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.

306 Comments

  1. I wanted a recipe to use for a Farmers Market. If I switched the cream cheese frosting for something that doesn’t require refrigeration do you you think the cake could be left out? (Meaning no refrigeration)

  2. This looks delicious! I have a question. I want to make 2 of these. One of the cakes would be eaten on Thanksgiving day and the next would be eaten 2 days later (Saturday). We would be traveling Wednesday night to the first location and again Friday night to the second location.

    Do you think I can just make both cakes ahead of time, freeze them, and then transport them in a cooler to the first location, put them both in the fridge, and then transport in a cooler to the second location?

    Should I wait to ice them until I get there? It doesn’t need to look fancy; just to taste good. I have a container that will protect the cakes in the cooler while traveling, so that’s not an issue.

    If I do wait to ice them until I get there, how far ahead of time can I make the frosting? Can it just be refrigerated the whole time?

    Thanks :)!!

    1. Hi Sera! Freezing would be best. Here’s a tutorial on how to freeze cakes. You can just bake this sheet cake in a disposable/freezer friendly container and freeze it right in there. For best taste, I recommend frosting the cake before serving. You can prepare the frosting a few days ahead of time and refrigerate it. Let it soften to room temperature, then beat it again for 1-2 minutes before using because it will still be quite solid after refrigeration.

  3. Thank you so so much for sharing this recipe. It is indeed the best pumpkin cake I’ve ever had! So delicious and rich in flavor. This made my husband very happy for his birthday. Great post!

  4. I was never a fan of pumpkin pie so I thought I will try a pumpkin cake instead for Thanksgiving. Saw this recipe and did a taste test. Well, I did the baking and the boyfriend did the actual taste test and oh boy was he happy! He ate half of it and if I wasnt giving him the look, he would probably have eaten the whole thing! He reminded me to thaw the leftover in the freezer for us to have this weekend . Anyways, that’s how happy we are! 🙂 thanks Sally!

  5. This was THE BEST cake I’ve ever made. I too had to bake it a little longer after the toothpick test, but yes, everyone’s oven is different. Delicious and generous amount of frosting…I was able to pipe slice lines and even a border with more to spare. Purchased the little pumpkins which made the cake so cute. Only lasted a few days and tasted even better after being kept in the fridge. Thank you.

      1. Oh now I see it! Sorry about that. I’ve read so many of your recipes I totally missed this one. Thank you so much for taking the time! I really appreciate it 🙂

    1. Hi Sally, do I need to make any changes if I bake the cake in 3 – 8 inch round pans?

      And thank you for all the great recipes, tricks and how-to’s. When I am searching for a cake recipe and your site comes up, I automatically go to it without looking elsewhere.

      1. Thanks so much, Debbie! The baking time will be a little shorter since the cakes will be thinner. Use a toothpick to test for doneness. 🙂

  6. Hi Sally,

    Curious if I could use this cake recipe to combine with the cream cheese frosting for pumpkin cake pops? I’ve made your vanilla and chocolate cake pops several times (and they are everyone’s favorites) but I want to try pumpkin for Halloween.

    1. That would be so delicious, Christy! If you have made the chocolate and vanilla cake pops before you should be a pro at adding the correct amount of frosting to get the right consistency to form the cake balls. Just remember that if you use cream cheese frosting they should be stored in the refrigerator. Enjoy!

  7. The cake was delicious, thanks for all the recipes! I baked two different versions as a cake and cupcakes! Both with excellent!

  8. Can you substitute coconut, olive or avo oil instead? Or melted butter? Canola and vegetable should not be part of anyone’s ingredients. TY.

  9. The cake is yummy- made it for guests. Had to freeze leftovers as it’s dangerously delish. Love the no mixer needed! Is the cake sturdy enough to stack if I double the recipe? I’m planning on making a pirate ship and pumpkin cake was the request.

  10. The cake was yummy! I’m wanting a bar cookie. Can I just leave out the baking soda and powder?

    P.S. All the bakers in my family LOVE your recipes. We have a vanilla business so we are pretty picky! 🙂

    1. I’m so happy your family enjoys my recipes, Nancy! I would use one of my pumpkin cookie recipes and bake as bars instead of individual cookies. This one would work well: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/pumpkin-chocolate-chip-cookies/

  11. This truly was the best pumpkin cake I’ve ever had. It was actually one of the best cakes I’ve ever had, period. I followed the recipe exactly and it was surprisingly easy. Like someone else mentioned, it was awesome that no mixer was needed for the batter. The cake itself was light, fluffy and moist. The flavor was fantastic too and the spices weren’t overpowering. The cream cheese icing was delicious as well. Thank you!

  12. I am going to make a batch for my son’s first birthday (pumpkin theme)! I would also like to use this recipe for his smash cake-I hate giving my littles sugar, even for their 1st birthday (I know, mean mom here.) Just wondering if you can suggest something to replace the sugar with? Maple syrup? Applesauce?

    1. Hi Megan! You can try to replace the sugar with applesauce. I recommend slightly reducing another liquid such as the oil, eggs, or pumpkin.

  13. Made your pumpkin cake for a work potluck. It was delicious and really moist. Thanks for the great recipe!

  14. Made as a birthday cake for husband. Guy loves his pumpkin desserts!
    This cake was fantastic! Made in a 9″ cake pan because I was being lazy! Not gooey or heavy or dense like a lot of pumpkin desserts can be. Oil kept it moist and light. Spices on point! Love that it used a whole can of pumpkin with none leftover! Would make again and again… Thanks Sally

  15. I’m very excited to make this cake for Thanksgiving this year!!! I’m curious if you prefer to use the light or dark brown sugar for this recipe? Does either provide something different with taste/flavor to this cake? I’ll be making it as a 2-layer cake. Thank you!

  16. This is the best pumpkin cake I have ever made! The flavor and the texture is perfect. My father doesn’t even like pumpkin and he loves this cake! Thank you so much

  17. I made this for a Halloween-themed potluck party the other day and it was a truly wonderful cake that everyone enjoyed. Very moist and flavorful, and the frosting was delicious. I followed the cake recipe exactly but had to bake it a bit longer than stated. Also, it isn’t necessary to do so but I chose to double the frosting so that I could decorate the top of the cake with autumn-colored rosettes. I added a couple teaspoons of ground cinnamon to the frosting as well.

  18. I’m baking this cake now. Will leave at room temp til tomorrow evening. Can I make frosting now and put in fridge til tomorrow evening and frost before i serve? Would the frosting get too thick?

    1. Hi Holly, You can make the frosting now. Just take it out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature again before covering the cake. Enjoy!

  19. I made this for a party last night and this cake was such a hit. I don’t even know how many times I heard someone yell out, “Alright, who made this cake??!” People LOVED it. I have a friend who hates cake, he said this cake was amazing. It’s moist and flavorful. The frosting is spot on as well. This will be my go-to cream cheese frosting. I followed her recipe exactly using her weights for ingredients. I am so, so glad that she took the time to include weights because measuring cups are so unreliable. I will be making this cake for any and all fall parties I have to attend this year.

  20. Hi Sally,

    I’m going to make this cake for a potluck and have a question as I’m new to baking cakes. When I mix the wet and dry ingredients, should I mix the batter at least for a few minutes or just until well combined?

    Thanks for your help!

  21. Hi Sally
    Can I half the ingredients for just one 9” round pan?
    I’m not much of a leftover person so would rather bake less at any given time.
    Thanks

  22. Hi, I made the cake for a work event and it was a hit. The cake portion was super moist and had a great pumpkin taste. The cream cheese frosting was a bit too sweet and rich me and a few others. I was wondering if there is another cream cheese recipe from your site that is less sweet? Im note sure the frosting would hold up and be sturdy enough if I omitted some of the confectioners sugar. I did make the cake into 2-inch rounds maybe it would be less week in a 13×9 inch baking pan. Any thoughts you share would be helpful. This cake flavor and texture is definitely a winner!!

    1. I’m so glad it was a hit! A 9×13 cake would only have the frosting on top, so that would certainly be less sweet since it’s less frosting in each bite, or just use a thinner layer of frosting overall. Cream cheese frosting is definitely very sweet, you can try playing with the flavors. Cinnamon would be amazing on this pumpkin cake (see this recipe): https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/banana-cupcakes-with-cinnamon-cream-cheese-frosting/

  23. Made this today and yep, it is the best pumpkin cake recipe ever! I halved the recipe and made 6 mini Bundt cakes. They were perfect after 20 minutes in the oven. Made them with your whipped vanilla buttercream and added some bourbon maple syrup and a pinch of salt… freaking awesome!

  24. Hi Sally, just wanted to let you know that I have never made the frosting part of this recipe. Can you guess why? My 16 yo daughter (who possessively refers to it as “chichen cake”) descends voraciously on the cooled cake and its gone in a day or two. Occasionally she has shared w friends, and so successfully that now I’ll be doubling the recipe to meet the community demand at the annual field hockey team bake sale this week! Its nice to be wanted! Many thanks!

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