Two layers of the best pumpkin cake recipe are paired with spoon-licking maple cream cheese frosting. This is the perfect cake for fall, as it is so easy to whip up for occasions large and small.
Why You Will Love This Pumpkin Cake Recipe
This cake doesn’t rely on any bells or whistles to get our mouths’ watering. The simplicity of the pumpkin spice cake layers and swoops of tangy yet sweet maple cream cheese frosting is all it needs. Are you salivating all over your screen yet?
The recipe is super simple and stays forever moist by using both butter and oil. It can be made with either a hand or stand mixer.
At just two layers tall, you don't have to worry about stacking and perfectly frosting this cake.
Ingredients in Pumpkin Cake
Here is a quick glance at some of the ingredients needed beyond basic pantry staples. Find a complete list with quantities in the full recipe to follow:
Pumpkin Purée: With this recipe, you can use pure pumpkin from a can. I’ve roasted sugar pumpkin before to use in cakes, but I don’t find the extra work worth it. Once all of the spices and sugar have been added, the taste of the baked pumpkin cake is comparable. Using canned puree is just so much easier.
Brown Sugar: Whenever you can substitute a portion of white sugar with brown sugar, you are going to get a much more flavorful treat. The deep molasses flavors of brown sugar pair so perfectly with pumpkin.
Spices: I don’t always have pumpkin pie spice on hand. In fact, I almost always forget to buy it. But I do keep my favorite cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger in the pantry all year round. Feel free to use whatever spice blend you’d like.
Butter and Oil: You can’t beat the taste of butter in a layer cake. It adds tenderness and flavor. A small dose of oil keeps the cake moist for days and days.
Maple Syrup: This liquid sweetener is used in the frosting and pairs perfectly with the pumpkin cake.
Tools and Equipment
These are the primary tools you will need to bake this cake. I've listed my recommended cake decorating equipment too.
- 8-inch Cake Pans, with sides at least 2-inch high
- Large Mixing Bowl
- Rubber Spatula
- Hand or Stand Mixer
- Rotating Cake Stand
- Offset or Straight Metal Spatula
- General Kitchen Tools (measuring spoons, cups, etc).
Pumpkin Cake Recipe Video
This recipe was born out of the undeniable popularity of my Best Carrot Cake Recipe. With its choose-your-own-adventure add-ins and drool-inducing brown butter frosting, it is no surprise that this recipe raced to the top of everyone’s “Must Make” lists.
I took the base recipe for this super-moist spice cake and made a seasonal version.
Like my carrot cake, this recipe is soft, tender, and full of flavor. It used both oil and butter for flavor and moistness. The spice blend is mild and supports the pumpkin with overpowering it.
Simplicity is the key when it comes to this pumpkin cake recipe. We are heading into the biggest baking season of the year.
And while we love our intricately piped cakes (like this Caramel Apple Spice Cake) and show-stopping desserts (we’re looking at you, Pumpkin S’mores Cupcakes), I understand that a simple, trustworthy, straight-to-delicious town recipe is sometimes what the party calls for.
Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Lofty layers that don’t require trimming or completely frosting make this pumpkin cake recipe so easy and approachable.
Keeping the sides bare lets you know exactly what you are getting yourself into – something you can’t wait to dig your fork into; a cake that begs to be devoured RIGHT NOW!
Maple pairs beautifully with pumpkin while the tangy cream cheese cuts through some of the sweetness.
Since the frosting is only being spread on top of the layers, I left it quite soft (but not runny), allowing for more maple flavor and less confectioners’ sugar.
If it becomes too soft to spread, chill the frosting in the refrigerator for 5 to 10 minutes (see Baker’s Notes).
Use the back of a spoon or offset spatula to create soft swirls of frosting on top of the cake.
Learn how to make the marzipan pumpkin toppers with these step-by-step instructions.
No, I would not bother with the extra work of roasting a fresh pumpkin yourself. After the sugar and spices have been added, the cake tastes great using pure canned pumpkin.
No. Pumpkin pie filling already has sugar and spices added to it. Use pure pumpkin puree.
Use pure, 100% maple syrup. Grade A. Do not use pancake syrup.
Try to resist adding more confectioners' sugar or it might get too sweet. Refrigerate the frosting to help firm it up for 10 to 15 minutes, then try spreading it on the cake.
Tips for Storing a Naked Cake
- Assemble the cake up to 2 hours before serving and enjoy.
- If making in advance, place the cake in a cake box, wrap the box in the plastic wrap, then place the whole thing in the refrigerator. This keeps the frosting from being disturbed while protecting the whole cake.
- Lightly wrap the cake in plastic then refrigerate. If you aren’t concerned about messing up the frosting, then just wrap it up. Alternatively, you could place the cake in the refrigerator just until the frosting sets and firms up, then wrap it in plastic.
- Frosting made with confectioners’ sugar gets very sweet very quickly. I prefer to add the full 4 tablespoons of maple syrup with as little confectioners’ sugar as possible.
- The frosting should be soft, but still spreadable without squishing out between the layers or running off of the cake. If the frosting is too thin, try refrigerating it for about 10 minutes, or until it stiffens enough to spread.
- Can you use maple extract for more flavor? Sure! You could give it a try. Maple extract isn't a common household ingredient, and I don't personally care for many flavored extracts, but you could add a small amount to the frosting.
Serving And Storage
- The cake is best served within 2 days. Because the sides of the cake are not frosted, it will begin to dry out after a couple of days. It may still be served up to 3 to 4 days.
- Serve the cake at room temperature. It may be left at room temperature for a few hours after assembling.
- Store leftovers, loosely covered in the plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days. Allow cake to come to room temperature before serving.
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More Pumpkin Recipes to Try
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Best Pumpkin Cake Recipe
For the Pumpkin Cake
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teas baking powder
- 1 teas baking soda
- 2 ½ teas ground cinnamon
- 1 teas ground cardamom
- ½ tea ground ginger
- ¾ cup (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- ¼ cup grapeseed or canola oil
- 4 large eggs
- 1 ¾ cups pumpkin puree
For the Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 2 ½ to 3 cups confectioners' sugar
- 3 to 4 tablespoon pure maple syrup, or to taste
- 1 tea vanilla extract
- ½ tea ground cinnamon
To Make the Pumpkin Cake
- Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 8-inch baking pans and set aside.
- Sift together the all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom and ginger in a mixing bowl.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer), mix the butter on medium speed for a minute, or until smooth. Add the granulated and brown sugar and continue to mix for 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
- Add the oil and mix until combined. With the mixer on medium-low, add in the eggs, one at a time. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- Working in two batches, add the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Add the pumpkin pureé and mix until just combined.
- Evenly divide the batter between the two pans. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. Cool the cakes on a wire rack for 15 to 20 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.
To Make the Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a mixing bowl using a hand mixer), beat the butter and cream cheese together on medium speed for 1 minute, or until smooth. Add in 2 ½ cups of confectioners’ sugar and mix on low until combined.
- Once incorporated, turn the mixer up to medium and mix until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 more minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
- Add 3 tablespoons of maple syrup, vanilla, and cinnamon. Mix until smooth and combined. Add in the remaining maple syrup and confectioners’ sugar until desired taste and consistency is achieved
- Once completely cool, place on layer of cake on a serving dish or cake board. Spread on half of the Maple Cream Cheese Frosting with an offset spatula (or the back of a spoon) until smooth.
- Place the second layer of cake on top and frost swoops and swirls on the top of the cake with the remaining frosting.