The Best Pumpkin Cake I’ve Ever Had

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

Print
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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
  • Yield: serves 12
  • 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

  • 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 spice, fall dessert, Thanksgiving

Here are my pumpkin cupcakes! Same recipe, just reduced down.

pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

339 Comments

  1. Pat Kovalchick says:

    Would you be able to substitute 1/2 cup butter for 1/2 cup of the oil?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Pat! We recommend sticking with oil in this recipe for the best texture – using butter would result in a more dry cake.

  2. Hi, love this recipe, love all your recipes! Your website is my go to baking site and your recipes never fail. I have made this before and love it. A friend wants me to make her a large 12″ cake. I am curious how to go about it though, any tips? I’d like to use my spring form pan for this and was thinking of just doubling the recipe to do so. What do you think? Thanks!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Devan, our cake pan sizes and conversions guide will be helpful for scaling this recipe. For best taste and texture, we always recommend making separate batches rather than doubling for larger yields. Hope this helps!

  3. Hi,
    You suggest using the Bundt recipe for a bundt pan, the recipe is slightly different. What is the difference in the cakes? I just want a “prettier” cake with cream cheese frosting.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Alanna, the Bundt cake recipe has the same great taste and texture and the ingredients are very similar, just scaled slightly differently to better fit the Bundt pan. You can use the Bundt recipe and top with the cream cheese frosting from here. Hope you enjoy it!

      1. Thank you!!

  4. Hi Sally, my mom is allergic to apples. What would be a good replacement? More pumpkin?

    1. My daughter is gluten free and I was going to use the King Arthur 1:1 flour substitute. Do you think it will taste the same?

  5. Hi Sally,

    At times, I’ve come across a grainy/crunchy sandlike texture in pumpkin recipes (mainly, just recently in your pumpkin bread recipe, which is DIVINE). I just can’t figure out why. I sift my flour, and both sugars are fresh; I thought perhaps it was that the sugar just wasn’t dissolved enough, but I’m certain that isn’t the issue , as it’s thoroughly incorporated into the wet ingredients.
    I recently heard that Libby’s pumpkin purée has left baked goods with a grainy/sandy texture. Have you come across this? Could it be that, or something else that I’m just not thinking of?

    Thanks for any help you can provide!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Julian! We’ve heard that from other readers, though we haven’t experienced it ourselves. So strange!

  6. Wow! I made this for a small get together and everyone loved it – kids and adults. Super moist, perfect ratio of frosting to cake, wonderful amount of pumpkin spice. Sally you never let me down!

  7. This is my second weekend making this cake. It was such a hit with my family that they all requested it again. Great recipe!! This one is a keeper for sure.

  8. This pumpkin cake recipe is the best….made this cake for my niece’s 16th birthday (loves pumpkin)…everyone loved it…substituted 1/2 cup applesauce for 1/2 cup oil and it worked great…cake was so moist….thank you for wonderful recipe…

  9. I made this yesterday. Wow. So delicious. A few changes: 1. I used 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup of apple butter instead of applesauce (yum!); 2. Reduced the amount of cinnamon to 1 tsp because of the apple butter; 3. Used four extra-large eggs because that’s what I had; and 5. Topped it with a maple frosting. I have to say that today it’s even better than it was yesterday. Incredibly moist, so fluffy – really a delight. The maple frosting I used was reminiscent of a salted caramel and was almost like a glaze. The cake was really tall, I think from the extra-large eggs. I’m so glad I used the apple butter. Definitely make this cake!

  10. How sturdy is this cake? Would it work well for cake decorating? The cake will be small but coffee cup shaped so maybe 4 or 5 layers.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Marissa, this cake works well as a layer cake. See recipe notes for a 2 layer cake, or, you could use smaller pans (filling them half way). Hope it’s a hit!

  11. A question: why are both baking powder and soda called for? I don’t see anything in the ingredients list that is particularly acidic to activate the soda, but I’ve found that most pumpkin baking recipes call for both as well.

    1. Hi Dana, brown sugar is our acidic ingredient here. Without baking soda, this pumpkin cake is quite flat. By trying to add more baking powder to make up for that loss of rise, the cake begins to have a bitter aftertaste. Stick with the baking soda/baking powder blend listed.

  12. Do you think it would be OK to add chocolate chips to this recipe? If so, would any of the other ingredients have to change?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Marie, Yes you can! We suggest between 1 and 1.5 cups of chocolate chips with no other changes to the recipe.

  13. OMG I made this for my 10 year olds birthday!! I got three thumbs up! So delicious!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      So glad it was a hit, Jen!

  14. Hi dear Sally I want to try this delicious recipe but I can’t find canned pumpkin purée,
    So if I want to use homemade pumpkin purée,first I should measure 2 cups and then blot out the extra water and moisture or first I should blot out the extra moisture and water and then measure 2 cups?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sara! We would measure before blotting. A can of pumpkin has about 1.8 cups of pumpkin, so squeezing out the extra moisture should get you to just about the right amount.

  15. This cake was not for us. We felt it had to much of an oil flavor and was lacking something. The smell is really nice, it was super moist and fluffy. But over all definitely not for us.

    1. Jessica,

      I used extra light tasting olive oil and you couldn’t taste oil at all and it was super moist.

  16. Should I double this recipe to make a 2 layer 10 inch cake?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mimi! Here is everything you need to know about converting recipes to different Cake Pan Sizes.

  17. Hi Sally, do you think half of the ingredients will work for 8 inches square baking pan?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Irina! Yes, that should work for this recipe.

  18. DONNAMARIE BAILEY says:

    Hi, Can you use Libbys canned pumpkin, or does it have to be pumpkin puree?
    I always have a difficult time finding pumpkin puree.

    Thanks

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Donnamarie, Libby’s canned pumpkin works great. Just make sure it is 100% pure pumpkin (pumpkin listed as the only ingredient) and not pumpkin pie filling (which contains other sugars and ingredients). Hope this helps!

  19. Can you layer this cake? I am making it for a birthday and I need 3 layers.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mia, absolutely! This batter will work in two 8 or 9-inch round cake pans. Same oven temperature, bake for 25 minutes or until baked through. If you wish to make three layers you can but they would be thinner layers and the bake time would be shorter.

  20. Hello! I love your recipes! Can you recommend what changes you would make to make this vegan friendly?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sarah, we haven’t tested a vegan version of this cake, but if you give any substitutions a try, we’d love to know how it goes for you!

  21. Hi Sally! I was wondering what your thoughts were about turning the cream cheese frosting into a chai spice cream cheese frosting! Would that be weird? How much chai spice would you recommend? Thanks!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Anna, that sounds incredible! You can add 1-2 tsp chai spice (to taste). Let us know how it goes!

  22. I subbed 1/2 the oil for the applesauce. But I still found the cake way too heavy and flat. Not fluffy at all. It felt done when baking but upon eating the next day it had a layer of what looked undone or squished batter running along the bottom. Maybe something was off? Or needed more baking time? Frosting is yummy though.

  23. Hi Sally,
    I was going to have a *fall cake* competition this weekend with my friend Lauren, So I Wasser thinking about making this recipe!
    Question: Just wanted to check, but I would have to double or triple this recipe for two six inch cakes, and one 9inch cake? And just a fun one, Have you ever heard of Rosanna Pansino
    Thank you for creating quality easy find recipes for everyone!
    Thanks, Ava

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ava, This recipe is exactly enough batter for 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. You could certainly make it again in three 6-inch pans, but we recommend making separate batches rather than doubling (or more) in order to prevent over mixing (which leads to a dense textured cake). Have fun!

  24. The best indeed! Will definitely make again!

  25. Hi Sally and Trina,
    I haven’t tried this recipe yet, but the insides of my cakes/ cupcakes normally turn out “stick on the fork” moist which I find a bit too mushy/ undercooked for my taste. Any advice for avoiding this without burning the top? Also, I don’t have pumpkin spice or ground ginger in my spice cabinet. Could I use minced (micro-planed) fresh ginger for this? If so, how much should I use? Thx!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jen, If you’d like to bake your cake for longer without burning the tops, you can simply loosely cover the top of your pan with aluminum foil toward the end of your bake time and bake until the center is baked all the way through. We haven’t tested this recipe with fresh ginger but the general rule is For every ¼ tsp. ground ginger, use 1 tsp. fresh grated ginger (ground ginger is stronger). Happy baking!

  26. So this really *is* the best pumpkin cake I’ve ever had. Yum! I actually added 1tsp pumpkin pie spice to the frosting- it helped cut down on the sweetness, and enhanced the flavor.. Sooo good!
    I would love to make this in a gluten free version for family – what would you suggest for the type of flour, and quantity?
    Thank you!

    1. Michelle @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Christine, We do not have much experience using gluten free flour. Although some readers report using an all purpose 1:1 gluten free flour in many of our recipes with success, you should expect slightly different results.

  27. Super yummy, just made it into cupcakes, baked for 18mins at 350.
    Thanks Sally!

  28. Another great Sally recipe! And so easy. Tasted even better the next day.

  29. Made this as a two layer cake and it came out perfect! Such a good cake!

  30. Hi Sally! What changes need to be made in order to make this pumpkin cake recipe as cake pops? I usually have trouble with cake to frosting ratio and would love your input to try to make these a success.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Monica! You can cut this recipe in half and bake in one 9-inch round cake pan. Same oven temperature, bake for 25 minutes or until baked through.
      You can read this post on Cake Pops for instructions on assembly, but since half of this pumpkin cake is smaller than the cake pop recipe you will need less frosting. Remember when making cake pops– you need less frosting than you think to get that cake pop consistency! Let us know if you try it!

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