This pumpkin cake recipe is soft, moist, and a total crowd pleaser. The cake has a tender crumb, and is topped with a silky, irresistible cream cheese frosting. It’s perfect for holiday parties and can be prepared in advance, which is always a bonus during this time of year! You won’t believe how quickly this pumpkin cake comes together.
Last weekend we had our annual neighborhood block party, and I was tickled to have an event where I could show up with a few holiday baked goods. I brought along pecan pie bars (recipe soon!) and this decadent pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting. There were no leftovers, which always seems like a good sign.
I actually thought the pecan pie bars would be the star, but everyone went nuts for this pumpkin cake. I kept telling them how easy it is and promised to get the recipe posted online quickly. So here it is!
Pumpkin Cake Recipe Ingredients
- All-purpose flour
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Ground cinnamon
- Ground allspice
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- Ground ginger
- Unsalted butter
- White granulated sugar
- Large eggs
- Pumpkin puree
Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients
- Cream cheese
- Unsalted butter
- Vanilla extract
- Confectioners’ sugar
How to Make Pumpkin Cake
You can prepare this cake using either a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or an electric hand mixer. I tried both ways, and while I found the electric mixer to be more of a hassle, it produced a smoother batter. However, I couldn’t detect much of a difference once the cake was finished.
I recommend using a nonstick pan such as this one from Wilton. When I prepared the cake using a Pyrex pan, it didn’t bake as evenly, with the outside edges browning too much for my liking by the time the cake was fully baked.
If you prefer an unfrosted cake, you can skip the cream cheese frosting altogether, but I think the tang of this particular frosting works so well with the subtle spices of the cake! You can use more or less of the frosting, but don’t feel like you have to use the entire amount.
Ultimately, I used around 2/3 of the frosting and thought that was plenty (but as you can see from the side angle photos, it’s not a super thick layer).
Can you make pumpkin cake with fresh pumpkin?
You can always use homemade pumpkin purée in place of canned pumpkin! Here’s a great tutorial from King Arthur Flour explaining how to make pumpkin purée from scratch. Don’t skip the draining step, though. Fresh pumpkin has water that needs to be drained before using, otherwise you’ll wind up with watery baked goods.
How far in advance can you make pumpkin cake?
Cake always tastes best when it’s freshly baked, within the first 24-72 hours. However, you can prepare this cake up to 5 days in advance. The key is to prevent it from drying out.
Either leave it in the pan it was prepared in and cover the top (after allowing it to cool completely to room temperature), or set it on a serving platter and wrap it securely in plastic wrap. I particularly like this pan because it comes with a lid.
Can you freeze pumpkin cake?
You can freeze this pumpkin cake if you want to prepare it further in advance. I recommend placing it on a cutting board or cardboard cake tray (something like this), and then wrapping it securely in plastic wrap before freezing. Thaw in the refrigerator.
How to Measure Flour
For baked goods (as well as desserts like custard and ice cream), I always recommend using a kitchen scale to measure flour by weight instead of volume. Weight (ounces, grams, etc) will always give an accurate measurement of dry goods; volume (cups) can create varied results.
A cup of flour can weigh anywhere from 3 1/2 to 5 ounces. That could make a big difference in your recipe! If you still want to use cups, there’s a proper technique to make sure you get the best results possible.
My post How to Measure Flour explains all of this in more detail.
More Pumpkin Recipes
- 10 ounces all-purpose flour (2 cups using Scoop & Sweep Method)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
- 13 1/2 ounces granulated sugar (1 2/3 cups)
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened (whipped or regular cream cheese)
- 4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Prepare the cake
- Place an oven shelf in the center position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13-inch nonstick pan with baking spray or butter.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and ginger.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with an electric hand mixer, see notes), cream butter and sugar for several minutes until light and fluffy. Turn the speed down to low and add the eggs, one at a time, making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Scrape down the bowl a few times with a spatula during this process. With the mixer on low speed, afternate between adding the dry ingredients and the pumpkin puree, starting and ending with the dry ingredients, mixing until the batter is smooth.
- Spread the batter into the prepared pan, using a regular or offset spatula to level out the top. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. The top will look slightly darker in color, and should feel firm but spring back when lightly pressed. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Prepare the frosting
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a large bowl and an electric hand mixer, combine the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla extract on medium-high to high speed until smooth.
- Turn the speed down to low and add the salt along with the sugar in 3-4 batches, then turn the speed back up to high and mix until the frosting is smooth.
- Once the cake has cooled to room temperature, frost, slice and serve. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.
More Holiday DessertsHeading to a holiday party? You might also like my Salted Caramel Apple Cake and Frosted Eggnog Cookies!
Please read my full post for additional recipe notes, tips, and serving suggestions!
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