Simple Sweets

Let Claire share this special season with you. Her decadent Cream Cheese Frosted Spiced Pumpkin Cake is the hit of any Holiday party, and Claire’s simple recipe for “English Toffee” makes a perfect dessert or gift any time of the year!

Recipe for Spiced Pumpkin Cake with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting


Spiced Pumpkin Cake:

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 Tbsp baking soda

1 Tbsp cinnamon

1 tsp cardamom

1 tsp ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground clove

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups shelled pecans, roughly chopped

1 1/2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut

1 cup of finely grated carrots

1 cup grated butternut squash

1 cup of canned, pureed pumpkin

 Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting:

3 cups unsalted butter, softened

16 oz cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest

Pinch of salt

2 cups powdered sugar

2 tablespoons canned pureed pumpkin

2-3 cups sweetened coconut flakes, lightly toasted

7-8 halved pecans


Spiced Pumpkin Cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.
  3. With a mixer, beat the eggs until frothy and pale.
  4. Gradually add the sugars and beat for a few minutes, until the batter is thick.
  5. Add the oil in a steady stream and then beat in the vanilla extract.
  6. Add the flour mixture and pumpkin alternatively and beat on low just until incorporated.
  7. Add the veg, pecans, and coconut and mix just to combine.
  8. Evenly divide the batter between three greased cake pans and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  9. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.
  10. After about 5 -10 minutes invert the cakes onto the wire rack and let them cool completely before frosting.

 Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting:

  1. Cream the cream cheese in an electric mixer until light and a little fluffy, add the butter, beating for 1-2 minutes, or until combined.
  2. Add the brown sugar, pinch of salt, zest and vanilla extract, and beat until combined.
  3. Turn the mixer to low and add the powdered sugar and pumpkin puree alternatively. Turn the mixer on a low speed so it doesn’t blow out everywhere.
  4. On a cake platter, place one layer of the cake.
  5. Working from the center outward, smooth about a half inch of frosting.
  6. Add the second layer, repeat.
  7. On the third layer, add a large deal of frosting and working outward push the frosting over the edge, covering the sides.
  8. Continue smoothing the frosting until the entire cake is covered.
  9. Grab a handful of coconut and gently press into the sides. Continue until the entire cake is covered.
  10. Decorate the top with pecans and enjoy!

Recipe for Tina’s English Toffee


1 pound unsalted butter (plus extra for greasing the pans)

2 cups white sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1/4 cup water

1 ½ teaspoon vanilla

2 cups dark chocolate, chopped

2 cups milk chocolate, chopped

2 cups finely chopped toasted almonds


  1. Melt the butter, sugar, water and salt over a low flame, stirring with a wooden spoon. When the mixture starts to boil, turn the heat up to medium.
  2. Meanwhile, grease two cooking pans with butter.
  3. After 15-20 minutes, the mixture has reached 305 F. Turn off the heat and add the vanilla, stirring to incorporate.
  4. Be careful not to burn yourself or the mixture, but if you do, and I have, run your hand under room temperature water (never cold or hot water) to subside the pain.
  5. Immediately take the hot toffee and pour into two greased cooking pans and smooth until evenly coated and about 1/8 or 1/4 inch thick.
  6. Put the pans into the fridge to let the toffee cool (this will take several hours, or leave the toffee in overnight, uncovered).
  7. Once the toffee has cooled, remove it from the refrigerator and carefully loosen the pieces (you can do this by hand or with a knife). If it cracks, it’s not a big deal.
  8. Melt the two types of chocolate over a double boiler, stirring to combine.
  9. Once the chocolate has melted, use a spatula to coat one side of the toffee, and then immediately sprinkle heavily with the chopped toasted almonds. This must be done immediately because the cold toffee can cause the chocolate to harden before the almonds can stick.
  10. Put the toffee back in the fridge to cool the chocolate.
  11. Once it has hardened (it takes about an hour), flip and coat the other side with the chocolate and almonds. You will probably have chocolate and almonds left over, which you can use for more toffee.
  12. Let the toffee cool in the fridge until hardened again.
  13. When it’s ready, take the toffee out, and using your hands crack it into irregular pieces. Bag them or stick them in a tin for your own enjoyment.