The Perfect Holiday Cake


The Perfect Holiday CakeWith the holidays fast approaching, it is always a good idea to have a go-to dessert for parties and events and dinners. My favorite is, of course, cake. Over the years, I’ve made countless cakes for the holidays. I’ve made spice cakes and carrot cakes and red velvet cakes and gingerbread cakes. I’ve decorated them with everything from simple natural ingredients to red and green fondant and glitter, and edible figurines of Santa climbing down a chimney.

But out of the hundreds of cakes I have made, I consider one to be the PERFECT holiday cake.

First of all, this cake is delicious. It is a pumpkin spice cake recipe I found years ago, and every time I make it everyone raves that it’s the best they’ve ever eaten.

Here’s the recipe:


4 eggs

3 cups sugar

1 can pumpkin

1 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla

3-1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoons salt

2/3 cup hot water

Directions: Mix wet ingredients. Slowly mix in dry ingredients. Add 2/3 cup water at the end and mix well. Bake at 350F degrees until the toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

I always use a cream cheese frosting on my pumpkin spice cakes. It just goes together. I think it’s silly to have one without the other. Here is the basic frosting recipe.

After the cake and frosting are in place, the rest is up to you. You can get as wild and crazy as your imagination will allow.

I have two favorite versions of this Holiday Cake, both commissioned by my lovely and talented sister-in-law for her annual Friendsgiving Dinner Party

On this one, I did what’s called a crumb coat. It’s just basically a thin coat of frosting, enough to coat the cake and make the crumbs all stick together. The trick if you are doing a crumb coat, though, is to put A LOT of frosting between each layer. Because no one wants dry cake, and let’s face it, most of us are just here for the frosting anyway, right?

Then, we decorated it with dried fruits of every kind, fresh berries, and a salted caramel drip. Perfection.

For this one, we wanted to keep it simple and elegant and neutral. The frosting on this one is generous, and I created a bit of a texture to add to the natural look.

We topped it with crushed pecans, cinnamon sticks, and anise stars, and dusted the top with cinnamon. Perfection again!

What about you? What is your go-to holiday dessert?

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Haley McManigal
Hi there! I’m Haley, a middle-aged-momma to Lukas and Laney, and wife to Dan. I’ve lived in East Tennessee my whole life, and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. After moving all over Knox County and surrounding areas, my family has settled in Hardin Valley where we intend to stay at least until the kids graduate from high school. My son was born in 2017, changing my life forever, and my daughter completed our family in 2020. I work as an architect and project manager at a global design firm. I think it’s pretty cool that I get to meet with people from all over the world from my home office on a daily basis. I am happiest when I’m able to strike just the right balance between home and work life. But my family is my greatest treasure and my most fulfilling role in life so far is Mommy. My favorite things are reading, writing, cooking, exploring, and making things. I don’t have much free time these days but when I’m able to squeeze in a few of these activities it really pays off. I love being a part of Knoxville Moms and I cherish the opportunity to share this journey of motherhood here with you!


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