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, Pumpkin Toppers, and Custom Stamped Fork
  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

278 Comments

  1. Nicole Saldana says:

    Hi Sally! Is the pumpkin required strictly purée and not the pumpkin pie canned filling? I want to be sure I get the right one!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Nicole, You want to use 100% pumpkin here. Pumpkin pie filling is very different, not only is it filled with spices and sugar, its consistency is completely different.

  2. It smells amazing!! I did it in two 8×8 round cake pans and layered it with the cream cheese icing . Definitely a heavier cake like a carrot cake but a keeper

  3. This is a serious perfectly moist exquisite recipe from Sally. Made this using 7″ layer cake pans w/parchment. The leftover batter I put into a well oiled ramekin. The 7 ” layer cake was just the right size to give as a gift with Sally’s cream cheese frosting. The ramekin I used to test for quality control-a gift to myself-no icing! Used Sally’s recommendation for spices-rather than pie spice.

  4. Make this cake & your creme cheese frosting for the first time for a dessert with friends. Rave reveiws by all. In fact our friends wanted the recipe and now she wants the recipe for her sisters. I guess she made the cake for a dinner party with her family and again all rave reviews by all. So thank you for sharing your recipe. Will definitely make this again.

  5. I made this for Thanksgiving this year and I did substitute gluten free flour but my husband said it was the best pumpkin cake he’s ever had and he couldn’t even tell it was gluten free. I’ll be making this every year from now on.

  6. Wow! I made this cake for Thanksgiving OMG the compliments just kept coming! What was left only got better the next day! Only thing I did was cut down on the oil and subbed applesauce, about 50/50, and the cake was still very moist and super flavorful. This recipe is a definite keeper!

  7. This was delicious, thank you Sally! I made it yesterday with the cream cheese frosting (threw in some pecans too) and it was a hit! Thanks for another great recipe!

  8. You mention using either dark brown sugar or light brown sugar. Do you have a preference for this recipe?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Karen, You can really use either one here. Dark brown sugar contains more molasses, so it has a slightly richer flavor. It works well in recipes like this, but it won’t make a huge flavor difference if you use light brown sugar instead.

  9. So delicious!!!! I’m a pumpkin cake and pie snob lol and this is the BEST! Perfect amount of spice, moist, yum!! I added some choc mini chips as an extra touch at my daughters request and it tasted so perfect! Thank you!!

  10. Hello Sally, Can we use a loaf pan? I want to send these out as gifts. 8 x 3 7/8″

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Luz, Yes you should be able to bake this cake in a few smaller loaf pans. I’m unsure of the exact bake time needed but the loaves will be done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

  11. Hi, I want to make a Cinderella cake for my daughter’s birthday in the shape of a coach, so I was planning on using round ball cake forms and then making big sugar cookies for wheels on the side…do you think this will turn out ok in ball cake pans, or can you recommend another recipe?? I thought itd be super cute to have it pumpkin flavour but I dont know if the heavy cake will keep form.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Emily, That sounds like an adorable cake! I have used this recipe in a speciality 3D cake mold and it’s worked beautifully. Let us know if you try it!

  12. Hi Sally! My cake turned out amazing but my frosting was kind of grainy, even after beating it on high for a long time. I used domino’s confectioners sugar and everything was at room temperature. Any ideas?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mira, We usually don’t find it necessary to sift the confectioners sugar for this frosting, but if you try it again sifting the sugar after measuring should help!

  13. Elizabeth Sanders says:

    I made this, and it was so goooooood!

  14. Greetings from Australia. We made this with the grandkids today. It is lovely.
    We used boiled, strained pumpkin as there is a huge variety of wonderful pumpkins in this country and we don’t really have canned of any sort.

  15. I made this today and omg….a keeper for sure!! Tks for the recipe!

  16. Hi. Can you make this as a rolled cake?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Nell, use this recipe instead – enjoy!

  17. Hi,
    Will this cake work if I cut the recipe in half?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Julianne, 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. Use a toothpick to test for doneness.

  18. Nora Lorenz says:

    Is it ok if I add the dry ingredients to the wet instead of the other way around? It would be easier with my mixer. Thank you so much

    1. We’ve found it doesn’t make a difference with this recipe– either wet in dry or dry in wet.

  19. Can I add raisins and nuts to this? My son wants it for his birthday cake?

    1. Absolutely. I recommend around 1 cup.

  20. Best cake/frosting ever! Next time I will add golden raisins. Thanks Sally!

  21. Cathy Bettoney says:

    Wonderful. I made half a recipe and used puréed pumpkin I had on hand (last year’s Hallowe’en jack-o-lanterns, cooked and frozen). Incredible texture.

  22. i made this pumpkin cake, made my own pumpkin puree, used half the sugar and no icing as i don’t like sugary foods. The cake is amazing!! Thank you!!

  23. This cake is so perfect. Added the one cup of raisins as my husband really likes them. It was good at first, but even better after being in the fridge overnight. The frosting is perfect. The cream cheese keeps it from being too sweet. Soooo, delicious. Perfect, in fact.

  24. So moist… my family loved this… I will make this again! Extremely easy to make. I enjoyed baking before, but stumbling upon this website has turned me into an addict! Thankyou so much, Sally!

  25. This recipe is delicious but it’s incredibly bad for you. Unnecessarily so. If you eat clean and healthy and eat even just a piece of this cake…get ready for a shock to your system and to feel the effects of it later. If you don’t care about that then this will be one of the best cakes you’ve ever eaten.

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