How To Bake and Decorate a Pumpkin-Shaped Cake
Nothing quite symbolizes autumn like a big, bright pumpkin. At this time of year, you'd be hard-pressed to enter any store that doesn't have pumpkin decor — and we use them ourselves to decorate everything from front porches to dinner party tablescapes. So why not make a pumpkin cake that looks like a pumpkin! Read on to get step-by-step instructions for baking and decorating a pumpkin cake, with recipes for the cake and the frosting.
Items you'll need:
- Bundt cake pan with fluted sides that resemble a pumpkin's iconic shape
- Ground flaxseed meal
- Baking spray made with flour
- 2 baked pumpkin Bundt cakes (I used this recipe and doubled it to make 2 cakes for the full-size pumpkin version. There's a scaled-down version of this recipe below if you want a smaller cake that's just the top of the pumpkin.)
- Cooling rack
- Cream cheese frosting ingredients (see below)
- 2 small spreaders (for frosting the cake) (you might like this set: $16 at Target.com)
- A sugar cone ice cream cone (the ones with the flat bottoms, as opposed to a pointy bottom, work best!)
- A cake stand or large plate
- Optional piping bag with small round tip for extra decorations (you might like this set: $20 at BedBathandBeyond.com)
- Optional sprinkles or edible glitter
Important Note: This full-size version of this pumpkin cake is made by stacking 2 Bundt cakes. You'll prep your Bundt cake as per the instructions below, bake your first cake, flip it onto a cooling rack, clean and thoroughly dry your Bundt pan, prep it again, then bake your second cake.
Baking the Cake
Use this recipe for Pumpkin Cake. It's got the perfect fluffy texture with just the right amount of sugar and spice. The frosting is a simple cream cheese frosting, which you'll make as your cake is cooling. (More on that later.) You'll follow recipe directions for mixing and baking the batter, but be sure to take a look at the tips below:
Choosing Your Cake Pan
One of the best things about making a pumpkin-themed Bundt cake is that there's no cake shaping or carving required. Just use a Bundt cake pan that looks like a pumpkin (like this one: $25 at Target.com, or this one: $38 at Williams-Sonoma.com). There are many different designs for Bundt pans, so it's important to make sure you use the right style to achieve those perfect pumpkin ridges.
How to Keep Your Cake From Sticking in the Pan
Nothing is more frustrating than preparing a cake batter, baking it for an hour, then right as you go to flip it out onto your cooling rack, it won't budge. Bundt pans can be especially bad when it comes to the cake sticking to the pan, but I've got you covered. To ensure a quick release with any Bundt cake you'll need two things: baking spray made with flour and ground flaxseed meal.
- Wait to prepare your Bundt pan until right before the cake goes into the oven. Preheat the oven, prepare your cake batter, then prepare your pan.
- Spray the pan liberally with baking spray. Use way more than you think you need, taking special care to get every nook and cranny.
- Dust the sprayed pan with flax meal. You'll use a lot of the meal, as you can see in the image above. Add it in small increments and tilt your pan to the side and gently shake the meal until your pan is completely covered with the meal. Try to avoid missing spots or your pumpkin might come out looking like a warty variety!
- Immediately pour your batter into the pan and place into your preheated oven.
Cooling and Flipping Your Cake
Once you've baked your cake, it's important to allow no less than 5 minutes to cool in the Bundt pan. (But don't let it cool for much longer than 5 minutes. If it cools for longer it might stick in the pan.)
Then you'll place a cooling rack on top of the Bundt pan and flip it over. If you've used enough spray and flax meal it should release immediately. If not, here are some tips on releasing a stuck Bundt cake.
Trimming Your Cakes
To get a perfectly flush pumpkin shape when you join up the top and bottom layers, you'll need to trim the bottoms (the flat sides) of each cake. Start with your cake flat side up, as seen above, then, using a serrated knife you'll very gently trim the first cake until you've got a nice, flat surface. Discard the top or save it to be used for making cake pops!
Stacking Your Cakes
Now that you have both cakes baked, cooled, and trimmed, it's time to stack them. You'll place your bottom layer flat side up and then place your top layer flat side down. The flat sides will face one another creating a round pumpkin shape. Take care to line up the fluted patterns on the cake so the top matches the bottom.
Tip: You can add frosting between the layers, but you'll need to keep it just in the middle of the cake. It won't be pretty to have visible icing seeping out of the sides. Nobody likes a leaky pumpkin!
Decorating Your Pumpkin Cake
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 8-ounce block cream cheese, softened
- ¼ cup butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 3 cups confectioners sugar
- One box of gel food coloring containing green, red, and yellow (or orange if you can find it) You'll add in the coloring to your liking
- In a stand mixer blend your butter and cream cheese. Next, add your milk and vanilla and whip until combined. Then slowly add your confectioners sugar until well combined.
- Divide your frosting into 2 small bowls. You'll want about a third of it to be dyed green and the rest to be dyed orange. If your food coloring box only has primary colors, you'll want to mix them to get the green (yellow +blue) and orange (yellow + red) colors you need. Have fun with it!
Tip: be patient with your food coloring. This step might take a little time to get right. Add colorings in a little at a time. (If you have too little you can always keep adding food coloring, but if you add too much you can't take it away).
Now that your cakes are stacked and your icing is prepped you're ready to start frosting.
- First, you'll want to cover your ice cream cone with green frosting. Next, you'll gently place it in the center hole of the cake to form a pumpkin stem.
- Then with a small spatula you'll add dollops of the orange frosting all around the top of the cake. You'll gently encourage some of the icing to drip down the sides, creating a cascade effect. Be patient with the frosting. If you give it a few seconds you'll notice it drips down the sides with very little effort from your spatula.
- Bonus vines: Take the remainder of your green frosting and add it to a piping bag with a small round tip. Carefully pipe some pumpkin vines from the center outward all around the cake.
If you want to make a Halloween pumpkin cake you could add some candy corn or Reese's pieces to the hole in the center of the cake before adding your frosted ice cream cone. When you slice the cake, the pieces will spill out like from a pumpkin piñata. You could also use some black frosting to decorate it with a jack-o'-lantern face.
Related: Get more Halloween cake decorating ideas.
You could do a Thanksgiving theme by making your frosting colors a little less vibrant (think more muted hues) and piping some leaf decorations onto the cake. There are lots of fun possibilities!
For a quicker version that's perfect for a smaller crowd, your pumpkin cake can be made with just one cake layer inverted onto a plate or cake stand.
Storing Your Pumpkin Cake
Because this cake contains cream cheese frosting, it does need to be refrigerated. To help keep it fresh, try covering it with a Bundt cake cover (like this one: $22 at Target.com) before refrigerating.
Related: Get more recipes for Pumpkin Cakes.