Pumpkin Crunch Cake

Don’t forget to check out our new FOOD BLOG – SKINNY NOT SKINNY – dedicated 100% to food! πŸ™‚

While visiting family out of town for the holiday this past weekend, I baked so many yummy goodies that it’s truly hard for me not to share them with you all at once. Not to overwhelm you, I’m sharing the recipes one by one over the next couple weeks. This holiday I really knocked it out of the park with the desserts I chose to make. I’m not one to make the same thing over and over, so I chose to make new-to-my-family-recipes that included a cake, bars, bread, dessert balls and more.

Today I’m starting out with one of the best. This cake ties for the first place dessert that my family loved the most on Christmas Eve. My family couldn’t decide if the Pecan Pie Truffles that I shared with you on Monday or this Pumpkin Crunch Cake was the best so we called them both the best. The Pecan Pie Truffles were the “Best. Dessert Balls. Ever.” and the this cake is the “Best. Cake. Ever.”

Seriously, I wouldn’t lie to you, this cake is delicious! I ran into a problem in the middle of making the cake when I was taking the cakes out of the pans that almost made it a complete Pinterest Fail but I was able to pull it all together and make it look perfect. It just took a little tender loving care and piecing some of the cake back together but you’d never know it by the finished product.

Pumpkin Cake

Crunch Topping
  • 3 Cups (450 g) walnuts, finely chopped
  • 3 Cups (360 g) vanilla wafers (about 75 cookies)
  • 3 Cups (540 g) brown sugar
  • 12 oz (340 g) butter
Pumpkin Crunch Cake
  • 1ΒΌ (250 g) cup sugar
  • 6 oz (168 g) softened butter
  • 1 16 oz (425 g) can solid pack pumpkin
  • 2Β½ ( 300 g) Cups flour
  • Β½ Cup (96 g) Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla
  • 1 Tablespoon (15 g) pumpkin pie spice
  • 2ΒΌ Teaspoons( 12 g) baking powder
  • ΒΎ Teaspoon (4 g) baking soda
  • Β½ Teaspoon (2.5) Salt
  • 4 Large Eggs
Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 24 oz (454 g) cream cheese
  • 8 oz (227 g) softened butter
  • 2 cups (150 g) confectioners (powdered) sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla

Crunch Topping
1. Melt Butter. In a food processor, pulse cookies to a fine crumb. Remove from processor and put into a medium bowl. Then pulse walnuts to very small pieces. Add walnuts to the bowl with the cookie crumbs.

2. Add in Brown Sugar and mix well. Add in Melted Butter and mix until completely blended.

3. Place one very full cup of the mixture into 3 greased 8″ round cake pans, pressing into bottom and spreading it evenly into the cake pans. Reserve about 2 cups of the mixture which will be baked to use on the sides of the cake. Set pans aside and begin cake.

4. Preheat Oven to 350 degrees.

Pumpkin Cake
1. In your mixer beat sugar and butter for about 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy, scrapping down the bowl frequently . Add In Pumpkin and all the rest of the ingredients, except the eggs. Mix just until blended. Do not over blend. Add in the Eggs, one at a time just until blended.

2. Divide batter equally into your 3 prepared cake pans on top of the nut/cookie mixture, smooth it out and make it as even as possible in the pan. Place remaining crunch mixture in a 4th cake pan or pie dish and allow to bake for the same amount of time as the cakes.

3. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If you use 2 racks to bake on in the oven, at the halfway mark rotate the pans .
Allow pans to cool about 10 minutes, then turn them out onto a wire racks and allow to completely cool. DO NOT LET THE CAKES COOL IN THE PANS. This is important because the crunch mixture will stick to the pans and you’ll be scraping it out. I made this mistake and ended up scraping much of the crumb mixture off the pans and piecing it back together on top of the cake layers. This was almost a Pinterest FAIL! Luckily I fixed it all in the frosting stage of the cake.

4. Break up the extra crunch mix to very small bits to use to decorate the cake with. While your cakes are baking prepare a Cream Cheese Frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1. Whip the cream cheese and butter till very smooth and creamy. Slowly add in the powdered sugar while mixer is on low setting. Add in Vanilla and mix well. Set aside till needed.

1. After your cake is completely cooled. I recommend refrigerating the layers for an hour or so to make frosting easier, especially if you had to piece the crumb mixture back on top of the cake. Then begin frosting the layers and putting the cake together.

2. Frost one layer of cake. (If you use the icing recipe I list here, you’ll have plenty of frosting to make pretty thick layers in between the layers.) Top the frosted layer with a second layer and frost the top. Repeat with the third layer.

3. When you have assembled all the layers with some frosting between them, start to spread the remaining frosting on the sides and top. When finished frosting the cake, coat sides and top with your extra crunch mixture. Just take handfuls of the crunch mixture and carefully smash it into the sides of the frosted cake.

*Store cake in refrigerator. Serves 12-16.

Once you are finished frosting your cake, refrigerate it for a few hours before serving. Chilling the cake will help hold every thing together and firm the cake up. Since the frosting has cream cheese in it, keep it stored in the refrigerator. This is a very rich, heavy cake and will feed loads of people. You can feed AT LEAST 12-16 people! It’s a great cake for a party or a holiday. Every one in my family LOVED it! For your next party or holiday, you have to whip this one up. It’s A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!

Pumpkin Cake

Pumpkin Cake

Pumpkin Crunch Cake

Pumpkin Cake

Don’t forget to check out our new FOOD BLOG – SKINNY NOT SKINNY – dedicated 100% to food!

Recipe adapted from Good Housekeeping Desserts and Ask Chef Dennis.


  1. Hi Holly,
    I really want to make this cake… it looks soon delicious!!!
    Question though; can i make it with a ‘fresh’ pumpkin and if yes: how?
    I can’t find cans with ready-to-go pumpkin mash (maybe because i’m from Holland πŸ™‚

    Thanks! D

    • It is the recipe from Chef Dennis that was adapted from Good Housekeeping Good Desserts! We have had both credits at the bottom of the recipe since we posted it. Yes, it’s a great recipe and definitely deserves credit where credit is due and we did just that. πŸ™‚

  2. Thank you! One last question. I just baked the cakes, is the topping on the bottom supposed to be more on the moist side as opposed to crisp? Not sure if I just greased the pan too much or what because when I took out of the pan parts of the topping fell apart seemed very moist

  3. When you say add one cup of the topping to three 8″ pans is that one cup of topping per pan or splitting that one cup up between the three pans?

  4. I just finished the cake. I was so afraid from all the comments but they came out of the pan with NO EFFORT. They look absolutely amazing! After watching the Chef who first coined this recipe show it on YouTube I understand why it is truly important to bake with crunch on and not separately the cake’s true essence comes from the crunch built right in, Also if you do everything correctly you won’t need the parchment paper and using flour to keep this cake from sticking is a sin. Thanks for your fantastic Blog! Keep baking!

  5. I made this cake for thanksgiving and it was a hit! My topping also stuck, and I pieced it together. I will try parchment paper next go around. Also, I used pecans instead of walnuts and it was great! Quick question though, did you measure out the 3 cups of nuts/vanilla wafers before or after you crushed/chopped them?

  6. I made this for thanksgiving and it was AMAZING. I have to thank you for this recipe! Some commented that it was the best cake they ever ate. For those of you that had your cakes fall apart or the crunch portion stick to the pans, you need to use parchment circles in your pans. It’s a sticky mix with sugar and butter so obviously you need something to keep it from sticking. I had no problems getting mine to turn out perfectly. Thanks again!!!

  7. I just finished making this cake, and it looks absolutely gorgeous! Thanks for the awesome recipe. If it tastes half as good as it looks, I’ll be in pumpkin heaven!

  8. I’m curious, has anyone tried doing what one of the other commenters said? Why not bake the cakes and the crunch topping seperately and when you go to ice the cakes, add the crunch topping in between each layer while assembling the cake? I’m going to try this on Wednesday…wish me luck!!!

  9. Urgh same thing happened to me, all of the topping stuck to the pan. I wanted to use parchment paper but didn’t have any. I did grease the pans too, I’m going to turn it into a trifle instead, my friend made this cake last week and it was amazing.

  10. I followed recipe exactly as written and cooled cakes 10 minutes to avoid crunch topping from sticking. Complete disaster!!! Cakes broke apart due to crunch sticking to pan. I recommend cooking the topping on cookie sheet then making cakes and place crunch topping in between layers. I’m sure it’s delicious but not pleasing to the eye.

    • I’m so sorry to hear that your cake didn’t turn out, Carlee! Maybe the pans needed to be greased more if they have a tendency to grab on to the food?

      • Any chance you’ve tried the cupcakes? I was thinking about adapting this recipe for cupcakes as well, and I’m debating whether to put a crunch layer on the bottom or just on top. I don’t want to end up with a mess when people take off the cupcake liner!


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