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Brown Butter Infused Pumpkin Cake 

Pecan ginger crumble, sugared cranberries, brown butter cream cheese icing—it’s the sweet details that make this cake so epic.

  • Meghan Tansey Whitton

¾ cup unsalted butter
2 cups all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp powdered ginger
¾ tsp fine salt
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 ½ cup pumpkin purée (homemade or canned)

The frosting
½ cup unsalted butter
8 oz cream cheese at room temperature
¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 ¼ cup icing sugar

The crumble
1 ½ tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp candied ginger, diced
½ cup pecans, finely chopped
2 tbsp firmly packed brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt

The cranberries
2 cups simple syrup
1 bag fresh cranberries

adapted from Jeanne Kelley, Fine Cooking magazine


The cranberries have to be started the night before.

Make a simple syrup—equal parts water and sugar in a pot, heated on the stove until the sugar is dissolved. (I used two cups water, two cups sugar for one bag of fresh cranberries.) Remove from heat and toss the cranberries in, stirring to coat, and then let this mixture sit in the fridge, covered, overnight. The next day, strain the liquid off and roll the cranberries in fine sugar. Put them in a single layer on a baking sheet for two hours to dry. They can be kept in a sealed container in the fridge.

Turn your oven on to 350°F and spray two eight-inch cake pans with cooking spray. Line the bottoms with parchment, spray the parchment.

Melt the butter in a heavy bottom sauce pot or skillet. Once melted, swirl the butter in the pan until the milk solids turn a nutty brown (not too dark—don't walk away from this). Let cool but not cool enough to set.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt and cloves. Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk both sugars, pumpkin purée, eggs and buttermilk until well combined.

Pour the pumpkin mixture in with the flour mixture until just combined. Slowly whisk in the brown butter. Divide evenly between the two pans and bake for 30 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn onto a cooling rack, remove the parchment and let cool completely.

To prepare the crumble, put all but the ginger in a sauce pan and cook until the mixture starts to thicken a bit, almost as though making caramel. Remove from the heat, add the chopped ginger and pour onto a silicone baking sheet and let cool. Once cool, break it up with your fingers, or a rolling pin.

For the icing, prepare the butter in the same way you did for the cake, but this time you don't want to use the solid bits that turn brown (think clarified butter for lobster). After removing from heat, let these bits settle to the bottom of the pan. Mix the cream cheese and brown sugar with a mixer until fluffy, slowly pouring in the butter, careful not to disturb the bits at the bottom. When this is combined well, add the icing sugar a little bit at a time.

This is one of the most delicious cakes I have ever made, it's a showpiece. And well worth the extra few steps and many dirty dishes it takes to create! Enjoy! —Laura MacLeod, The Old Apothecary

The Old Apothecary
1549 Barrington Street

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