Quick Pumpkin & Sour Cream Cake

1 Nov

See this cake in the photo? I decided to bake that at 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. By a quarter till three, it was baked, cooled, frosted, and sitting in the fridge awaiting dinnertime. Do I have your attention yet?

I’d forgotten all about this easy recipe until last month, when my dear “sort-of-cousin,” Salina, sent me a Facebook message about it. Ever since that day, I’d been yearning for an opportunity to revisit the recipe and make some small recipe experiments.

Simple and sweet!

The concept is a simple one, and has appeared in numerous seasonal magazines over the years: Take a cake mix and a can of pumpkin and make a 2-ingredient cake. (Not counting spices to taste, of course.) And it actually, really, truly, amazingly works.

This is how the best cakes begin.

However, I’ve thrown in a couple of other round-the-house ingredients that help make the batter a bit smoother (the original recipe sometimes leads to the chef having to make a decision between pockets of dry cake mix or overbeaten gluten strands due to the dry nature of the batter), and also an added dimension to the flavor of delicious pumpkin. You can try it my way, or the original way — just say you’ll try it! :)

You’ll need:

  • 1 regular boxed white cake mix
  • 1 (15-ounce) can of solid-pack pumpkin (not “pumpkin pie filling”)
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • your favorite autumn spice blend (I used 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, and 1 tsp ginger)

What you do:

Stir well before adding the liquid.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Prepare two 8″- or 9″-round cake pans. I prepare mine by first cutting parchment paper rounds to fit in the bottom, then spraying the naked pan down with Baker’s Joy (flour/grease spray all-in-one), placing the parchment in the bottom, spraying again, placing a #7 flower nail inverted in the bottom, spraying the nail down, and then pouring in the batter. This eliminates crusty cake bottoms, overly-domed layers, and unevenly cooked middles. Hooray!

The liquid will make it creamier, but you should still expect a somewhat stiff batter. Don’t worry. It’ll be perfect.

In a large mixing bowl (you can do this one by hand), dump the dry cake mix, pumpkin puree, sour cream, and spices. Mix with a spoon until mostly blended. You’ll notice pockets of dry mix, and the batter will be much stiffer than regular beaten, wet cake batter. That’s perfectly okay.

Heehee! I love how Ollie ran through while the timer was preparing for the photo and managed to sneak into the shot. Look at that happy face! He knows what’s coming!

Once the mixture is well blended, then add your water and lemon juice. Stir just until blended and divide batter into your two prepared cake pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until top is firm when pressed. Don’t let it go until it’s browning; the color won’t really change while it’s in the oven so just pull it when the top feels springy.

Cool on wire racks. You can turn the cakes out of the pan about a minute after they come out of the oven — the cake is very dense so it’ll hold together, and you can cool them faster that way by sticking them in the freezer for a few minutes while cold air circulates around them. They’ll be frost-able within ten minutes.

The frosting nail will easily pop right out of the cake, leaving a perfectly-baked center behind. Ta-dah!

I whipped up some fast Better-Than-Buttercream Frosting while the cake was baking, but you can just as easily sprinkle with powdered sugar and cinnamon. There’s certainly enough sweetness and flavor to stand alone.

Alternately, you can always serve it with Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting or even something (gasp!) out of a can for speed’s sake. This recipe does equally well as little bald muffins.

A giant basketweave tip and thin spatula make frosting layer cakes a one-minute project! Just pipe & smooth!

I like this cake the best served straight out of a chilly fridge, but you can keep it on the countertop just as easily if you prefer a room temp cake.

I love the color of this cake. Mmmm!

It’s so easy and versatile, I’m confident you’ll be pleased no matter what!

Sending your kids out to fly a kite gives you just enough time to stick a cake in the oven!


Throwing mini chocolate chips on the top saves you the effort of smoothing frosting.



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