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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 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 both our spice cake and apple 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!
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), 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!
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 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 (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: 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.
  6. 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.
  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 Laura, Melted coconut oil is a wonderful replacement for the vegetable oil here. We haven’t tested this recipe with coconut sugar but it should work. Obviously the flavor will change with these substitutions but let us know if you give it a try!

    2. Great recipe! Yay I don’t have to make pumpkin roll anymore. This is just as good and easier.

      Don’t understand the “tasteless” comment at all. They must have Covid.

      1. I wanted to add I use a Stonewall Kitchen cake tester. The tip turns red when the cake is done. Perfect for cakes like this that are very moist. Cake was not soggy at all. Hubby just said he can’t stop eating it.

    3. I would like to make this recipe using a mini muffin pan for our senior center Thanksgiving party. I think they would be a hit with a pumpkin topper on each one. Think it would work? I have never made mini muffins before, so can you give me a hint at how long they might bake?

      1. Hi Jane, we would recommend using this pumpkin cupcakes recipe, which was adapted from this cake. For around 30 mini cupcakes, bake for about 12-13 minutes, same oven temperature. Enjoy!

  1. Came out tasteless and very soggy! threw entire cake in the garbage!

    very disappointing, waste of time money and time!

    1. Dear Tasteless and Soggy…
      You have to mix all the ingredients together and it has to be baked in a 350 degree oven for the specified time or it will be soggy…

  2. Hello everybody,

    I started making this recipe, but realized too late that my can of pumpkin purée I is is only 398 mL (14.21 oz), rather than 15 ounces. Will this ruin the recipe?

    I tried the Google for substitutes, I don’t have any butternut squash, sweet potatoes, or extra pumpkins laying around my house.

    My batter is already made, (other than the vanilla and pumpkin purée) should I remove some of the batter before I add the purée? And if so, how much? If I don’t hear back from anyone in time, I will let you know if it turns out!

    Thanks for your time!

    1. Hi Sarah, I see in your other comment that these worked out for you! We’re glad to hear it!

  3. I sent in an earlier inquiry, and I have gone ahead and made the recipe. Even though my canned pumpkin was smaller than what the recipe called for, the muffins turned out fantastic!

    I made them in extra tall muffin liners that were themed for Halloween so it made about 16 muffins, and I had to bake them significantly longer, I think about 26 minutes at 350°

    1. Absolutely delicious! Very moist and was a huge hit for the work Halloween party. I made it with a Chai Buttercream though.

      Do you think this recipe would be ok for a dogs birthday cake though? Mine isn’t a huge fan of peanut butter but adores pumpkin.

  4. This was absolutely perfect!!! I followed the recipe exactly as it was, and it turned out super moist and soft. Everyone loved it. It was not too pumpkin-y but still very flavorful and delicious 🙂 thank you so much for the recipe!

  5. I wanted to make a Pumkin Spice Cake. I tried two other recipes before trying this one. The saying “Third times a charm” is true. I was so happy with the outcome of this cake that I shouted for joy and danced around in my kitchen. I finally got the taste I was looking for. Thank you so much for this recipe! It is going into my recipe book to use for all time.

  6. Hi! I made this recipe in a pumpkin mold and it went over SO WELL! Definitely a crowd pleaser & lots of compliments!

    Thanks so much and I hope to make it again!

  7. Great recipe!! The cake is moist and delicious and the cream cheese frosting adds another layer of yumminess to the whole experience!

  8. I love this cake! I make it in a glass 9×13 dish. My question is this, If I serve it in a 9×13 aluminum disposable pan, will the results be as good? Any recommendations in doing so?

    1. Hi Beth, we haven’t tried making it in aluminum disposable pan, so aren’t sure if the results will be the same as a glass dish. If you try it, please report back so other readers can benefit!

      1. Thanks for responding! I have been asked to make this cake for others over the holidays and I am trying to figure out a way to keep my 9×13 dishes at home! Thanks again!

    2. I tried making in a disposable pan! I didn’t want to burn the bottom, so for the first 20 minutes I doubled up on pans and then removed the outer one and baked the rest with just one pan!

    1. Hi C, For the best results and texture we recommend sticking with oil, but the same amount of melted butter should be fine in a pinch. The cake may be slightly drier.

    1. Hi Patty, we’re happy to help troubleshoot. Was the batter raw/undercooked? If it has the consistency of pumpkin pie filling, it likely needed a bit longer in the oven. Did you happen to make any other ingredient substitutions or changes?

    1. Hi Sally, absolutely! See recipe notes for cupcake details. Or you can use this pumpkin cupcakes recipe instead. Essentially the same batter, just with a smaller yield.

  9. I’ve made this cake twice before and it was excellent both times. If I make this cake without the frosting does it still need to be stored in the refrigerator?

    1. Hi Debra, We are so happy you enjoy this recipe! It will be fine tightly covered for a day or two at room temperature, after that we would refrigerate it.

  10. Will this recipe turn out if made with gluten-free (1 to 1 or cup-for-cup) flour? What other adjustments should I make to be sure it stays moist & holds together and doesn’t crumble? Extra xanthan gum? Or is it unsuitable for gluten-free baking?
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Terri! We don’t have much experience with GF baking. Usually a 1:1 flour substitute is your best option. Let us know if you try it!

  11. Hello! I was directed here by a link in the comments of the egg free pumpkin coffee cake. Could I omit the eggs in this recipe? Im using a 9×13 dish, so i wanted to have the proper measurements. Thank you for great egg-free recipes

    1. It would take some testing to make this particular recipe egg-free. It’s best to stick with the egg-free pumpkin coffee cake recipe instead. You can try increasing those ingredients by 1.5x to fit your pan.

  12. I am looking to make a Pumpkin Spice Layer cake – will this recipe work or can you recommend another recipe? It’s for a birthday.

    1. Hi Theresa! This cake works great as a layer cake – see recipe notes for instructions.

  13. love love love this recipe! i don’t think i’ve ever left a review for recipes, but 1. i always, always trust sally’s recipes. as my cousin also said, she never steers us wrong! 2. this cake is amazing. i don’t even like pumpkin spiced things.
    i made this cake last year with a whip cream cream cheese frosting since i find butter-based frostings a bit heavy and it was SO good, i made it a total of 4 times in the fall/winter. i’m about to make it again possibly multiple times for thanksgiving events this year and am super excited to! thanks for working to create all these amazing recipes for us 🙂 happy holidays!

  14. This was, indeed, the best pumpkin cake I’ve ever had. ! I can’t wait for a good excuse to make it again so I can eat most of it!
    I made it exactly to your specs. I laid tin foil on the ends near the end of baking so the entire cake was cooked perfectly.
    Thank you, Sally, you are amazing.

  15. I made this beautiful cake as a birthday cake for a friend who loves pumpkin pie. I did 2 layers. Filled with cream cheese frosting & topped with mounds of whipped cream & pie crust decorations. Everyone loved it! It was so moist & full of flavour. A keeper recipe without doubt!

  16. Yummies cake ever. So soft and the cream cheese frosting is perfection! Family favourite already and we take it everywhere.

    Ps. Any suggestions for a topping to go on top of the cream cheese are welcome?

    1. Hi Ally, this recipe works great with 2, 9-inch round cake pans. See recipe notes for baking time and details. Enjoy!

  17. Made this cake yesterday and it smelled so amazing that my family and I could not resist the temptation to eat it right out of the oven. Which is why I made it a second time yesterday, lol. It was delicious!
    My question is this: I made a rookie mistake and left the cake (uniced) out of the refrigerator last night. Do you think it will be safe to eat tomorrow if I ice it this morning and put it in the fridge?

    1. Hi Ariel, so glad the cake was a hit with your family. The cake should be just fine to consume today — but do what you are most comfortable with!

  18. I have made this three times. The first time it was, as another person experienced, a “soupy mess”. Sadly it was at a dinner at my house, and the kids dug into it and came to report to all the adults on its completely failed status. I tried to put it back in the oven despite it already having been frosted, which, needless to say, did not pan out. Don’t judge, I was drinking at that point. At any rate I just came to say, this recipe is amazing and delicious. But it needs to cook for about 50-52 minutes. Not 30-36. Both second times I made it, I did the toothpick thing which was completely misleading–clean!–likely because of the wetness of the pumpkin. I cut a little hole in the middle: soup. Until about 52 mins. Make it and enjoy, it’s delicious–but you gotta cook it MUCH longer than reported here!

  19. I made this pumpkin cake for Thanksgiving. Made it three layers so I increased icing by half again. Also added lightly toasted walnuts. I decorated with edible “leaves” that were fall colors. It was quite lovely and equally delicious!

  20. This really is the best pumpkin cake I’ve ever had! Recipe is easy to follow and spot on. I multiplied by 1.5 and did an 8” round, 3 layer. Worked perfectly. Thank you for sharing this.

  21. I made this recipe and halved it to fit three 6 inch pans and it was delicious! I used the brown sugar cream cheese frosting from the snickerdoodle cake and it was divine! This cake is one of my favorite fall cakes and I’ve already made it twice. It’s delicious!

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