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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 we 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 our pumpkin scones recipe, you can use store-bought pumpkin pie spice 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 our spice 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.
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.
  • 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 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: 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 cake

Here are my pumpkin cupcakes! Same recipe, just reduced down.

pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Reader Questions and Reviews

    1. I followed it exactly other than cutting the sugar in the cake down by 1/3, I always do that, we are at 7800’ and it came out perfect. Literally everyone was asking for the recipe.

  1. Such a great recipe. The cake came out so moist. I halved the recipe and I used an 8 in cake pan. My total cook time was 37 minutes. I also used my own pumpkin purée, and it was incredible.

  2. Hi, can you explain why there is so much leavening in the recipe? (Seems like a lot of baking soda?)

    1. Absolutely! Pumpkin is a very heavy ingredient and this is a very thick batter. To lift the dense batter into a cake-like texture, you need enough leavening. I wouldn’t reduce the baking soda but if you’re concerned about the amount of leavener, feel free to slightly reduce the baking powder.

      1. Thank you kindly. Can’t wait to try. My grandchildren love pumpkin donuts.

    1. Hi Debbie, you’ll want canned pumpkin puree here that is 100% pumpkin. Pumpkin pie filling has other added ingredients that change the taste and texture of the mixture.

  3. I made this for a small dinner party this weekend and it was a delicious hit! I used two round cake pans. 25 minutes in the oven was perfect. After frosting the cake, I decorated it with several marigolds and a squash flower from my garden. I find with cream cheese frosting the secret is to beat the heck out of it until it’s light and fluffy. I’ll definitely make this cake again!

  4. This cake is super yummy. It is moist, tasty, and fairly easy to make. I made it recently and caught my husband in the kitchen eating it directly from the pan, after he’d scarfed down about a third of the entire cake. LOL

  5. I recently made this cake and it turned out awesome! Everyone loved it. So easy and it looks lovely too. 🙂

  6. I love all your pumpkin recipes, but was curious if I can substitute coconut oil for the vegetable oil?

    1. Hi Natasha, sure can! Melted coconut oil is a wonderful replacement for the vegetable oil here.

  7. Okay, so my crazy question. Can you make this without cinnamon and spices? I would love to use pumpkin to make the cake moist, but I don’t want a spice cake, I want a vanilla cake. Thoughts?

    1. Hi Jenn, you can omit the spices if you’d like, but the cake will still have a prominent pumpkin flavor. For a moist vanilla cake, we’d recommend our best vanilla cake instead. Hope this helps!

      1. Thank you for the quick reply! I actually like the sweet pumpkin flavor!

  8. This pumpkin cake was excellent. Easy to make I followed the recipe exactly as written. My husband could not stop raving about it. Very moist and delicious.

    1. Hi Mary, you can in a pinch, but since it’s not as neutral as canola oil it may leave a slightly different taste in the cake.

  9. Having never made a cake from scratch before, I tried this one and it came out perfectly!
    I am 5843ft above sea level, I did not change a thing and it was perfect.
    My roommate who is extremely picky and brutally honest said this one was a huge win, and ate almost the whole thing over the past few days!

  10. I love this recipe so much, as do my coworkers and my boyfriend! This year I subbed out half of the allspice for 1/4 teaspoon of cardamom, it was subtle but delicious. I, also, made a brown butter butter cream (with a touch of cardamom as well) and toasted pistachios it was mind blowing!
    The brown butter added a really nice contrast to the cake and took away the issue I have with most frostings being overly sweet. This cake remains my favorite cake to both eat and make 🙂

  11. Hi Sally,
    I have several frozen bags of pumpkin purée in my freezer from last year. Will they still be good to use or should I use canned pumpkin purée?

    1. Hi Nancy, Pumpkin puree is usually best in the freezer for up to 3 months. You may wish to start with a fresh can.

    2. Hi Nancy,
      I just used 5 year old pumpkin puree from my freezer and it was great! (One year I went a little pumpkin crazy…) I just make sure all the air is out the bag when freezing. It’s one of the few things that doesn’t seem to get freezer bunt for me.

  12. Hello.. This recipe looks wonderful .. I see you made adjustment to make for cupcakes .. any way you could increase to make for 12×18 pan? I think the pan holds 16 cups of batter. Making for church event.

  13. Love your recipes! Can I use this cake recipe to make a 4 layer cake? Is it dense enough to hold up?

    1. Hi Ella! This cake would work best as a two layer cake – see recipe note for details, we’re unsure about 4 layers but let us know if you try it!

  14. Made this cake followed the recipe exactly,baked for 30mins but was not real real moist ,where did I fail,should I have added the pumpkin spice to this , next time maybe bake for 28 mins.

    1. Hi Mary! The most common culprit for dry cakes is simple over-baking. All ovens are different so make sure to check on your cake to ensure it isn’t baking too quickly. Also always be careful to spoon and level your flour when measuring to avoid packing too much in – this can also lead to a dry cake. Hope this helps!

  15. Looks like a great recipe! Do you find that the cake is as moist when baked in 2 layers rather than 1 layer? Thanks in advance!

  16. this cake was really, REALLY good but mine just turned into… pie? the toothpick came out clean even tho it seemed super soft and i did a cream cheese frosting and it has the texture of pie.

  17. I can’t wait to make this recipe. Do you happen to know if it will work with 1 to 1 all purpose gluten free flour? Thank you.

    1. Hi Bernadette, we haven’t tried it ourselves, so we’re unsure of the outcome using a 1:1 gluten-free flour. If you give us a try, we’d love to know how it goes!

  18. OMG this was the best pumpkin cake hands down..I made it during the week just craving something pumpkin, my niece came over and couldnt stay out of it…the cake was gone in two days..she had me make another to take in to work.l did use store icing but jazzed it up..overall amazing!!!

  19. Hi Sally,
    I plan to make 3 cakes in total to drop off at my clinic sites, what adjustments would you make if I were to use a throw-away foil pan?

    1. Hi Helen, you can adjust the baking time for smaller pans. We’re not sure of the exact baking time, as it will depend on the size, but it will be shorter. Keep a close eye on them and use a toothpick to test for doneness. Otherwise, no other adjustments are needed.

    1. Hi Terri, Yes you can! We suggest between 1 and 1.5 cups of chocolate chips with no other changes to the recipe.

  20. I’m curious if I’m going to make a three tiered cake using this recipe. Is it too moist for that? Obviously will be putting support rods. Or would you say your cupcake recipe is better for stacking?

    1. Hi Mike, This should work great for a tiered cake. Let us know how it turns out!

    1. Hi Maria, We recommend sticking with oil in this recipe for the best texture – using butter would result in a more dry cake.

    1. Hi Melody! We find it’s easy to over-mix this batter if using a mixer. If you do, be very careful to just mix until combined.

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