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Brown Butter Pumpkin Cake

Celebrate the warm flavors of autumn with this brown butter pumpkin cake. This small, but mighty cake, is packed with delicious and intense flavors.

Yield: three layer 6-inch cake

Author Maryanne Cabrera


Pumpkin Cake:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup coconut oil*
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup dark maple syrup, grade B
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 -15 oz can pure pumpkin puree

Brown Butter Buttercream:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, sliced into tablespoons
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 2-3 Tablespoons whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt


Pumpkin Cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter and flour three 6-inch round cake pans. Tap out any excess flour. Line cake pans with parchment paper and set aside.

  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together coconut oil, brown sugar, and maple syrup until smooth. Scrape down bowl as needed. Add eggs one at a time, ensuring eggs are thoroughly incorporated. Add pumpkin puree and mix until combined. Batter may look curdled at this point.

  4. Add flour mixture in two additions. Mix on low speed until there are no longer any dry streaks of flour. Scrape down bowl as needed. 

  5. Evenly distribute batter among prepared cake pans. Level batter as needed. Bake for 35-40 minutes until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in pan for 10 minutes before unmolding. Remove cake from pan and allow to cool to room temperature on wire rack.

Brown Butter Buttercream:

  1. In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, continue to cook. Swirl pan occasionally to ensure even heating. Mixture will bubble and foam as it cooks. The bubbling will be vigorous at the beginning but it will subside. Continue to cook until butter smells nutty. The mild solids in the butter will turn rich brown in color. Remove from heat and pour into a heat-safe bowl. Be sure to scrape out as much of the browned milk solids bits. 

  2. Allow brown butter to cool to room temperature. Cover and keep chilled in the fridge until solid. Brown butter needs to be completely cooled before mixing into buttercream. 

  3. Allow solid brown butter to soften at room temperature. Transfer to the bowl of stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or use an electric hand mixer). Beat until smooth. Add powdered sugar, milk, and salt. Mix until buttercream is soft and fluffy. Scrape down bowl as needed to ensure thorough mixing. 


  1. If necessary, level cake layers. Place one cake round on cake board (or serving plate). Spread a layer of brown butter buttercream over cake layer. Place second cake layer on top. Gently press cake layer down to secure. Spread a layer of frosting. Repeat with remaining cake layer.

  2. Spread a thin layer of frosting all over cake to seal in the crumbs (crumb coat). Let chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Spread another layer of buttercream to coat cake. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired. 

  3. Keep cake chilled until ready to serve. Allow cake to sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes to soften before serving. 

Recipe Notes

  • This recipe makes three 6-inch layers. It also works for two 8 or 9-inch layers. Reduce baking time to 30-35 minutes.
  • If you don't like coconut oil, you can substitute any flavorless oil like vegetable or canola oil.