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.

315 Comments

  1. Hi Sally,

    Congratulations! You’re baby girl is beautiful. Do you think the Pumpkin cake would work as mini loafs? If so, do you happen to know the cookijng time?

    Thank you and congratulations again.

    Toni

  2. I made this last night, and it truly is the ‘best pumpkin cake I ever had’! Recipe was so easy. Thanks for the tip regarding freezing.

  3. Tasty, moist pumpkin cake…but the frosting was far too sweet and I didn’t even add the extra 1/4 cup of sugar. I wish I would have started with only 2 cups of sugar and then only added a bit more if needed. The cake itself is still good but I am having to scrape off some of the frosting to balance out the sweetness – and I rarely have to do that! :\

  4. Hi Sally,I made your Best Pumpkin Cake I’ve ever had yesterday for our small group, and everyone enjoyed it so much! Cake was so moist and flavorful  and the frosting was over the top! I added 1/2t of cinnamon to the frosting, and needless to say I went home with an empty dish! 
    Thank you, Sally, for making me look like a rock star to our friends and family!

  5. Hi Sally! Congrats on the baby! I’m not a fan of cream cheese frosting/ do you think a whip cream-type frosting would work? I

  6. I am soooo excited for this cake, and am going to make some candied walnuts to top it off!

    I’m making it to bring to girls night, but also want to keep some at home for the significant other. Could I split the batter between two 8″ square pans? I think two full size cakes would be a little overkill. 

  7. I made this over the weekend, and it was both easy and amazing – thank you! Your note about doing the layer cake version in 2x 9-inch rounds inspired me to get creative: I whipped up a batch of your delicious salted caramel sauce and used that in between the two cake layers. Yum! The saltiness of it was a great balance to the sweet cream cheese icing.

  8. This cake is so yummy!! Flavorful and moist, I’ll definitely make it again!
    I made a half recipe to make into cake pops (I got about 26), then really wished I’d made the whole thing so I could eat the other half!! I used half melted butter and half apple sauce (thanks for that tip!) and baked it in a 8″ square pan, and I think it still took about 23-28 minutes if I remember right. I’m planning to use the other half can of pumpkin for a batch of cupcakes soon, then I’ll get to try it with frosting!

      1. I just used a little homemade buttercream, it was so moist I didn’t need very much! Definitely using cream cheese frosting for the cupcakes though!!

  9. Just made this recipe this evening. I did cupcakes for a friendsgiving tomorrow. Can’t wait to share them! I did substitute 1/2 cup of applesauce for the oil. Thanks for the great recipe and congratulations on your little one!

  10. Hi Sally! My brother requested a certain pumpkin chocolate chip cake from The NY Times as a thanksgiving dessert. I’m happy to oblige to a point, but I don’t make cakes that aren’t your recipe!  I want to adapt this cake to be two layers (thanks for the instructions there!), include chocolate chips and have a chocolate frosting to make him happy. Do you recommend changing any spice ratios to go in a chocolatey direction?  Also, do you have a recommendation for one of your chocolate frostings that would complement the cake?  Love your recipes sooo much! Thanks!

  11. I doubled this recipe exactly and got 48 cupcakes! I wish there was a stronger spice flavor, but paired with cream cheese frosting, these are DIVINE. For cream cheese frosting, I used 16 oz of cream cheese, 2 sticks butter, 8 cups confectioner’s sugar, and 3 tsp vanilla extract. PERFECT!

  12. Hello Sally! I topped my cake with a crumb mixture. To make the crumb I used 2 cups of flour, 2 sticks of butter, 2/3 cup of sugar, 1 tbsp of Vietnamese cinnamon, dash of salt and 1tbsp of vanilla. I also topped it with your maple glaze from your pumpkin crumb cupcakes/muffins recipe. I cut the recipe in half. I used 3/4 cup of powdered sugar, 1tbsp of maple syrup and 1 tbsp of milk. I did not use any pumpkin spice in this recipe. Only Vietnamese Cinnamon. I baked the cake for 18 minutes then I took it out of the oven and topped it with the crumb mixture and placed it back in the oven for 18 more minutes. It was amazing! Congratulations on your new addition to your family! God Bless

  13. Hi Sally,
    I made this pumpkin cake recipe last night. I intentionally made it for my 1 yo daughter’s snack but turn out that all family enjoys it really much.
    Recipe is so easy and doesn’t take much time to make. The cake is really moist and super tasty even without the buttercream.

    Thanks for the recipe, keep baking 🙂

  14. My husband discovered this recipe and requested that I make it for his birthday the day after Thanksgiving! I am looking forward to trying it. One question….I was going to use the half applesauce/half oil option, but then thought maybe I could use more pumpkin in place of the applesauce in order to make it more pumpkin-y and less like a spice cake as someone noted. Do you think that would work? Thanks so much. Linda

      1. Hi! I did use more pumpkin in place of the applesauce and it turned out fine…maybe a little drier than with oil or applesauce, but still great…and pumpkiny. I used a little over half of the sugar called for in the icing, and it was quite good. Now I am going to try your pecan bars and/or the orange cranberry bundt cake and/or the chai cinnamon cake! So many good recipes! Thank you.

  15. I made a gluten-free version by substituting flour and raising agents with 1+3/4 metric cups gluten-free self-raising flour (could have used all-purpose and kept the raising agents in), 1/4 metric cup coconut flour and 1/2 tsp baking soda. Because gluten-free flour is so fine adding coconut flour sucks up some of the sogginess and gives a good crumb. Used 450 ml pumpkin, steamed, drained well and mashed, with half apple sauce/half oil. I thought about cutting down the sugar but was glad I didn’t – the balance was just right. In a 22cm round tin the cooking time was just over an hour. It won’t last long enough to frost. Eating some right now, warm with a dollop of cream. Terrific cake, thank you.

  16. My mom made this cake four times and the requests keep coming for more! She substituted applesauce for the oil and used only 1.5 cups of confectioners sugar in the icing. 
    This cake was absolutely fabulous. The icing was perfect and sweet! I served it at game night and the whole cake was gone in a matter of hours. I don’t recommend this cake for anyone who is watching their waistline. It’s way too good to have just one piece!!  Thank you so much for this recipe. Next we are going to make your best ever banana cake.

  17. I made a quarter of the recipe and baked it in a loaf pan. I had a little extra batter so I used the rest in a mini loaf pan. I did not use pumpkin spice; I used only cinnamon. I topped the cake with a crumb topping of 2 tbsp butter, quarter cup flour, quarter cup brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla. The batter was outrageous. After bakingb, I placed cake directly into freezer to hold moisture in the cake. OMG!

  18. Everyone enjoyed this yummy cake and it went fast! Very easy to assemble. I cut the sugar in half, added chopped walnuts and substituted Smart Balance margarine. Made a boiled icing similar to a German Chocolate Cake icing with coconut flakes etc. 2/3 was frosted and it still tasted good plain. I served the frosting cuts topped with whip cream.

  19. Hey Made this great cake without frosting. Could you tell me about how many calories per serving or any of the nutritional info? thanks!!

    1. Hi Miriam, I’m unsure of the nutritional info of this recipe, but there are many great online calculators like this one: https://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-calculator.asp

  20. Hi Sally,
    I’m a fan of yours for many years! Almost all US recipes call for canned pumpkin puree, which made me never have tasted anything pumpkin in my life!! This fall it has to end. Can you tell me if fresh pureed pumpkin can be used in your recipe, since we dont have canned puree where I live.
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Joan! So nice to hear from you. Though I prefer the flavor of the cake when made with canned pumpkin puree, you can make it with fresh pumpkin puree.

  21. Hi Sally,
    I love your site. Your advice and information are a great help. I have yet to fail using one of your recipes. Thanks for that !
    Just a quick question on oils. Can I substitute vegetable or canola for either coconut or avacado?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Shayne! Thank you so much for the kind comment! I haven’t personally tried avocado oil, but I’ve made the cake with melted coconut oil and it’s absolutely wonderful.

      1. Sally,
        Thank you.
        This cake IS the Best Pumpkin Cake ever!!! I made it for my daughters 13 th birthday party with the cinnamon cream cheese icing. Huge hit!

  22. Hi Sally! I plan to bake this cake for a co-worker in the upcoming weeks. My plan is to bake 3 8 inches cake (i’ve done this in the past with your recipes without issues. Red velvet and Triple Chocolate cake). Layer cake fill with cream cheese buttercream (naked style), and add a caramel drip to decorate. I want to use fruit to decorate the cakes on the sides or type but I’m in blank with what type of fall fruits I should use. Any recommendation?

    1. Hi Katsi! Your cake is inspiring my own fall baking! For fall fruits, I’m thinking cranberries, pear, fig, apple, pomegranate, kumquats, and/or dark grapes!

  23. Hi Sally. When using a glass pan, I turn the oven temperature down 25 degrees. Since your recipe recommends a glass pan, do I need to adjust the temperature or leave the oven temperature @ 350 degrees. (I love baking with glass). I am making this cake later today for a funeral we have tomorrow.

      1. The cake turned out perfect, they loved it. I did use home pureed pumpkin from ‘winter luxury pie’. Last fall I served pumpkin pie using ‘winter luxury’ and another from a ‘sugar pie’. My family preferred the taste and texture of ‘winter luxury’

  24. I made this cake last night and it is one of the best cakes ever! My husband could of ate the whole cake haha. I substitute the oil with mostly apple sauce. Thanks for sharing!

  25. I made this cake for my family last night and my kiddos helped too! I needed up adding the extra 1/4 cup of powder sugar to the frosting (it tasted better to me this way) but everything can spit great!! It took only 30 mins to cook in two round pans. I’ve even shared it with my neighbors! Best pumpkin cake ever! And I’m. It a pumpkin treat lover… but my husband is and he definitely approved!

    1. For the best proportions of batter for a bundt pan I recommend either this recipe (with or without the cheesecake swirl): https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2016/10/24/pumpkin-cream-cheese-bundt-cake/
      or this one: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2017/11/10/pumpkin-chocolate-chip-bundt-cake/

      1. Think I could double this recipe (best pumpkin cake) and bake in two bundt pans to fit together to make a pumpkin shape?

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