I didn't realize the importance of having an excellent pumpkin cake  recipe until last year. I had to make a dessert for a potluck, and was told it couldn't be a pie or cheesecake. The solution to my problem was a delicious pumpkin spice layer cake with whipped cream cheese frosting. If you enjoy baking for the holidays, you must add a pumpkin cake to your arsenal of recipes. It's a surprising alternative to pumpkin pie and perfectly highlights the flavors of Fall. While I prefer to make the cake from scratch, you can always jazz up a boxed mix and call it your own. To take a look at two tasty recipes,
Beginner Pumpkin Cake 
From Kraft Foods 
1 pkg. (2-layer size) yellow cake mix
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin, divided
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup oil
4 large eggs
1-1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice, divided
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tub (8 oz.) cool whip whipped topping, thawed
1/4 cup caramel ice cream topping
1/4 cup chopped pecans
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
- Beat cake mix, 1 cup of the pumpkin, the milk, oil, eggs and 1 tsp. of the pumpkin pie spice in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Pour evenly into prepared pans.
- Bake 28 to 30 min. or until wooden toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 min. Remove from pans to wire racks; cool completely.
- Beat cream cheese in small bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until creamy. Add sugar, remaining pumpkin and remaining 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice; mix well. Stir in the whipped topping.
- Cut each cake layer horizontally in half with serrated knife. Stack layers on serving plate, spreading the cream cheese filling between layers. (Do not frost top of cake.)
- Drizzle cake with caramel topping just before serving; sprinkle with the pecans. Store leftover cake in refrigerator.
Expert Pumpkin Cake 
From Silvana Nardone 
3 cups granulated sugar
2 cups pecans (about 8 ounces)
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups packed brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup milk
Grated zest of 1 orange
One 15-ounce can pure pumpkin puree
3 cups heavy cream, chilled
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Butter two 8-by- 2-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper and butter the parchment. Flour the pans.
- In a large skillet, melt 2 cups granulated sugar over medium-high heat until light amber, about 7 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the pecans and quickly stir to coat. Transfer the pecans to the prepared baking sheet and, using a metal spatula, spread in a single layer to cool completely. Place the praline in a sturdy resealable plastic bag and crush into pieces; set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350°.
- In a bowl, sift together the flour, pumpkin pie spice, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
- Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar and the remaining 1 cup granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until combined.
- Beat in the flour mixture in 3 parts alternately with the milk and orange zest on low speed until just combined. Add the pumpkin puree and beat until just combined.
- Divide the batter evenly between the 2 prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Transfer the cake layers to a rack to cool, about 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans, invert and peel off the parchment paper. Let the cakes cool completely on the rack, about 45 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the frosting. Using a standing mixer with a whisk attachment, whip the cream on medium speed until soft peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. On low speed, gradually beat in the remaining 1 1/2 cups brown sugar and the vanilla until stiff peaks form. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Assemble the cake: halve each cake layer horizontally with a serrated knife. Place 1 cake layer on a platter. Spread the whipped cream frosting on top about 1/4 inch thick; sprinkle with about 1/2 cup crushed pecan praline. Repeat with three more layers, saving enough frosting for the cake sides and reserving the last layer of praline. Spread the remaining frosting evenly on the sides of the cake and sprinkle the reserved pecan praline on top.
- Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour before serving.