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


Overview: How to Make Pumpkin Cake

While the full written recipe is below, let me walk you through these simple steps first. 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.

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.

Looking for a cookie recipe with this same flavor and texture? Try my super soft pumpkin cookies. No cookie dough chilling required and they’re incredible with that maple cream cheese icing on top!


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 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
clock clock icon cutlery cutlery icon flag flag icon folder folder icon instagram instagram icon pinterest pinterest icon print print icon squares squares icon

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.

384 Comments

  1. Would it work to make this cake in an aluminum pan (the disposable type)? Thanks

    1. Shouldn’t be a problem!

  2. Good morning Sally,

    This truly is the best Pumpkin Cake I have ever had! I made it for a picnic last weekend and it was a tremendous hit. Since there are a few who are gluten free, I made the cake with King Arthur measure for measure gluten free flour and it turned out marvelously to say the list…everyone who eventually found out that it was gluten free could not believe it…and I did not skimp on the cream cheese frosting…amazing!!! Love your recipes girl, keep up the good work!

    1. Hi Rosetta! Thank you so much for trying the recipe and I’m glad it worked well with GF flour!

  3. Would this work for cake pops?!

    1. I can’t see why not!

  4. If I wanted to add chocolate chips to the batter, how much would you recommend adding?

    1. I’d say about 1 – 1 and 1/2 cups.

  5. Christina Loop says:

    Just made it. Best cake ever! I substituted canola with olive oil! Amazing. Thank you!

    1. I’m thrilled you loved this recipe, Christina!

  6. Could I use a 8” round pan instead of a 9” for a 2 layer?

    1. Yes, definitely. The cake layers will take a little longer to bake.

  7. Vivienne Simmons says:

    Hi Sally, I don’t have pumpkin spice mix and was about to use the mix of spices you recommend, but I see that the recommendation doesn’t include cinnamon, whereas commercial pumpkin spice mix does. Can I assume that I should include, say 1.5 teaspoons of cinnamon (in addition to the 1.5 teaspoons the recipe calls for).
    I’m about to try making this in a bundt pan. I wonder if anyone else has had success with this?

    1. Hi Vivienne! There is enough cinnamon in the cake batter (trust me!) that you won’t need the extra even if you use the store-bought pumpkin spice spice. When using the spices individually, I usually don’t add extra cinnamon.

  8. Can i use Heinz baby pumpkin puree to substitute the can pumpkin puree?

    1. I can’t see why not!

  9. Excellent. Moist and delicious cake. I did butter scotch icing for Thanksgiving and we loved it.
    Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    1. SO delish with butterscotch frosting!!

  10. My stepson has asked for a pumpkin cake for his birthday cake (tomorrow!). I would like to bake it in a bundt pan to make it look more special-occasion. I compared the two recipes you offered for bundt options, but I just want the pumpkin cake – no cream cheese filling or chocolate chips. Should I make the chocolate chip recipe and just leave out the chips? Or should I just make this recipe and possibly not use all the batter? Thanks for your help!

    1. Hi Valerie! I suggest making the pumpkin chocolate chip bundt cake and leaving out the chocolate chips.

  11. Can I use Pumpkin Pie in the can. I don’t have pumpkin puree.

    1. Hi Kim! Pumpkin pie filling has sweeteners, flavors, and spices added. The texture is completely different from pure pumpkin puree and it’s not recommended for this pumpkin cake recipe.

  12. Great recipe. Love the softness of the cake. And the frosting is delicious. Thanks!

  13. Hi! Can I use whole wheat flour instead of white?
    Thanks

    1. Definitely! Expect a heavier and heartier texture.

  14. This is a really awesome recipe! The whole family enjoyed when I cooked it. Thanks…

  15. Hello Sally,
    Try as I might, I have no chance of finding canned pumpkin here in Turkey. But I do have a huge pumpkin from my mother-in-law. How can I best make the pure so it is worthy of this cake?

    1. Hi Jana! Here are instructions for homemade pumpkin puree: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/pumpkin-puree-recipe-1922629

  16. I love the flavor of pumpkin with raisins in a baked item. Can you give suggestions of an amount to add, and would you suggest plumping the raisins up by soaking for a bit in hot water prior to adding to the batter?

    1. Hi Lynn! I would add anywhere around 3/4 – 1 cup of raisins. You can plump them if you wish to take a few extra minutes to do so.

  17. I’m baking this cake right now and have the frosting ready to go. Is there any reason I can’t place cake in fridge to cool right out of oven?

    1. Hi Denise! You certainly can. I do if I’m in a rush!

  18. This is a great cake to whip together on a Saturday morning while you’re doing laundry – just like i just did.

    i added a bit of Salted Caramel to the frosting – it was amazing.

  19. Amazingly delicious!! Followed the recipe exactly and muffins came out perfect. Yielded 22 standard muffins for me.

    Wonderful recipe! Thank you so much for sharing! 🙂

  20. Used this recipe and doubled up on almost everything as I made a three layered cake and it is phenomenal! I was so shocked how good it turned out bc I’ve never really baked a cake homemade before! Thanks so much!!

  21. I multiplied the recipe by 1.5 and it worked perfectly. Had some leftover batter and made some cupcakes which came out perfect as well. Great crumb and just the right amount of moist. It’s hard to stop eating this!

    1. I’m so happy you enjoyed this!

  22. Frances Brake says:

    Could I use a jelly roll pan?

    1. Hi Frances! You sure can. The bake time will be shorter. Use a toothpick to test for doneness.

  23. This recipe looks fantastic! Could I add chocolate chips or heath bar bits to the cake?

    1. Absolutely! I would start with 1 – 1 and 1/2 cups.

  24. Hi Sally, can I bake this recipe in a round cake pan? What size and cook time do you recommend? P.S. Baking your recipes all the way down the bottom of the earth in little New Zealand 🙂 Thanks!

    1. Hi Steph! You sure can. See my recipe note about a 2 layer cake. This is too much batter for a single layer round cake.

  25. Excited to try this! Any advice for baking with fresh pumpkin? I read that Libby’s uses a proprietary variety called Dickinson. All that’s available around here is butternut squash and red kuri squash.

    1. Hi Marissa! For best taste and texture, I strongly recommend canned pumpkin puree if you can get your hands on it. But you can use fresh pumpkin puree: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/pumpkin-puree-recipe-1922629
      I’ve found that lightly blotting the fresh pumpkin puree before adding to the batter helps. The cake may take a little longer to bake with fresh.

  26. Hey Sally! I am sure that it has already been asked, but what is the flavor difference between the light and the dark brown sugar in this recipe? Is there one you prefer over the other?

    1. Hi Meghan! Happy to help. 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.

  27. Hello Sally ! I would like to bake this cake a way healthier, can I use maple syrup or honey instead of sugar ? Because there’s too much sugar for me … Thanks 🙂

    1. Hi Emile! The texture, taste, and structure of the cake will change if using an unrefined liquid sweetener. Let me know if you test anything and how it turns out!

      1. Ok I will try to see how it turns out ! Thank you 🙂

  28. I’m really excited to try this recipe! Im making this for a smaller group so I was wondering whether it is possible to 3/4 the recipe for a round pan? Or would it still be too much batter?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Marie! If you’re looking to make a smaller cake, I recommend using my pumpkin cupcakes batter. 🙂 It’s the perfect size for a round cake pan.

  29. It turned out great with fresh pumpkin! I let the puree sit in a fine mesh sieve for about half an hour and that got rid of quite a bit of excess liquid. The cake is super soft and fluffy (extra fluffy because I halved the recipe and accidentally used too much baking powder).

  30. I’m excited about making this recipe for my 7 year old son’s birthday party this weekend. He was born on Halloween, so he is our pumpkin! Would two 8 inch round pans work? Any difference in oven temp or time?

    1. Hi Katy! So special! Yes, you can use this recipe for 2 8-inch cake pans. See my recipe note about a layer cake. May take an extra minute since the cakes will be thicker (as opposed to 9-inch cake pans).

1 2 3 4 5 8

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

With kitchen-tested quality recipes and step-by-step tutorials, my goal is to give you the confidence to bake and cook from scratch.

Sally's signature

Recipes You’ll Love

Archives

Categories

Join the community on the 1st of every month as we tackle a new challenge recipe. Review Sally's Baking Challenge FAQ page if you have any questions.

View More

A tradition since 2013, every December we countdown to Christmas with 10 new cookie recipes in a row!

View More

The first week of every November is all about Thanksgiving Pies.

View More

My Cookbooks

Sally's Cookbooks

About Sally

Welcome to my Kitchen!

I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally

×