How to Make a Pumpkin Caramel Torte

October 1st, 2012 by Beth Somers

When the weather starts to get cooler, I automatically start drinking more coffee, eating more soup, and craving caramel. For me, caramel is the flavor that defines fall. Pumpkin is also a seasonal favorite, and I was inspired to put the two together in this luscious torte that is perfect for autumn dinner parties. When sliced, the caramel topping runs a bit, so the cake practically sauces itself on the plate!

Pumpkin Caramel Torte

Cakes that include heavy, wet ingredients like canned pumpkin or applesauce are often very dense and better for fluted tube pans than layer cakes. Since I planned on making a rich caramel buttercream icing, I wanted my cake to be moist and light.

Instead of going the traditional creamed cake route, I baked up a delicate pumpkin chiffon cake. Chiffon cakes get their fluffy texture by separating the egg yolks from the whites, whipping the whites until they hold a stiff peak, and then folding the airy whites into the rest of the batter.

When the cakes were totally cooled, I torted the layers, which is a fancy way of saying that I cut them in half horizontally. If you are not comfortable doing this with a serrated knife, it’s easy to cut thin, even layers with the Ultimate Cake Leveler.

For special occasions or when I want to really treat someone, I make French buttercream from scratch. It is ultra-smooth and decadent, which is why I call this icing Caramel Silk Buttercream. This recipe is great because it makes enough caramel for the icing, the sauce, and you’ll have a little left over to serve with the sliced cake or to pour over ice cream.

Pumpkin Caramel Torte

I decorated the cake very simply because all of that gorgeous caramel looked so pretty on its own, and I didn’t want to hide it. The crunchy candied nuts are simple to make, and they really tie the flavors of the cake together, so I piped ball shapes around the perimeter of the cake with a tip 1A and nestled a pecan on top of each. Then I piped a few smaller balls in varying sizes, and in no particular arrangement using a tip 6. I think that the result is quite elegant! What do you think?

Pumpkin Caramel Torte

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup firmly-packed brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
4 whole eggs + 4 egg whites, divided (reserve 4 egg yolks for caramel buttercream)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare two 8 in. round pans with vegetable pan spray.

In large bowl, stir together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt and nutmeg.

In another bowl, whisk pumpkin with whole eggs until well combined. Add to flour mixture and whisk until well combined.

In large bowl, whip egg whites on high speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Add cream of tartar and beat to soft peaks. With mixer running, gradually add granulated sugar. Continue beating until glossy and stiff.

Fold 1/3 egg whites into pumpkin mixture until no white streaks remain. Fold in remaining egg whites completely. Pour into prepared pans.

Bake 28-32 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean. Invert pans on cooling grid and cool completely. When cooled, run a knife along sides of cake to release from pan.

Caramel Silk Buttercream and Caramel Sauce

2 eggs + 4 egg yolks
2-1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Wilton Pure Vanilla Extract
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream, warmed slightly
2 cups (4 sticks) butter, softened and cut into chunks

In large mixing bowl, whip egg yolks and whole eggs on high speed with electric mixer until very thick and pale, about 6 minutes.

In heavy saucepan, combine sugar, water, corn syrup and salt; stir gently to combine. Cook over medium heat, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with pastry brush and water, until deep amber in color (about 330°F). Immediately remove pan from heat and carefully measure 3/4 cup caramel into large glass measuring cup. Add 1/4 cup warmed heavy cream to this caramel; mixture will boil up. Set aside and cool to room temperature.

With mixer on medium speed, slowly drip remaining caramel from pan down side of mixing bowl into whipped eggs, being careful to not let syrup fall directly into eggs or onto whip. Continue whipping on medium speed until outside of mixing bowl is room temperature, about 10 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to medium-low; add butter, one chunk at a time, beating until each addition is incorporated before adding the next. Add vanilla.

Candied Pecans

1/2 cup pecan halves
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In large skillet, toast pecan halves lightly over medium-low heat for 3 minutes. Add sugar, salt and cinnamon and stir to combine. Increase heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar is deep amber and nuts are coated. Dump nuts onto parchment paper and separate with spatula. Cool completely.

To assemble cake, torte pumpkin chiffon layers with Ultimate Cake Leveler or serrated knife. Position first cake layer on plate with a rim. Spread a thin layer of caramel silk buttercream on top. Repeat with remaining cake layers and icing. Ice top and sides of cake. Refrigerate until icing is firm.

When icing is cold and caramel sauce is at room temperature, pour about half of caramel sauce over top of cake and smooth to edges. Allow caramel to drip down sides of cake and set on top for 5 minutes. Using tip 1A, pipe 12 balls of caramel icing around the top of the cake. Top each with a candied pecan half. Using tip 6, pipe smaller balls around the 1A balls.

Serve immediately, or refrigerate until 30 minutes before ready to serve. Serve with additional candied pecans and caramel sauce.

Makes 12 servings.

Beth Somers Beth Somers is the Senior Test Kitchen Manager and has taught at the internationally acclaimed Wilton School of Cake Decorating and Confectionery Art in Darien, IL. As a competitor on the Food Network's Cupcake Wars, she shined as a champion during season 6. Before joining Wilton, Beth honed her pastry skills at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago. Beth loves showing people how fun and easy it can be to bake and decorate amazing sweet treats with Wilton products.

19 Replies

  1. The cake looks fabulous! I normally use Swiss Meringue buttercream but have been wanting to try the French buttercream. Because of the raw eggs, does this need to be refrigerated at all times (except for the 30 minutes before serving)?

    • Beth Somers says:

      Thank you Valerie! The hot sugar completely cooks the eggs, so they are not raw, but this cake should be refrigerated because of the high butter content in the icing.

  2. Giulia says:

    Oh my goodness Beth! this is simply sensational!
    it looks so yummy and so beautiful, it makes me want to lick the screen!! 😉 Congratulations!!

  3. jade says:

    Hi just wondering what size of canned pumpkin puree should I use?

  4. Susan J. Sias, WMI says:

    Wow Beth! This sounds amazing! Can’t wait to try the French Buttercreme for holiday desserts! Thank you so much!!

  5. Roxanne says:

    I will be attempting to create this masterpiece for a family gathering but have one question….
    Do I add the 1/4 cup warmed heavy cream to the 3/4 cup caramel in the glass measuring cup or what is left in the saucepan?

    • Beth Somers says:

      Hi Roxanne – thanks for the question! I’ve changed the recipe above to clarify. The heavy cream gets added to the 3/4 cup of caramel in the glass measuring cup. Use a very large measuring cup, and pour the cream in slowly, because the caramel will bubble up a lot. Let us know how your cake comes out!

  6. Addie says:

    I am a little confused by the instructions for the buttercream. Do you remove 3/4 cup of caramel into glass measuring cup and it is this caramel while still very hot that you add to your raw eggs? Then you add 1/4 cup heavy cream to the remaining caramel and let cool to pour over the buttercream to decorate? I would like to try this recipe but I want to get it right. Please send reply to

    • Beth Somers says:

      Hi Addie – thanks for the question. I changed the recipe so that it is more clear. Remove 3/4 cup of the caramel to a large glass measuring cup, and add the heavy cream to that. It will bubble up a lot, so use a large measuring cup with a lot of extra room on top, and pour in the 3/4 cup of caramel slowly. Set that aside to cool. The caramel that remains in the pan is what is added to the raw eggs while they are whipping in a mixing bowl. It is important to add it slowly and drip it down the side of the mixing bowl so that it does not hit the whip and crystallize. It needs to be whipped until it is cool to the touch before adding the butter. After the cake is completely iced, use the caramel that was mixed with the heavy cream to pour over the top of the cake. Hope this helps! Let me know how your cake turns out!

  7. Annie says:

    The cake recipe does not require butter or oil? Can I clarify this pls?

  8. Claire says:

    Hey Beth! This cake sounds super yummy. Will try it at some point today and then I’ll try to reply tonight on how it turned out. Also, thanks for clarifying the whipping cream + caramel Beth! I was also a little confused about that. BUT I GET IT NOW! =D Thanks!

  9. […] exactly how I feel about this Pumpkin Caramel Torte, which is nothing short of fall decadence on a plate. Swooooooon over all of that lovely caramel! […]

  10. Tasha's Treats says:

    I followed the recipe and except for the caramel sauce part, the rest turned out great. My caramel sauce, however, got too hard. I poured 3/4 cup of the caramel in a large glass measuring cup and added 1/4 cup warmed heavy cream to it, and it bubbled up like you said. After it cooled to room temperature, I poured it over the cold iced cake, but the caramel mixture was very thick (a portion that hardened to a rock remained in the measuring glass), and it got hard, which made it difficult and challenging to cut and eat – albeit, it was delicious! The cake, including the hard-as-rock caramel “sauce” lasted about 15-20 minutes as everyone gobbled it up and loved it. How do I get the caramel sauce to the right consistency so it does not harden when it cools to room temperature?

    • Wendy says:

      The longer the caramel cooks the harder it will become as it cools.
      If after cooling the caramel is too hard, re-heat it and add more water, milk or heavy cream to thin it.
      If after cooling the caramel is too liquid-y, make a second batch and cook the caramel slightly longer, then mix the two together.
      For a deeper caramel flavor add your butter and cream after the mixture has smoked for about 30 seconds.

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  12. Mia says:

    Hi there. Thank you for this glorious recipe! I have a couple of troubleshooting questions for you.

    -The recipe did not indicate that upon adding cream to the 3/4C of caramel, that it should be stirred. I ended up with hardened caramel on the bottom and soft and thin on the top. Should it be stirred?

    -When I was running the caramel down the side of the bowl, lots of it hardened before making it to the icing, as well as hardened around the mixer attachment, do you have any tips on that?

    -And finally, my cakes did not rise. I ended up making another 1/2 recipes to have 3 layers. Not sure why this happened also.

    It is a fabulous combination, so thank you for sharing!

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