Pumpkin Skillet Cake with Caramel Crackle Icing
Pumpkin Skillet Cake with Caramel Crackle Icing

Pumpkin Skillet Cake with Caramel Crackle Icing

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Pumpkin Skillet Cake with Caramel Crackle Icing (and 17 Things People with Mental Illness Wish You Knew)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This moist, delicious pumpkin cake with caramel crackle icing is perfect served straight from the skillet with vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce.
Serves: 6-8
Pumpkin Cake Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup pureed pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
Caramel Crackle Icing Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, cut into chunks
  • 1/3 cup evaporated milk
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • vanilla bean ice cream (optional, for serving)
  • caramel sauce (option, for serving)
  1. Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and spray a 10-inch cast iron skillet with cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, vegetable oil, sugars, and vanilla extract. Make sure the butter has cooled off a bit and then whisk in the eggs and then the pumpkin. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice. Whisk these into your wet ingredients to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared skillet and smooth out the top. Bake for 15-25 minutes (skillet cooking times can be widely variable, so check early and often with a toothpick. When inserted into the middle of the cake, it should come out with just a few moist crumbs).
  2. Make the icing: When the cake comes out of the oven, while it's still hot, prepare the icing. Bring the sugar, butter, evaporated milk, and salt to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, whisking constantly, for 10 minutes. The frosting will bubble like caramel most of the time and you'll notice it start to pull away from the sides of the pan as it nears the 10 minute mark. Remove the icing from the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract. Pour the icing over the hot cake and spread quickly, because it begins to set immediately. Top the cake with a few scoops of vanilla bean ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce and serve immediately.


28 Comments on Pumpkin Skillet Cake with Caramel Crackle Icing (and 17 Things People with Mental Illness Wish You Knew)

  1. Kirsten
    October 4, 2015 at 11:43 pm (6 years ago)

    I wish people knew how hard it is to be the “gate keeper” for someone with mental illness. I think there is risk of care taker burn out just like any other disease or disability.

    • stephanie
      October 5, 2015 at 1:46 am (6 years ago)

      Remember that you need to take care of yourself as well. Please be sure to take advantage of resources that are available, both through some health insurances and also some organizations provide. And it is ok to ask for help. In fact, it is necessary! I give you a lot of credit for taking that position in another’s life. Hugs to you

    • Julie Ruble
      October 5, 2015 at 9:22 am (6 years ago)

      This is so true, Kirsten. I’m in the same place right now. It’s managing two lives at the same time. And no one understands the pressure you place on yourself to keep another person alive and healthy. Take care of yourself <3

      • Mom
        October 5, 2015 at 12:56 pm (6 years ago)

        I do. It is a constant anxiety and a feeling of helplessness most of the time. 🙁

        I also struggle with just this thing: “I wish people knew that even if I look okay on the outside, I may not feel okay mentally or physically on the inside.” I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (autoimmune) and have since my early 20s. It is truly an invisible disease. It affects everything in my body… my mood, (people used to be thrown into mental institutions), my metabolism, my hair falling out, fatigue, dry skin, digestion, EVERYTHING but people see none of that. We are sometimes seen as “lazy” or just not motivated. To combat that image I keep it in high gear, try to do twice as much, keep the house twice as clean and organized, make super meals, work out, etc. It is EXHAUSTING and sometimes I have to sleep, sleep, to compensate (but then I risk THAT image again). People consistently say to me, “you have so much energy!” No… I fight the exhaustion… ALL the time… So there are many types of “invisible disease” and I have learned to accept what one SAYS and just try to help the best I can. And… for Pete’s sake I try not to judge!! Sometimes just getting out of bed is the hardest thing I do in a day!

        • Julie Ruble
          October 5, 2015 at 2:24 pm (6 years ago)

          Yes — my friend with rheumatoid arthritis gets all kinds of nasty stares when she uses the handicapped parking space or the motorized cart in the grocery store. People have trouble understanding not every condition is visible (or even consistent — some days she is just fine.)

    • Ann
      October 5, 2015 at 2:11 pm (6 years ago)

      Check out resources for managing “compassion fatigue.” We really appreciate you helping us and hope you take care of yourself too.

    • Angie
      October 22, 2015 at 9:43 pm (6 years ago)

      Yes, Kristen. This!

      I have a child with Aspergers and severe generalized anxiety (and a former dx of depression). I am probably the person she feels closest to, which also means I am the person she takes to hurting the most. There was a time this year when honestly thought I was going to give up. I seriously did not see a way through it where I kept my own sense of self and well being.

      • Julie Ruble
        October 23, 2015 at 5:51 pm (6 years ago)

        Angie, yes! Big hugs to you and I hope you are able to get some support for you as you support her.

  2. Taylor @ Food Faith Fitness
    October 5, 2015 at 7:10 am (6 years ago)

    That crackle icing is seriously SO cool! I love the combo of pumpkin and caramel too, this dessert sounds awesome! Pinned!

    • Julie Ruble
      October 5, 2015 at 9:23 am (6 years ago)

      Thanks Taylor!

  3. Kristen @ A Mind Full Mom
    October 5, 2015 at 7:51 am (6 years ago)

    Oh this dessert sounds AMAZING. I love this article as well. My mom is a psych nurse so I have understand what the sterotype is out there for mental illness and it is just horrible. Thanks for sharing!

    • Julie Ruble
      October 5, 2015 at 9:21 am (6 years ago)

      Thanks Kristen!

  4. Patty
    October 5, 2015 at 9:16 am (6 years ago)

    I wish people knew how hard it is to find proper resources and care. There needs to be much more funding for mental illness. Wait times to be able to see psychiatrists and neurologists are ridiculous. Much like every other aspect of the healthcare system, youust be your own advocate or you will receive at best sub-par care. The shortage of available resources is really horrifying to be honest.

    • Julie Ruble
      October 5, 2015 at 9:21 am (6 years ago)

      This is a big one for me, too, Patty. And when there isn’t a shortage, the resources that are available are often underfunded and/or disorganized. And how can one be expected to self-advocate to the extent that is necessary when one is literally hanging on to life itself by a thread? This is what’s terrifying to me. I’m currently assisting someone in the process after stumbling through it myself — alone — and I’ve made a series of at least 8 phone calls just to make a psych appointment and get prescriptions called in. And these are good people who desire to help.

      • Mom
        October 5, 2015 at 12:57 pm (6 years ago)

        You are never alone. I am a phone call away (or I will be there in a NY minute). <3

        • Julie Ruble
          October 5, 2015 at 2:22 pm (6 years ago)

          Thanks Mama. I might farm out some of the phone calls to you. This place is great, but like any overworked, understaffed, underfunded organization, they’re difficult to pin down.

          • Mom
            October 5, 2015 at 11:24 pm (6 years ago)

            I can put them on speaker at home and keep working…. and keep calling!!

    • Angie
      October 23, 2015 at 5:22 pm (6 years ago)

      So, so true. We went through a very bad spell last year with our daughter (17 at the time). We had asked for years for her to agree to see someone and she refused but last year she came to us in a bad spell and we started the process.

      Everyone we called that was listed as taking our insurance and accepting new patients either 1) were really NOT accepting new patients or 2) would not accept her because she was a year away from 18 (don’t ask…boggled my brain too). Every recommendation we got was for someone who took NO insurance. After a month of searching and utilizing a couple big name doctor friends IN THE VERY FIELD OF PSYCHIATRY, we gave up and started paying out of pocket ($450 for the first visit alone). It is utterly ridiculous.

      • Julie Ruble
        October 23, 2015 at 5:53 pm (6 years ago)

        I cannot imagine. This is appalling — how many people are simply priced out of healthcare because this is happening to them and they don’t have a facility in their area with grants to see people with no cost out of pocket? I’m so sorry you went through that once she was finally willing!

  5. Melissa @ Treats With a Twist
    October 5, 2015 at 10:28 am (6 years ago)

    First of all, the crackle icing sounds amazing and the whole flavor combo sounds perfect!
    I love that you decided to write about mental illness. Normalizing it for some people that don’t understand it is so important.

    • Julie Ruble
      October 5, 2015 at 2:21 pm (6 years ago)

      Thanks Melissa!

  6. Abigail
    October 5, 2015 at 11:42 am (6 years ago)

    It’s been more of a challenge than I imagined to be a person battling with depression/anxiety and having a partner with bipolar II. It’s intensely exhausting sometimes, and it can actually be much more difficult to talk about if you both are battling something. I don’t want to risk talking about my bad day in case he’s having one, too, and I wonder if he does the same thing.

    It’s so hard to push through that sometimes, especially when work is stressful on top of everything, and you feel like you can’t tell your boss/supervisor/coworkers. If you came down with the flu or were diagnosed with cancer or any other range of “physical” sickness (from normal to extreme), you would absolutely let someone at work know, “hey, I might not be completely with it for a while” and they likely wouldn’t question it. I struggle to treat my depression/anxiety the same way and my work can definitely suffer from it.

    • Julie Ruble
      October 5, 2015 at 2:21 pm (6 years ago)

      YES, that is so true, Abigail! We wouldn’t think twice to reveal the flu or cold that knocked us out, but the depression that knocked us out is way too likely to be seen as a personal/professional flaw instead of a physical illness. I can’t wait for that to change.

      It’s always seemed to me it would be easier if my husband UNDERSTOOD what it was like to deal with mental illness, but your example shows that understanding is a double-edged sword! I can imagine it’d be hard to balance making sure both your needs are met.

  7. JulieJC
    October 5, 2015 at 4:27 pm (6 years ago)

    Jenn said: “All they have to do is walk in”

    Yeah,but first you have to get out of bed. Brush your teeth. Get dressed. Find your keys or your money. Find a bus or call a taxi or drive. Pay attention to addresses. Interact with others on the way. Find parking. Walk who knows where, amongst others. Identify yourself at the desk or worse write your name so it can be announced to the world at large. Wait. Wait. Wait. Tell your story for the fiftieth time, sinking further and further into the pit. Do it all in reverse after making a follow up appt after going nowhere so far.

    I’ll bet others can add more little steps into, “All they have to do is walk in.”

    Language is soooo important in how we define our lives and try to communicate to others, especially when trying to be helpful.

    I have had depression since childhood. Along the way I have developed disordered eating and PTSD. I have worked in inhumane human services for 40 years. It’s surprising how few such workers actually “get it.” The Noon Day Demon is an excellent book if you’d like to read more on the life a a truly depressed person. After reading it I felt such relief that one other person really got it.

  8. Tasha @thatssoyummy
    October 6, 2015 at 9:36 am (6 years ago)

    This dessert looks unbelievably good, especially that topping

  9. Erin @ The Spiffy Cookie
    October 11, 2015 at 2:48 pm (6 years ago)

    My mother has battled mental illness my entire life (bipolar) and even as an outsider I agree with many of these statements in her defense. Hugs to you!

  10. Sharon M
    October 15, 2015 at 3:51 pm (6 years ago)

    I think it’s great for you to post about these things, especially with the holidays looming. I have such anxiety that social gatherings have become very difficult for me.

    I know my poor husband tries to understand. He says things like, “I feel like your about to have a breakthrough!” not realizing how defeating that can be. He just wants to ‘fix’ me or fix things for me. I have major depressive disorder, anxiety, I’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, borderline personality and several other things at some of those understaffed, underfunded organizations. I’ve also had a baby recently, so I’m dealing with postpartum as well.

    I agree with what others posted that ‘Just walk in the door’ isn’t as simple as it sounds. It’s very defeating seeing how seemingly easier it is for others to do ‘normal’ things, like their daily routine. I suppose it isn’t always as easy for others, I’ve never thought of it that way. My biggest problem is shutting others out, most days I don’t leave the house. Answering the phone or returning texts can be overwhelming tasks to me. Let alone taking care of the kids, they get everything I have so there isn’t much left for me or my husband.

    I have been talking to my regular Dr & trying to take better care of myself. For others that enjoy baking, The Depressed Cake Shop is a great organization that hosts pop ups & raises fund/awareness for depression and mental illness.

  11. Nicole
    November 2, 2015 at 4:18 pm (6 years ago)

    Another scrumptious looking dessert, Julie! And a much needed topic of conversation. Several of the 17 Things hit home. It’s always good to know you’re not alone.


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