Try pumpkin cake instead of pumpkin pie |

Try pumpkin cake instead of pumpkin pie

Vera Dawson
Life is Sweet
Vail CO Colorado
Special to the DailyThis pumpkin spice cake is a breeze to make. You won't even get out your mixer until you're creating the frosting.

Editor’s note: Living in the Colorado high country is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.

Any carrot cake fans out there? If so, listen up, because this pumpkin spice cake is a close relative of that classic American dessert you like so much. Redolent with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, sweetened by pineapple, coconut and sugar, boasting a dense, moist texture, mild pumpkin flavor, and cream cheese frosting, this cake is a winner. My testers gave it two thumbs up.

Don’t let the long list of ingredients intimidate you; the cake is a breeze to make. You won’t even get out your mixer until you’re creating the frosting. All you do is dump the various components in bowls, stir to combine, and bake. Nothin’ to it. Once made, the cake can be stored a day or frozen for three weeks before frosting. Once frosted, it can wait in the refrigerator up to a day before serving and refrigerated leftovers are good for several days after that.

Be aware: The pineapple, raisins and coconut create a texture that makes this cake cut into less-than-perfect slices. After cutting, I lay each piece on its side on a dessert plate; they are too tall and heavy to stand erect.

Pumpkin Spice Cake

Adjusted for altitudes between 8,000 and 10,000 feet

Make in two 9 inch round cake pans

with sides that are at least 1 1/2 inches high


o 2 1/4 cups of flour (spoon and level)

o 1 3/4 cups of granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s

o 1 teaspoon of baking soda

o 2 1/4 teaspoons of cinnamon

o 1 teaspoon of kosher salt

o 1/2 plus 1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg

o 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves

o 3 large eggs

o 3/4 cup of canola oil

o 2 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

o 1 1/4 cups of canned pumpkin puree

o 1 cup of sweetened flaked coconut (lightly packed)

o 1/2 cup of crushed pineapple, drained

o 1/3 cup of currants, or raisins


o 12 ounces of cream cheese (don’t use no-fat), at room temperature

o 12 tablespoons of unsalted butter (one and a half sticks) at room temperature

o 4 tablespoons of canned pumpkin puree

o 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

o 3/4 -1 1/4 cups of confectioner’s sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Generously grease and flour (use a spray containing both) the cake pans, line the bottoms with a parchment or waxed paper circle and grease the circles. Set the pans aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, granulated sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and cloves and whisk vigorously to combine. In a second bowl, lightly beat the three eggs, and then mix in the canola oil and vanilla extract until combined. In a third bowl, combine the pumpkin puree, the coconut, drained crushed pineapple and the currants/raisins and mix well.

Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until they are just combined. Next, stir in the pumpkin mixture until just combined. Pour and scrape half of the batter into each prepared pan, leveling it as you go. Place the pans on the center rack of the oven, several inches apart and several inches from the oven’s sides. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the cake centers comes out clean. This takes about 35 to 40 minutes in my oven. Remove the cakes to cooling racks. After about 20 minutes, run a knife around the pan sides to loosen the cakes, carefully invert them on the racks and remove the paper circles. Cool the cakes completely before frosting or storing (refrigerate, wrapped airtight, for a day. Freeze, double wrapped airtight, for three weeks. Defrost in the refrigerator for 10-14 hours.)

Make the frosting: Cut the room-temperature cream cheese into twelve pieces, place in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Cut the room temperature butter into twelve pieces, add them, and beat until combined and smooth. Add the pumpkin puree and vanilla and beat briefly to mix. Add the smaller amount of confectioner’s sugar and beat. Check the consistency. If it’s too thin, add more sugar, a tablespoon or two at a time, until the frosting is fluffy and thick enough to spread and hold its shape.

Place one cake layer on a flat platter or a lightly greased cardboard cake circle. Evenly spread slightly less than half of the frosting on it, all the way to the edges. Gently place the second cake layer on top, pressing down slightly. Spread the rest of the frosting on top, making decorative peaks and swirls. Place the cake in a cake carrier or cover it with a large bowl and refrigerate it to set the frosting. The cake can be made up to a day ahead. Remove from the refrigerator about 20 minutes before serving.

This cake is inspired by a recipe by Dia.

Vera Dawson, a chef instructor with CMC’s Culinary Institute, lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at

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