All Occasion Cakes

Make a Beautifully Carved Pumpkin Cake

Fall has arrived! The leaves are changing colors, there is a crisp chill in the air and the pumpkins are ripe and ready for picking. But instead of picking a pumpkin to cut open and carve, lets instead learn how to make a pumpkin cake, for a scarily sweet and delicious halloween treat. This activity is fun and delicious, instead of stringy and messy!

Carved Pumpkin Cake
Photo via Wendy Woo Cakes

Here is how to carve your very own pumpkin cake.

And remember no two pumpkins are alike; so have fun because your pumpkin doesn’t need to be perfect!

Picture of Pumpkin Next to Materials

1. Choose your pumpkin

It is best to decide what shape you want your pumpkin to be: short and round, tall and thin or somewhere in between. Print a picture about the size you want your pumpkin, to use as a template and basic starting point. You can also just “eye-ball” it if you feel comfortable doing that.

Two Layers of Caked, Stacked

2. Stack your cakes

Fill your cake with icing. Make sure your cake is tall enough to carve, and then place your cake back in the fridge to chill. When carving a cake it is best to carve when it is cold. The icing stays in place and the cake will have less crumb so it will not fall apart or shift while cutting into it.

Pumpkin Cake with Cutout

3. Carve the pumpkin

Place your cut out template against your cake and cut along the lines. This can give you a starting point and help you see the shape you are aiming for.

Pumpkin Cake - First Cuts

4. Continue carving

Once you have made your first cuts remove the template and continue around the cake, cutting small pieces off as you go. To get a little more height I used a few of the small peices I cut off the side of the cake and placed them around the outside of the top of the cake. This gives a little more dimension without having to cut into the top of the cake. Cut carefully and cut in small pieces. Don’t try to cut off huge pieces all at once. As you continue practicing it will get easier and you will become faster.

Notching Sides of Pumpkin Cake

5. Notch the sides

Once you have a round shape it is time to start cutting notches into the sides.

Create a Place for the Stem in the Pumpkin Cake

6. Deepen notches

The notches do start at the stem and curve all the way to the bottom, so do not just cut notches out of the sides, but extend them all the way to the stem. We also want our notches to be pretty deep. We want to accentuate the crevices because we will be filling them up with layers if buttercream and fondant later.

Adding Crumb Coat to Pumpkin Cake

7. The crumb coat

Once your cake is carved it is time to crumb coat. Spread a thin layer of buttercream all over the cake, making sure to fill in the crevices. It will be a little difficult to get a smooth clean layer the first time. So, once you have it coated place it in the fridge for about 20 minutes.

Adding a Second Layer of Frosting to Pumpkin Cake

8. Add second layer

Remove the cake and add a second thin layer of buttercream. This will give you a nice even coat of buttercream. Place the cake back in the fridge to chill.

Cutting the Board for the Pumpkin Cake

9. Cut your board

Once your cake is fully chilled, use scissors to cut the board around the cake to match the shape of the bottom of the pumpkin.

Rolling Out Orange Fondant to Cover Cke

10. Cover in Fondant

Roll out your pre-colored fondant. It should be thin: about 1/8 inch.

Covering Pumpkin Cake in Fondant

11. Cover the cake

Cover the cake with the orange fondant, as you gently press it into the crevices. The fondant will stretch, but be careful not to let it stretch too far and rip. Start at the top and carefully work your way around and down the cake. Once you reach the bottom continue to fluff the skirt.

Pumpkin Cake Covered in Orange Fondant

12. Remove excess fondant

Cut off excess fondant about 2 inches away from the cake.

Removing Excess Fondant

13. Press fondant around bottom

Use a fondant tool to press the fondant along the bottom to the cake board. Work your way around the cake to remove all the extra fondant and to tuck under the fondant to reach the edge of the cake board underneath.

Materials for Painting the Pumpkin Cake

14. Painting the pumpkin

Now it’s time to give life and texture to the pumpkin. I used a mixture of peach, orange and ivory food coloring mixed with lemon extract to paint my pumpkin. Don’t worry: the lemon flavor evaporates. You can also use vodka. This is a great time to use an airbrush if you have one; but I kind of like the rustic look that can be achieved with a paint brush.

How to Carve a pumpkin cake

15. Begin with darker coloring

When painting with food coloring, a little goes a long way, so be careful not to overdo it. Start with a slightly darker orange by mixing orange and ivory with lemon extract.

Painting the Crevices in the Pumpkin Cake

16. Paint inside the crevices

This will help give shadow to those areas.

Painting the Pumpkin Cake

17. Then lighten the color

Now, it’s time to lighten your color (by adding more lemon extract) in order to paint the entire surface of the cake. Use a fan brush to blend the colors together.

Adding the Stem to Your Pumpkin Cake

 18. Make the stem

To make the stem it is best to use modeling chocolate. Simply roll out the modeling chocolate to the height and width you want, with one end slightly tapered. Then pinch pieces on the larger end so they poke out in different directions. Place the stem on the pumpkin in one piece.

If making this pumpkin cake has tempted you to create even more sculpted sensations, be sure to check out Cake-osaurus Rex: Basic Cake Sculpting with Catherine Ruehle, as well as Basic Fondant Techniques with Elisa Strauss.

What other cake would you like to learn how to carve?



This is a super idea – really good for kids (and grown ups! 🙂 )


Beautiful cake!! But wouldn’t a bundt pan have been easier? That’s how I’ve seen it done. But this works too! Great job!!!


Hi Christine,
Thank you! I have seen them made with Bundt pans also and I am sure they would work, but I wanted to share how to carve and sculpt your own so you can make it any size or shape you want. I also wanted people to feel that they could make the cake with supplies they already had rather then having to buy new pans. Hope this helps. Thank again!


Very, very cute!!!


I need to make one to feed 30 people.. I’m thinking I’m going to have to stack, use dowels and possibly even smaller rounds on the bottom go bigger in the middle then smaller on top? Thoughts? Suggestions???


Hi Shann,
That is a great question. To serve 30 people I would go with a 10″ round. It is best to dowel your cakes every 4-6 inches, so if you are going for a tall pumpkin I would dowel it. If you are going for a shape like the pumpkin I made it would be fine to bake enough to fill 3 cake pans, stack them and carve. I would guess your cake will end up about 5-6 inches tall once it is filled and before you carve it. If this is the case, I would not worry about doweling your cake unless you are placing something heavy or stacking another cake on top. I would also not use smaller cakes on the bottom, I would just carve the cake under at the bottom. I hope this helps. Good Luck!


hi there i must do a 4 tier pumpkin cake can you help please
hope you can
Thanks Francois


Would it be possible to do this without fondant? How do you think it would look with a thick layer of buttercream instead?


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