- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
- 1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 pound cream cheese, cut into 2-inch cubes
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- One 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water, vanilla bean and seeds. Cook over high heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Using a wet pastry brush, wash down any crystals from the side of the pan. Cook over moderate heat without stirring until a medium-dark amber caramel forms, about 9 minutes. Remove from the heat and immediately stir in the butter and heavy cream. (Don't worry if the butter separates.) Discard the vanilla bean.
- Transfer the caramel to the large bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk and beat at low speed until the caramel cools slightly and comes together, about 5 minutes. With the machine on, beat in the cream cheese, 1 cube at a time and beating well between additions, until silky. Transfer the frosting to a bowl and refrigerate until very firm, at least 6 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and flour two 8-inch round cake pans. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, nutmeg and cloves.
- In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the brown sugar and eggs at medium-high speed until fluffy, 3 minutes. Beat in the oil, then beat in the pumpkin puree. Alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk in 3 batches, beating well between additions.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool on a rack for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edges to loosen the cakes, then invert them onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Place one layer on a plate and spread with 1 cup of the caramel–cream cheese frosting. Top with the second layer and frost the top and side. Refrigerate the cake for 2 hours before serving.
The cake can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Serve cold or at room temperature.
The cake can be garnished with candied nuts.