard tomorrow 🙂

  2. Thanks, Leanna!  I knew that someone else out there must watch it.  I dont know how I got so hooked on it -- I can barely do a cartwheel and I am a New England Patriots fan!  Have a great weekend 🙂

  3. Ahh, the perfect cake for fall. Glad you got a new treadmill.I'm sure it can get pretty hot running where you live.

  4. YUMMY!!

    I too love watching DCC - Making the Team. I have to watch it when my boys are not around (hubby doesn't like all that skin showing).

  5. Thank you, Angie!  I cant wait for fall weather to officially arrive -- still close to 100 degrees here.  Hope you are having a great week 🙂

  6. What a wonderful looking cake. I'm so sorry about your treadmill but thrilled for you and your new one. I think this is a great way to celebrate your new family member. Of course what do I know? The last diet I went on I celebrated with a pan of Rice Crispy Treats.

  7. I'm so sorry about your treadmill!! That stinks!!! Well your cake looks amazing!!! Simply amazing!!

  8. This cake looks great Julie and it totally screams FALL! I'm sorry to hear about your treadmill though. 🙁

  9. This cake looks great Julie and it totally screams FALL! I'm sorry to hear about your treadmill though. 🙁

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