An Epic Dessert: Pumpkin Butter Ice Cream Cake

Not a fan of pumpkin pie? Make this easy layered beauty your sweet of the season

Photo: Jonathan Boncek

Why does the chef Cynthia Wong loathe pumpkin pie? Is it the texture? The one-note flavor? The humdrum color? Its propensity for soggy crust, perhaps? “It’s all of the above,” says the founder of the Charleston, South Carolina–based Life Raft Treats, which is known for their playful desserts. But that doesn’t mean Wong eschews pumpkin sweets altogether. “My team and I wanted to make a pumpkin-y, spice-y fall cake of our dreams, and this is it,” she says. Whether you fall into the anti–pumpkin pie camp along with Wong, or just want to shake things up this holiday season, this ice cream cake makes for a flavorful fall spin that may just replace the classic for many holidays to come.

photo: Jonathan Boncek


  • PUMPKIN BUTTER ICE CREAM CAKE (Yield: One 8-inch cake; serves 10 to 12)

    • 3 cake layers (recipe follows)

    • 1 batch pumpkin butter (recipe follows)

    • 1 pint vanilla or cheesecake ice cream

    • Candied pumpkin seeds, for garnish (optional)

  • For the cake:

    • 1¼ cups unsalted butter

    • 2¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

    • 1¼ tsp. baking soda

    • 1¼ tsp. cinnamon

    • ⅛ tsp. ground cardamom

    • ½ tsp. ground ginger

    • 1 tsp. kosher salt

    • 2¼ cups firmly packed dark brown sugar

    • 2 eggs

    • 1½ cups pumpkin puree

    • ⅓ cup sour cream

  • For the pumpkin butter:

    • 1⅓ cup pumpkin puree

    • ¾ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

    • ⅛ tsp. ground cardamom

    • ¼ tsp. ground ginger

    • ⅛ tsp. ground allspice

    • ¼ tsp. grated nutmeg

    • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter

    • ¼ tsp. kosher salt


  1. In a small pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Cook the butter, stirring continuously until the butter begins to brown. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until just beginning to firm up, about 15 minutes.  In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350°F and spray three 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and line with parchment circles cut to fit the bottom. 

  2. Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the browned butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the pumpkin puree. On low speed, stir in ⅓ of the flour mixture. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, then stir in half of the sour cream. Repeat with remaining flour and sour cream, finishing with the flour mixture. 

  3. Evenly divide batter into the prepared pans and bake until a wooden skewer inserted comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Let the cakes cool for five minutes then wrap each one in plastic wrap (this trick seals in moisture) and refrigerate. 

  4. Make the pumpkin butter: In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine all ingredients. Stirring continuously, bring the mixture to a simmer. Remove from the heat and scrape into a heatproof bowl. Cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate.

  5. Assemble the cakes: Soften the ice cream to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Place one of the cake layers on a cake plate or serving platter. Spread half of the pumpkin butter over the cake layer, then top with ⅓ of the softened ice cream. Repeat with the remaining cake layers, pumpkin butter, and ice cream, finishing the top with the ice cream. Smooth the sides with a spatula and store in the freezer. 

  6. To serve, let sit out for at least 15 minutes before garnishing with candied pumpkin seeds, if you choose, and slicing with a sharp knife warmed under hot water.