Fluffy pumpkin cake and gooey pecans are combined to create this perfect Fall treat. I was originally set on making this cake in a large bundt pan but after many unsuccessful and frustrating rounds of recipe testing (so many I lost count), I landed on these adorable individual cakes. They turned out far better and easier than the bundt so I’d say all the trial and error was worth it in the end for these cuties. The pumpkin cake is soft, tender, and spiced with cinnamon. The pecan topping is sweet, sticky, and coats the cake like a glaze. I top each of the cakes with a dollop of creamy, light cinnamon whipped cream for a little something extra special. This is the upside-down cake of the season!
What is an Upside-Down Cake?
An upside-down cake is a cake that is literally baked in a pan “upside-down”. First, a layer of toppings is placed in the pan then the cake batter goes on top. After the cake is baked, the pan is flipped over to invert the cake so the toppings that were in the bottom of the pan are now on top. Traditionally an upside-down cake is made with sliced fruit, like pineapple, apples, or peaches, along with a sugar/butter mixture that creates a sticky, glaze-like coating for the topping. I’ve put my own twist on this classic by swapping out the fruit for pecans, which pairs perfectly with the sticky, caramel-y topping.
How to Make Pumpkin Pecan Upside-Down Cakes
- Make the pecan topping. The first part of the topping combines butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and a little vanilla. This comes together quickly and can be mixed by hand. Then you’ll add a scoop into the bottom of 12 ramekins. The second part is the pecans. You’ll add a scoop of these on top of the butter mixture and cover the bottom of the dish. Set these aside while you make the cake batter.
- Make the pumpkin cake batter. The pumpkin cake batter is a fairly simple one. Cream the butter and sugars, then add eggs and vanilla. You want to beat this mixture well until it’s smooth and light in color. Then add half of the dry ingredients and pumpkin puree. You’ll finish off by adding the remaining dry ingredients and slowly streaming in buttermilk.
- Bake the cakes. Add a big scoop of pumpkin cake batter to the pecan topping in each of the ramekins. The cakes bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes, or until the center of the cake springs back to the touch.
- Make the cinnamon whipped cream. Make the whipped cream while the cakes are baking and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve the cakes. This comes together quickly and only requires heavy cream, powdered sugar, and a pinch of cinnamon. Whip it all together in the mixer until you have medium-stiff peaks.
- Flip the cakes and serve. The cakes will still be very warm so use a towel or hot pad as needed to flip over each one onto parchment, give it a tap, then carefully lift the ramekin off the cake. If any pecans stick in the ramekin, just scoop them onto the top of the cake. Be sure to do this while the topping is still warm because it will start to get sticky as it cools.
Tips for the Best Pumpkin Pecan Cakes
- Grease the ramekins. Don’t forget to spray the ramekins with non-stick cooking spray before adding the pecan topping and cake batter. This will help the cake and the sticky pecan topping release from the sides and bottom of the ramekin, making it much easier to get the cakes out.
- Flip the cakes after 10 minutes. I highly recommend setting a timer for 10 minutes once the cakes come out of the oven to cool, so you don’t forget to flip them out. The pecan topping starts to set up and gets stickier as it cools, so you don’t want to forget to flip the cakes or they may not come out very nicely. I’ve found that cooling the cakes for just 10 minutes seems to be the sweet spot!
- Give the ramekins a firm tap. To remove the cakes, carefully run a spatula around the edges of the ramekin to loosen the cake, then gently but quickly flip the ramekin over onto parchment paper. I’ve found that it helps to give the ramekins a couple of firm taps on the parchment to help the cakes release. They should fall right out this way, as long as you’ve only let them cool for 10 minutes.
Pumpkin Pecan Cake FAQs
What size ramekins do I need?
I used 4-ounce ramekins that are 3 ½ inches in diameter. You can use smaller or larger ramekins but be sure to adjust the amount of pecan topping you add to each one. You want a thin layer of the butter mixture and enough pecans to cover the entire bottom of the dish. The baking time will also vary if you use a different size ramekin. Always make sure to check that the dishes you’re using are oven-safe too.
What can I use if I don’t have ramekins?
If you don’t have ramekins, you can use muffin tins or any individual-sized, oven-safe baking dishes instead. The muffin tins will make a much smaller version than the 4-ounce ramekins I used, so you will probably need at least two 12-count muffin tins. You will need to reduce the amount of pecan topping that you put in the bottom and reduce the baking time.
What if the pecans don’t come out of the ramekin?
It’s normal to have a few straggler pecan pieces stick to the bottom of the ramekins after flipping out the cakes. Just scoop these out onto the top of the cake as soon as the cake pops out. The longer you wait, the stickier the pecans will get making them harder to get out of the ramekin and place on the cake. I like to move the pecans around on top of the cake as needed, so there’s a nice even covering on top.
How do I store the cakes?
Store the cakes, without the whipped cream, at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days. The whipped cream will not hold up much longer than a day so try to make it the same day you’re serving the cakes. You can keep the whipped cream in an airtight container in the fridge until you’re ready to serve it.
More Fall Sweets You’ll Love
- Pumpkin Cinnamon Streusel Muffins
- Apple Cheesecake Pop-Tarts
- Oatmeal Butterscotch Blondies
- Cinnamon Sugar Donut Muffins
- Chocolate Caramel Pecan Bars
Lastly, if you make this recipe, be sure to leave a comment below and tag @sweetkitchencravings on Instagram or TikTok. Or if Pinterest is more your style, you can save my recipes to your collection there. Happy pumpkin muffin making!
Pumpkin Pecan Upside-Down Cakes
For the Pecan Topping
- 3 Tablespoons (43g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup (114g) brown sugar
- 2 Tablespoons (20g) light corn syrup
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups (180g) chopped pecans
For the Pumpkin Cake
- 6 Tablespoons (86g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ¾ cup (152g) brown sugar
- ½ cup (66g) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups (182g) all-purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon (7g) cinnamon
- 1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (92mL) buttermilk, at room temperature
- 1 cup (240g) pumpkin puree
For the Cinnamon Whipped Cream
- ¼ cup (60mL) heavy cream
- 2 Tablespoons powdered sugar
- pinch of cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease twelve 4-ounce ramekins with non-stick cooking spray, place on a baking sheet, and set aside.
- Pecan Topping: In a mixing bowl, combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and vanilla until well combined. Add a scoop of the mixture, measuring about 2 teaspoons, to the bottom of each ramekin and lightly press it down. Add a scoop of pecans, measuring about 2 Tablespoons, and spread them out to cover the entire bottom of the ramekin. Set aside.
- Pumpkin Cake: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy and light in color, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and vanilla, combining well after each addition. Scrape the bowl then mix on high for another 20-30 seconds until the mixture is smooth and light in color.
- In another bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add half of the flour mixture and the pumpkin puree to the bowl and mix just until combined. Scrape the bowl and add the remaining flour. With the mixer on low speed, slowly stream in the buttermilk. Scrape the bowl once more and mix one final time on medium-high speed for about 10 seconds.
- Divide the batter evenly between the prepared ramekins, filling the ramekins about ¾ full. Bake for 30-32 minutes, or until the center of the cake springs back to the touch (or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean).
- Cinnamon Whipped Cream: Make the whipped cream while the cakes are baking. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and cinnamon. Whip until medium peaks form. Store in the fridge until ready to serve.
- Allow the cakes to cool for 10 minutes. Run a spatula around the edge of each ramekin to loosen the cake then carefully flip each one and invert the cake onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Tap the ramekins on the baking sheet a couple of times to help release the cakes. Lift the ramekins off and scoop out any extra pecan topping, adding it to the tops of the cakes.
- Serve the cakes warm or room temperature, with a dollop of the cinnamon whipped cream, and enjoy!
- Ramekins: If you don’t have ramekins, you can use two 12-count muffin tins instead. These will make smaller-sized cakes so you will end up with more than 12 cakes. If using muffin tins, be sure to reduce the amount of pecan topping that you put in the bottom and reduce the baking time.
- Storing: Store the cakes (without whipped cream) at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.