Serves: Makes 10 to 12 servings
- 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened (65° to 68°F)
- 1½ cups (12 ounces) firmly packed light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup (8 ounces) canned pumpkin puree (not spiced pumpkin pie filling)
- 2 cups (7 ounces) sifted cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ cup (4 ounces) buttermilk, at room temperature
- 12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- ¾ stick (3 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon (6½ ounces) pure maple syrup, preferably Grade C
- 1¾ cups (5¼ ounces) sifted confectioners' sugar
- 1 cup (4 ounces) pecan pieces, toasted and finely chopped, for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and position an oven rack in the center. Lightly coat the pan with melted butter, oil, or high-heat canola-oil spray and fit it with a round of parchment paper.
- Cream the butter with the sugar: Beat the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of the stand mixer on medium-high until very light in color, 4 to 5 minutes. You can also use a hand mixer and a medium bowl, although you may need to beat the mixture a little longer to achieve the same results. Scrape down the bowl with the spatula.
- Add the eggs: Beat the eggs and vanilla in the small bowl to blend. With the mixer on medium, add the eggs to the butter mixture about 1 tablespoon at a time, allowing each addition to completely blend in before adding the next. About halfway through, turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl, then resume adding the eggs. Scrape down the bowl again. Add the pumpkin and blend well.
- Add the dry and wet ingredients alternately: With the fine-mesh strainer, sift the cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves into the medium bowl and whisk to blend. With the mixer on the lowest speed, add the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately, beginning with one-third of the flour mixture and half of the buttermilk; repeat, then finish with the flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl and finish blending the batter by hand.
- Bake the cake: Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for about 1 hour, or until the top is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
- Make the frosting: Place the cream cheese and butter in the cleaned bowl of the mixer or a food processor. Blend until smooth. Add the maple syrup and confectioners' sugar and mix thoroughly. Scrape down the bowl with a clean spatula and blend again briefly.
- Unmold the cake: Run the thin, flexible knife or spatula around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Place a cake cardboard or tart pan bottom on top of the pan, hold the two together, and flip over. Lift the pan off the cake, leaving the parchment on the cake. Flip again so the cake is right side up. Level the cake, if necessary. Using the serrated knife, slice the cake horizontally into two layers.
- Assemble and frost the cake: Place a cake cardboard (or plate) on your work surface. Using the second cardboard or tart bottom, transfer the cake's top layer to the assembly cardboard, cut side up. With the icing spatula, spread a generous ½ cup of frosting evenly over the surface. Flip over the bottom layer of cake, slide it into place on top of the frosting, then remove the parchment paper. VoilÃ !-a crumb-free surface for frosting. Use the remaining frosting to cover the top and side of the cake. Use a spoon to create swirls all over the top by gently pressing the tip of the spoon, rounded edge down, into the frosting in a back-and-forth motion. Press the toasted pecans into the side of the cake. Serve immediately, slicing with a thin, sharp knife, or refrigerate until needed.
Storing: The cake will keep, refrigerated, for 3 days. It is best served at cool room temperature, so be sure to take it out of the refrigerator 30 to 45 minutes before serving. Once cut, there is no need to wrap the whole cake with plastic; simply press a piece of plastic wrap firmly against the cut surfaces to keep the cake fresh.