You know you’re on the right track with a cake recipe when the kitchen smells fantastic while your cake is in the oven. In fairness, not everything that smells great will turn out perfectly, but I tend to think that it increases the odds. This pumpkin cake is one that will fill your kitchen up with the fantastic scents of cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg while baking. It’ll put you into a fall holiday spirit, inspire you to bake more and – of course – make you very hungry for that first slice of cake.
The cake is extremely moist and tender, with a fluffy crumb that melts away on your tongue and only leaves pumpkin and spice behind. Most of the spice comes from my homemade pumpkin pie spice mixture, although there is vanilla and a generous splash of brandy in the cake. I think that sweet and spicy brandy (bourbon is a good substitute) works well with with the pumpkin in both the cake and the frosting, although you get a much more generous dose of the brandy in the frosting than you do in the cake!
Like many other recipes that use a small amount of alcohol for flavoring, you’re not going to get much alcohol in the finished product. I can guarantee that no one is going to get drunk on this even if they eat the entire cake (I suspect that you might get sick if you try, though). That said, if you prefer to leave out the brandy because you intend to serve the cake to kids, you can substitute water or orange juice. Alternatively, you might just opt to take the brandy out of the frosting, where its flavor is much more distinct, and simply add milk and vanilla extract to the buttercream that tops the cake.
Any way you slice it – and hopefully you’re slicing this in large pieces – this is a delicious fall cake that is perfect for serving a crowd. As a sheet cake, it’s not too fussy to make or to serve, and it is very easy to enjoy. The cake will stay moist for several days when well wrapped, too.
Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Brandy Buttercream Frosting
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 15-oz can pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp brandy
2/3 cup chopped pecans, optional
Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and brown sugar until well combined. Stir in oil, pumpkin puree, vanilla and brandy, whisking until mixture is very smooth. Gradually stir in the flour mixture, mixing only until no streaks of flour remain. Stir in pecans, if using.
Pour into pan and spread into an even layer.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out clean.
Allow to cool completely in pan before frosting.
Brandy Buttercream Frosting
8 tbsp butter, room temperature
2 tbsp brandy
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 – 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
In a large bowl, beat together the butter, brandy, milk and vanilla until smooth. Add in cinnamon and, mixing at a low speed, gradually stir in the confectioners’ sugar until frosting is smooth, thick and fluffy. You may not need all the sugar.
Spread onto cooled cake.