Tessa Huff


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Pumpkin Creme Brûlée Cake

Pumpkin Creme Brûlée Cake Recipe with vanilla pastry cream and caramelized white chocolate frosting.

Let’s start a blog called “Will it Layer Cake?” where we take different dessert concepts and try to turn them into layer cakes.  Who’s with me?  You know, like can you make a layer cake from Milk and Cookies?    You betcha! Or Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake?  Oh, hell yes!  But I ask you this, can you turn creme brûlée into a layer cake?  Perhaps, just not today…

Pumpkin Creme Brûlée Cake Recipe with vanilla pastry cream and caramelized white chocolate frosting.
Pumpkin Creme Brûlée Cake Recipe with vanilla pastry cream and caramelized white chocolate frosting.
Pumpkin Creme Brûlée Cake Recipe with vanilla pastry cream and caramelized white chocolate frosting.

I know there are plenty of creme brûlée inspired cakes and cupcakes on the web.  These creations usually have some-sort of brown sugar frosting or sport sugar shard-like accessories.  But I am talking about that signature “crunch” from a spoon shattering the burnt sugar topping and diving straight into a pool of custard goodness.  Is there a way to incorporate that quintessential trait of a good creme brûlée in a layer cake?

I’m not going to lie to you.  As it stands, this cake is pretty impractical.  While I did achieve the brunt sugar topping I was going for, the crispy top makes in nearly impossible to slice.  At this stage of development (how ridiculous does that sound? lol), I haven't quite figured out a way to keep the crunchy top while maintaining the integrity of the slice (sounding even more ridiculous now, haha).  You see, the other main component of creme brûlée is creamy baked vanilla custard, so it was clear that the filling of this Pumpkin Creme Brûlée Cake should be pastry cream.  Pastry cream is a pretty unstable filling, especially paired with this soft, tender pumpkin cake.  So no, today creme brûlée did no “layer cake”

However, I did give it a good try and I wanted to share the results anyways.  I piped pastry cream on the top layer of the cake before blanketing it in sugar.  I used a pretty heavy hand when adding the sugar for fear that the flame of my culinary torch would melt the cream underneath.  This might be the biggest design flaw of this creme brûlée cake.  The sugar did in fact brûlée, caramelize, and harden.  Success!!  Kind of.  The crunchy sugar layer was too think.  By the time I went to slice it, I had to shatter the top layer of beautifully burnt sugar.

The saving grace of this cake is the buttercream.  It. Is. SOOOOOO. Good!!!  In a way, I could have skipped the whole crispy sugar part and still gotten away with the “creme brûlée” title, because the buttercream is flavoured with a caramelized white chocolate.  I used Dulcey 35% chocolate - Valhrona’s blonde white chocolate.  I am not a white chocolate fan at all, but this stuff is seriously the best chocolate I have ever tasted!

Pumpkin Creme Brûlée Cake Recipe with vanilla pastry cream and caramelized white chocolate frosting.
Pumpkin Creme Brûlée Cake Recipe with vanilla pastry cream and caramelized white chocolate frosting.
Pumpkin Creme Brûlée Cake Recipe with vanilla pastry cream and caramelized white chocolate frosting.

And why pumpkin creme brûlée cake?  Because Fall, obviously.  This is a variation of the pumpkin pie cake in my book.  I swapped out the brown sugar but added in a bit of molasses for depth and color.  This cake is soooo soft and tender.  You could totally be satisfied eating it all by it self.  I definitely didn’t miss any extra frosting by keeping is “naked” either.  This is the type of cake that doesn’t have to rely on buckets of frosting, sprinkles, or drippy chocolate to taste good.

But also, because of the Virtual Pumpkin Party!!!!  Today, Sara and Aimee are hosting another annual Virtual Pumping Party.  I could not be more excited!  Basically a chance to party online with some of my blogger friends and share ALL THE PUMPIN THINGS!  Sweet, savoury, and everything in between.  Be sure to head over to Cake Over Steak and Twigg Studios to find all of the amazing recipes!! 

Lastly, if you are wondering about my recipe from last year, it was this Chocolate Stout and Pumpkin Checkerboard Cake.

Pumpkin Creme Brûlée Cake Recipe with vanilla pastry cream and caramelized white chocolate frosting.

Pumpkin Cake
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 14 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
pinch cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup grapeseed or canola oil
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour three 6-inch cake pans and set aside.

Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.
Using an electric mixer, combine the oil, sugar, molasses and vanilla.  With the mixer running on low, add in the eggs – one at a time.

Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
In two batches, gradually mix in the dry ingredients until nearly combined.  Mix in the pumpkin until incorporated.

Evenly distribute the batter between the prepared pans.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.  Once completely cool, trim the tops as needed.


Vanilla Pastry Cream
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
1 cup whole milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon butter

Place the vanilla bean seeds and milk in a saucepan.  Slowly bring to a low boil over medium heat.
Meanwhile, combine the sugar, yolk, and cornstarch just as the milk starts to simmer.  Whisk in a small portion of the hot milk into the egg mixture to gradually raise the temperature of the eggs. 
Transfer everything back into the saucepan and place over low heat.  Stirring constantly, heat the mixture until thickened, taking care not to over-heat and curdle the mixture – about 5 minutes.  Slows, big bubbles should “plop” up to the surface when done.  

Strain the pastry cream with a mesh sieve into a clean bowl.  Stir in the butter until combined.

Place a piece of plastic wrap directly to the surface of the pastry cream and refrigerate until cool and thickened, or overnight.

Caramelized White Chocolate Buttercream
3 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces Dulcey Chocolate, melted and cooled

Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Whisk them together by hand to combine.  Fill a medium saucepan with a few inches of water and place it over medium-high heat.  Place the mixer bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double-boiler.  The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water.

Whisking intermittently, heat the egg mixture until it registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer or is hot to the touch.  Once hot, carefully fit the mixer bowl onto the stand mixer.

With the whisk attachment, beat the egg white mixture on high speed for about 8 to 10 minutes, until it holds medium-stiff peaks.  When done, the outside of the mixer bowl should return to room temperature and no residual heat should be escaping the meringue out of the top of the bowl.  Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk attachment for the paddle.

With the mixer on low speed, add the butter, a few tablespoons at a time, then the vanilla.  Once incorporated, turn up the mixer speed to medium-high an beat until buttercream is silky smooth, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add in the melted chocolate and mix until combined. 

Fill a piping bag with the caramelized white chocolate buttercream.  Set aside.
Place the bottom layer of cake on a serving dish or cake board.  Pipe a buttercream boarder around the top edge of the cake.  Fill the inside of the buttercream ‘dam’ with pastry cream.  Top with the next layer of cake and repeat.

For the creme brûlée top, pipe a thin layer of pastry cream on top of the cake.  Generously cover with fine or granulated sugar.  Use a culinary torch to melt and caramelize the sugar topping.  As it cools, it should harden.  Pop int he fridge until set.

Once chilled, pipe around the top edge of the cake to cover the edges of the brûléed pastry cream.

NOTE - as mentioned earlier the crispy topping is difficult to cut through.  If yours ends up too thick and hardlike mine, scrape and pipe the remaining buttercream on the top of the cake.  OR skip the pastry cream all together.  There should enough buttercream to fill and decorate the cake.

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