Praline Upside Down Pumpkin Cake with Bourbon Caramel Sauce

Combine two favorite fall flavors to make the ultimate fall dessert: Praline Upside Down Pumpkin Cake with a Bourbon Caramel Sauce! This festive cake, topped with pecan praline goodness and bourbon caramel sauce, is perfect for sharing. Makes a 9″ round cake, about 8-10 servings.

Love a festive dessert? Don’t miss Upside Down Cranberry Cake, Mini Apple Spice Rum Cakes and Creamy Cranberry Tart!

The topping drips down the side of a Praline Pumpkin Upside Down Cake before serving

My Memother was a firm believer in eating dessert first. (I’m talkin’ order dessert at a restaurant before the main course dessert first thinking, y’all.)

To this day, my dad and I will occasionally order dessert first in her honor. I’m sure you can imagine the looks we get.

So today, I’m talkin’ dessert first instead of the more traditional Thanksgiving meal, and I think my Memother would approve!

In celebration of the upcoming food lovers’ holiday, I’ve teamed up with friends to create recipes for Cake ‘n Knife and Feast + West‘s third annual Blogsgiving dinner!

Blogsgiving is like an old-fashioned potluck dinner party. Every blogger brings a dish, and our posts will provide links to everyone else’s recipes. You can see the entire menu below. 😀

Why I love this recipe:

Last year, I wondered if I could combine the things I love about Bourbon Pecan Pie Bars with a pumpkin dessert and quickly realized that yes, I could, in the form of a seasonal upside down cake.

Honestly, this recipe was an experiment that I threw together while making all the Thanksgiving dishes… and it baked up so beautifully that I couldn’t not share it!

The pumpkin flavor is lovely; the texture is light and fluffy, and that drizzle on top? Heavenly!

Other festive desserts for Thanksgiving and Christmas: Cranberry Crumb Bars | Spiced Apple Upside Down Cake with Bourbon Caramel Glaze |

Looking for another dessert, but can’t put your finger on it? Head on over to my Dessert Recipe Index for inspiration!

A slice of pumpkin cake with a praline topping sits on a white plate in front of a cake stand holding the rest of the dessert

What you need to make a Praline Pumpkin Upside Down Cake

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In addition to these tools, you’re going to need some ingredients to make this upside down cake, too!

  • Unsalted butter—you’ll need 16 tablespoons, or two sticks, for everything in this recipe. Please don’t try to replace this with something healthier.
  • Dark brown sugar—if you’re in a pinch, use light brown sugar. I like the caramel flavor the dark brown sugar adds here, though.
  • Bourbon—please use a drinkable kind that’s also not super fancy
  • Pecan halves—I love the look of this cake with the halves, though the recipe would work with pecan pieces. It would just look a little messier. Alternately, you could swap the pecans for the same amount of another nut, like walnuts, if you prefer that.
  • Pumpkin puree—not pre-sweetened and spiced pumpkin pie filling
  • Granulated sugar—also known as white sugar, there is no substitute for this
  • Eggs—these are going to help provide structure to our cake batter, as well as help it rise and give a little flavor, too.
  • Vanilla extract—if you can, please, please, please use the real deal vanilla extract. It adds such lovely flavor.
  • All-purpose flour—I always keep unbleached flour on hand, but the regular stuff works A-OK!
  • Baking powder and baking soda—these are our leaveners are are going to give our cake a nice lift, as well as lovely texture
  • Kosher salt—I use a fine-grain kosher salt for this recipe. You may use a similarly sized sea salt, if you have that on hand.
  • Spices—this recipe calls for ground cinnamon, ground ginger and ground allspice. You could use pumpkin pie spice, too. If you like nutmeg, feel free to throw in a pinch of that, too! I leave it out of my pumpkin recipes because I do not like it.
Two slices of Upside Down Pumpkin Cake on white plates, from above, next to the whole cake on a decorative glass plate

How to make an Upside Down Pumpkin Cake

First and foremost, grease and flour a 9” round cake pan. Line the bottom with a 9”parchment paper round and then spray it with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

Why do we do this? We don’t want our praline topping to stick to the pan, and this parchment layer will help us keep it intact when we flip the upside down pumpkin cake!

Make the Pecan Praline Topping

In a skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. When it’s melted, sprinkle in the brown sugar. Use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to mix the two.

As the brown sugar begins to bubble, pour in the bourbon.

Stir constantly as the mixture bubbles vigorously, until it begins to slow down and the bourbon has burned off, and then remove it from the heat.

In the bottom of the prepared cake pan, arrange the pecan halves in the pattern you’d like for the top of the cake. You should arrange the pecan pieces in the pan upside down so they are facing the right direction when the cake is turned out.

Pour the praline topping over the pecans, and set the cake pan aside.

Make the Upside Down Pumpkin Cake

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

First, melt the butter in the microwave, then pour it into the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the batter attachment. (You can also do this in a large bowl with a hand mixer or a whisk.)

Measure in the pumpkin mixture and the sugar. Turn on the stand mixer, and blend until smooth and combined. Add the eggs and vanilla. Mix until smooth.

In another glass bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and allspice. Whisk them together so they’re evenly dispersed.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing in the stand mixer until smooth and combined. The batter will be thick, so be careful not to overmix at this point.

When the batter has come together, dollop it onto the prepared topping in the cake pan. Do this part gently because you could dislodge the pecans if you’re not careful.

Smooth out the batter with a butter knife or an offset spatula until it’s evenly distributed in the pan.

Transfer the cake pan to the oven, and bake. When it’s done, after about 40-45 minutes, the cake will be a dark golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.

Please note that baking times may vary depending on where you live, as well as your oven’s calibration.

Remove the cake from the oven, and let it sit for 5 minutes before running a knife along the edges of the cake.

Place a heatproof cake plate on top of the cake pan and carefully flip the cake to remove it from the pan. Pull away the parchment paper liner and rearrange any pecans that might have gone astray in the process.

Let the cake cool completely before slicing and serving.

Make the Bourbon Caramel Glaze

In a small skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter, then add the brown sugar. Stir as it heats, and once it’s bubbling, pour in the bourbon.

The mixture will bubble and pop, so continue stirring vigorously before you remove it from the heat.

Immediately drizzle on top of the cake.

Slice and enjoy!

Bourbon Caramel Glaze pours over a cake dotted with pecan halves

Erin’s Easy Entertaining Tips

If there ever were a perfect non-traditional dessert to serve for the holidays, this Upside Down Pumpkin Cake is it!

It’s decadent and delicious and it feeds a crowd. I can easily see this being centerstage for a holiday, especially if you want to make something different than a pie.

Here are some ideas for making this cake for an entertaining event:

  • Bake the cake the day before! There’s no reason to stress yourself out when hosting friends or family. Having a cake that’s already made when your guests arrive is a good way to do just this!
  • Make the bourbon caramel sauce right before you serve the cake. While you could easily make this in advance, too, I really love the flavor of it coming hot from the pan and drizzling down the upside down pumpkin cake.
  • Make it more decadent with whipped cream! Homemade or the pre-made stuff from the store are both acceptable here.
  • Use a fancy cake plate. Did you receive one of these as a wedding gift and never use it? Add to the “fancy” level by pulling it out and using it to display this stunning cake.
  • Let the cake be a centerpiece, too. While we will store it in the fridge, you want it to come to room temperature before you slice into it. Take it out of the refrigerator in advance and let it warm up while guests and family members swoon over it.
Three slices of Praline Pumpkin Upside Down Cake are served on a dark background

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an upside down cake? Does this count as one?

An upside down cake is a single layer cake that bakes in a pan with the toppings placed on the bottom. When the baking is complete, the pan is then turned over onto a cake plate, making what was previously on the bottom the top of the cake. Hence, upside down cake.

The Pineapple Upside Down Skillet Cake is the most well known upside down cake, but there are so many fun renditions you can try!

Why do you have to make a parchment paper round?

This helps prevent the pralined pecans and their sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan and not ending up on the top of your upside down cake!

How do you cut the parchment paper into a round?

You can purchase 9” parchment paper rounds* (affiliate link), or you can use the roll of parchment paper in your kitchen to DIY it.

If you’re going to DIY it, pull out a sheet of parchment paper. Fold in half. Fold in half again and again until you’ve got a triangular shape. Place the tip of the parchment triangle in the center of the cake pan to measure how long the parchment needs to be, then trim with scissors.

How do you store this upside down pumpkin cake?

In the refrigerator, covered, for up to 2-3 days. It keeps better if you haven’t drenched it the bourbon caramel sauce, so store them separately. (If you know you’re going to enjoy this cake for a few days, consider drizzling individual pieces of the cake with the sauce instead of the whole thing.)

A slice of pumpkin cake with a praline topping sits on a white plate in front of a cake stand holding the rest of the dessert

More tips and tricks for the best Upside Down Pumpkin Cake

  • Pumpkin puree works best here! Skip the premade, spiced and sweetened pumpkin pie filling.
  • The parchment paper round is going to prevent your cake from sticking! Take the extra time to make this (or purchase some rounds.)
  • Store the cake on its decorative plate, gently draped with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator. Let come to room temperature before serving.
  • Make it more decadent with whipped cream! As if the bourbon caramel sauce wasn’t enough…
Close up of caramel drizzling down the side of a Praline Pumpkin Upside Down Cake with text for Pinterest

Now who’s ready to see all the dishes made for Blogsgiving?!?

Easy Thanksgiving Appetizers

Delicious Thanksgiving Soups and Salads

Flavorful Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Thanksgiving Entrees and Mains

Fun Thanksgiving Cocktails and Drinks

Thanksgiving Desserts and Sweets

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    Now… are y’all ready to bake?

    Here’s how you make this gorgeous Pumpkin Pecan Praline Cake…

    The topping drips down the side of a Praline Pumpkin Upside Down Cake before serving
    Yield: 9" round cake

    Praline Pumpkin Upside Down Cake

    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    Cook Time: 40 minutes
    Total Time: 50 minutes

    Combine two favorite fall flavors to make the ULTIMATE Thanksgiving dessert: Praline Pumpkin Upside Down Cake! Bourbon pralines create the base/top of this cake, then pecans add decoration. Once the pecans are in place, pour the thick pumpkin cake batter into the cake pan, and bake! Flip after removing from the oven and free from the pan, then drizzle with bourbon caramel sauce for the finishing touch. This cake is decadently moist and perfect!

    Ingredients

    Topping

    • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
    • 1 oz. bourbon
    • 1 cup pecan halves

    Pumpkin Cake

    • 1 cup pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
    • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    • ¾ cup granulated sugar
    • 3 eggs
    • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
    • 1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
    • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
    • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
    • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
    • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
    • ¾ teaspoon allspice

    Bourbon Caramel Glaze

    • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
    • 2 oz. bourbon

    Instructions

    Grease and flour a 9” round cake pan. Line the bottom with a 9”parchment paper round and then spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

    Make the Topping

    1. Heat a skillet over medium-heat on the stovetop.
    2. Melt the butter, and when the butter is melted, add the brown sugar.
    3. When the brown sugar begins to bubble, add the bourbon.
    4. Stir constantly until the bourbon has cooked off, then remove from the heat.
    5. In the bottom of the prepared pan, arrange the pecan halves in the pattern you'd like for the top of the cake. (Please note that you should put the pecan pieces into the pan upside down so they are facing the right direction when the cake is turned out.)
    6. Set aside.

    Make the Pumpkin Cake

    1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
    2. In a large glass bowl, melt the butter in the microwave.
    3. When the butter is melted, pour it into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the batter attachment.
    4. Add the pumpkin to the mixture with the sugar. Mix together until smooth and combined.
    5. Add the eggs and vanilla, mixing until smooth.
    6. In another glass bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and allspice. Whisk them so the ingredients are evenly distributed.
    7. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing until smooth and combined. The batter will be thick.
    8. When the batter has come together, dollop it on top of the prepared topping in the cake pan.
    9. Smooth out the batter with an offset spatula or a butter knife until it's evenly distributed in the pan.
    10. Transfer the cake pan to the oven. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. The cake will be a dark golden brown color.
    11. When the cake has baked through, remove from the oven, and let sit for 5 minutes. (No longer than this!)
    12. Run a knife along the edges of the cake. Place a heatproof cake plate on top, and carefully flip the cake to free it from the pan. Remove the parchment paper liner after you've lifted the hot cake pan away. Fix any pecans that may have gone astray.
    13. Let the cake cool completely while you make the glaze and before serving.

    Make the Bourbon Caramel Glaze

    1. In a small skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter.
    2. Add the brown sugar, stirring as it heats, then pour in the bourbon.
    3. The mixture will bubble and pop, so continue stirring and remove from the heat.
    4. Immediately drizzle on top of the cake, then slice and enjoy.

    Notes

    This will make a 9" round cake. The serving size, as listed here, is 8 slices, but it could obviously feed more!

    Why do you have to make or purchase a parchment paper round?

    This helps prevent the pralined pecans and their sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan and not ending up on the top of your upside down cake!

    How do you cut the parchment paper into a round?

    Pull out a sheet of parchment paper. Fold in half. Fold in half again and again until you’ve got a triangular shape. Place the tip of the parchment triangle in the center of the cake pan to measure how long the parchment needs to be, then trim with scissors.

    How do you store this upside down pumpkin cake?

    In the refrigerator, covered, for up to 2-3 days. It keeps better if you store it separate from the bourbon caramel sauce.

    Tips and tricks for the best Upside Down Pumpkin Cake

    Pumpkin puree works best here! Skip the premade, spiced and sweetened pumpkin pie filling.

    • The parchment paper round is going to prevent your cake from sticking! Take the extra time to make this (or purchase some 9” parchment paper rounds.)
    • Store the cake on its decorative plate, gently draped with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator. Let come to room temperature before serving.
    • Make it more decadent with whipped cream! As if the bourbon caramel sauce wasn't enough...

    Recommended Products

    As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

    Nutrition Information:

    Yield:

    8 slices

    Serving Size:

    1 slice

    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 593Total Fat: 34gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 131mgSodium: 498mgCarbohydrates: 62gFiber: 3gSugar: 43gProtein: 6g

    Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate.

    How much did you love this recipe?

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    54 Comments

    1. Your Memother sounds like one smart lady! This definitely looks like the perfect dessert to serve guests on Thanksgiving – I love that it’s jam packed with fall, and that praline element is driving my taste buds berzerk! Bravo, m’dear!

    2. What fantastic Thanksgiving event…so many ideas! This cake looks absolutely divine. I want to try it before Thanksgiving!

    3. This looks delicious and would make a wonderful dessert for the holidays! A twist on the traditional pies and cakes.

    4. Yum! I just made this and it was absolutely delicious! The only complaint I have is my presentation was not as pretty as yours! My pecans were sunked into the crust and did not stand out like yours. Any tips? Im hoping you’d also clarify one thing, warming the cake pan on the stove top, is that on the direct flame? Or do you place the cake mold on top of another pan? Thank you!

      1. Diana! Apologies on the slowest response ever! I’m so glad that the cake was absolutely delicious, even if the presentation wasn’t as pretty as mine. I had to rearrange my pecans a bit once the cake was flipped, but they weren’t sunken in. Maybe they got mixed in when you poured the batter over them?

        To clarify, yes, warm the cake pan on the direct flame. You could also do that in a saucepan if you don’t want to heat your cake pan. 🙂

        Thanks for your feedback. I’m tickled pink that you enjoyed this recipe!

        1. Haha no worries!! I tried the recipe again and this time cooked the topping in the cake pan and it came out perfect! Delicious! Thank you!!!

      1. Hey Helene. I’ve never used margarine or vegan butter in this recipe, but I think it should work. (I’m not 100% on this, though, as I’ve never used either in the baking of this cake.) If you make it, please let me know how it turned out!

    5. Hi, I cannot have alcohol. What would you recommend as substitutes for the bourbon in this recipe? I’d love to try it!

      1. Hey Daisy. I think you can leave out the whiskey in the caramel, and it’ll still be delicious. If you give it a shot, let me know what you think!

    6. This was delicious!!! I rehearsed it yesterday and it will be on my Thanksgiving table tomorrow. The boubon glaze is worthy of doubling…. or multiplying!!!
      Will serve with th vanilla ice cream.
      Thanks so much for sharing the recipe!

      1. Ana, I am SO excited to hear that you thought this was delicious in your rehearsal, and I hope it was equally delicious on Thanksgiving day! Great idea about serving it with vanilla ice cream–so good!

        Thanks for your comment and letting me know it turned out. Hearing from readers who try my recipes makes my day!

    7. Hi Erin sure going to try this out for this weekend as it is my birthday weekend too… quick question – do I have to brush the sides with cooking spray? I m just a little worried that it might stick to my cake pan…

      Also can I make it and freeze it and take it out the day before ? As with thanksgiving too there is so much to do….

      Pls if you can email me back will be Great.

      1. Hi Bernie! That’s a really good question! I’ve never had trouble with the cake sticking before, but if you’re concerned about it, there’s nothing wrong with brushing the sides with cooking spray to ensure it doesn’t get stuck.

        As far as making it the day before… the thing that we love the most about this cake is the gooeyness, and if it’s made in advance, you’ll lose a little bit of that. That said, the glaze adds to the gooeyness, so you can probably bake this, let it cool completely and freeze it, then the let it come to room temperature before drizzling on the glaze.

        Happy birthday to you! I hope this turns out great!

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