The Best Pumpkin Cake I’ve Ever Had

This is my perfectly spiced, rich, and moist pumpkin cake topped with luxuriously creamy and tangy cream cheese frosting. It’s simply the best pumpkin cake I’ve ever had.

pumpkin cake

If you truly want to experience fall, forget apple picking, jumping in the leaves, hayrides, Sunday football, flannel shirts, roasting s’mores, and jack o’ lanterns because THIS CAKE IS HOW TO DO IT. This pumpkin cake recipe is simple, straightforward, and positively perfect. It’s for those of us who want pure pumpkin spice flavor with nothing else in the way.

Pumpkin cake


Why This is the Best Pumpkin Cake

I’ve tried a lot of pumpkin cakes and confidently say this is the best one. Here’s why:

  • Packed with flavor thanks to a whopping two cups of pumpkin puree
  • Tons of cozy fall spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and allspice
  • Soft and super-moist– I call it “stick-to-your-fork moist!”
  • Smooth and silky cream cheese frosting
  • Single layer and easy to transport to potlucks, parties, tailgates, and any fall event!

Pumpkin Cake Recipe Video


pumpkin batter

pumpkin cake batter


How to Make Pumpkin Cake

This is a very easy cake to prepare– it actually reminds me of spice cake in terms of preparation, ease, taste, and texture. Only two bowls needed!

  1. Mix the dry ingredients.
  2. Mix the wet ingredients.
  3. Combine wet & dry ingredients.
  4. Pour into prepared 9×13 inch cake pan.
  5. Bake.
  6. Make cream cheese frosting.
  7. Chill. 30 minutes in the refrigerator makes cutting easier.
  8. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Cake Ingredients

Homemade pumpkin cake requires basic ingredients. I actually use these same exact ingredients for my favorite pumpkin bars, too.

  1. Flour: All-purpose flour serves as the base. We use sturdy all-purpose flour instead of cake flour in this recipe because of the thick, wet batter.
  2. Baking Powder & Baking Soda: These ingredients help the cake rise.
  3. Cinnamon & Pumpkin Pie Spice: These are essential spices for any pumpkin dessert! Instead of prepared pumpkin pie spice, you can use 1/2 teaspoon each of ground nutmeg, ground cloves, ground allspice, and ground ginger.
  4. Salt & Vanilla Extract: Add flavor. Try using homemade vanilla extract instead.
  5. Oil: Oil guarantees a moist crumb.
  6. Eggs: Eggs provide structure and moisture.
  7. Sugar: I sweeten this pumpkin cake with both brown sugar and white granulated sugar, but mostly brown. (Because you know that’s where the best flavor lies!)
  8. Pumpkin: Use an entire standard can of pumpkin, roughly 2 cups of pumpkin puree total. I love recipes calling for the whole can because nothing goes to waste and you don’t have a random 1/3 cup of leftover pumpkin sitting in the fridge.

pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting

How to Decorate Pumpkin Cake

Cakes with a similar spice flavor and texture profile like hummingbird cake, carrot cake, and banana cake all taste best with the holy grail of frosting: cream cheese frosting. So we MUST use silky cream cheese frosting to garnish this perfect pumpkin cake.

Want to jazz it up? Here are some other flavors:

PS: These little fondant pumpkins are extra cute! I didn’t make them myself since that would be the utmost test to my decorating patience. Or try these super adorable fall sprinkles!

pumpkin cake with cream cheese frostingpumpkin cake

So, tell me, is this the best pumpkin cake you’ve ever had?

Print

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 Fondant Toppers | 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. 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.

335 Comments

  1. The cake was a hit at work! I followed the cake and frosting recipes with minor tweaks. I prepared 3 6-inch cakes, and I used rum extract and a store-bought spice mix in the frosting. The cake was indeed moist while still being sturdy enough to cut! The cream cheese was just thick enough for piping delicate flowers, but I’ll continue to search for a sturdier recipe that won’t soften as I decorate. Definitely a recipe I will continue to use! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Today was my second time to make this pumpkin cake. Everyone loved it the first time I made it, so I thought I would make it again to take to a church dinner. Hope they enjoy it as much as my family did.

    1. My glass pan is just my personal preference for this size! You can use your metal pan, the bake time might be a few minutes shorter (glass heats up slower) so just keep an eye on it toward the end.

  3. This is a great recipe!! I have made it at least 4 times and it comes out perfectly every time. It is awesome with or with out icing.
    Thank you for the yummy recipe 🙂

  4. I made this for my dad’s retirement party. I quadrupled the recipe to fit in a huge sheet pan (thankfully I had access to a commercial oven). It was perfect! Rave reviews from all of our guests!

  5. I’ve made this twice. The only tweak‘s were that I made it in a Bundt cake pan (using this recipe, not the Bundt cake one) and then simply dusted with powder sugar instead of making the frosting. Everyone loved it so much that we’re planning to bring it to Thanksgiving INSTEAD of pie. Wish us luck as to not getting kicked out

  6. Hi Sally,

    I am planning on baking this recipe as a bundt cake for this Thanksgiving. Can I sub the canola oil with either coconut or avocado oil? Thanks!

    1. Absolutely! Pour batter evenly into two 8-inch round cake pans. Same oven temperature and use a toothpick to test for doneness. The layers will be thicker than if you were using 9 inch cake pans. This frosting is enough for a 2 layer cake.

  7. I followed the recipe exactly as written. I made the cake on the Sunday before Thanksgiving and stored it in the freezer in the glass baking dish recommended. I wrapped the pan completely with plastic wrap. The night before Thanksgiving I thawed the cake on the counter and made the frosting and frosted the cake in the morning. This cake is perfection! What a big help it is to have a make ahead dessert that is foolproof and delicious. Thank you for such a wonderful recipe!

  8. AMAZING!!! I did a 2-layer version for Thanksgiving and it was a huge hit. My husband literally hid the leftover cake in our back fridge so no one would take it home with them. My kids don’t like cream cheese so did a super light vanilla buttercream and it was perfect. Thanks so much- will definitely be making this one again!!

  9. Made this for a birthday party this weekend – even after a week of everyone eating pumpkin-themed foods, the entire sheet cake was gone between 9 people in the course of an evening. Everyone went back for seconds. Birthday boy loved it! Thanks so much.

  10. Really moist and flavorful cake! I made 2 9 inch layers 2 days ahead, cooled, and wrapped at room temperature and it was soo moist and good!
    Thanks!

  11. I made this cake without the frosting with my preschool kids at school as part of our liquid/solid/gas theme. We didn’t have any spice besides the cinnamon so I added a little extra to the measurement in the recipe. Baked it in an aluminum foil pan with greased parchment paper… It took 50 minutes to bake to perfection. Served it warm and the staff raved that it was the best cake they’d ever tasted. The kids loved it! Thank you!

  12. I have a question! Would this cake be okay with chocolate chips added? My grandkids love pumpkin and chocolate together. Thanks so much!

  13. Absolutely loved this recipe and my boyfriend couldn’t believe it how good this cake was hahaha. He even asked me to make it for new years for his brother and his wife. You Americans really know your desserts!! Love from Europe xx

  14. I always forget to give reviews but this was stellar so I wanted to make sure I did. It truly is the best! I would equate it more to a carrot cake, moist, flavorful and the cream cheese frosting sets it off perfectly. I’m not usually a cake person, but I loved this and it was a huge hit to a gathering of discriminating people. I did the 2 rounds with frosting in between. Just delicious and very “seasonal” at thanksgiving time. Also note: I used fresh cooked, puréed pumpkin, using the one we had from Halloween!

  15. I made this cake with minor modifications of what was available at home (and less sugar) and without the frosting, and it was amazing!! Hadn’t had such moist cake before!! Congrats for the recipe!

  16. I was looking for a pumpkin dessert recipe that was not pie and one for which I already had all of the ingredients. This recipe caught my attention and I made it today for Christmas. I followed the recipe as it is written and it turned out perfect! It is moist, spiced perfectly, and the cream cheese frosting is divine. This will be on the list of bakes every year from now on. Thank you!

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