This simple and straightforward pumpkin cake recipe is for those of us who want pure pumpkin and spice flavors with nothing else in the way. Brown sugar and 2 cups of pumpkin puree promise big flavor and an extra moist texture. It’s certainly wonderful on its own, but you’ll love the smooth and tangy cream cheese frosting on top!
One reader, Gracie, says: “This truly is the best pumpkin cake I have ever had. I made it exactly as the recipe called for and it was so moist and delicious!”
Details About this Pumpkin Cake
- Flavor: Like I mention above, this cake is loaded with flavor thanks to a whopping 2 cups of pumpkin puree. We add cinnamon and there’s plenty of pumpkin pie spice, too. Like in my pumpkin scones recipe, you can use store-bought or homemade pumpkin pie spice mix or each of those spices individually—see our recipe note below. Tangy cream cheese frosting is always a lovely pairing with pumpkin and spice flavors. Each bite truly has it all!
- Texture: Like it does in this chocolate cake recipe, oil keeps the cake’s crumb soft and moist. In fact, we like to describe it as “stick-to-your-fork moist.” Our pumpkin cupcakes is essentially the same recipe, but yields a reduced quantity of batter.
- Ease: This is a single layer cake, so it’s pretty easy to prepare since there’s really no assembly required. Prepping the cake batter is similar to our spice cake, apple cake, and zucchini cake—make sure you have 2 mixing bowls and a 9×13 inch pan. The quarter sheet size is also convenient for transporting, storing, and serving. You’ll appreciate this recipe as an easy addition to your holiday dessert menu alongside all those delicious Thanksgiving pies!
How to Make Pumpkin Cake + Video
The full printable recipe is below, but here’s a brief description and a video tutorial.
Grease your 9×13 inch pan. You can use metal or a glass baking pan. Use 1 mixing bowl for the dry ingredients and another mixing bowl for the wet ingredients. Combine both, then spread the batter into your pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely, then make and decorate with the frosting. To make serving easier, refrigerate the frosted cake before slicing.
Overview of Key Ingredients in Pumpkin Cake
- Flour: Because of the thick and wet batter, use all-purpose flour instead of cake flour. Cake flour is usually more ideal for butter-based cakes such as vanilla cake or white cake.
- Pumpkin: Use an entire standard can of pumpkin, which is roughly 2 cups. Readers have found this helpful because nothing from the can goes to waste. (You’ll appreciate that with our pumpkin pie and pumpkin cream cheese Bundt cake recipes too!) You can use fresh pumpkin in a pinch, but we prefer the flavor and texture of the cake when using canned.
- Cinnamon + Pumpkin Pie Spice: These spices are essential for most pumpkin desserts. Instead of prepared pumpkin pie spice, you can use a blend of ground nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and ginger (see notes), or go ahead and prepare a batch of homemade pumpkin pie spice.
- Oil + Eggs: Oil and eggs provide moisture and structure. We use both in these pumpkin bars, but reduce the eggs so the bars aren’t quite as cakey.
- Sugar: This pumpkin cake is sweetened with brown sugar and granulated sugar, but mostly brown because that’s where the best flavor lies!
How to Decorate The Best Pumpkin Cake I’ve Ever Had
If you’re looking for other frosting options, try any one of these:
- The brown butter cream cheese frosting from this Banana Layer Cake
- Traditional Vanilla Buttercream or Chocolate Buttercream
- The whipped buttercream frosting from Vanilla Sheet Cake
- Chai spice buttercream from these Chai Latte Cupcakes
More Pumpkin Recipes
- No Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake
- Pumpkin Pie
- White Chocolate Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
- Pumpkin Bars
- Pumpkin Bundt Cake
This is the BEST pumpkin cake I’ve ever had and I know you’ll feel the same way! It’s supremely moist, soft, rich, and spiced with pumpkin spice flavor.
- 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour (spooned & leveled)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons store-bought or homemade pumpkin pie spice*
- 1 cup (240ml) canola or vegetable oil*
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup (200g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
- 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree*
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 ounces (226g) full-fat brick cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1/2 cup (8 Tbsp; 113g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3 cups (360g) confectioners’ sugar, plus an extra 1/4 cup if needed
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) and grease a 9×13 inch baking pan. I always use this glass pan.
- Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice together in a large bowl. Set aside. Whisk the oil, eggs, brown sugar, granulated sugar, pumpkin, and vanilla extract together until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and use a mixer or whisk until completely combined. Batter will be thick.
- Spread batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30-36 minutes. Baking times vary, so keep an eye on yours. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If you find the top or edges of the cake is/are browning too quickly in the oven, loosely cover it with aluminum foil.
- Remove the cake from the oven and set the entire pan on a wire rack. Allow to cool completely. After about 45 minutes, I usually place the cake in the refrigerator to speed things up.
- Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on high speed until smooth and creamy. Add 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then switch to high speed and beat for 2 minutes. If you want the frosting a little thicker, add the extra 1/4 cup of confectioners sugar (I add it). Spread the frosting on the cooled cake. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving. This helps sets the frosting and makes cutting easier.
- Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for 5 days.
- Make Ahead Instructions: Prepare cake through step 4. Cover the cake tightly and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze up to 3 months. Bring to room temperature, make the frosting, frost, and serve. Frosted cake freezes well, up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, bring to room temperature or serve cold.
- Special Tools: KitchenAid Hand Mixer, Glass Mixing Bowls, Glass 9×13 Baking Dish, Icing Spatula, and Pumpkin Toppers
- Cupcakes: This batter yields about 24-28 cupcakes. Same oven temperature, fill the cupcake wrappers 2/3 full, and bake 18-21 minutes or until baked through. For 1 dozen cupcakes, use my pumpkin cupcakes recipe.
- Bundt Cake: This batter will fit into a 9.5 or 10 inch Bundt pan. Same oven temperature. But for ease, I suggest using my pumpkin Bundt cake recipe. Same great flavor and texture as this cake!
- 2 Layer Cake: Grease two 9-inch round cake pans, line with parchment paper rounds, then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the cakes seamlessly release from the pans. Divide batter between the two cake pans. Same oven temperature, bake for 25 minutes or until baked through. This frosting is enough for a 2 layer cake.
- Pumpkin Pie Spice: You can find pumpkin pie spice in the baking aisle of most grocery stores or make your own homemade pumpkin pie spice. If you don’t have either and want to use individual spices, use 1/2 teaspoon each: ground allspice, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, and ground cloves. This is in addition to the 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon—you will still add that to the batter.
- Oil: Instead of 1 cup of oil, try 1/2 cup (90g) unsweetened applesauce and 1/2 (120ml) cup oil. The cake is just as moist.
- Pumpkin: I strongly recommend using canned pumpkin puree over homemade in this recipe, though 2 cups of homemade would work just fine in a pinch. If using fresh, blot out as much excess moisture as you can using a clean towel. Overall, I found the flavor better with canned. I prefer Libby’s brand for this cake.
Keywords: pumpkin cake
Here are my pumpkin cupcakes! Same recipe, just reduced down.