Give It Up For Pumpkin Spice Latte Cake

The true pumpkin spice latte -- in cake form.
The true pumpkin spice latte — in cake form.

Admittedly, I’ve never understood the hoopla surrounding pumpkin spice latte season, which seems to begin earlier and earlier every year.

Then again, I am a black-coffee drinker all the way.

But put fragrant, autumnal pumpkin spices together with the full-bodied flavor of espresso plus actual bona fide pumpkin in a baked good, and I am so there.

That’s why I jumped all over this recipe for “Pumpkin Spice Latte Cake.”

This clever recipe is from “Half Baked Harvest Every Day” (Clarkson Potter) by Colorado’s Tieghan Gerard, creator of the hit blog, Half Baked Harvest.

It’s a one-pan cake imbued with cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. It gets plenty of richness from coconut oil.

This 8-inch-square cake also incorporates an entire 15-ounce can of pumpkin puree in its batter. With a high ratio of pumpkin puree to flour (just 1 1/2 cups), this cake bakes up very moist and soft with a compact crumb, almost reminiscent in texture of a British steamed pudding.

The winning flourish? A fluffy layer of cream cheese frosting emboldened with espresso powder that gets slathered with abandon in a thick layer overtop.

A one-pan square cake with a wicked-good espresso frosting.
A one-pan square cake with a wicked-good espresso frosting.

The cozy warmth of the baking spices, the perfect fall touch of sweet pumpkin, and the wake-me-up note of coffee mingle together for a dessert that’s like a big, enveloping hug. I especially love the espresso frosting, which adds a subtle bitter and smoky edge to counter the sweetness of the cake.

The recipe states that is serves 4, which would mean a whopper of a slab for each person. I think it serves more like 8 or 9, so I added that in the recipe below.

If you wanted to dress it up a little, some toasted or candied walnut or pecan halves arrayed over the top would be a nice touch.

There’s nothing wrong with plain and simple, though. This cake has plenty of personality to stand on its own without any hype.

Take that, Starbucks.

A moist, tender cake full of fragrant autumn spices.
A moist, tender cake full of fragrant autumn spices.

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cake

(Serves 4 to 9)

For the cake:

1/2 cup melted coconut oil, plus more for greasing

2/3 cup packed light or brown sugar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

3/4 teaspoon fine pink Himalayan salt (or sea salt)

For the frosting:

1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, at room temperature

2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon instant espresso powder

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on two opposite sides. Grease the parchment.

Make the cake: In a stand mixer, beat together the coconut oil, brown sugar, vanilla, eggs, and pumpkin on low until combined, about 1 minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, and salt. Mix on low speed until completely smooth with no lumps remaining, about 2 minutes. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until the center is just set, 25 to 30 minutes. Use the parchment paper overhang to remove the cake from the pan and place on a cooling rack. Let cool for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, Make the Frosting: In a stand mixer, beat together the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar, espresso powder, and vanilla. Beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, 2 to 4 minutes more.

Spread the frosting over the cake. Slice, snack, and enjoy! Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Adapted from “Half Baked Harvest Every Day” by Tieghan Gerard

Another Half Baked Harvest Recipe to Enjoy: Coq Au Vin Blanc Meatballs

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  • This looks yum! I love pumpkin spice latte so I will probably love this too!

  • Hi Madison: You’re sure to enjoy it then. Happy baking!

  • I made this, with NO changes for Christmas dessert and everyone Raved about it, it’s a keeper. Heard for the longest time pumpkin and coffee were made for each other, finally got to try it. Have had a pumpkin cookie/coffee frosting recipe squirreled away forever now, i’ll make that for another holiday now that I know how good it is. Thanks for the post.

  • Hi Sue: Isn’t it a great pairing? I never really understood the popularity of pumpkin spice lattes since, well, there’s no pumpkin in them. But this cake really does justice to that idea and turns it into something very special. Happy baking!

  • I’ve made this for thanksgiving dessert and it was sooo good. However in the cookbook the picture of this cake does not look like the cake I made. It looks more like the food gals picture of the cake. The one in Tieghan Gerard’s book, the cake looks fluffy and the icing lighter and creamier. So I was a little disappointed there. I found it turned out more like a square rather than a cake.

  • Hi Tammie: I do sometimes find that photos in cookbooks don’t match the end result that I get. However, in this particular case, I thought the cake tasted wonderful, no matter its appearance. I hope you enjoyed its taste and texture, too, despite its appearance not being completely identical.

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