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This moist pumpkin spice cake recipe has all the flavors of fall in one delicious, moist and fluffy layer cake! This bakery recipe from Amycakes Bakery is spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves and frosted with cream cheese cinnamon buttercream icing.
Instead of stressing the day before Thanksgiving or Christmas to create all of your festive holiday desserts, why not make this one in advance? This moist pumpkin spice cake can be baked a week or two ahead and frozen–you’ll be amazed at how moist it stays.
What makes this Pumpkin Cake Moist
I know I keep mentioning it, but this cake recipe is SUPER moist! This cake batter gains extra moisture from buttermilk, vegetable oil, and Instant Clearjel (my favorite secret bakery recipe), which provides a soft and fluffy moist texture. Brown sugar and the canned pumpkin puree just add to the moisture. Read more about how I make moist cakes in Seven Bakery Secrets to Incredibly Moist Cakes Every Time.
I recommend baking the cake in a sheet pan and cutting the cake out with cake rings to achieve a more even bake without doming or dark cake edges. But you can also bake the cake in round pans as described within my cake pan chart.
The Secret Bakery Ingredient in this Recipe
This bakery recipe uses Instant ClearJel, a type of cornstarch that serves as both a thickener and a binder. It’s tasteless and has no artificial ingredients. It’s often used by professional bakers because it produces a smoother and glossier consistency than cornstarch, tapioca, or other starches. Even better, it enhances moisture and texture in cakes and thickens and stabilizes frostings.
Although it’s not often available in grocery stores, it’s sold in a variety of online stores. I use Prepared Pantry Instant Clearjel. (Prepared Pantry was kind enough to provide a generous coupon code for Amycakes Bakes readers–use the code AMYCAKES for 50% off this 18 oz Instant Clearjel. You can also find it at Nuts.com.
When using Instant Clearjel in baking, please make sure it is labeled as “INSTANT,” and always thoroughly whisk it with dry ingredients as described within the recipe.
Layer this Cake using the Cut and Stack Method
I bake all my cakes in sheet pans and cut them out with cake rings. I talk about this in detail in 5 Easy Steps to Baking and Layering Cakes Like a Pro, but here’s a quick rundown:
1. Bake the Cake in a Sheet Pan
2. Cut Desired Cake Size with Cake Rings then Freeze
3. Layer the Cake from Frozen
4. Crumb Coat the Cake
5. Decorate and Serve
How to Bake in Advance for the Holidays
Whenever I can, I like to bake ahead for holidays to save a lot of time and concentrate on all the other tasks and festivities. In fact, all of my bakery cake recipes are so moist that you can make them ahead and freeze them! You can bake this cake a week or two in advance (probably even longer). When tightly wrapped in plastic wrap it will stay incredibly moist.
One option is to freeze the baked cake in the cake pan, and then layer/ decorate the cake the day before you serve it–read How to Bake and Layer Cakes Like a Pro for more details. You can also freeze the completely decorated cake. (When freezing a decorated cake I recommend using a cake box or cake carrier that’s been wrapped thoroughly in plastic wrap so it’s air-tight).
To thaw the decorated cake, simply place the wrapped cake in the refrigerator the night before you plan to serve it, and allow it to thaw in the fridge overnight. Remove it from the fridge 2-3 hours before serving so that it can come to room temperature before serving.
Pumpkin Spice Cake Recipe FAQ
Nearly all of my cakes are best at room temperature! When the cake is cold it will have a firm and different texture due to all the yummy butter in the cake and buttercream. I want to make sure you enjoy the soft and moist cake texture that is intended by eating the cake at room temperature. You can refrigerate the cake after decorating it, but allow it to come back to room temperature 2-3 hours before serving. (Keep in mind the buttercream can melt in warm conditions). I keep my leftover cake out of the fridge for up to 24 hours, but I’ll refrigerate or freeze anything that won’t get eaten within that time.
Most of my buttercreams contain some cream cheese for a creamy smooth texture. And according to many articles it can be left out overnight, although I recommend refrigerating your finished cake until 2-4 hours before serving so it doesn’t get too soft on your cake–For decorated cakes, I’ll remove the cake from the fridge 2-4 hours before serving so the cake and buttercream can come back to room temp. I’ll leave my cake leftovers that have cream cheese buttercream out for up to 24 hours because I want it to have a soft texture when I’m ready to eat it.
The buttercream can stay in the fridge for up to a week, or you can freeze it for even longer! Just thaw it in the fridge overnight, and allow it to get to room temp before using.
I have not yet tested this exact recipe without the Instant Clearjel. If you’d like to try it without it, I’d recommend using 1/4 cup Jello Instant Pudding Mix in place of the Instant Clearjel in the cake (in a 1x batch). Instant Pudding Mix has Instant Clearjel (aka modified cornstarch) as the second ingredient, and we used it in cakes at my bakery before I discovered Instant Clearjel. In the frosting, just leave the Instant Clearjel out (I don’t recommend adding pudding mix to the frosting as it can affect the texture). If needed, add more powdered sugar to get a thicker frosting. If you have success with one of these substitutes, let me know!
You can find it at a variety of online stores! I get my Hoosier Hill Farm Instant Clearjel on Amazon. As it is more often used in commercial kitchens, I have yet to find Instant Clearjel locally in my hometown of Springfield, MO. If you find it locally, let me know! Just always be sure your Instant Clearjel is labeled as “Instant”!
I hope you enjoy this deliciously moist pumpkin spice cake this fall! Be sure to share your fall creations with me on social media @amycakesbakes or comment below! 🙂
Thanks for Reading. ❤️
Watch the Recipe Video:
View or Print the Recipe:
Super Moist Pumpkin Layer Cake with Cinnamon Buttercream
- 1 ¾ cups All-Purpose Flour (I use Gold Medal)
- 1 ½ teaspoons Baking Powder
- 1 teaspoon(s) Baking Soda
- ¾ teaspoon(s) Salt
- 2 Tablespoons Instant Clearjel (A bakery ingredient you can use at home–see Note #1. Please make sure your clearjel is labeled as "Instant")
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground Cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground Nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground Ginger
- ⅛ teaspoon ground Cloves
- 1 cup(s) packed Brown Sugar
- 2 large Eggs
- 1 cup (9 ounces) Canned Pumpkin (make sure it's 100% pumpkin)
- ¾ cup(s) Buttermilk
- ¼ cup Water
- ½ cup Vegetable Oil
- 2 Tablespoons Light Corn Syrup
- 1 ½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Other Cake Ingredients
- 1 stick(s) (4 oz) Salted Butter
Drizzle and Decorations (optional)
- 14 Caramel Squares or ⅔ cup(s) Caramel Bits
- 2 Tablespoons Heavy Cream
- Candy Pumpkins
Make the Pumpkin Spice Cake
- Using a sifter or fine mesh strainer, sift the Dry Ingredients minus the brown sugar into a large bowl. Add the brown sugar to the sifted ingredients and whisk until well blended. If you see any brown sugar clumps, break them up and blend them in with your fingers.
- Combine Wet Ingredients in a separate large bowl and whisk until smooth and well-blended.
- Melt salted butter in the microwave (or over the stove) until just melted. Avoid overcooking.
- Pour Wet Ingredients into Dry Ingredients and whisk until incorporated. Pour Melted Salted Butter over batter and whisk in until smooth and shiny.
- Pour batter into prepared sheet pan, and spread out the batter until flat and even (I use an offset spatula for this). Allow the batter to set for 5 minutes before putting them in the oven. This will give time for the instant clearjel to thicken the cake batter before it bakes, allowing for a better rise.
- Bake in the middle or top rack (avoid bottom rack) of a preheated 325-degree oven for 16 minutes. Without opening the oven, turn the temperature down to 300 degrees and bake for another 6-10 minutes. Check the cake at this point. See if it is done by lightly touching the top of the cake–try to avoid moving the cake pan or baking rack, which could cause an underdone cake to sink. If jiggly at all to your touch, bake for another 1-5 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick or small paring knife comes out clean when quickly stuck in the cake. A couple of moist crumbs on your knife are fine, but they shouldn't look wet.
- Once the cake is cool, I recommend wrapping and freezing the cake in your cake pan for at least 2 hours or overnight, then cutting out the cake layers with cake rings as described in How to Bake and Layer Cakes Like a Pro. The cake will be much easier to layer when cold or frozen. If you will be freezing it fore more than a couple of days, I recommend brushing the cake with simple syrup before wrapping it (see Note #3).
Make Cinnamon Buttercream
- Whisk the powdered sugar, Instant Clearjel, and Cinnamon together until well-blended. Set aside. (Instant Clearjel must always be whisked with dry ingredients before adding to liquid to avoid clumping).
- Using a stand mixer (preferred) or handheld mixer and a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until broken up and softened. Add the room temperature salted butter and continue to beat, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed until there are no lumps. Add shortening and continue to beat until there are no lumps.
- Turn the mixer on low, and slowly add in the Powdered Sugar mixture until incorporated. Add the Pure Vanilla while the mixer is on low, then scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat the buttercream on high for two-three minutes. This will add air into the buttercream and make it light and fluffy. The Instant Clearjel will cause the buttercream to thicken slightly during the next 10 minutes as it sits
Make the Easy Caramel Drizzle
- Combine the Caramel Squares (or Caramel Bits) and Heavy Cream in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave at 20-30 second increments until the caramel is melted, stirring frequently until it reaches a drizzling consistency. It will thicken as it cools, so reheat before drizzling if needed.
Decorate and Serve
- The easiest way to layer the cake is to layer the cake from frozen the day before you plan to serve it. If serving the cake the same day you are layering it, use refrigerated cake layers instead of frozen. Fill each cake layer with 1/4 inch of cinnamon buttercream. An offset icing spatula (I use the small and medium-size on all my cakes) helps with this. I recommend frosting a thin crumb coat of buttercream on the outside of the cake which will catch all the crumby edges, then allow it to set up in the freezer for about 10 minutes until the buttercream is firm. Read more in my article: How to Bake and Layer Cakes Like a Pro: 5 Easy Steps. The Remaining cake scraps can be used for cake truffles if desired.
- Frost the cake with a final coat of buttercream and decorate the cake with a caramel drizzle and candy pumpkins, if desired. You can let the cake set up in the fridge, but remove it from the fridge 2-3 hours before serving so it can come back to room temperature (avoid warm temperatures). This cake has the best texture at room temperature. Enjoy!
- Read my article Instant Clearjel: a Magical Bakery Ingredient to see why I think this ingredient is worth having in your pantry. Instant Clearjel must always be whisked thoroughly with other dry ingredients before being added to wet ingredients to avoid clumping. I have tested this recipe with the following Instant Clearjel brands: Hoosier Hill Farm, Prepared Pantry, and Ingredion (Make sure what you purchase is labeled as “Instant.” Cooktype Clearjel is a different product that does not work the same in cakes).
- When baking cakes in a sheet pan, the cake bakes more evenly (flatter on top and with no dark edges), and you get to choose your cake size after baking! With a 1x batch in a 1/4 Sheet Pan you can make a three-layer 6″ cake (two full rounds, one pieced round from two half-circles) or several little cakelets. With a 2x batch in a 1/2 Sheet Pan you can make a three-layer 8″ cake (two full rounds, one pieced round from two half-circles), an extra tall six-layer 6″ cake (5 full rounds, one pieced round from two half-circles), TWO 3-layer 6″ cakes (eat one now and freeze one for later. 🙂 Or have a baking party with a friend and you each get a cake!) or several little Cakelets using a 4″ cake ring or 3″ or 2″ round cookie cutters. You can also choose to bake in sheet-cake pans or round pans. View the pan chart in the article Half-Batches and Cake Pans: Everything You Need to Know.
- Simple Syrup is optional, but I use it to seal in the moisture for cakes that will be refrigerated or frozen for more than a couple of days. While the cake cools, make a simple syrup by combining 1 Tbsp water and 1 Tbsp sugar in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave until the sugar is dissolved after whisking, about 20-30 seconds. Lightly brush the simply syrup on top of the cake with a silicone pastry brush (you won’t need to use all of it in a 1x batch baked in a 1/4 sheet pan). You can also make a larger batch of this (1 part sugar to 1 part water) and keep it in the fridge if you’re doing a lot of cake baking.