Pumpkin and Chocolate Layer Cake

Pumpkin and Chocolate Layer Cake

It’s just not fall without some kind of pumpkin dessert. How can you not think of pumpkins when the stores are filled with them and people put them out on their porches as decorations? Getting in the spirit of pumpkin desserts, as well as the Halloween season that prompts their presence, I used pumpkin in this beautiful orange and black Pumpkin and Chocolate Layer Cake. The cake is moist and satisfying, as well as spicy and chocolaty. I topped it off with a cream cheese frosting that blends in well with all of the flavor in the dessert. As if the flavor weren’t enough, this cake looks very dramatic and makes a great centerpiece for a seasonal party.

The cake has four layers, two each of pumpkin and chocolate. These layers come from two cakes that are split and stacked. Both the pumpkin and the chocolate cake start with the same basic recipe and both use pumpkin puree. The difference between them is that one includes a bunch of pumpkin-friendly spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg, with the other has cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate mixed in. Both types of cake have very different flavors, but they have just about the exact same texture and consistency, so they work together in the finished cake perfectly.

I recommend mixing up the batter for these two cakes at the same time so that they can be baked side by side in the oven. This way, the cakes are done at the same time and you can assemble the finished cake that much more quickly. Otherwise, prepare the second cake while the first is in the oven. You won’t have that much of a time difference when cooling the cakes and the oven will already be preheated and ready to go. The cakes, for the record, can be made a day in advance and wrapped in plastic wrap before slicing and frosting.

I kept the top of my cake plain, but if you want to dress up the presentation, you could garnish it with some pumpkin-shaped candy corn (a.k.a. mellowcremes) to give people a hint as to what is inside of the cake before you cut into it.

Pumpkin and Chocolate Layer Cake
Pumpkin Cake Layer
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable or olive oil
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate Cake Layer
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable or olive oil
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2-oz dark or bittersweet chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper and lightly grease the bottom and sides of both.
Set up two large mixing bowls so that the batter for both cakes can be prepared at the same time.

For the pumpkin cake:
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt.
In a large measuring cup, or a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, vegetable oil, melted butter, pumpkin puree, milk and vanilla extract until all ingredients are well combined.
Pour pumpkin mixture into dry ingredients and stir until no streaks of flour remain visible. Pour into a prepared pan.

For the chocolate cake:
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Sift in cocoa powder and whisk to combine.
In a large measuring cup, or a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, vegetable oil, melted butter, pumpkin puree, milk and vanilla extract until all ingredients are well combined. Whisk in melted chocolate.
Pour pumpkin mixture into dry ingredients and stir until no streaks of flour remain visible. Pour into a prepared pan.

Bake the cakes for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly pressed. The baking time is the same for one cake as it is for two cakes in the oven at the same time.
Turn cakes out of their pan and onto wire racks to cool completely before frosting.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
2 8-oz packages cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 cups confectioners’ sugar

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and beat at high speed until smooth, gradually adding the confectioners’ sugar until a thick and spreadable consistency is reached. Additional confectioners sugar may need to be added to thicken frosting, especially if humidity is high in your area.

To assemble the cake, slice both the pumpkin cake and the chocolate cake in half horizontally. Place a chocolate round on a cake stand or serving platter, spread with a thin layer of cream cheese icing, and place a pumpkin layer on top. Make sure to spread the frosting all the way to the edges of the cake rounds. Spread the pumpkin layer with frosting and repeat with remaining chocolate and pumpkin layers.
Use remaining frosting to cover the top and sides of the cake.

Serves 12-16

41 comments

  1. I love the look and the sound of this one. Can’t wait to try it. Trader Joe’s, when are you going to get your pumpkin it. I couldn’t find the praline pecans you mentioned for the previous cake. Maybe they will have those for Christmas shopping. Thanks for some great and delicious ideas!!

  2. this cake is beautiful! I love the Halloween colours. I bet this could work really well as a checkerboard cake too. I hope I get a chance to make this.

  3. okay, so I get that the idea is the fun, two tone cake but! do you think it would be tasty to just combine all the ingredients? I like cinnamon with my chocolate, and those are the two ingredients that aren’t in both layers (well and cocoa, but that falls under chocolate)

    also, do you think this would work as a zebra cake?

  4. Melanie – You certainly could, but since this is such a large cake it’s nice to have some distinct flavors in each of the layers.

  5. Oh wow!! This is a wonderful idea! Looks great!

  6. I cannot wait to make this! Thanks so much for the recipe!! :)

  7. Oh my god, that is one of the best looking cakes I have ever seen. Since it’s so cold out today and I’m craving a delicious dessert, I think I’m going to run to the store and pick up a few missing ingredients and try this one out! Thanks for sharing!

  8. I love the very idea of this and certainly your pictures make it look wonderful! Thanks for providing the recipe and the incentive to make it. THE PICTURES ARE AMAZING!

  9. This is the prettiest most attractive autumn cake I’ve ever seen! So in keeping with the fall foliage. Gorgeous!

  10. Oh my goodness what an AMAZING idea!!!! I cant wait to make this!

  11. Ah! That is fantastic! I love it! I can just imagine how wonderful it is!

  12. This looks delicious and makes me so very hungry and ready for fall!

  13. I can’t wait to try this unique cake…haven’t had pumpkin and chocolate combined before. It sure looks delicious!

  14. Did you say there was supposed to be nutmeg in the pumpkin layer? I don’t see it in the recipe. How much nutmeg should be added?

  15. Thanks for the ingredients. I’m sure that’s gonna be yummy. I can’t wait to taste this food.

  16. I love the look of your cake. Pumpkin and chocolate together sounds fantastic.
    Mimi

  17. Has anyone made this? How much confectioners’ sugar did you use for the frosting?

  18. Love it! never had it but i know i would love it.

  19. Joseph – The amount of confectioners’ sugar will be slightly different for everyone because things like humidity and the temperature of your kitchen can change how much of the sugar will be “absorbed” by the frosting. Just add it in gradually – which I would recommend anyway if you don’t want your kitchen to be covered in sugar – and you’ll be fine.

  20. I love this creation of yours! The alternating chocolate and pumpkin layers look great.

  21. just made “half” of this cake–chocolate version and halved the recipe! DELICIOUS! can’t wait to make choc and pumpkin for thanksgiving :)

  22. This looks so amazing! Thanks for sharing!

  23. Such a beautiful cake. Pumpkin is so awesome for adding moisture and yummy goodness! Very nice!

  24. So I made just the chocolate pumpkin recipe and put them in cupcake tins and made chocolate pumpkin cupcakes instead! They cake texture came out soooo soft but still did not crumb all over the place. So happy with the results!

  25. Just made this for my son’s first birthday…it is delicious…a little time consuming for one who is a novice in the kitchen…but so so so good…I chilled the cake after to set the frosting more and then gradually added more to space that needed touched up…just found this site and am addicted…

  26. Do you suppose this can be made into cupcakes? Like put in some choc batter then some pumpkin batter? Or would it kinda melt into one layer and be a gross shade of brown….

  27. Is it possible the pan size is wrong? I’m baking the cake now and it is very high for 8 in. pans and taking longer than 35 minutes to bake. Looks great though.

  28. This Layer cake looks so good. I don’t indulge often, but when I do it has gotta be layer cake! Must try making this one for the holidays. Cream cheese, chocolate and pumpkin are all my favorite flavors!

  29. making this for thanksgiving! already made the chocolate layer and it was AWESOME! can’t wait to taste it all together!

  30. I am curious..when your recipes call for maple syrup..is it just store bought maple syrup? Grade A? Grade B?

  31. Veronica – I generally use Grade B because I like the flavor a bit better, but Grade A is interchangeable in all of my recipes. If I strongly recommend one over the other, I’ll make a note of it in the post.

  32. so I made this but my 4th layer fell on the floor.

    it was great though!! thanks!

  33. I baked this cake last year, and I was really moist and delicious! Loved it! Thanks for posting the recipe.

  34. Hi, I just found this recipe and it sounds great. I just have a question about the spices. You say the difference between the cakes is the pumpkin friendly spices (cinnamon, nutmeg) yet the only spice in the pumpkin layer is the cinnamon. Should there be nutmeg also? can’t wait to make this. Thanks !

  35. Arlene,

    Yes, the cake should call for pumpkin pie spice, which is a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. You can also use just cinnamon to streamline the spices and still get a good result

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