Pumpkin Cake with Browned Butter Maple Frosting

For the record, I don’t condone using boxed mixes. That isn’t baking to me, and homemade treats just taste so much better. But when a mix is incorporated into an otherwise from-scratch recipe, sometimes I’ll  bend the rules.

And there was no way I wasn’t going to make this cake. I came across the recipe on Cookies and Cups’ Facebook and thought about it for a week. I craved it despite the fact that I’d never had it before. I needed this cake. So I went out that weekend and got all of the ingredients… but it was another week before I found the time and energy to actually make it.

Mixing the cake was super easy. That’s the benefit of using a mix. However, baking it proved a little tricky. I baked it for the suggested time, pulled it out and let it cool. That’s when I realized it wasn’t actually done baking. The tops were slightly gooey. I’d checked them with a fork before I took them out of the oven and they’d seemed fine, so I was a little confused. I leveled both layers in the hopes that that would get rid of the gooiness but no suck luck. They weren’t done through the middle. I put the layers on a cookie sheet and put them back in the oven. I’d never had to do this before and was a little worried that the layers would get dried out. They were in the oven for no more than 5 minutes and came out done but not dry. Whew. So I let the layers cool again while I got started on the frosting.

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I was surprised by the number of holes that could be seen in the cake after it was leveled. Not sure if this was due to overmixing (my worst fear) but the cake was light and airy and moist at the same time.

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The frosting was also a little tricky. I’d never browned butter before and wasn’t sure what I was doing. It never turned an amber color, as the recipe said it would. I let it simmer for quite a while before I took it off the stove. Maybe I should have kept going but I didn’t want it to overheat or burn and I was worried about the fat deposits sticking to the pan. I let the butter cool for a bit and then put it in the fridge to solidify again. It took an hour and a half, maybe even 2 hours, before it became solid. And it was still very yellow.

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The other ingredients were very dry while mixing and of course this made me nervous. As you know by now, I have a phobia of overmixing so I didn’t want to keep going. It was like dry little crumbles and I mixed for as long as I could stand it. I figured that the maple syrup would take care of it anyway.

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I added the maple syrup slowly, and then the strangest thing happened. The frosting became almost dough-like. Not as thick as dough, but definitely thicker than frosting should be. It hung off the spatula like… well, like dough.

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But the consistency changed as I continued to add syrup and it turned out just fine. I doubled the frosting recipe because that’s what I do. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but it was completely unnecessary. Cookies and Cups’ didn’t frost the sides of the cake and I had mixed feelings about that. It looked kind of cool, but it also looked kind of unfinished. So I decided to double the recipe to be sure that there would be enough frosting to cover the entire cake. However, I did not double the syrup. I used about 1 to 1-1/4 cups and I did this to taste. At that point the frosting was already very sweet and so I stopped adding syrup. And this is another reason not to frost the entire cake: the frosting is so sweet that it doesn’t need to be completely covered.

When I took a bite of the finished cake it was delicious, moist, sweet… and tasted like coffee. I obviously knew it was maple and yet I tasted coffee. When Boy stopped by and tried some he said, “I like your coffee cake.” Neither he nor Mama Bear could identify the maple flavor. Hm. Too much syrup? Not enough syrup? Or maybe the butter hadn’t been browned properly and that missing flavor made the difference.

It was delicious either way and don’t you worry; we ate every bite. Even the 6-year-old nephew liked it (he doesn’t like chocolate and we’re not sure how he was born into our family). I think I’ll try it again and make it exactly like Cookies and Cups did.

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