This Pumpkin Spice Latte Cake is your favorite Fall beverage in cake form! Pumpkin spice cake with a coffee buttercream.
Carrying on with last week’s theme of pumpkin recipes, this week I bring you a Pumpkin Spice Latte Cake! It’s been a while since I’ve had a post for you that was riddled with failures, so this one surely won’t disappoint. Much to the dismay of the lazy baker in me, what you’re seeing here is actually version #2 of this cake…
I had been thinking about doing another pumpkin spice latte recipe for a while now, since it’s one of my favorite Fall beverages. I made a Pumpkin Spice Latte Bundt Cake last year, and I wanted to translate that into a layer cake for this year.
Let’s talk about these adorable little pumpkins, because they’re clearly the stars of the show here.
I wasn’t totally sure how I wanted to decorate this Pumpkin Spice Latte Cake initially — specifically, I didn’t know what to do with the frosting — but what I did know was that I wanted pumpkins on it in some way. I can be lazy, so I was really hoping to find some candy pumpkins that I could use as decorations.
Sadly, the closest I found were these ones from Wilton, which would have been good except they’re flat on one side, and I wanted them to be perfectly round. Sticking two together wouldn’t be “clean” enough for the look I was going for, so I gave them a pass.
How to make Fondant Pumpkins
I was going to have to resort to making my own. The old me would have been totally gung-ho for this, but the new me wasn’t particularly keen on it. Cake decorating used to be my main focus and I loved doing it, but it has been a loooong time since I’d worked with fondant or gumpaste in this capacity.
I was hoping to find pre-colored orange and green fondant to make my life easier, but no luck, so I ended up buying some white fondant that I would have to color (SIGH).
In hindsight, this actually worked out for the better, because I feel like there is more variety in the colors, and they’re not as bright as they likely would have been if I had used pre-colored fondant.
Fondant vs Gumpaste
I actually should have used gumpaste instead of fondant as it dries harder, which would have been better for the vines.
Can we talk about how much better the Wilton fondant is these days?? I hadn’t used it in years and have vivid memories of it being dry, hard to work with, and not very tasty.
I’m happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised. It’s virtually the same as the marshmallow fondant I made a few months ago. In texture anyhow, I didn’t actually taste it.
Anyhow, fondant in hand, I dug through my color gels and picked a few that I thought would work well. I ended up using combinations of the following:
- Pumpkins – Wilton Orange, Wilton Buttercup Yellow, Americolor Terracotta
- Vines – Wilton Kelly Green, Wilton Moss Green
- Stalks – Americolor Chocolate Brown
The pumpkins didn’t take all that long to make, and I totally enjoyed doing it. After the fondant was colored, I tore off small sections and rolled them into balls, then used a gumpaste tool (the teal one pictured here) to make the creases in the pumpkins.
I rolled a tiny amount of brown fondant between my fingers until it resembled a stalk, and did the same with the leaves except I flattened them out (I attached them with a bit of water using a small, damp paintbrush).
For the vines, I rolled a very thin strip and then coiled it around a chopstick. Here’s where the gumpaste would have been better — it would have dried quicker and been easier to work with, albeit more fragile. The fondant worked just fine overall, though. Note: if the fondant gets too sticky, just rub some shortening onto your hands and/or the fondant.
I am obsessed with how these pumpkins turned out!
Ok, so you’re probably wondering where the fail part of this Pumpkin Spice Latte Cake comes in…
Well, I didn’t take enough time to think about what I wanted to do with the frosting. I wanted the pumpkins to stand out, so I opted to go for completely smooth sides and top. Except that it wasn’t completely smooth and looked boring as *&^%.
I didn’t realize this until after I spent well over an hour taking pictures and cutting into the cake. UGH. I hated this damn cake. So much. And just so you can see what I’m talking about, here’s a pic.
After some much needed ranting and cursing to my friend Chrisy, I decided to redo the entire thing. Thankfully, I was able to salvage the pumpkins. I pulled them off the cake and stored them in an airtight container until I was ready to tackle it again.
I know it’s not that bad, but it’s just not what I had in mind for this Pumpkin Spice Latte Cake at all.
Version #2 went much better. I tried a naked cake style first, but thought it still looked too plain, so decided to go with swirls on the sides.
I wish I had kept the top flatter, but oh well! It is what it is, and it is better than the first. I added more espresso into the second version as well, which added more flavor and color.
OH except I just remembered that for some reason my frosting was totally grainy in the new cake. Like, completely grainy. I don’t know wtf happened there — I’d made Swiss meringue buttercream dozens of times and it’s always perfect, but I guess I didn’t dissolve the sugar for long enough? When I tested it, it was hot and didn’t feel grainy. SIGH.
Oh, and I also over-baked the cake this time (lol). Whatever. This Pumpkin Spice Latte Cake still tasted delicious, albeit a bit crunchy from the frosting. All in all, though, I’m really glad I redid it!
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I convert this recipe?
- This recipe is for two 6″ cake pans. For three 6″ cake pans or two 8″ pans, 1.5x the recipe (change the Servings to 18). Baking time may need to be adjusted.
- To make cupcakes, all you need to do is reduce the baking time — start checking at 15mins or so. The recipe will make 12-18 cupcakes depending on size.
- For other conversions go here.
Can I make it in advance?
- The cooled cake layers can be baked ahead of time, double wrapped in plastic wrap, and frozen for up to 3 months. Take out 2-3 hours before assembly.
- The frosting can be placed in an airtight container and refrigerated for 1 week for frozen for 3 months. Bring to room temp and rewhip before using.
- The fondant pumpkins can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container.
- The finished cake (whole or sliced, stored airtight) can be frozen for up to 3 months.
Can I get the measurements by weight/grams?
- There is a Metric option in the recipe card. If you click it it will convert everything to grams.
- This conversion is done automatically and I cannot guarantee the accuracy but many readers have had success using the metric option on my recipes.
Looking for More Fall Cake Recipes?
- Pumpkin Cake with Candied Pecans
- Maple Cake with Maple Streusel
- Sweet Potato Cake with Marshmallow Frosting
- Maple Streusel Pumpkin Cake
- Pear & Walnut Cake with Honey Buttercream
Tips for this Pumpkin Spice Latte Cake
- Be sure to use instant espresso powder (not granules) in the buttercream. Otherwise, dissolve the granules in 1 Tbsp hot water and let cool before adding to the frosting. Make sure it’s instant.
- I used the following color gels for the fondant pumpkins:
- Pumpkins – Wilton Orange, Wilton Buttercup Yellow, Americolor Terracotta
- Vines – Wilton Kelly Green, Wilton Moss Green
- Stalks – Americolor Chocolate Brown
- I prepare my cake pans using Homemade Cake Release then line with parchment.
- Be sure to check my Swiss Meringue Buttercream post for tips and troubleshooting.
- Learn how to keep your cakes moist using Simple Syrup.
- To help ensure your cake layers bake up nice and flat, check out my How to Bake Flat Cake Layers post!
Pumpkin Spice Latte Cake
- 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter melted, cooled
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup light-brown sugar packed
- 1 cup pumpkin puree not pumpkin pie filling
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 3 large egg whites
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter cubed, room temperature
- 1 1/2 Tbsp instant espresso powder dissolved in 1-2 tsp hot water, cooled
- Preheat oven to 350F and grease & flour two 6″ cake pans.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, and salt.
- In a large bowl, whisk together sugars, melted butter, oil, pumpkin, and eggs.
- Add dry to wet and mix until just combined.
- Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean (approx. 35-40 mins).
- Cool in pans on wire rack for 10mins, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.
- Place egg whites and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk until combined.*
- Place bowl over a hot water bath on the stove and whisk constantly until the mixture is no longer grainy to the touch (approx. 3mins).
- Place bowl on your stand mixer and whisk on med-high until the meringue is stiff and cooled (the bowl is no longer warm to the touch (approx. 5-10mins)).
- Switch to paddle attachment. Slowly add cubed butter and mix until smooth.
- Add espresso. Whip until smooth.**
- Cut each layer of cake in half horizontally.
- Place one layer of cake onto a serving plate or cake stand. Top with 1/2 to 2/3 cup buttercream. Repeat with remaining layers.
- Crumb coat the entire cake (thin coat of frosting all over the cake). Chill for 30mins.
- Use the remaining frosting to cover the outside of the cake. Decorate the top and sides with a swirl if desired (I used a large offset spatula to do this). Decorate with fondant pumpkins.
Definitely worth the do-over!!
Cake with the swirled buttercream is gorgeous!! Just the right amount of texture to provide a lovely setting for the pumpkins, which are so cute. Can’t believe what a difference vs. the smooth cake. Happy to see someone else has the same experiences as I do. The struggle is real! LOL
Thanks so much Renee! Never a dull moment in a bakers kitchen for sure 🙂
Can I use a confectionery rim for baking instead of baking trays?
How should I adjust the baking in this case?
The confectionery rim is 20 cm in diameter.
Hi Ewa! Do you mean a cake ring? One without a bottom? You can as long as you line it properly so the batter doesnt leak out.
20cm is about 8″. The full recipe will likely be too much for one pan. Converting pan sizes is always tricky. Here are some sites I use as a guideline:
I wish I could add my picture for your advice. I added rice paper maple leaves but need to work on my frosting technique. Second cake I really baked and decorated. I so enjoy baking bread and pies. This was fun and I did use fondant. I hate eating cake but this dessert makes everyone so happy.
Hi Patti! So happy to hear that! I would love to see a picture. You can send it to me at email@example.com.
WOW! What an amazing and easy to make cake! It’s not even together yet but cake and icing both turned out perfect! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe 😊
Hi Melissa! So glad you love it 🙂
Renee S says
Could this recipe be made in a 9×13 pan? What adjustments would be needed?
Hi Renee! Yes, that should work fine. You’ll need to adjust the baking time probably. I recommend checking on the cake as it’s baking. Here are my tips:
1. Peek through the oven window. To see if the cakes are a nice golden brown (doesn’t really work for chocolate cakes).
2. Nudge the oven. Gently nudge your oven (assuming it’s free-standing and not built-in). If there is any jiggle in the center of the cakes, leave the oven door closed and bake for a few minutes longer.
3. Nudge the pans. Open the oven and gently nudge the pans. If there is any jiggle in the center of the cakes, close the oven door and bake for a few minutes longer.
4. Poke the cake. Gently poke the top of the cake with your finger. If the cake is firm and springs back, it’s ready for the next step.
5. Toothpick test. Insert a toothpick into the middle of the cake. When there are a few crumbs on the toothpick, the cake is ready. You want crumbs on there because the cake keeps cooking when you take it out of the oven.
Made this for my nephew’s baptism during our lovely California fall weather. Probably was not quite the best choice for kiddos (they weren’t big fans of the coffee flavor), but it was a HIT with the adults. Everyone commented that the coffee flavor to pumpkin spice ration was perfect and the buttercream recipe, especially was great tasting and also a lot better to work with! I’ve done Swiss Buttercreams before and they always ended up kinda sweaty…the way it was described here ended up in a much more stable buttercream. Either I got better or this recipe got better. I’m inclined to think it’s the recipe 🙂
My very few gripes: this is a *very* dense cake. That may just be the reality of these ingredients, but it would have been nice if it were fluffier and light? I don’t know what to alter to do that. This isn’t really a gripe, but the coffee flavor was very strong for me. Almost everyone loved that aspect, so maybe it’s just me. If you prefer a more subtle flavor, I think it’s probably safe to play with that and altering to your preferences. This also isn’t a gripe, but my buttercream turned quite brown when I added in the espresso (dissolved in the water specified). I still really liked the look of the cake (made it look very Fall and rustic!) but just curious as to how to get it to stay white?
I’d love to make this again and maybe play with the ratios! Definitely was an ‘adult’ crowd pleaser.
Hi Franny! So happy you liked this one and had a successful SMBC! The cake is definitely more on the dense side due to the canned pumpkin. Not something that can be avoided unfortunately. However, it shouldn’t be unpleasantly dense. Overly dense cakes can be from overmixing the cake batter once the flour is added (it develops too much gluten) or not using room temperature ingredients so the cake batter doesn’t emulsify properly. You could give it a try using cake flour instead, but I’m not sure if it would help a ton.
Re: the brown buttercream – I actually don’t dissolve mine in water because it is a very fine powder and it just blends in. People were having issues with granules showing in their buttercream so I recommended dissolving it so that doesn’t happen but that would make the buttercream darker for sure. If yours is a fine, light colored powder like the one I link to then you can try just whipping it in! Let me know how your next version goes 🙂
Kelly Ludwig says
I am going to make this for my daughter ‘s birthday, but will make the pumpkins out of colored almond paste.
Hi Kelly! I hope you all love it 🙂
Rebecca Stryker says
In the tips it says to dissolve espresso in 1 TBSP of hot water, then in the ingredients it says to dissolve in 1-2 tsp, which is it? And when you add the dissolved espresso fluid to the meringue? Like add 1 1/2 TBSP of the fluid, correct?
Hi Rebecca! Sorry for the confusion. Either will work. You just want it thin enough so that it dissolves and is not a paste.
Eva McCarty says
Can you put the espresso into the cake also?
Eva McCarty says
Hi there I have another question. I’m making this cake in a 10×3 and a 10×2 pans one layer each for a wedding wedding cake. My question is how much batter would I need to make.
Converting pan sizes is always tricky. Here are some sites I use as a guideline:
Hi Eva! For sure. I’ve done that here: https://livforcake.com/pumpkin-spice-latte-bundt-cake/ Be sure to use instant espresso powder.
Can I sub all purpose flour for cake flour? If so do I need to adjust the amount of flour or keep the same amount? And will a cream cheese buttercream work. Thank you 😊
Hi Lisa! I have not made it with cake flour myself but it should work ok, Use the same amount of flour. CC frosting will work too but will be softer overall.
Hello! I’m going to be making a two layer naked cake, the the bottom being 2 8 inch cakes and the top being this cake. My question is, would there be enough icing in this recipe to ice both the 8 inch and 6 inch thinly in naked cake style. I will also be filling the cake layers so that won’t be all icing. Thank you!
Hi Tanja! If you’re only using it for the outside of the cakes it should be enough.
Kim C says
I made this cake today! It was fantastically moist and tasty. My family loved the flavor combination of pumpkin spice and Coffee
Hi Kim! So happy you all loved it 🙂
Sonya Thompson says
Hey there. I am planning to use this recipe for cupcakes and noticed there is no milk. Is that because of the pumpkin? Just curious.
Hi Sonya! Yes, the pumpkin adds the moisture to the cake.
My frosting was so pretty and smooth until I added the butter! Did I overmix? Thank you!!
Hi Stephanie! It sounds like maybe the butter was too cold when it was added. See this post for tips and troubleshooting: https://livforcake.com/swiss-meringue-buttercream-recipe/
Stephanie Mumbower says
I made this in 2, 8” pans and it didn’t rise at all… They look like pancakes… I know I should have doubled the batter but is it normal for them to be so dense and not rise?
Hi Stephanie! The recipe calls for two 6″ pans. They would be quite flat in 8″ ones! The cakes are definitely more on the dense side (vs light & fluffy) and don’t rise a ton but they should rise. If there was no rise at all I would double check that your baking powder is still active.
Hi there! If I wanted to infuse the cake with a flavored simple syrup (for an extra moist sponge), would you recommend a pumpkin pie spice or an espresso infused syrup? Or just a regular simple syrup? Thanks!!
I was thinking a pumpkin spice simple syrup for mine BUT I changed my mine because im swapping out the buttercream for an American buttercream so I can make the pumpkins out of it and they’ll hold up better. Im also doing a layer of spice apple pie filling and a salted caramel drip.
Basically, it’s going to be fall asf.
LOVE that flavour combo Jacki! Sounds crazy delicious.
Hi Lyssa! It really just depends on if you’d like to add more flavour anywhere. If it were me I’d do an espresso one 🙂
Both of your ideas sound great! I’ll try an espresso simple syrup and let you know how it turns out 🙂
Mollie Simpson says
This cake was so moist and delicious! It was a huge hit! Thank you so much for the recipe! I needed a larger cake so I doubled the recipe and divided the batter into (6) 8-inch pans. I baked them for about 35 minutes. I ended up only using 5 of the layers for the cake and did not need to cut them in half. It definitely made a statement! Thanks again .
Hi Mollie! I’m so happy you loved this one. Thanks so much for your tips!
Liv, thank you so much for your website and recipes. I made this cake for a ladies’ luncheon and it turned out wonderful! This was the first time I ever did anything with fondant and the swirl icing worked great. The only thing I added was sprinkling a little cinnamon on the top.
Your blog and recipes have given me the courage to try to bake things I would have never even imagined.
Thank you so much.
Hi Tresa! Thank you so much for the sweet comment! I’m so happy you’re venturing into baking cakes and that my blog is helping you with that 🙂 Happy you loved this one! Can’t wait to hear what you try next 😀
Raj Vullakula says
Your cake looks super tall. How many 8 inch cakes did you bake? Thanks
Hi Raj! The recipe is for 6″ cake pans. I talk about the specifics in my post.