Layers of super moist chocolate cake are liberally filled with a luscious pumpkin filling, and decorated with the CUTEST turkey disguised as a cow! Shh.. Don’t narc on the turkey! This cake is fun to make, and even more fun to eat!
I know, I know – You’re distracted. I lured you in with the Chocolate + Pumpkin Layer Cake title and I shove a turkey dressed like a cow in your faces.
But seriously, though – Ain’t it cute?
You may or may not know this about me.
Once upon a time when I was a young little baker I aspired to be the best cake decorator in this here land.
I honed my skills, studied other cake decorators, obsessed over the greats, worked and worked with fondant until I was… Passable. I wasn’t one of the great cake decorators. I figured in time, I would be. I would be one of those cake decorators charging upwards of $1,000 for a cake that maaaaybe serves 10 people.
Except it didn’t happen.
First, because… Well… People LOVE beautifully decorated cakes; however, they’re not willing to shell out the bucks for them. That kind of put a damper on things.
Second, I fell in love with the baking aspect of cake decorating. Moist cake layers, luscious cake fillings, and a buttercream that will knock your socks off. And let me tell you, sometimes moist cake layers aren’t conducive to the weight of fondant.
So I left cake decorating and the cake recipes you see on this site are a product that love.
But… Every once in a while I return. Making a cameo, like Jay-Z. Mostly for birthdays and special occasions.
Thanksgiving? That’s a special occasion. An occasion full of food and family and laughter and fun.
And always, always dessert.
Today I combined a former love – Cake decorating, with my current love – Baking.
Now flow with me, we’re gonna talk about how I disguised this adorable lil’ turkey, and what’s in this cake!
If there’s real interest I’ll create a step-by-step – Today, I plan to use my words and many many photos.
The turkey face: 1 peanut butter cup, 1 sliced candy corn for the beak, wilton candy eyes, and a bit of red fondant over the turkey’s beak. I think it’s called snoods or something like that.
That was the hard part.
The turkey’s cow disguise: Fondant and a black Gourmet writing pen. I drew and filled in the cow print directly on the fondant. No rhyme, no reason. Just a cow print.
The turkey legs: More fondant. As you can see, my turkey legs aren’t perfect. They were scored with a butter knife.
The entire turkey body adhered perfectly into the chocolate buttercream.
Now let’s talk about this cake.
It’s chocolate. It’s moist as hell.
The filling. Pumpkin cheesecake. I’m still doing the pumpkin thing until I do the Christmas cookie thing.
The frosting. An easy chocolate buttercream. It’s sweet. It’s fluffy. It’s right.
The cake is layered and frosted and of course, the cute as hell disguised turkey takes center stage.
I was digging the turkey so much, I didn’t even care to perfect my cake slices.
And neither should you. One bite of this cake, and perfection will punch your taste buds like Nintendo’s Mike Tyson’s Punch Out.
Thanksgiving Chocolate-Pumpkin Layer Cake
- For the Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
- Unsalted butter, at room temperature - 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks)
- Cocoa powder - 3/4 cup
- Pinch table salt
- Confectioners'(powdered) sugar - 4 cups
- Heavy cream, cold - 1/2 cup
- Vanilla extract - 1 tablespoon
- For the chocolate cake
- Bittersweet chocolate, chopped - 4 ounces
- Unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa powde - 3 tablespoons
- Hot coffee - 1 cup
- All-purpose flour, spooned then leveled - 2 ¼ cups
- Baking powder - 2 teaspoons
- Baking soda - 1 teaspoon
- Salt - 1/2 teaspoon
- Unsalted butter, at room temperature - 1 cup (2 sticks)
- Granulated white sugar - 1 ¼ cup
- Firmly packed light brown sugar - 1 cup
- Large eggs, at room temperature - 3
- Vanilla extract - 2 teaspoons
- Whole milk - 1 cup
- For the Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake Filling
- Kraft cream cheese, room temperature - 1 (8 oz.) package
- Pumpkin puree - 1 cup
- Ground cinnamon - 1 teaspoon
- Ground ginger - ½ teaspoon
- Ground cloves - ½ teaspoon
- Freshly grated nutmeg - ½ teaspoon
- Vanilla extract - 3/4 teaspoon
- Confectioners' sugar - 1 - 1 ¼ cup
- Heavy cream, cold - 1 cup
Make the chocolate buttercream frosting:
In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip butter, cocoa powder, and salt over medium/high speed until combined. Turn the mixer off and add the confectioners' sugar all at once. Turn the mixer on to the lowest speed and whip until the confectioners' sugar is completely combined with the butter/cocoa powder mixture. It will look super grainy/sandy at this point.
Stop and scrape the mixer to incorporate.
Turn the mixer to medium/high speed and add the heavy cream in 2 parts, allowing the heavy cream to thicken each time before adding in more cream. Add the vanilla extract and continue whipping the frosting until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Turn off mixer and remove bowl. Transfer about ¼ of the frosting to a large piping bag with a round tip. Transfer the remaining buttercream to a container with a tightfitting lid. Place both in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Bake the cake:
Bake the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees C) and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Butter or spray with a nonstick vegetable spray, three - 8 x 2 inch deep round baking pans. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper and set aside. In a small heatproof bowl, place the finely chopped unsweetened chocolate and cocoa powder. Add the hot coffee and stir until the mixture is melted and smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature. To a medium bowl, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir quickly with a fork to combine. In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment (a hand mixer works here as well) over medium/high speed, beat the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl. Turn the mixer to low/medium speed. Add the vanilla extract and melted chocolate mixture and beat to combine. The mixture should look sort of billowy, like a mousse.
Reduce the speed to low. Add the flour mixture alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but be sure not to over mix or the cake will be tough.
Divide the batter evenly between the three prepared pans. Bang the pans on your counter to smooth out the batter and remove any air bubbles. Place in the oven and bake for about 30 - 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake starts to separate from the sides.
Remove pans from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 8-10 minutes. Carefully invert the cakes (one at a time) over the wire rack and lift the pan. Remove the parchment paper and then, to prevent cracks, invert the cake onto a wire rack so that tops are right side up. Allow the cakes to cool completely. As the cake bakes, make and chill the pumpkin cheesecake filling.
Make the pumpkin cheesecake filling:
To a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (a hand mixer and large bowl work here as well), add the cold cream cheese and pumpkin puree. Mix on medium/high until the mostly smooth, about 30 seconds or so. Add ground cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and vanilla extract. Mix for a few seconds to incorporate. Stop the mixer and add ¾ cup of confectioners’ sugar. Whisk on low speed until the confectioners’ sugar is mostly mixed with the cream cheese mixture. Increase the speed to high and mix until fluffy, about 2 minutes or so. Taste the filling and if you’d like a sweeter filling, add the remaining confectioners’ sugar 1 tablespoon at a time until that situation is sweet enough for you.
Add the heavy cream in 3 parts, allowing the heavy cream to thicken each time before each addition. Whip on high until light and fluffy, about 30 seconds. Transfer the pumpkin to a container with a tight-fitting lid and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Even out the layers by using a leveler or serrated knife. Place the bottom layer atop a cardboard circle. Remove chocolate buttercream and pumpkin cheesecake filling from refrigerator. Using the piping bag, pipe some chocolate buttercream around the perimeter of the cake to make a border. Spoon half the pumpkin cheesecake filling in the center of the border. Smooth as best you can.
Place the middle cake layer over the filling. Pipe another chocolate buttercream border over this layer and spoon remaining pumpkin cheesecake filling in the center of the chocolate border. Smooth as best you can and top with the final layer of cake.
Frost cake with remaining chocolate buttercream, smoothing with an offset spatula as you frost the cake.
Slice and enjoy.