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Chocolate Snack Cake With Pumpkin Buttercream

Chocolate Snack Cake With Pumpkin Buttercream | Sarah Kieffer | The Vanilla Bean Blog
I’ve somehow convinced myself that if I only bake one layer of chocolate cake, I can still mound piles of buttercream on top, cut it into tiny pieces, and call it a snack. Which is exactly what happened here. There was pumpkin puree to use up, I was craving just the tiniest bite of chocolate cake, and then two hours later we all were nibbling on indulgent squares of pumpkin and chocolate snack cake.

Not a bad scene for Tuesday afternoon.

The chocolate cake recipe is from Kamran Siddiqi’s wonderful book, Handmade Baking. The pumpkin buttercream is adapted from the Tough Cookie. If you’d rather make Italian pumpkin buttercream, she can show you how on her site.

Cooking the pumpkin on the stove top first is important! The moisture is cooked out, and the concentrated pumpkin has much better flavor. You may have some pumpkin puree left over.

Chocolate Snack Cake With Pumpkin Buttercream | Sarah Kieffer | The Vanilla Bean Blog
A few things:

You can now order The Vanilla Bean Baking Book! I’m so excited for you to see it.

Other cookbooks just out or nearly out I highly recommend: Molly On the Range, Adventures in Chicken, Alternative Baker, and Eat My Kitchen.

Fascinating read about Pete Wells, New York Times food critic.

The foods everyone was obsessed with the most the last 40 years. A fun look back at food trends.

Chocolate Snack Cake With Pumpkin Buttercream | Sarah Kieffer | The Vanilla Bean Blog

More Snack Cake Recipes:

chocolate snack cake with pumpkin buttercream in a square pan, slices cut

Chocolate Snack Cake with Pumpkin Buttercream

Servings: 1 9 inch cake
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
A fudgy chocolate snack cake made in a square 9 inch pan, topped with a delicious pumpkin buttercream frosting!
Sarah Kieffer
5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate


Chocolate Cake

  • 1 cup (198g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (107g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons 30g unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch-processed or natural)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream room temperature
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 large egg room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup hot coffee or boiling water

Pumpkin Buttercream Frosting

  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup (50g) light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup (227g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (226g) powdered sugar


For the cake

  • Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, and heat the oven to 350F. Butter a 9-inch square pan and line it with parchment paper. Butter the parchment and dust the pan with flour; tap out the excess.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • In a large liquid measuring cup or bowl, whisk together the sour cream, oil, egg, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With the mixer still on low, add the coffee (or water) and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 27-35 minutes, until a cake tester comes out just a few stray crumbs attached. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack and cool completely, removing parchment paper.

For the buttercream

  • Combine the pumpkin puree, sugar, butter, ginger, and cinnamon in a small saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring continuously until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat to medium and continue to heat the mixture, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil (the mixture is quite thick, so you need to look for slow bubbles). Once the puree is bubbling, turn the heat down to medium-low and cook the mixture for about 5 minutes, still stirring. Remove the puree from the heat. For a fine consistency, use a blender (or stick blender) to blitz. Cool to room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before using.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy, 2-3 minutes. Add the salt and vanilla, and beat again until combined. Turn the mixer to low, and slowly add the powdered sugar, mixing until combined. Add the chilled pumpkin puree to the buttercream one tablespoon at a time, mixing well after each addition. Keep adding until the desired pumpkin taste is reached, making sure not to add too much puree (which can make the buttercream runny). Scrape down the sides and increase the mixer speed to medium; beat until the buttercream is light and smooth, 4-6 minutes.

Note: If you end up adding too much pumpkin and your buttercream is runny, you can add either more butter or powdered sugar (1 tablespoon at a time) to help make it light and creamy again. Just remember that adding more powdered sugar will make it sweeter, and more butter will make it very buttery. I usually add alternating tablespoons of both.

    To assemble

    • Move the cake to a serving platter. Frost the top (and sides, if desired) with the buttercream. Cut into squares and serve.
    • Reply
      Thursday, March 7, 2024 at 4:08 pm

      5 stars
      This is THE best homemade chocolate cake I’ve ever had. Or ever made. It is so good. Everytime I make it, it’s gone within the hour.

    • Reply
      Becca Gilgan
      Saturday, October 23, 2021 at 11:24 pm

      5 stars
      A delicious, fudge-y, and decadent chocolate cake with a sweet and lightly spiced pumpkin frosting. I did mine in an 8×8 glass dish and it required a few more minutes baking time but I just used a toothpick to get the desired consistency. This amount of buttercream leaves a substantial layer on top of the cake, which is such a treat! Just a note: the 1 TBSP of butter is only for the pumpkin purée mix (in the saucepan) NOT the 1 cup, leave that for the icing sugar! I learned the hard way!

      • Reply
        Thursday, September 14, 2023 at 6:22 pm

        yikes I wish I read the comments before getting to read the comments,
        oh well we will see how it turns out !!!

    • Reply
      Rachel Barrocas
      Monday, November 14, 2016 at 1:13 pm

      How may days will the cake stay fresh??? Trying to determine when to bake for Thanksgiving versus freezing as you mention above!

      • Reply
        Monday, November 14, 2016 at 1:40 pm

        Hi Rachel – the cake is good for at least two days. I usually make it the night before serving, but it will still taste good a day or two later. You can freeze it ahead of time, and then frost it the day of, or the day before. I hope that helps! 🙂

    • Reply
      Sunday, November 6, 2016 at 3:31 pm

      I´m not that much into pumpkin, to be honest. But this cake makes me curious!

    • Reply
      Savana Scarlett
      Monday, October 31, 2016 at 3:53 pm

      Do you think you could pour this into an 8 inch round cake tin and use this as your “chocolate cake?” I made this the other night and its delicious and have to make a cake this weekend and would love to just use this recipe.

      • Reply
        Monday, October 31, 2016 at 9:08 pm

        Hi Savana – I think that should work fine! I’ve baked this cake in an 8 inch square pan and it worked great; I’m sure the circle pan would be no problem. Just make sure your cake pan has 2-inch sides.

    • Reply
      Melissa@Julia's Bookbag
      Sunday, October 2, 2016 at 1:42 pm

      Sarah – thankyouthankyou – this makes my falltime happy!

    • Reply
      Jeff stroud
      Thursday, September 29, 2016 at 9:11 am

      Looks great, I have some ingredients I will have to pick up or adjust to create. I look forward to making and tasting,

    • Reply
      Thursday, September 29, 2016 at 7:39 am

      Sarah! I made this yesterday, all dairy-free, and even subbed in a few different sugars — it stood up to the changes beautifully! I just wanted to share — because it’s a recipe that can roll with substitutes beautifully if you have certain intolerances. YAY! And your book!

      • Reply
        Thursday, September 29, 2016 at 9:42 am

        Maggie – I’m so glad to hear this, and I’m so glad you liked the cake! 🙂

    • Reply
      Lynn | The Road to Honey
      Thursday, September 29, 2016 at 6:58 am

      Big Congrats on the cookbook. And the cake-to-frosting ratio is spot on. 😉

    • Reply
      Kelsey @ Appeasing a Food Geek
      Thursday, September 29, 2016 at 6:16 am

      Uhhhhhmmmm I need this now! Especially because I’m such a pumpkin and chocolate junkie. Also that ratio of frosting to cake has me all googley-eyed over here! xoxo

    • Reply
      Wednesday, September 28, 2016 at 6:26 pm

      This is a winning cake! That buttercream!! So yummy!

    • Reply
      Sarah // The Sugar Hit
      Wednesday, September 28, 2016 at 6:03 pm

      Exact right ratio of frosting to cake here. And I never cease to adore your beautifully lit photos. 10/10.

    • Reply
      Ashley Rodriguez
      Wednesday, September 28, 2016 at 3:27 pm

      I want this snack cake right now! Love the combination of pumpkin and chocolate.

    • Reply
      Wednesday, September 28, 2016 at 3:04 pm

      Still adore your effortless, simple, classic style, Sarah. And this cake – WOW.

    • Reply
      Scott Beck
      Wednesday, September 28, 2016 at 2:15 pm

      This is amazing and you are awesome!

    • Reply
      Aimee Wimbush-Bourque
      Wednesday, September 28, 2016 at 12:49 pm

      So fantastic! Have you tried freezing this? I’m thinking about a do-ahead Thanksgiving dessert…..

      • Reply
        Wednesday, September 28, 2016 at 2:07 pm

        Aimee -I haven’t tried freezing this assembled. But the cake should freeze just fine, and the buttercream should too, in a ziplock bag. Let it thaw overnight in the fridge, and whip the buttercream again until light and fluffy, then frost the cake.

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