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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!”

slice of pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting on a silver plate

Details About this Pumpkin Cake

  • Flavor: Like we 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 our pumpkin scones recipe, you can use store-bought pumpkin pie spice 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 — 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.
slices of pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting on silver plates with forks

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.


wet ingredients for pumpkin cake batter in a glass bowl with a pink hand mixer
pumpkin cake batter in a glass bowl

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 recipe 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.
  • 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!
pumpkin sheet cake with cream cheese frosting in a glass baking dish cut into squares with a serving utensil

How to Decorate The Best Pumpkin Cake I’ve Ever Had

Cakes with a similar spice flavor and texture profile like hummingbird cake, carrot cake, and banana cake taste unbelievable with fan-favorite cream cheese frosting.

If you’re looking for other frosting options, try any one of these: 

PS: For decoration/garnish, we love using these little pumpkins. Or you can try these festive fall sprinkles.

overhead image of a slice of pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting on a silver plate
slice of pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting on a silver plate

More Pumpkin Recipes

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slice of pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting on a silver plate

Pumpkin Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours (includes cooling)
  • Yield: serves 12 1x
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

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.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons 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 (224g) full-fat block cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (115g) 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

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) and grease a 9×13 inch baking pan. I always use this glass pan.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for 5 days.

Notes

  1. 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.
  2. Special Tools: KitchenAid Hand Mixer, Glass Mixing Bowls, Glass 9×13 Baking Dish, Icing Spatula, and Pumpkin Toppers
  3. 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.
  4. 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! You can leave out the chocolate chips.
  5. 2 Layer Cake: Pour batter evenly into two 9-inch round cake pans. Same oven temperature, bake for 25 minutes or until baked through. This frosting is enough for a 2 layer cake.
  6. Spices: Instead of prepared pumpkin pie spice, you can use 1/2 teaspoon each: ground nutmeg, ground cloves, ground allspice, and ground ginger.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Reader Questions and Reviews

    1. Hi Lisa! It’s ok if they’re cold for this recipe. But room temperature won’t hurt!

  1. I didn’t feel like making pie crust this morning, so I took a chance on this…
    Saving it, as it is delicious! Cream cheese frosting is always wonderful, and I used individual spices in place of “pumpkin sppice” which I don’t buy. Glad I took a chance – it’s delicious!

    1. I enjoy making this cake every year, pretty much since I’ve found Sally’s blog. It’s super delicious! If I wanted to make a 3- layer cake, what size of cake pan should I use? Do I need to double the recipe?
      Thanks!

      1. Hi Leila, You can use 8 inch round pans and this recipe will work well! Your layers may take an extra minute to bake since they will be slightly thicker. 1.5 times the recipe will definitely work for a 3 layer cake. Happy baking!

  2. Yum! The best pumpkin cake recipe & my new go to for the Holidays! So easy & so moist & delicious!

  3. Happy Thanksgiving and Thank You! I baked the pumpkin cupcakes and they were a huge hit. They were packed with the perfect balance of spices and the texture was light and airy. I bought white chocolate (fall colors) nonpareils and plopped one on top of the icing. Sweet! I love your baking site and I will be back again and again for more delicious recipes.

  4. So delicious and moist! I put my homemade buttercream frosting on only because we don’t like cream cheese! Definitely a keeper!

  5. Absolutely delicious!
    I made it several times now.
    My friends ask me about the recipient.
    Thank you soooo much

  6. My in-laws were bringing dessert for Thanksgiving but had to cancel at the last minute. With a full day of cooking planned, a short window of time when the oven was free, and company on the way, my husband found this recipe and proudly proclaimed that we have all the ingredients on hand! So, with no time to spare, we whipped up this cake and WOW, it did not disappoint. Step over pies, Thanksgiving has a new winner for a delicious and crowd pleasing dessert! The cake was so flavorful and had the texture of fresh pumpkin bread and the frosting was light and creamy, but not over sweet. This suggestion to put in the fridge to help with cooling was spot on and it sliced like a dream!
    Thank you for coming to our rescue! This will now be on regular rotation and absolutely be part of future Thanksgivings! Thank you!

    1. We’re SO thrilled to hear that this pumpkin cake was a hit for you Thanksgiving meal, Molly – thank you so much for giving it a try!

  7. Absolutely delicious and very easy to make. Doubled recipe and made cake and cupcakes. Baked cupcakes at 375F for 15 minutes. Cake at 350F for 40 min. Ny oven runs a tad slow.
    Freezing half the cake and will frost later.

  8. OMG this is the best pumpkin cake recipe that I ever tried! But I made few changes on the recipe. I add 80 gram of butter and reduce the oil into 160 ml. I also add minced ginger to enhanced all flavor and it turns out amazing! The crumble not just soft but also melt in mouth. This definetely gonna be my ultimate pumpkin cake recipe. Thankyou!

  9. Pumpkin is one of my favorites, so I can be judgmental but, this is indeed the best pumpkin cake ever. Thanks again for another winner!!!

  10. Hey, followed the recipe but instead, I replaced the chocolate chips with shaved dark baking chocolate, the cloves with 2tsp cardamom, and baked in 2 9 by 12 pans. The time taken was 35 minutes at 350F. Then let them sit in there for 5 minutes before placing them on the rack to cool. Flipped after an hour and I enjoyed about half the cake by myself at midnight. Blissful success. The rest was gobbled up by my family for breakfast.

    As promised, moist and full of flavor! Much love from Nairobi, Kenya

  11. Hi I was wondering if maybe there was a frosting recipe without the cream cheese? Becouse im really a picky eater and I dont really like it.

  12. I made these as muffins. Moist (just shy of too-moist) with a decent crumb but they just tasted too pumpkin-y for me. Sort of a vegetable taste.

  13. Can raisins be added to the cake? If so, any recommendations for how to incorporate them? Thank you!

  14. This is a great recipe. I love pumpkin anything year round! I did use home canned Hubbard squash (better flavor and consistency) but I have found if I take ¼ more and I put it in 2 layers of cheese cloth and let it hang over a bowl overnight it gives me the same density as store canned pumpkin.

    I love all if your recipes that I have used which is a lot if them! My 10 year old granddaughter is now using them ad I teach her to bake. Thanks!

    1. Hi Trish, that should work, but the taste will be slightly different than using vegetable oil.

    1. Hi Jess, we haven’t tried this recipe with any egg substitutes, but let us know if you do. If you’re interested, here are all of our naturally egg-free recipes.

  15. I absolutely loved this recipe and it was a big hit for Father´s Day. I wonder if there is a way to reduce the amount of sugar. For this and other recipes I have used Splenda (half the amount of the sugar recommended in the recipe) but I would like to know if you have any tips on this. Perhaps a better conversion, some other low-calorie sweetener, or some kind of diabetes friendly option. Thank you!

    1. Hi Sandra, we’re so glad this cake was a success for you! We’d love to help but we are not trained in baking with sugar substitutes. For best taste and texture (and so you don’t waste your time trying to adapt this recipe since it may not work properly), it may be more useful to find a recipe that is specifically formulated for sugar substitutes. Keep in mind, too, that simply reducing the amount of sugar is possible, but it will change the overall taste and texture of the cake, too. Thanks again!

  16. Delicious recipe! We recently had a cat pass away and we had been using pumpkin puree in her diet to help her for many years. So, leftover pumpkin puree what to do? Found this delicious recipe and so thankful I did. Our household our not huge pumpkin lovers, but with only a slight modification of mayo substituted for eggs and a reduction of oil to 1/4th and it came out so moist and delicious. Also, threw in dried cranberries and walnuts for added taste and texture. Perfection!

  17. This looks delicious! I need a frosting that can sit out all day once the cake is decorated. Which would you recommend?

    1. Hi Joy, vanilla buttercream would be a bit more stable and hold up better throughout the day. If you can, try to keep the frosted cake out of direct sunlight and in a cooler spot. Hope it’s a hit!

  18. I added a cup of cinnamon applesauce to the mix (I mixed it in my vitamix blender) after everything else was added and I also added 1 extra teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice, everything was amazing! This is the second time I’ve made this recipe and I like it so much I wrote it in my cook book!!! Thank you so much for this easy to follow recipe!!!

  19. I made your best ever banana cake this week…. the BEST!!!! The banana cake uses butter in the cake, the pumpkin cake uses oil. Can butter be swapped for the oil in this recipe????

    1. Hi Kris, so glad you enjoyed the banana cake! We recommend sticking with oil in this pumpkin cake recipe for the best texture – using butter would result in a more dry cake.

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