A moist pumpkin cake with ginger chocolate and meringue swirls. It's the perfect way to bring in the cooler weather!
Why you'll love it
It was inspired by this pumpkin meringue pie that I saw on pinterest and I wanted to make my own dessert based off it, but instead making it into a cake for a more dramatic effect. Between each layer I added a generous amount of ginger chocolate frosting which has a really nice bite of ginger and reminds me a bit of a spice cookie. Spice cookies are one of my favorite cookies. I remember dunking them into milk until they became nice and soggy and biting into that spicy sweet cookie.
The cake itself is wonderfully moist and has a delicate warming spice to it that isn’t overbearing, but unmistakable. I use my own pumpkin spice mix which is a mix of freshly ground spices. It definitely holds its own against the bold flavors of the ginger chocolate frosting. The outer meringue frosting adds balance and lightness to the cake. Its cinnamon vanilla flavors add a welcome lightness to the deeper spices from the cake and chocolate. The toastiness of the meringue is addictive and adds gives the whole cake a “pumpkin s’mores” feel to it.
- Butter -It is important to use unsalted softened butter in this recipe. You want to be able to control the amount of salt in the cake and soft butter allows the other ingredients to mix together better.
- Oil - To keep the cake nice and moist, you need to add a little bit of a neutral-flavored oil. I do not recommend trying to replace it with more butter.
- Sugar - There might seem like there is a quite a bit of sugar in this recipe, but it all plays a critical role in flavoring the cake and adding structure. I especially do not recommend trying to reduce the amount of sugar in the meringue.
- Pumpkin - Make sure you are using pure pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie mix. The cans look similar, but the pumpkin pie mix is already sweetened and spiced. We want to be able to control both.
- Ginger - The frosting between the layers incorporated a couple types of ginger. Primarily crystalized ginger which packs a delicious ginger punch.
- Chocolate - I like using dark chocolate to balance out the sweetness of the cake and to stand up against the ginger. You can also use semi-sweet.
For the full list of ingredients and measurements, refer to the recipe card below.
How to make
- Prepare your baking pans and preheat the oven.
- Mix together the dry ingredients for the cake.
- Beat together the sugar, butter, and oil together until well-combined.
- Add in the egg, vanilla, and pumpkin. Beat well.
- Alternate between adding the flour and milk to the batter.
- Evenly divide the batter among the baking pans and bake.
- While the cake cools, make the chocolate frosting and the meringue.
- Level the cakes and add the chocolate frosting between the layers and then cover with the meringue. Toast the meringue.
Expert baking tips
The most important way to ensure you get the best results is to make sure you are correctly measuring your ingredients, particularly the flour. You should fluff up the flour and then spoon it into your measuring cup then sweep of the excess. If you want to make sure you get consistent results, you can convert the recipe to metric and use a kitchen scale.
Grease and flour your baking pans, then line the bottom with parchment paper. This will ensure your cake releases from the pan easily.
Wait until the cakes are completely cooled to room temperature before attempting to frost and layer the cake. Any warmth from the cake will make the frosting melt over time. I recommend making the cakes a day ahead, if possible.
Use a good kitchen torch to heat the meringue. Move it around frequently to prevent it from burning any part of the meringue too much.
How to frost
The meringue frosting sticks beautifully to the cake. Use a spatula to create gorgeous swirls that will create beautiful patterns when you brulee it.
You can also use other types of frosting if you do not want to do a meringue. Cream cheese frosting and vanilla frosting are both delicious pairings with the cake. Add cinnamon and other spices to create a deliciously warm frosting that enhances the pumpkin flavor throughout.
Yes, you can use fresh pumpkin puree, but make sure to cook and puree it thoroughly before using it in the recipe. You will need to pat the pureed pumpkin to remove some of the moisture as homemade pumpkin puree tends to be more watery than the canned version.
Absolutely, you can create your own pumpkin spice blend. I recommend the mix I shared earlier in the "Why you'll love it" section.
Thanks to the use of both butter and oil, the cake should be moist. It is still important to be sure not to overbake the cake, as this can lead to dryness. Use the toothpick test – insert a toothpick into the center; if it comes out with a few moist crumbs, the cake is done.
Make sure not to overmix the batter. You want to mix just until the flour is fully incorporated. Avoid opening the oven door too frequently while baking, as rapid temperature changes can cause the cake to sink.
Pumpkin Cake with Ginger Chocolate and Meringue
For the Cake
- 2 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 cup butter room temperature
- ⅓ cup oil vegetable or canola works, I used avocado
- 1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 ⅓ cup pure pumpkin puree
- ½ cup milk room temperature
For the Ginger Chocolate
- ½ cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 4 oz dark chocolate melted and cooled
- ¼ cup cocoa powder
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped crystalized ginger
For the Meringue
- 1 cup egg whites about 6 – 7 large eggs
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
For the Cake
- Grease and flour three 9-inch cake pans. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices together. Set aside.
- Beat the butter, oil, and both sugars together until light and creamy. Add in the eggs, one at a time and beat very well between each egg. Add in the vanilla, and then the pumpkin puree. Alternate between adding the flour and the milk to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Do not overmix.
- Evenly divide the batter between the three cake pans. Bake for about 25 – 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pans for about an hour before removing and allowing to cool completely on wire racks.
For the Ginger Chocolate Frosting
- Beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Add the melted chocolate and stir until combined. Add in the remaining ingredients and mix until well combined. Tip: mix the frosting on the lowest speed with the paddle attachment to ensure any air bubbles in the frosting are beaten out.
For the Meringue
- Whisk together the egg whites, sugar, and salt just until mixed together. Place over double boiler and whisk constantly until the sugar is dissolved. Return to a stand mixer, or beat with a hand mixer until stiff, glossy peaks form and the bowl is cool to the touch. Beat in the vanilla and cinnamon
- Level the cake as necessary and cut off the edges around the cake if desired. (I find this is all easier to do after leaving the cakes in the freezer for a few hours). Take half the ginger chocolate and place on one cake. Top with another cake and the remaining ginger chocolate frosting. Top this with the last cake. Spread the meringue around the sides and top of the layered cake. The cake looks best when you make swooping swirls all around. Use a kitchen torch to toast the meringue. Make sure you really toast any bumps and curls in the meringue to make them really pop