This pumpkin bundt cake recipe gets slathered with a sticky bourbon glaze and sprinkled with pecans for a gooey, crunchy finish.
A Short History of Pumpkin Cake
While we think of pumpkins as an American icon, they seem to have originated in Central America some 7,500 years ago. The oldest domesticated pumpkin seed was found by archaeologists in Oaxaca, Mexico, where it went on to become a crucial ingredient in delicious green mole.
At some point, the pumpkin migrated north, where by the 17th century, it had become a favorite food of English colonists. It was prized for the ease with which it could be grown and its versatility. A recipe for pumpkin pie was included in one of the first printed cookbooks to emerge from North America, John Josselyn’s 1672 New-England Rarities Discovered. In the 19th century, the craze for pumpkin pie gained steam and it became very fashionable to serve the dish at Thanksgiving.
Despite the popularity of pumpkin pie, a pumpkin cake recipe did not emerge for another century, when the mass marketing of chemical leaveners made quick breads (and cakes) popular. The earliest recorded pumpkin cake recipe seems to have been written by Marion Harland (nom de plume for Mary Virginia Hawes-Terhune), who published prolifically on topics around house keeping and cooking. It was printed by the Chicago Tribune in 1912. Marion Harland is a favorite of ours for the dry wit that she applied to instructing housewives. Here’s a choice example of her didactic prose “Don’t delude yourself, and maltreat those who eat your cake, by trying to make [baking] soda do the whole or most of the duty of eggs.”
To Bundt or Not to Bundt
Today we’re tempting fate again by using our favorite 6 cup bundt pan. Baking with a bundt brings with it the exciting moment (or 15 minutes) of the will-or-won’t the cake emerge from the pan. As a reminder, here are some bundt tips:
- Spray your pan with an oil based spray, not butter. Butter can caramelize and make the cake stick more.
- Remove your cake from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes (in this case, dousing the exposed portion of the cake with the bourbon sauce while it rests).
- Then, flip your cake onto a cake rack and let sit for 10-15 minutes until the cake detaches. DO NOT, under any circumstances, simply let your cake cool in the pan. You’ll never get it out and find yourself frantically googling “how to get a bundt cake out of a pan once it’s cool” which will conveniently lead you to a set of recipes for “trifles made with cakes that wouldn’t come out of the pan in one piece.”
- If you’re feeling panicky while waiting for the flipped cake to detach from the pan, feel free to bang it with a wooden spoon. We’re not sure it does anything, but it sure relieves our nerves. Bonus points if your banging sounds musical.
Feeling super confident about your bundt-ing skills now that you’ve read this brief set of instructions? Huzzah! Check out our rum cake or our orange-almond bundt cake for a continued bundt-themed adventure.
Feeling nervous? That’s ok. You can just grease and line an 8-inch springform pan with parchment paper for a cake that is 100% guaranteed to emerge from the pan in one piece.
- Yield: One 6-cup bundt cake. Serves 6-8.
- Active Time: 25 minutes
- Bake Time: 45-50 minutes
Note: This recipe can be doubled to fit in a 12 cup bundt pan and serve 12-14.
Ingredients for the Pumpkin Cake Recipe
For the pumpkin cake:
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp cloves
- 1/4 tsp ginger
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp allspice
- 1 1/2 sticks butter (12 tablespoons)
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the bourbon glaze:
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup bourbon
Note: if you don’t happen to love Manhattans and stock bourbon in your home bar, feel free to substitute a dark rum here.
- 1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
This cake is excellent served with a little bit of bourbon spiked whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Instructions for the Pumpkin Cake Recipe:
For the pumpkin cake:
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Spray a 6-cup bundt pan with cooking spray.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and spices.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together 3 to 4 minutes until light and fluffy.
- Add one egg at a time, mixing thoroughly after each egg.
- Add milk, pumpkin, and vanilla extract, and mix until combined.
- Stir in the flour in two batches, mixing until well combined.
- Spoon batter into bundt pan and tap pan on counter to ensure the batter is well distributed.
- Bake 45-55 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
For the bourbon glaze:
- Place sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium high heat. After 3 to 4 minutes, the sugar will begin to melt. Stir sugar gently with a whisk until the sugar is fully melted and an amber color. Watch carefully as the sugar can burn quickly.
- Add butter whisk until butter is melted. The sugar will bubble vigorously – don’t let it burn you!
- Once the butter is melted, remove from heat and add cream and bourbon. Whisk until well combined. Let cool until you are ready to use it.
To assemble this pumpkin cake recipe:
- Upon removing the cake from the oven, poke holes in the bottom of the cake with a wooden skewer. Brush some of the glaze over the bottom of the cake and let sit for 5 minutes.
- Invert the bundt onto a wire rack. Let sit 10-15 minutes until cake loosens from pan.
- Brush the cake with the remaining glaze.
- Sprinkle the top with chopped nuts.
- Transfer to cake plate to serve.
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