Pumpkin cheesecake layer cake with caramel frosting is a show-stopping Thanksgiving dessert, and delicious all season long.
I feel like this is the most controversial of cakes. Pumpkin? Controversy. Cheesecake? Controversy times 10.
My sister is one of those cheesecake haters, to such an extent that I have to warn her to avoid my Insta feed on days when I’m posting a cheesecake pic. (If you look at the pics from days when I forgot to warn her you’ll see a lovely blond girl commenting NOOOOOOOOOOO.)
Sometimes I wonder how she and I are actually related, such is the extent of my love for the tangy and creamy deliciousness that is the cheesecake.
And pumpkin? Well, I used to be able to take it or leave it, but now I’m firmly in the GIMME ALL THE PUMPKIN camp. So for me this pumpkin cheesecake layer cake is combining two of my favorite things.
But for some it’s just a nightmare disguised as dessert. And to you I apologize. Never would I want to be the cause of someone gagging. You have my permission to stop reading right now and erase the last few paragraphs of text from your brain.
(The above is why I don’t do naked cakes. Buttercream covers a multitude of sins.)
Obviously since I’ve made a cheesecake cake for pretty much every holiday this year excluding Arbor Day, I had to make one for Thanksgiving. (I might do one for Arbor Day next year. Thoughts?)
And this pumpkin version of cheesecake layer cake comes complete with plenty of caramel frosting. Plus, this time it’s not three, not four, but FIVE layers!
Don’t worry, five layers isn’t more complicated than three. It just requires more batter and more frosting—never a bad thing.
The pumpkin cake layers are ever-so-lightly spiced and full of pumpkin flavor. The cheesecake layers, as always, are creamy, dreamy, and their tang is an ohhhhh so welcome contrast to the sweet pumpkin and caramel flavors we have going on.
In short, if you’re looking for a show-stopping dessert to serve for Thanksgiving—or any time this holiday season—I think you’ve found it.
Don’t forget! The cheesecake layers have to chill overnight in the fridge. After having made countless cheesecake cakes in recent months, I can say without question that’s a necessary step. Don’t ask me how I know that your cheesecake layers will fall apart if they aren’t sufficiently cold. Just trust me. . .I make these mistakes so you don’t have to :).
- 4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 large egg yolk
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2/3 cup vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
- 1/3 cup buttermilk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 6 to 7 cups powdered sugar, plus more as needed for consistency
- 4 to 6 tablespoons milk or heavy cream, as needed for consistency
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup caramel sauce, at room temperature*
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper, then generously spray the pans with cooking spray again. Set aside.
- Beat the cream cheese, sugar, and flour together with an electric mixer set to medium speed. Beat in eggs and egg yolks one at a time, mixing until eggs are just incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Turn mixer to low and beat in the sour cream, heavy cream, vanilla, cinnamon, and ginger.
- Divide batter evenly between the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Set pans in a roasting pan (or any large baking pan) and carry over to the oven. Pour a couple inches of water into the roasting pan, then carefully transfer to the oven. Bake 38 to 44 minutes, until the center of the cheesecakes barely wobbles. Remove from the oven and immediately run a knife between the cake and the edge of the pan. Cool cheesecakes to room temperature. Once cooled, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- After the cheesecake layers have refrigerated, dip the pan in a bowl of hot water for about 15 seconds. Run a knife around the edge of the cake again, then set a large plate or a cake circle on top of the pan. Invert the cakes onto the plate. Keep refrigerated until you assemble the cake.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 3 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray. Lightly dust with flour; tap out the excess flour and set pans aside.
- Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices together in a medium mixing bowl.
- In another large mixing bowl, combine the oil, eggs, sugars, pumpkin, buttermilk, and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer set to medium speed until smooth. Fold the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture until just combined. Divide batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes in the pans, then carefully invert onto wire racks to cool completely before assembling your cake.
- Place the butter in a medium mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until very smooth. Beat in 4 cups of the sugar, mixing until well incorporated. Beat in an additional 4 cups sugar along with the vanilla and the salt. Mix until smooth, then beat in the caramel sauce until well combined. Add milk to thin the frosting or powdered sugar to thicken it.
- Place one of the cooled pumpkin layers on a cardboard cake circle or a cake stand. Spread a thin layer of frosting over the top. Top with one of the cheesecake layers. Spread a thin layer of frosting over the cheesecake, then top with another pumpkin layer; repeat with remaining cheesecake and cake layers.
- If your cheesecake layers are a little wider than your pumpkin layers, run a sharp paring knife around the edge of the cake to trim the excess cheesecake. Frost your cake with a thin layer of the remaining caramel frosting and refrigerate until frosting sets (this is your crumb coat and will prevent crumbs from getting into the final layer of frosting). Frost with remaining frosting and decorate as desired. Serve and enjoy.
*If your caramel sauce isn’t at room temperature your frosting will not come together properly.