There was a debate as to how to title this post to make sure it was all included: the moist pumpkin cake with fall spices, the soft cream cheese topping, and the overall sweet flavor that you get with every bite of this pumpkin sheet cake, or pumpkin bars or pumpkin squares. Whatever you call it, it's fantastic and easy to make!
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For most of you, it's that time of year, fall season, when it's all about pumpkin desserts and the search for yet another best pumpkin cake recipe.
I don't know how you feel about the latter, but I'm crazy about them. I strongly believe pumpkin trumps other flavors, including carrot cake. I know, the nerve.
About this recipe
- Easy to make: there's little prep work, and the cake batter comes together quickly.
- Great flavor: it has that unmistakable spiced pumpkin flavor that we love, and together with the cream cheese frosting it's magic, the perfect pair. A fantastic homemade pumpkin cake everyone will love.
- Freezes well: always well wrapped, it keeps in the freezer for a month. You can check my Freezer Baking guide for further details on freezing baked goods.
- Different pans: you can make a sheet cake like I did today, layers, a loaf cake, or even cupcakes.
- Pumpkin puree: I always use my homemade pumpkin puree, but canned pumpkin works just as well. Don't use pumpkin pie filling which is a very different product.
- Sugar: we use white granulated and brown sugar (light or dark, both work fine).
- Oil: a neutral vegetable oil, such as sunflower, is the best option.
- Eggs: fresh, large.
- Flour: all-purpose flour is the easiest choice, but I use cake flour sometimes (when that's all I have) and the results are just as good.
- Salt: I like to use kosher salt when baking. But regular table salt works just fine.
- Baking powder and baking soda: are used as leaveners to help the cake rise, so make sure they aren't expired.
- Spices: you can use purchased or homemade pumpkin pie spice mix, or the ones listed below and in the recipe - cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice. Most pumpkin recipes also call for cloves, but I don't usually use it. But add anywhere from a pinch to ¼ teaspoon if it's a flavor you like.
- Vanilla: I use pure vanilla extract or pure vanilla paste when available, but a good vanilla essence (artificially flavored) also works and is infinitely cheaper.
How to make pumpkin cake
It's very easy, like most recipes in this blog.
Beating: eggs, oil, and sugar are beaten until frothy and thick. This takes a minute or two. You don't have to reach the ribbon stage or anything like that.
Then we add the pumpkin puree, spices, and vanilla.
Dry ingredients: sometimes called the flour mixture, they should be sifted before adding. Mix well but don't overbeat.
The final batter is smooth, thick but not still, and even orange in color.
Vintage Kitchen tip: after incorporating flour in a cake batter, we don't want to develop gluten as it will toughen the baked cake. So mix *just* until it's all well incorporated but don't overbeat. I like to end with a spatula to ensure the ingredients are integrated but not overmixed.
The cake should be removed from the oven when the cake tester inserted comes out clean.
It's not a tall cake, so start checking several minutes before the baking time given as a guide in the recipe card.
Pour the pumpkin batter into the prepared baking pan, and even out the top.
You can grease the pan and then line it with parchment paper. It will help you remove the cake as shown in the image above.
Cream cheese frosting
I use a simple cream cheese frosting because together with pumpkin it makes the best cake possible.
It's easy to make (mix powdered sugar with butter and cream cheese), keeps well in the refrigerator for several weeks, and there are usually some leftovers.
How much frosting? That's up to you! I find that a thick layer is always a good idea. So let your sweet tooth decide.
- Organization: read the recipe first and ensure you have ingredients at the correct temperature, equipment, and enough workspace. This will make the process so much easier.
- Baking time: keep in mind that all ovens and pans are different, even if they look the same or very similar. The baking time in my recipes is as accurate as it can be, but it might take you more or less time. You can use a thermometer(like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that your oven is at the right temperature. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you need to adjust.
- Serving: this is a pumpkin cake recipe to eat at room temperature. Maybe barely cold, but not straight from the refrigerator as the pumpkin flavor will not be as good, in my opinion. You can also sprinkle chopped pecans on top of the frosting before serving.
- Pans: there are several pan sizes you can bake this cake on besides the sheet cake pan used for this post. Two 8-inch round cake pans, about 18 pumpkin cupcakes, and an 11x5-inch loaf pan. Adjust them to the occasion or what you're in the mood for.
- Spices: I love the mix of warm fall spices detailed in the ingredients, which include cinnamon as the main flavor. But you can use a purchased pumpkin pie mix, make your own, add cloves or change the ratio of the spices. Always adjust flavors to your and your family's palate.
Can you freeze this pumpkin cake?
This cake freezes well, ideally without the frosting. I like to wrap it first in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil. It lasts for at least a month.
If you want to freeze leftovers with frosting, you certainly can; know that the frosting will not be as fluffy as before. But the flavor will still be that of a very delicious pumpkin cake.
Let me know in the comments below if you made this recipe and loved it and if you had issues so we can troubleshoot together. I love to hear what you think, always. Thanks for being here. It's much appreciated.
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For the pumpkin cake:
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (pastry flour also works)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg or mace
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil (sunflower, canola)
- ½ cup white sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar (light or dark, both work)
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
For the cream cheese frosting:
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 6 tablespoons cream cheese, at room temperature
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1-2 teaspoons milk or cream
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.
- Butter or use baking spray on a rectangular 8x11-inch pan. Line with a piece of paper that's almost as long as the width of the pan. It will cover the bottom and the two long sides.
For the pumpkin cake:
- Beat the oil, eggs, and sugars for 2 minutes in a large mixing bowl, until thick and light-colored.
- Add the pumpkin puree, spices, and vanilla. Mix well.
- Add the sifted dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda) and mix until well incorporated, but don't overbeat. This is the time to mix at the lowest speed of the beater or use a spatula. You can sift the dry ingredients separately and then add them to the pumpkin batter, or have them measured and sift them directly over the cake batter (like I do).
- Spread the pumpkin cake batter in the prepared pan.
- Bake for about 35 minutes, or until a tester or toothpick comes out clean. Don't overbake it so the cake is moist and tender.
- Let cool for 15 minutes on a wire rack. Make sure there is no cake stuck to the sides of the pan where there's no parchment paper. If there is, run a smooth-bladed knife to loosen them.
- Remove the cake by lifting the paper on both sides and transferring it to the cooling rack. Carefully remove the paper and let the cake cool completely before frosting.
- Frost with the cream cheese frosting below using an offset spatula and cut into squares to eat.
- Refrigerate leftovers, well covered.
For the cream cheese frosting:
- Beat cream cheese in a bowl with the soft butter until very creamy and no lumps remain.
- Gradually add the powdered sugar and beat until you have a thick, very creamy consistency, good enough to spread.
- If needed, thin it with a teaspoon or two of milk.
- It keeps well in the refrigerator for a few weeks. Beat again before using it to attain a creamy consistency.
Organization: always read the recipe first and make sure you have all the ingredients, at the right temperatures, and also the rest of the equipment and space to make it. This will make the process so much easier!
Baking time: keep in mind that all ovens and pans are different, even if they look the same or very similar. The baking time in my recipes are as accurate as I they can be, but it might take you more or less time. You can use a thermometer that is placed inside the oven (like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that your oven is the right temperature. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust.
Serving: this is a pumpkin cake recipe to eat at room temperature. Maybe barely cold, but not straight from the refrigerator as the pumpkin flavor will not be as good, in my opinion. You can also sprinkle chopped pecans on top of the frosting before serving.
Pans: there are several pan sizes you can bake this cake on besides the sheet cake pan we used for this post. Two 8-inch round cake pans, about 18 pumpkin cupcakes, an 11x5 inches loaf pan can be used depending on the type of cake you're in the mood for.
Spices: I love the mix of warm fall spices detailed in the ingredients, which include cinnamon as the main flavor. But you can use a purchased pumpkin pie mix, make your own, add cloves or change the ratio of the spices. Always adjust flavors to your and your family's palate.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cooling time: 60 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Category: Cakes
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
- Serving Size: 1/12
- Calories: 324
- Sugar: 37.1 g
- Sodium: 141.2 mg
- Fat: 12.4 g
- Carbohydrates: 51.2 g
- Protein: 3.4 g
- Cholesterol: 46 mg
Keywords: pumpkin cake