A brightly spiced pumpkin layer cake, made with real pumpkin and frosted with a simple cream cheese icing. This is a soft, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth pumpkin cake that’s a guaranteed hit at your next get-together.
As promised, here is my very last pumpkin recipe of 2017. I had to fit just one more in before Thanksgiving and before I make the jump over to Christmas recipes (sugar cookies are coming soon, really soon!). If you don’t already have your dessert table planned and finished for Thanksgiving, this is a recipe you’re going to want to include.
This pumpkin cake is based off of my popular pumpkin cupcake recipe, with just a few tweaks to make it suitable as a layer cake. I baked this cake in two 8″ pans because I like my cakes a bit taller, but 9″ pans would also work.
It’s my opinion that cream cheese frosting is a must when it comes to pumpkin cake. Maybe it’s because it reminds me of a pumpkin roll, but the flavors complement the spiced pumpkin perfectly.
I use a thin, silky cream cheese frosting to cover this cake in a “semi-naked” layer (as you can see above) with some of the pretty pumpkin cake still peeking through. If you want a thicker coat of frosting, I recommend leaving out the heavy cream that the recipe calls for, as the cream is included here specifically to make it silky and thinner and suitable for decorating the cake as shown above.
I also use a scraped vanilla bean to flavor my frosting. Real vanilla not only tastes amazing, but it also leaves those beautiful little flecks throughout the icing. If you don’t have real vanilla beans on hand, I included notes to substitute vanilla extract instead (and vanilla beans are really expensive right now, so don’t feel like you have to rush out and buy some).
I’m usually a frosting fanatic, but I think the thin layer here pairs perfectly with the sweet, soft, moist-crumbed pumpkin cake, and you don’t really need a lot of frosting since the cake itself is so richly flavored.
Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving!!
Pumpkin Layer Cake
- 1 cup butter 2 sticks, softened to room temperature (226g)
- ½ cup canola oil vegetable oil would also work (120ml)
- 1 cup sugar (200g)
- ½ cup brown sugar (100g)
- 4 large eggs
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups pumpkin puree* (488g)
- ¼ cup milk (60ml)
- 2 ½ cups flour (310g)
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 teaspoons pumpkin spice
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 oz cream cheese softened (225g)
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened (113g)
- 2 ½ cups powdered sugar (315g)
- 1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ Tablespoons heavy cream
- Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and prepare 2 8" cake pans by lightly greasing and flouring the sides and lining the bottom with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Combine butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl and use an electric mixer). Beat until well-combined and light and fluffy.
- Add oil and beat to combine.
- Stir in pumpkin.
- Add eggs, stirring well after each addition, and then add vanilla extract.
- Add milk and stir to combine. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure ingredients are evenly combined.
- In a separate, medium-sized bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, pumpkin spice, and cinnamon).
- Gradually add dry ingredients to wet, stirring until completely combined (be sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl). I prefer to do this with a spatula to avoid over-mixing the batter.
- Divide batter evenly into prepared cake pans and bake on 350F (175C) for 35-45 minutes, or until centers spring back to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with few moist crumbs or clean.
- Allow cakes to cool for 10 minutes and then invert onto cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting**
- In KitchenAid (or with hand mixer) cream together butter and cream cheese.
- Gradually add powdered sugar to mixture until well-combined.
- Stir in vanilla bean seeds (or vanilla extract) and salt. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure ingredients are well-combined.
- Add heavy cream and gradually increase speed to medium-high. Beat for 30 seconds, until frosting is silky smooth.
- Once cakes have cooled, ice/assemble cakes by generously icing between layers, applying an even layer on the top of the cake, and then applying a scant, semi-naked layer around the outside of the cake.