Pumpkin Spice Cake

This past weekend, I had the difficult task of attending my grandfather’s funeral. When tough things happen, I’m a strong believer in staying busy. Being constructive with my time and energy helps keep my mind off the hard things in life, and so I was really lucky that last week started off so busy! With midterms, getting my blog started, and entertaining friends, I had a lot of options when it came to filling my time up. But as the week dwindled on, several of my classes got cancelled and I ran out of ways to avoid thinking of the impending funeral. So I did what all good Southerners do when there’s a death in the family – I made food.

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I chose to make a pumpkin cake because, after all, it is fall! I also wanted something that would go well with my grandma’s icing recipe, which is a secret that no one can get quite right. This was my second time trying a recipe that I found, and it still wasn’t just the way she made it. From here on out, any time I get asked that old icebreaker question “Who would you have as a dinner guest, dead or alive?” my answer will ALWAYS be “My grandmother, but only if she promises to share the real icing recipe with me!”

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Since I can’t promise consistent results with her recipe, y’all are gonna get a cream cheese icing recipe, because that would also go well with this cake. The cake is super dense and moist because of the addition of the pumpkin, so I would leave it in the oven a few minutes after you normally would to see if it’ll dry up just a tad without burning. The pumpkin mixes so well with the spice flavor of the cake mix, and the creamy icing is… I was going to say the icing on the cake, but I’ll spare the puns for now.

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I took this cake to Ohio for the post-funeral lunch, which is my favorite part because everyone eats and talks and laughs the sadness away. At some point between your third helping of ham and your second slice of cake, you realize that life is going to go on because your loved one is happy where they are, and that’s ok. The lunch helps you connect with family members that you haven’t seen in awhile, and gives you a chance to share stories about each other that you’ll never forget.

Pumpkin Spice Cake w/ Cream Cheese Frosting

This is only my second funeral as an adult, but I can tell you that the feeling I got from being able to contribute something this time was incredible. With every piece of cake that someone took, I felt like I was a part of someone’s healing process. That’s why I make things: to make someone else happy, while making myself smile a little brighter too. Whether you make this cake for a funeral or a birth, an anniversary or a Wednesday night, I hope you can feel that way too!

If you made it all the way to the end, in addition to a cake recipe, you get a picture that I found this weekend of the baby Kitchen Gent taking a break from combing his bowl cut to strike a “cool-kid-comb-in-teeth” pose straight outta Grease.

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You’re welcome.

Print Recipe
Pumpkin Spice Cake (with Cream Cheese Frosting)
A dense spice cake with a festive twist, perfect for eating and sharing on a cold fall day.
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
slices
Ingredients
For the cake
  • 1 box spice cake mix
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 can (15 oz) pumpkin
For the frosting
  • 2 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup butter (softened)
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
slices
Ingredients
For the cake
  • 1 box spice cake mix
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 can (15 oz) pumpkin
For the frosting
  • 2 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup butter (softened)
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350ºF (325º for dark or non-stick pans). Spray the bottoms of two 9-inch round cake pans.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the cake ingredients with an electric mixer on low until the cake mix is all wet, then on high for 2 minutes. Divide the batter equally among the pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.
  3. While the cakes are baking, beat the cream cheese and butter in a bowl on low with an electric mixer until smooth. Slowly beat in the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes, until it's the right consistency for spreading.
  4. When the cakes are cool and the frosting is chilled, level the cakes and stack them with a thin layer of frosting between them. Spread a thin layer of frosting over the whole cake to capture any crumbs (the top of the cake WILL come up easily, so a crumb coat is important), and follow that up with a thicker layer of frosting. To store the cake, keep it covered in the refrigerator.
Recipe Notes

This recipe is adapted from Betty Crocker's recipe, found here.

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