Oh my word.  This cake.  Homey and rustic and perhaps a bit messy, but absolutely delicious.

I wasn’t always a cake person.  Cookies, of course.  Brownies? Absolutely.  Fruity crumbles and crisps?  Yes please. But cakes just didn’t thrill me. In fact, for decades, I rarely bothered to make cakes from scratch, as I led myself to believe an excellent frosting could make up for a perfectly adequate cake mix.

And then I started to blog. And pay closer attention to quality baking.  And finally realized boxed cake mixes, even covered in the best of frostings, are sad stand-ins for the real deal.  And homemade cakes can totally rock.  Especially layer cakes with awesome frosting.

Let me digress for a piece of family history: Once upon a time, before my husband was born, his family owned and ran a bakery in Akron, Ohio.  Happy customers lined up for their doughnuts and frosted cakes and Hungarian streudels.  But my father-in-law reported that the advent of the boxed cake mix in the 1950s put them out of business… as people were able to easily – and cheaply – make their own birthday cakes at home.

So with this story as part of the family lore, you’d think an anti-cake-mix bias would have started a bit earlier in life.  Alas…

Let me assure you, dear readers, a good layer cake is not difficult to perfect.  Recently, my cake inspiration have been the  cakes featured in Joy the Baker’s Homemade Decadence cookbook.  I’ve adopted a couple of her tricks.  Seems buttermilk (an ingredient I rarely used in cakes to date), makes a huge difference in creating a moist, perfectly delicious cake.


The recipe for Joy’s Three-Layer Chocolate Cake is my go-to recipe, but over the weekend, I fiddled with a recipe for her Brown Sugar Cupcakes.  A blustery weekend led to a craving for spice cake, and discovered I a couple of tablespoons of good quality (ahem, Trader Joe’s) pumpkin pie spice mixed into the lovely brown sugar batter evoked just the right level of spice.

Then we turned to the frosting.  Ever since I created that Mint Chocolate Chip Whipped Cream Frosting this summer, I’ve been crushing on the whipped cream approach – this time with a generous portion of salted caramel sauce mixed in.  Wow.


This cake was so amazing I made it twice this week… Over the weekend, as a birthday cake for a dear friend, I lined the sides with crushed heath bar bits.  Yesterday, when I made it for an extended family dinner, I tossed a few walnuts on the top as a garnish.  Either works.

As we brace for the “snowpocolypse” this weekend (they’re calling for two feet of snow here in DC, and we may be stuck in the house for days), I may just have to make it again…

I’m going to share this awesome cake with the crew on Fiesta Friday this week!

Three-Layer Spice Cake with Salted Caramel Whipped Cream Frosting
Adapted from Brown Sugar Cupcakes from Joy the Baker's Homemade Decadence
Serves: 8-10
  • The cake:
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1½ tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1½ cups buttermilk
  • The frosting:
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 cup good quality salted caramel sauce (I used Trader Joe's Fleur de Sel Sauce)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease and flour 3 9-inch round pans
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute between each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add half of the flour mixture, and beat well. Add the buttermilk in a slow stream and beat well. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula. Divide the batter among the three prepared cake pans.
  5. Bake until golden brown on top and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool in the pans for 20 minutes before inverting onto wire racks to cool.
  6. Be sure to cool completely before frosting.
  7. Frosting:
  8. Combine the cream cheese and sugar in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment and mix on medium speed until smooth.
  9. While the mixture is still whipping, slowly pour in the heavy cream. Stop and scrape the bottom of the bowl a couple of times while you continue whipping until the cream can hold a stiff peak. This happens very quickly - be sure to watch it carefully. Add the caramel sauce and mix until combined.

I’ve decided to share this post with the lovely crew at Lavender and Lovage and Hedgecombers for Teatime Treats!

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27 Responses to "Three-Layer Spice Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting"
  1. I go back and forth on whether I’m a cake person too!

  2. I agree, homemade cakes are much better than the boxed kind and yours looks stunning! I love your idea of lining the sides with crushed health bar bits. How creative! Happy FF, and have a wonderful weekend. 😀

  3. CakePants says:

    This looks positively irresistible! Despite my blog name, I don’t often make cakes, but I may have to make an exception for this one! As far as I know, we’re not expecting a storm in Michigan, but this cake sure would make any weekend better. I hope you don’t get snowed in!

    • mb says:

      Oh, we’ll be snowed in for days… unlike Michigan, Virginia is notoriously bad about digging out after snows, and we’re slated to get nearly 3 feet!

  4. Lesley Stuart says:

    Quick question – did you mean ‘Heath Bar’, or health bar?

    Thanks–looks amazing!


    • mb says:

      HA! Not much healthy about heath bar bits! I meant heath bars, of course 🙂 Thanks for catching my typo!

  5. Susan says:

    Homey, rustic and messy…sign me up! I will be trying this recipe, can’t wait!

  6. Sonal says:

    What a gorgeous cake! Joy the baker is like a treasure of cakes and bakes and the tricks! Her work is amazing and tips are foolproof!
    Loved your cake :). Thanks for sharing it with FF crew ;).
    Have fun!!

  7. Linda says:

    Incredible looking cake! I bet it was absolutely divine! 🙂 thanks for bring it to Fiesta Friday!

  8. Love, love, love a good spice cake!

  9. Stef says:

    Yummy this is one delicious looking!

    • Stef says:

      … Cake… there is meant to be a cake in the end of that sentence. oops!! But I was just so distracted just thinking about how epic this cake looks and sounds with the yummy spice and cream cheese frosting that I forgot to continue writing. lol. Well done you making such a beautiful masterpiece.

  10. Jhuls says:

    Cheers for the homemade cake! This looks absolutely perfect! 🙂

  11. Colleen says:

    Cake! Yummy Cake! Perfect snow food!

  12. Petra says:

    I had to just look at your cake for a while and admire it before I could read the post. Salted caramel frosting is just talking to me! It sounds so decadent and utterly delicious! I completely understand why you did it twice in a week!
    I have saved the recipe and I will give this a go!
    You made Fiesta Friday even happier 🙂

  13. Justine says:

    Beautiful cake! Making a cake from scratch isn’t the easiest thing, but I think you did an amazing job.

  14. I’m a sucker for anything with salted caramel! Such a delicious-looking cake!

  15. This cake has my name all over it!

  16. This sounds so delicious and looks fantastic as well. I rarely make cakes either as we’re not really much of a sweet tooth in our house – me probably the most so I’d end up eating it myself over a week or more, probably! But it might have to be done anyway soon, you have me tempted…

  17. Beth says:

    This cake looks delicious! And the flavours sou d amazing too 🙂

  18. Sarah says:

    Looks delicious!

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