This cake is the perfect centerpiece for any Halloween party table!
I’ve seen pumpkin shaped specialty cake pans, but I’ve learned over the years that those rarely work properly. A few years ago I saw instructions for using Bundt pans and boxed cake mix to make pumpkins. But I wanted a show piece, so I took this idea a little further than simply painting a face in frosting. After some trial and error, I came up with a fully lit Jack O’ Lantern.
To cut out a face, I needed a denser cake, so I used a classic pound cake. To prevent the face from collapsing, I cut away some of the interior weight. I’m not a big pumpkin fan, so I used apple as the Fall base instead. This allows for a lighter flavor and less moisture.
This Jack O’ Lantern cake needs only a Bundt pan. If you have two of the exact same patterned Bundt pans, feel free to bake both cakes at once.
The below recipe makes one cake. To make the whole pumpkin, you’ll need to double the recipe. I make the recipe twice, to ensure I put the same amount of batter in each pan.
I decorated the cake pictured using a cream cheese frosting. You may want a fluffier buttercream frosting. Or, if you like the look of your plain cake, you can try a simple powdered sugar glaze over the whole cake.
Bundt cake pan
Mini Bundt cake pans or cupcake tin
Battery operated pumpkin LED light or tea lights
4” X 8” piece of cake board or poster board
Green licorice (optional decoration)
Apple Spice Cake:
(Makes one Bundt cake, ½ the Jack O’ Lantern)
- 1 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
- Additional butter needed for pans
- 1 ¾ cups sugar
- 5 eggs
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla
- 3 cups flour + additional flour for the pans
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 ½ cups unsweetened applesauce
Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 4 ½ cups powdered sugar
- Optional Frosting Flavors:
- Zest of ½ a lemon
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- Orange food coloring
- Green food coloring
If you only have one Bundt pan at your disposal, decide if you want to double the recipe up front, or make the batter for each cake separately. I personally can’t accurately split the batter without two Bundt pans, so I make the batter for each cake separately.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour the Bundt pan, and one mini Bundt pan. If using a cupcake tin, line one cupcake tin. Use plenty of butter and flour.
Beat butter until it is fluffy – the fluffier the better. Add the sugar and mix well. Add eggs one at a time, mix well between each egg. Add vanilla. Stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Turn mixer on medium-slow and add flour and applesauce alternately to the butter and sugar mixture.
For the first cake, fill one mini Bundt pan or cupcake tin, 1/2 full. Pour remaining mixture into the floured Bundt pan(s) and place in oven for 34-45 minutes. Check on the smaller cake after 20 minutes. The cake is done when golden in color and toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let the cake cool and shrink so it is easier to remove from the pan.
Repeat the above instructions for the second Bundt cake, omitting the mini Bundt pan or cupcake tin. You only need one mini cake.
When both Bundt cakes are completely cool, flip the cakes wrong side up. Using a long cake knife, level out the bottoms as much as possible.
Leaving one cake upside down, place the other leveled cake right side up. Line up the grooves in the pattern. Voila, even if you don’t cut a face into the cake, you have a perfect pumpkin to frost. Use the mini Bundt cake or cupcake as a stem.
If making a day or two before eating, don’t frost the cake. Instead, wrap the unfrosted cakes tightly in plastic wrap.
Decorating and assembling:
For the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Reduce mixer speed and slowly add the powdered sugar. Increase mixer speed and beat frosting until fluffy. Add any desired flavorings. Place enough frosting to cover the whole mini Bundt cake or cupcake in a separate bowl. Add green food coloring to this smaller amount of frosting. Add orange food coloring to the bulk of the frosting.
Design your Jack O’ Lantern’s face. Place the eyes and nose in the top half of the cake, and the mouth design on the bottom cake.
Keep the design simple, I find that classic triangles are best. Make the cuts as you would a real pumpkin, but don’t pop out the design yet. Make sure to give the mouth plenty of support points.
Before you pop the face out, cut out the interior of the cake, as pictured below. This cut should be directly behind the face. This makes the cake lighter, so the face won’t collapse. It also helps carry light out of the cake and allows for a larger LED light.
Slowly and delicately push the cuttings out of the pumpkin’s face.
Preview your final design.
Frost the pumpkin and the stem separately. Leave some of the orange frosting in reserve. When you’re ready to display your cake for guests, turn on the LED light and place it inside the Jack O’ Lantern.
Set the 4” X 8” cake board or stiff poster board, across the hole on the top of the cake. Place the stem on top of the Jack O’ Lantern. Using the remaining orange frosting, cover the supporting board.
I use several other mini Bundt cakes to make smaller pumpkins. If desired, use green apple licorice for tendrils and vines for the full effect of a pumpkin patch.