Pumpkin Pecan Cake with Bourbon Brown Sugar Glaze

I must confess, I am more of a pie person than a cake person. I love both sweet and savory pies with equal fervor. I can leave cake or cupcakes sitting around and not be too tempted to overindulge; but pie left around doesn’t stand a chance. Perhaps this is why Thanksgiving has always been far and away my favorite holiday. Because pie is usually what’s for dessert! And pumpkin pie, my personal favorite, always made an appearance on our Thanksgiving table growing up. I can only imagine the heartbreak I would have felt had it ever not graced our presence.

I’ve been eating and adoring pumpkin pie since I was a little girl. But, in my quest to offer up ideas for Thanksgiving recipes into the blogosphere, I thought I would shake things up a little and do a pumpkin cake instead of a pie. I realize that many people are not as enamored with pumpkin pie as I am, so some fresh ideas certainly can’t hurt anything.

This cake was really wonderful. It’s moist and earthy from the pumpkin and spices, with a slight crunch from pecans. Also, it gave me a great excuse to bust out my tube cake pan, which is something that doesn’t see the light of day all that often.

The glaze is what makes this cake though. It’s sweet but not cloying, with that lovely deep, dark molasses flavor from the brown sugar, yet superbly balanced with the sharp bite of the bourbon. The candied pecans are a very nice touch, and this recipe makes plenty left over for snacking if you wish. And why would you not wish for extra candied pecans? If you’re unlike me and you do get tired of pumpkin pie, well, I cannot ever empathize with you but I can respect the fact that you might like something different. And I’d highly recommend trying out this cake for a lovely twist on Thanksgiving dessert.

Source: Fine Cooking Magazine, October/November 2012


3 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tbs bourbon
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 cup pecan halves, toasted and chopped

2 tbs packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp honey
3/4 cup pecan halves

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 tbs light corn syrup
1 1/2 tbs bourbon
Pinch of kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract


Position a rack in the center of your oven and preheat it to 350 F. Grease a tube pan (sometimes called angel food cake pans).
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, and cloves. In a measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, bourbon and vanilla.
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy. Gradually add the oil, beating until combined. Add the brown sugar. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well on medium-high speed after each addition. Beat in the pumpkin.
Reduce the speed to low, slowly pour in the buttermilk mixture, and mix until combined. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the batter, mixing just until combined. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the pecans. Scrape the batter into the prepared tube pan, smooth the top, and tap the pan on the counter once or twice to settle the batter.
Bake until a wooden skewer or knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it, 45-55 minutes. Leave the oven on. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10-15 minutes. Then invert the cake onto the rack, remove the pan, and let cool completely, at least 3 hours.

Heat the brown sugar, honey, and 1 tbs water in a 1-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the pecans and stir until coated. Spread the pecans curved side up on a greased baking sheet. Bake in the 350 F oven until fragrant an shiny, 7-10 minutes. Transfer the pecans with a metal spatula to parchment paper to crisp and cool completely, about 20 minutes.

Set the cake on a cooling rack over a parchment or foil lined baking sheet.
In a 3-quart saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, bourbon, and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Add the cream, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Continue to boil, stirring occasionally, for exactly 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Gently whisk in the confectioners’ sugar and the vanilla until completely smooth. Let stand until the glaze is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon but still warm and pourable, 3-8 minutes. If a skin forms, gently stir it, but don’t overstir or it may crystallize.
Pour or spoon the glaze slowly and evenly over the cake. Decorate with the candied pecans while the glaze is still warm. When the glaze is set, about 15 minutes, transfer the cake to a serving plate and serve.

4 responses to “Pumpkin Pecan Cake with Bourbon Brown Sugar Glaze

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