November 2, 2010

Pumpkin Cake with Brown Butter Icing

pumpkin cake with brown butter icing

So I walk out onto the Project Runway stage holding this cake on a pedestal and Michael Kors gasps!  He cries, “EFFORTLESSLY CHIC!”  Then I proceed to ask him why the screw always comes out on my ritzy MK sunglasses??! Come on Michael! My Isaac Mizrahi sunglasses from Target have held up for almost 4 years now! Of course Nina Garcia would like to talk some mad crap about my cake, but the caramelized walnuts shut her up. Yeah girl. You know it’s totally editorial. Zip it. Later on I catch Heidi scarfing down half of it….

sluttly caramelized walnuts

Then I woke up…. Why is this cake effortlessly chic?  Well there’s three different recipes that come together to produce a simple, yet killer pumpkin cake. At first I was intimidated because I usually avoid recipes that refer to ANOTHER recipe to complete an ingredient. I just want it all there, right in front of my face. I want to know how hard I need work and if the effort is going to pay off.  So yeah… I was blown away by the ease of this cake. Three different recipes? Child’s play. Chic? Check! Effortless? Pretty much!


This is the cake that we ate on Halloween night. YES. After all that candy wrangling, my friends & neighbors made room for this cake. Once you lay eyes on a cake like this, your stomach sends singles to your brain. “Hey! Let’s make some room for this cake!”  Yes, surprisingly they’ll synchronize their swatches and suddenly your devouring a big slice.

Oh and did you get a load of those nuts? Make sure you snag one because I might fight you for it.

And we’re off!

Time to gather your ingredients.


Mix up all the dry stuff.


Cream the butter & sugar. Now add your eggs and mix.


Add in the pumpkin & warm milk. MIX.

hello warm milk

Dry meets wet. Mix.

dry and wet

Put in your lubed pan. Now off to the oven with it! Bake!

to the oven

And then it cools. Get your paws off it!


Icing time! Brown the butter.

brown butter

And pour it over your strained powdered sugar. Control those brown butter bits. Add some milk & vanilla.

hey brown butter

And suddenly you have icing. I wish this was a face mask. I’d use it daily.


Melt sugar in a pan and toss your walnut halves in there.


Set them aside and get ready to ice your cake.


The icing is a snap to work with. There’s not a lot of it. That’s ok!  You don’t really need much.

pretty icing

Top with the walnuts…. put it on a pretty plate. Oh! How did those leaves get there??!!!

i cut a slice for you!

Eat it, Nina Garcia!

Pumpkin Cake with Brown Butter Icing

(recipe from Martha Stewart)

For the cake:

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup warm (110 degrees) milk
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-2-inch round cake pan. Line pan with parchment, and butter the parchment. Coat pan with flour, and tap out any excess.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, salt, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat sugar and butter together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, and beat until combined. Add pumpkin puree and milk; beat until combined. Add reserved flour mixture; beat on low speed until just combined.
  4. Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake until a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool. Let cake rest 20 minutes.
  5. Unmold cake. Using an offset spatula, spread icing over top of cake, and decorate with caramelized walnut halves.

For the Icing:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (I used salted!)
  • 1 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons milk
  1. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat until nut-brown in color, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat, and pour butter into a bowl, leaving any burned sediment behind.
  2. Add sugar, vanilla, and 1 tablespoon milk; stir until smooth. If the icing is too thick, add the remaining tablespoon milk, a little at a time, until consistency is spreadable. Let cool 5 minutes. Use immediately

For the Caramelized Walnuts:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 10 well-shaped, large walnut halves
  1. In a small skillet, melt sugar over medium-high heat until medium golden, about 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat. Working quickly, drop walnut halves, one at a time, into the melted sugar. If the sugar hardens, return skillet to low heat, and stir several minutes. Using a fork, turn walnuts until they are evenly coated. Transfer walnuts to a wire rack to cool completely. Use to decorate cake.
Shutterbean notes:
-I made this cake a day in advance, wrapped it up in plastic wrap and it was still super fresh & moist the next day!
-I used salted butter for the icing! It tasted AWESOME.

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