Naked Pumpkin Cake with Cinnamon Buttercream

This is the best pumpkin cake you will ever try. It is a three-layer beauty made up of tender and flavorful pumpkin cake paired with a delicious cinnamon buttercream frosting. Pecans are the ideal crunchy complement, and the addition of a caramel drizzle is perfection -- exactly what's needed for an impressive finish. This cake is simple to put together even for a beginner.
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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 2 hr 10 min (includes cooling time)
  • Active: 35 min
  • Yield: 12 servings
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Nonstick cooking spray

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar 

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

4 large eggs, at room temperature 

One 15-ounce can pumpkin pie mix

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups all-purpose flour 

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder 

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

Cinnamon Buttercream:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature

3 cups confectioners' sugar, or more if needed

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 to 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream, or more if needed

One 7-ounce container pecans, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup caramel sauce 


Special equipment:
a pastry bag fitted with a large open star tip (such as #362)
  1. For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray.
  2. Place the brown sugar, granulated sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Turn the mixer to low and add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the pumpkin and vanilla.
  4. Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk.
  5. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to the sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Spoon the batter into the prepared pans.
  6. Bake until a wooden pick inserted in the centers comes out clean, 22 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from the pans and cool completely on the wire rack, about 1 hour.
  7. For the cinnamon buttercream: In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the butter on medium-high speed until pale and creamy, 3 to 5 minutes. With the mixer on a slow speed, carefully add the confectioners' sugar 1 cup at a time until combined, followed by the vanilla and cinnamon. Add the heavy cream a little at a time. (If you need a thicker frosting, add more confectioners' sugar; if you need a thinner consistency, add in more heavy cream.)
  8. Place a cooled cake layer on a cake stand. (This recipe should yield very level cake layers, but if your layers are domed, level them before assembling.) Cover with about 1/2 cup buttercream. Scatter 1/3 cup of chopped pecan over the top.
  9. Repeat with the next layer of cake, covering with 1/2 cup buttercream and 1/3 cup chopped pecans. Place the final layer of cake on top.
  10. Place the remaining buttercream in a pastry bag fitted with a large open star tip (such as #362). Pipe out a design on the top of the cake (the sides will be left "naked").
  11. Sprinkle the remaining pecans over the top, then drizzle the cake with caramel sauce. Serve immediately.
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