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Pumpkin Spice Cake w/ Mascarpone Frosting & Candied Pepitas

pumpkin spice cake

Thanksgiving Menu Item #1. I am starting with dessert because it is the most important part of the meal.  When you are so full and falling asleep from a tryptophan overdose, you need something so irresistible that people have no choice but to sacrifice their comfort for just one slice.  Or if you are like me and just don’t like pumpkin pie, this will become the new standard because it satisfies pumpkin pie lovers and haters alike – bringing everyone together in the true spirit of Thanksgiving.

eggs + sugar

pumpkin swirl

dry ingredients

This recipe is a bit of a hybrid – I love pumpkin spice bread but it seems odd that something so seasonal is made with a canned product (forgive my farmers market pretentiousness here).  So I took some inspiration from a cake we made at Locanda that Chef DeMasco made like a carrot cake, with fresh shredded squash – ok it might seem weird to use squash in a pumpkin cake but it has much less water content than pumpkin which allows it to moisten the cake without making it super soggy. I thought this was brilliant.

shredded pumpkin

batter up!

just out of the oven

icing station

cupcakes in a row

Pumpkin Spice Cake w/ Mascarpone Frosting

Yield: 2 9" cakes or 24 cupcakes


  1. 1 cup brown sugar

for the cake:

  1. 1 cup sugar in the raw (or demerara sugar)

  2. 1 cup grapeseed oil (or other flavorless oil like safflower oil)

  3. 4 eggs

  4. 1½ tsp vanilla

  5. 1 cup sour cream

  6. ½ cup pumpkin puree

  7. 3 cups flour

  8. 2 tsp baking powder

  9. 2 tsp baking soda

  10. 2 tsp kosher salt

  11. 1 tsp nutmeg

  12. 1 tsp cinnamon

  13. ½ tsp allspice

  14. 7 cups grated butternut squash (about 1 small butternut) - you will need a food processor with the grate attachment

for the frosting:

  1. 1lb (2 cups) mascarpone, at room temperature

  2. 1 cup confectioners sugar

  3. 1 tsp vanilla

  4. for the candied pepitas (aka pumpkin seeds):

  5. ½ cup pepitas

  6. 2-3 tbl maple syrup

  7. ¼ cup sugar in the raw (or demerara sugar)

  8. a pinch of salt


cake instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease 2 9" cake pans and line each with parchment or line cupcake pan.

  2. In the largest bowl you have, whisk the sugars and oil together making sure all of the sugar is wet. Add the eggs and vanilla, whisking to fully incorporate (you don't need to beat this, you just want a uniform looking paste, no yolks or clumps of sugar). Mix in the sour cream and pumpkin puree.

  3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices.

  4. Switching to a spatula, fold the dry ingredients to the wet mixture, mixing just until combined, there can be a few streaks of flour still visible here as you will be giving it another mix in the next step.

  5. Fold in the grated butternut squash, getting it as evenly distributed as possible and pour batter into prepared pans.

  6. Bake cakes for 60-70 minutes (until knife or toothpick comes out clean), or bake cupcakes for 40 minutes. (keep oven on for pepitas if making).

frosting instructions:

  1. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, beat mascarpone until light and fluffy – about 5 minutes on medium/high speed.

  2. With the mixer on its lowest speed, gradually add the confectioners sugar. Add the vanilla and scrape the sides of the bowl before increasing the speed and beating the frosting on medium speed for 2-3 minutes.

candied pepitas instructions:

  1. Combine pepitas with maple syrup, tossing to coat evenly.

  2. Mix in the sugar in the raw and pinch of salt. Spread this mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment, making sure to get all the syrup and sugar stuck to the bowl.

  3. Bake for 10 minutes, stir and bake for another 5-7 minutes until bubbling sugar looks a bit dry.

  4. Frost the cakes and decorate with the candied pepitas.


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