Pumpkin Spice Cake: Hand Painted with Fall Leaves

watercolor frosting pumpkin cake

Makes one 9” cake

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ¼ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup pure canned pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups sifted cake flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
½ cup buttermilk, room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter, or lightly spray with a non-stick vegetable spray, two - 8 inch (20 cm) cake pans. Then line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment paper.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the pumpkin puree and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated (the batter will look curdled).

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to the batter, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Evenly divide the batter between your two pans. Bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake just comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes and then invert and remove the cakes from their pans. Cool completely before frosting.

Ingredients-Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces full fat cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup butter, room temperature
1 ½ tablespoons pure maple syrup
3 cups confectioners' (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted

Place the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of your electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment (or use a hand mixer) and beat until smooth. Add the maple syrup and confectioners' sugar and beat until light and creamy and of spreading consistency. Add more sugar or maple syrup if needed.

Ingredients-Royal Icing
1 egg white
1 lb powdered sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice
ColorKitchen food coloring

Using a stand mixer, combine the egg white and lemon juice. Add some of the sifted powdered sugar and start the mixer on low. Keep adding sugar until the icing is a white, smooth, runny consistency. If it gets too thick add a tiny bit of water. If it gets too runny add a little sugar. We left our royal icing white to create a blank canvas on the cake but if you would like to have a colored background go ahead and color the royal icing by mixing a little ColorKitchen food colored powders with a little glycerin or water to make a smooth paste. Then add a little colored paste to the royal icing. Once icing is done keep it covered tightly with plastic so it won't dry out.

watercolor frosting technique

Assemble: Place one of the cake layers on your serving plate. Frost with a layer of icing. Place the second cake on top of the first layer and frost the top and sides of the cake. Make the top as absolutely flat as you can. Using a piping bag, pipe a border around the top edge of the cake. Refrigerate cake till completely cold. Once the cake is cold pour a thin layer of the royal icing over the entire top of the cake. Let it sit at room temp until the royal icing is dry to the touch. This could take a few hours. Once the royal icing is dry, it is ready to be painted. Mix an assortment of ColorKitchen colors in little bowls with a tiny bit of water. Mix until smooth and runny. We used yellow, red, green and a mix of all three to make a darker brownish green color. Using clean paintbrushes begin painting your cake in any way you like!

The cake can be chilled for a day, but overnight and the royal icing will begin to soften in the condensation. It won't ruin your cake but it will change the look slightly. Take your cake out of the fridge to warm up a bit before serving. 

- Recipe by chef Rose Archer