This Pumpkin Spice Latte Cake is your favorite Fall beverage in cake form! Pumpkin spice flavoured cake with an espresso 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 favourite 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.
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. Oh, and 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 so 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 flavour 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!
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.
- Ensure there is NO trace of egg yolks in your whites and that your mixer bowl and whisk is completely grease free or your meringue won’t stiffen.
- Be sure to check my Swiss Meringue Buttercream post for tips and troubleshooting.
- The buttercream may look like it’s curdled at some point. Keep mixing until it is completely smooth.
- To help ensure your cake layers bake up nice and flat, see my tips here.
Pumpkin Spice Latte Cake
- 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.
** The buttercream may look like it's curdled at some point. Keep mixing until it is completely smooth. If it looks soupy, place it in the fridge for 20mins and rewhip.