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. The lightly spiced cake tastes of cinnamon and sugar and stays moist for days - if it ever lasts that long.
The Best Pumpkin Cake I've Ever Had
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?
Not only is this delicious pumpkin cake easy to put together, it is so incredibly moist and flavorful! Come October, this will be the best recipe to come out of your kitchen, leaving the whole house smelling of cinnamon and sugar.
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. A recipe to make multiple times every fall. This is it!
What Does Pumpkin Cake Taste Like?
This recipe was born out of the undeniable popularity of my Best Carrot Cake Recipe. I took the base recipe for this super-moist spice cake and made a seasonal version for the October and November months. Along with the maple frosting, it tastes almost as if a pumpkin pie and pumpkin pancakes had a baby!
Like my carrot cake, this recipe is soft, tender, and full of flavor. It uses both oil and butter for flavor and moistness. The spice blend is mild and supports the pumpkin with being overpowering.
Simplicity is the key when it comes to this pumpkin cake recipe. We are heading into the biggest baking season of the year, and this easy pumpkin cake is one you can whip up multiple times throughout the fall without stress.
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: Use canned pumpkin not pumpkin pie filling
- 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. 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.
- Unsalted butter: make sure that it is properly softened before making the frosting but not greasy or melted
- Cream Cheese: pull this from the fridge about 15 minutes before you get started on the frosting
You will also need: all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, granulated sugar, eggs, powdered or icing sugar, vanilla extract.
See recipe card for quantities.
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).
How to Make a Pumpkin Cake
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 or perfectly frosting this cake.
Cream the butter and sugar - use a hand or stand mixer to thoroughly mix the softened butter and sugars together until light and fluffy like in the creaming method.
Add the eggs and oil - add the oil and eggs, one at a time to allow each to blend into a smooth batter.
Mix the batter - working in two batches, mix in the dry ingredients.
Fold in the pumpkin puree - use a large rubber spatula to fold and stir in the pumpkin puree until smooth.
Whip up the cream cheese frosting - make this just before assembling the cake.
DIY Marzipan Pumpkins
Learn how to make the marzipan pumpkin toppers with these step-by-step instructions.
Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Literally nothing beats a slice of spiced pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting. The addition of maple pairs beautifully with pumpkin while the tangy cream cheese cuts through some of the sweetness.
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!
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 in this cream cheese icing.
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.
Gluten Free - use cup-for-cup gluten free flour blend in place of the all-purpose flour.
Canned Pumpkin - use equal amount of roasted and pureed sugar pumpkins
Cream Cheese Frosting - omit the maple syrup and thin with a tablespoon or two of milk, as needed.
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.
You can freeze unfrosted cake layers by wrapping them well in plastic or foil. Place in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw frozen cakes layers in the refrigerator overnight.
Likewise, wrap individual slices in plastic wrap and store in the freezer for 1 to 3 months. Thaw frozen cake sliced in the refrigerator for a few hours
- 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.
You definitely can, but 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.
You can freeze unfrosted cake layers by wrapping them well in plastic or foil. Place in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw frozen cakes layers in the refrigerator overnight. Likewise, wrap individual slices in plastic wrap and store in the freezer for 1 to 3 months. Thaw frozen cake sliced in the refrigerator for a few hours
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.
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More Pumpkin Cake 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.