Pumpkin Spice Snacking Cake with Maple Buttercream Frosting and Sugared Walnuts

The appearance of all-things-flavored-with-pumpkin-spice is one of the harbingers of fall (or, more accurately, late summer), and this cake is one of my favorites of the category. It’s a moist cake with a light texture and a deeply spiced pumpkin flavor, and it’s perfect for snacking or for bringing to a friend’s house or any casual gathering. The frosting is a quick American buttercream flavored with maple extract (make sure you use pure extract, as opposed to maple flavoring – there’s a big difference), and I garnish it with sugared walnuts, which are super easy to make and add a pretty finish to this simple cake.

Makes one 9-inch square cake, serving 9


  • Pumpkin Spice Cake:
  • 3/4 cup (75 grams) walnuts
  • 1 3/4 cups (200 grams) cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 large (100 grams) eggs
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (162 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup (107 grams) neutral vegetable oil (such as safflower or canola oil)
  • 1 cup (240 grams) pumpkin puree (I always use Libby’s brand)
  • 1/3 cup (80 grams) whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Quick Sugared Walnuts:

  • ½ cup (50 grams) walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons (8 grams) granulated sugar
  • Pinch of fine sea salt

Maple Buttercream Frosting:

  • 9 tablespoons (127 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (122 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons heavy cream
  • ¾ teaspoon pure maple extract (available here)


Make the cake:

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square baking pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a piece of parchment paper, cut to fit, then grease the parchment paper. Dust the bottom and sides of the pan with flour, tapping out the excess.
  1. Scatter the walnuts on a baking sheet and bake them for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned and fragrant. Set aside to cool. Once cool, coarsely chop the walnuts.
  1. In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt and nutmeg. Whisk gently to combine well and set aside.
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs with both sugars at medium speed until pale, about 2 minutes. Add the oil, pumpkin puree, milk and vanilla extract and mix until blended. Add the flour mixture at low speed in three additions, mixing just until blended. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and stir in the toasted walnuts. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake the cake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Place the pan on a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes.
  1. Invert a wire rack on top of the cake and invert the cake onto the rack. Remove the pan and peel off the parchment paper. Reinvert the cake so that it’s right side up. Cool completely.

Make the sugared walnuts:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Place the walnuts in a small bowl and toss well with the vanilla, sugar and salt. Scatter the nuts on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake for 9 to 12 minutes, tossing them once during baking, until they are lightly browned and fragrant. Set aside to cool completely.

Make the frosting:

  1. Put the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk at medium speed until creamy, about 30 seconds or so. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar while whisking, followed by the heavy cream and maple extract and mixing until blended. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until aerated and very smooth, about 3 minutes. Spread the frosting over the top of the cooled cake and sprinkle with the sugared walnuts.

Recommended Equipment:

USA Pan Bakeware Square Cake Pan, 9 inch, Nonstick & Quick Release Coating


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Tish Boyle
Tish Boylehttps://pastryathome.com
Tish Boyle is the Managing Editor of Pastry Arts Magazine, a food writer and cookbook author with expertise in baking, desserts and chocolate. A graduate of Smith College and La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine, Tish has written several dessert and baking books including Chocolate Passion, Diner Desserts, The Good Cookie, The Cake Book and Flavorful. Co-writing credits include Payard Desserts and the Grand Finales series of books.


  1. Could I substitute real maple syrup for the maple extract? If so, how much would I use and would I omit some of the confectioner’s sugar or cream?

    Thank you!

      • How much do you think I should add in to start? Also, by 1 tablespoon of cream do you mean teaspoons? The recipe states 2 teaspoons of cream. Thanks so much!

        • Yes, sorry, I just updated that — I meant teaspoon! Start with 1 3/4 teaspoon maple syrup and see how that works flavor-wise. You can always add more, and if it gets too thin, just add more confectioners’ sugar….:)

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