Chocolate Bourbon Pumpkin Cake

Pumpkin Cake with Chocolate Bourbon Buttercream for Halloween

This is not your ordinary Pumpkin Cake! I created an adult Halloween Cake with layers of  pumpkin date sponge and chocolate bourbon buttercream. That’s right, while the kids are devouring candy, the adults can enjoy a slice of black and orange delight.

Let’s talk flavors next. Obviously there is pumpkin and chopped dates, but I also incorporated hazelnut flour for some nuttiness. Paired with dark chocolate cocoa powder and smooth bourbon, this is a cake you enjoy by the fire while savoring every last bite. Topping with hazelnut chunks and shards of chocolate, was my attempt to mimic a spooky forrest. I dunno, what do you think?

Halloween Cake with chocolate buttercream, hazelnut flour, and chocolate shards

What is Hazelnut Flour?

Hazelnut flour is made by blending down whole peeled hazelnuts into a fine powder or chunkier meal texture. This flour is used to add a rich nutty flour to baked goods. A gluten free flour that does well when paired with wheat flour for most bakes. To create an all hazelnut flour recipe, check your accompanying ingredients to ensure a rise in your bakes.

Why Bake with Dates?

Dried dates add a sweet profile to your cake. Make sure the pits are removed before chopping. I like to think, if a fig and a prune had a baby it would be the date. You don’t see them paired with pumpkin that often, but I’m telling you its delicious! For this recipe I am using medjool dates that have a strong caramel flavor. Hello!! Caramel goes great with pumpkin and dark chocolate. Now you’re seeing the method to the sweet tooth madness.

Chocolate Pumpkin Cake with hazelnuts, dates, and chocolate shards

Tips for Making Halloween Pumpkin Cake:

  • Use three 6 inch pans or two 8 inch pans.
  • Grease bottom and sides of cake pans, then line with parchment paper. This makes cake layer removal so much easier!
  • Cream your butter and sugar together before adding other ingredients.
  • Use room temperature butter.
  • If you don’t like dates, swap them out for dried figs or raisins. Make sure to use dried fruit, since wet will change the consistency of the cake batter.
  • Once your cake layers are cool remove from pans, wrap in plastic, and place in the freezer for 45 mim-1 hr.
  • You can trim the top of a lightly frozen cake layer much easier than a warm one. This also prevents lots of crumbs mixing in your buttercream while frosting.
  • Make your buttercream while your cake layers are in the freezer.
  • Always use room temperature butter when making your chocolate buttercream frosting.
  • Place a dollop of buttercream on your cake dish before placing your first layer down.
  • Be sure to remove your parchment paper:)
  • Use a piping bag or spatula to cover first cake layer with frosting.
  • Set second cake layer down and repeat.
  • Top layer should be place upside down, for a level top surface.
  • Cover entire cake with buttercream and use a bench scraper to smooth the top and sides.
  • Sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts.

Pumpkin Layer Cake with Bourbon Chocolate Buttercream

How to Make Chocolate Shards:

  • Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Melt 1-2 cups dark chocolate in a double boiler or in a microwave safe bowl.
  • For the microwave, melt your chocolate 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between until liquid.
  • Pour melted chocolate onto parchment paper.
  • Allow to cool at room temperature until hard.
  • If you are rushed for time, just place your tray in the fridge or freezer until hard.
  • Break chocolate with hands into long jagged shards.
  • Gently stick chocolate shards upright into the top layer of buttercream to mimic trees.

Chocolate layer cake with chocolate shards

Chocolate Bourbon Pumpkin Cake

Chocolate Bourbon Pumpkin Cake made with pumpkin, dates, hazelnut flour, chocolate bourbon buttercream, topped with chopped hazelnuts and chocolate shards.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword chocolate buttercream, halloween, pumpkin cake
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings 12 slices
Calories 367 kcal


Cake Batter

  • 2 1/4 Cups All Purpose Flour
  • 3/4 Cup Hazelnut Flour
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 2 tsp Cinnamon Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Nutmeg
  • 1 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1 Cup Unsalted Butter room temperature
  • 1 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 4 Eggs
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 15 oz Can of Pumpkin Puree, (425 g)
  • 1/3 Cup Chopped Medjool Dates

Chocolate Bourbon Buttercream

  • 2 Cups 460g Unsalted Butter, room temperature
  • 5-6 Cups 420g Powdered Sugar
  • 3/5 cup Extra Dark Cocoa Powder
  • 6 Tbsp Almond Milk
  • 4 Tbsp Bourbon
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract


  • 2 Cups Chocolate Chunks
  • 1 Cup Chopped Hazelnuts


Make Batter

  1. Preheat Oven to 350 F (190 C) and prepare three 6 inch cake pans.
  2. In a medium bowl, hand whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.
  3. In bowl of stand mixer with whisk or paddle attachment, beat together sugars and butter on medium high speed until smooth.
  4. Add one egg at a time, continuing on medium speed until incorporated and mixture is fluffy.
  5. You may need to scrape sides and bottom of the bowl periodically to make sure all ingredients are well mixed.
  6. Add vanilla and pumpkin puree. Mix until incorporated.
  7. Slowly spoon flour mixture into wet mixture, continuing on medium speed until a smooth batter is formed.
  8. Remove bowl from stand mixer and fold in chopped dates with a spatula.
  9. Spoon batter into cake pans, dividing evenly amongst all three. (I prefer to weigh my batter with a kitchen scale to be exact.)
  10. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  11. (Bake on low to middle rack. I check each cake individually. )
  12. Once cake are done, place on cooling rack for 10-15 minutes.
  13. Next, place your hand on top of cake and flip upside down, to release cake from pan. (You can also fo this with a plate.)
  14. Wrap each layer in plastic wrap gently and place in freezer for 45 minutes.

Make your Chocolate Bourbon Buttercream

  1. In bowl of stand mixer with whisk attachment whip butter at medium high until smooth.
  2. Add chocolate powder, salt, bourbon, vanilla and almond milk and whip again until creamy.
  3. Slowly spoon a cup of powdered sugar at a time into the mixture. Make sure each cup is well mixed before adding the second. (Again, you may need to scrape sides and bottom of bowl.)
  4. If you find your mixture is too thick add more almond milk a Tbsp at a time.
  5. If you find your mixture is too thin, add more powdered sugar, mixing until desired thickness is reached.

Assemble Cake

  1. Remove layers from freezer.
  2. Unwrap and Peel the parchment paper from the bottom and set layers face up on counter.
  3. Take serrated knife and trip the tops of each layer, just enough to create a level surface.
  4. Grab your cake stand or serving dish and dollup a half dollar size of buttercream frosting onto the center.
  5. Place one layer onto cake stand, trimmed side up.
  6. Spoon and smear a layer of chocolate buttercream across the top. Slightly going over the edges.
  7. Repeat with second layer.
  8. Add top layer of cake trimmed side down. Cover with chocolate buttercream.
  9. Using an icing spatula or piping bag, fill in open sides with additional frosting.
  10. Then, take a bench scraper in one hand, while holding the cake stand in the other. Gently rotate the cake as you scrape the sides with an angled bench scraper.
  11. Place cake in refrigerator to set icing before decorating.

Make Shards

  1. While cake is setting, melt your chocolate morsels and pour onto parchment lined cookie sheet. (see post for tips!)
  2. Set chocolate in fridge or freezer to harden.
  3. Once chocolate is hard, break into shards with hands.


  1. Sprinkle chopped hazelnuts onto the top of the cake.
  2. Insert chocolate shards gently into icing.

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