November 9th, 2015

Fall Harvest Dinner Party with Caramel Pecan Pumpkin Cake

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #PurelySimple #CollectiveBias

There are so many great reasons to entertain this time of year. Of course, this season can be more hectic than most, but if you remember to keep things simple, you can still find time get together with friends. There are so many tricks and short cuts than can make entertaining easy, and I think you’re going to love these great ideas for throwing a harvest themed dinner party, complete with an impressive Caramel Pecan Pumpkin Cake for dessert. 


A great way to lighten your load when entertaining guests is to turn your party into a potluck. We live about a mile from the local corn maze and pumpkin patch, so we love asking friends to meet us there for some fall fun. Then we invite everyone back to our house and ask them to bring a pot of their favorite soup to share. 


With the main course taken care of, you can focus on providing sides and dessert. An easy but elegant side for soup is a selection of artisan breads and rolls. Just pick up a few nice loaves of bread and some rolls from your supermarket bakery and arrange them in a pretty basket. The cheese counter and deli area are also a great place to find fancy crackers and crispy breadsticks.


I like to provide a few different kinds of butter for guests to spread on their bread. Just take a stick or two of soft butter and mix it in your food processor with things like garlic, herbs, and sun-dried tomatoes. For sweet butters, try adding things like honey or cinnamon and sugar. This is such a quick and simple way to elevate your party and make your guests feel like you went the extra mile.


Of course, it wouldn’t be a party without dessert, and this Caramel Pecan Pumpkin Cake is sure to impress your guests. It’s finished off with a caramel pecan frosting that’s absolutely amazing!


I made this beautiful (and delicious!) cake with the help of Pillsbury’s new Purely Simple White Cake Mix. I’m a big fan of starting with a cake mix and adding some special ingredients to make an extra-special dessert, so I couldn’t be more excited about the Purely Simple baking mixes. They contain no colors, preservatives, or artificial flavors. There are white and chocolate cake mixes available, as well as brownie, cookie and frosting mixes too!


To transform my white cake into a pumpkin cake, I simply added some pumpkin, applesauce, eggs and spices to a Purely Simple white cake mix and blended everything up in my stand mixer. It couldn’t have been any easier! 


This batter would bake up beautifully in a bundt pan, but I decided to make a layer cake to highlight the delicious caramel pecan frosting I made. My favorite trick for making a layer cake look extra special is to divide the batter between three pans rather than just two. If you’ve ever tried slicing cake layers in half, you know how tricky (and messy) that can be. Baking your layers in separate pans is so much easier!


Once your cake is baked and cooled, all you need is some caramel pecan frosting to finish things off. I used the Pillsbury Purely Simple Buttercream Frosting Mix and added some cream cheese, caramel sauce and finely chopped pecans.


This frosting was incredible, and the perfect accompaniment for my pumpkin cake. I’m usually not one to lick the spoon, but I couldn’t resist. Once I’d frosted my cake, I added some caramel sauce and chopped pecans for garnish. This beautiful pumpkin cake will definitely be the centerpiece of any fall gathering.


Caramel Pecan Pumpkin Cake

Preparation 20 2017-04-28T00:00:00+00:00 Cook Time 20 2017-04-28T00:00:00+00:00
Serves 1     adjust servings


    For the cake1 (17 oz.) Pillsbury Purely Simple White Cake Mix

    • 1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/2 cup applesauce
    • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

    For the frosting1 (13.2 oz.) Pillsbury Purely Simple Buttercream Frosting Mix

    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) very soft butter
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
    • 1/4 cup caramel sauce
    • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 3/4 cup pecans, finely chopped


    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 9-inch round cake pans.
    2. In a large bowl, beat cake mix, pumpkin, eggs, applesauce, pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon with an electric mixer until well combined.
    3. Divide the batter between the prepared pans and spread evenly (batter will be thick). Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10-15 minutes before turning onto wire racks to cool completely.
    4. In a medium bowl, beat frosting mix, butter and water with an electric mixer. Add cream cheese and beat until smooth. Mix in caramel sauce and cinnamon. Stir in chopped pecans.
    5. Frost in between each cake layer, as well as the top and sides of the cake. Garnish with additional caramel sauce and chopped pecans, if desired.

    In keeping with my harvest theme, I wanted to have some fall decorations for my dinner party. Again, simple is the way to go. Try putting out some large, pretty bowls and filling them with fresh fall fruit or gourds. Pears are one of my favorites, but apples and plums are great choices too. And if you’re anything like me, you already have some fall decorations, so dust them off and use them to fill up some small crates or baskets. I like to use a table runner and place my decorations randomly along the runner.


    It really is easy to throw a simple but fun get together, even during this busy time of year. Just don’t be afraid to ask for help by turning your party into a potluck. I find that people are always happy to bring something to share when you’ve invited them for dinner, and it’s a great way to add some new recipes to your collection. And be sure to use shortcuts like store-bought artisan bread and Pillsbury Purely Simple cake mix to help your party come together without a fuss. 

    I always keep a selection of cake mixes on hand for quick desserts, so when I spotted the new Purely Simple line at King Soopers during my weekly shopping trip, I couldn’t resist grabbing a few to have on hand. 


    Do you have any great tips for easy entertaining? I’d love to hear about them! And for more great recipes ideas, be sure to visit Pillsbury Baking on Facebook




    1. I like using a box mix now and then, and adding to it. Your cake looks delicious, especially with the caramel drizzled on top!

    2. Beautiful! I love the simple rustic cake accented with seasonal leaves and colors. #client

    3. Hello Danelle,
      I noticed you use caramel sauce more than once, but you don’t have a recipe on your site for preparing it. Could you please tell me how you make it yourself?
      Thanks, Linda

      • Linda, I use a store-bought sauce (like an ice cream topping). I’m sure you could find recipes for a homemade version online though.

      • Caramel sauce
        1 stick butter, 1 cup Brown sugar, 1 cup white sugar, 1 tsp. pure vanilla, 1 1/2 cups vanilla ice cream = melt this in a saucepan stir and make sure all the sugars are dissolved after that bring it to a boil.
        Use this for all caramel sauces, add it to cinnamon rolls, over ice cream. If it is too thick put some in a bowl and add a little water till it is at the consistency you want. I make it put it in containers with lids let them cool, then put the containers in the freezer. Then you will have caramel sauce whenever you need it.

    4. Ohhhh…this time of year just makes me all warm and fuzzy inside while the weather is chilly to the bone outside….that cake looks fabulous. Pillsbury is smart to put this product out. Beautiful post Danelle

    5. I have never seen this cake mix on the grocery shelves. Will Duncan Hines be the same? If not what can I substitute for the Pillsbury ? Thank you.

      • These cake mixes are new, so if you haven’t seen them yet, I’d look again. I have found them in several different national chains. They would be in with the other cake mixes. If you don’t see them, I’d ask a store associate. Sometimes newer products are on special displays rather than on the regular shelf.

    6. There is a recipe on the recipe line where yo can make sweetened condensed milk into caramel sauce by putting it in the crockpot with water. Do not open the can until it has cooled. I was surprised to find out it really works.

    7. I don’t want to appear dumb, but, I do not see where to use caramel two times. It reads to top cake with additional caramel sauce, but, I don’t know where the other part went?
      Thanks for the recipe. It sounds delicious and I plan to make for Thanksgiving!

    8. Linda Tremonti says:

      Thank you Danelle for sharing your wonderful Caramel Pecan Pumpkin Cake recipe!
      Looks delicious, and so easy to make.
      Happy Thanksgiving!


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