My soft, spiced, melt-in-your-mouth pumpkin cake recipe takes just 20 minutes to prep before baking. Top it with a simple cream cheese frosting, and you’ve got yourself a seasonal showstopper! Recipe includes a how-to video!
Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
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. It’s perfect for fall birthdays, Halloween parties, and of course, Thanksgiving (have you planned your menu yet?!). Everyone will love how sweet (but a balanced, not overpowering sweet), soft, and moist this recipe is!
I chose to frost mine with cream cheese frosting (I don’t know about you, but to me, the two are inseparable), but some other good options include Swiss meringue buttercream, vanilla frosting, or even brown butter frosting. While I’m usually a frosting fanatic, I think a thin layer here pairs perfectly with this richly flavored cake (and it looks so pretty this way too!).
You’re just an hour away from a slice of sweet, spiced goodness… let’s get started!
What You Need
There’s quite a few ingredients up there, so I’ll highlight the important ones:
- Unsalted butter. I opt for unsalted butter so that I have 100% control of the salt flavor in this recipe. If you only have salted butter on hand, see my post on substituting salted for unsalted butter.
- Pumpkin puree. Use plain, 100% pumpkin puree. Pumpkin pie filling looks very similar and is sold in the same section of the grocery store, but it includes spices and additives that we don’t want in our pumpkin cake. I’m starting to sound like a control freak, but we want to have complete control over the spice and sweetness of our cake, not rely on whatever Libby happened to add to that can!
- Cream cheese. Use brick-style, full-fat cream cheese for your frosting.
- Powdered sugar. You may notice this recipe has a little less sugar than my traditional cream cheese frosting; this makes the frosting a bit silkier, which I love here. You can vary the amount of sugar you use based on whether your frosting needs to be thinner (good for sheet cakes) or thicker (best for layer cakes). If you’re looking for an even thinner/softer frosting, you can reduce the sugar to 2.5 cups.
- Vanilla. A bit of vanilla extract flavors our frosting nicely. To be honest, I really love to use a scraped vanilla bean in this recipe, but they’re just SO expensive right now, so extract it is!
SAM’S TIP: Using butter and oil makes this pumpkin cake both flavorful and moist. I don’t recommend substituting one for more of the other–you need both for the perfect balance!
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Pumpkin Cake
- Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, then stir in the oil and add the pumpkin.
- Add the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla and milk.
- Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then gradually add them to the wet ingredients.
- Divide the batter between two greased, floured, and lined pans. Bake for 35-45 minutes.
- Let the cakes cool in their pans for 10 minutes before inverting to a cooling rack.
- Level the completely cooled cakes and set them aside.
- Prepare the frosting.
- Spread frosting on the first cake layer, top with the second layer, and frost as desired.
SAM’S TIP: Once you are ready to combine the wet and dry ingredients, switch over to a spatula. Using a mixer for this part could cause your pumpkin cake to become too dense or dry.
Frequently Asked Questions
You only need a small portion of pumpkin from your second can, so you’ll have a good bit leftover after making this cake. You can use it to make pumpkin snickerdoodles, pumpkin bars, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin pancakes, or any of my other pumpkin recipes!
I baked my pumpkin cake in two 8″ pans because I like my cakes a bit taller, but three 8″ pans, two 9″ pans, or a 9×13″ pan would also work. I would recommend making my pumpkin bundt cake or pumpkin cupcakes instead if you’re looking for either of those.
If you’re comfortable with leaving it out (I am, personally), you can store your pumpkin cake in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 48 hours. Otherwise, you’ll want to keep it refrigerated in an airtight container and enjoy within 5 days.
This pumpkin cake officially wraps up my pumpkin recipes for this year. I hope you enjoyed them all 🧡
Let’s bake together! I’ll be walking you through all the steps in my written recipe and video below! If you try this recipe, be sure to tag me on Instagram, and you can also find me on YouTube and Facebook
Pumpkin Layer Cake
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature (226g)
- 1 cup granulated sugar (200g)
- ½ cup light brown sugar firmly packed (100g)
- ½ cup canola oil or vegetable oil (120ml)
- 2 cups pumpkin puree* (488g)
- 4 large eggs room temperature preferred
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 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)
- 1 vanilla bean, scraped or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 3 ½ cups powdered sugar (435g)
- 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 one at a time, stirring well after each addition.
- Stir in milk and vanilla extract. 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 40-45 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 a large bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, vanilla extract and salt and beat until smooth, creamy, and well-combined.
- Gradually add powdered sugar to mixture until well-combined, smooth, and light.
- Once cakes have cooled, ice/assemble cakes by first leveling the cakes (I linked th the leveler I used in the "equipment" section above), 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.
Pumpkin noteThis is slightly more than one 15oz can of pumpkin puree. Make sure that you buy “100% pumpkin” and not “pumpkin pie filling”
Baking in different sized pans:Baking times will vary in different pans, but the following are best estimates. Please always keep an eye on your cake and use the toothpick test (a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake should come out clean or with a few moist crumbs) to test if a cake is done. 13×9 pan: Start checking cake at 35 minutes. If using a glass pan, the cake will take longer to bake. 9″ pans: 35-40 minutes. You may also bake this cake in three 8″ or 9″ pans, the baking time will be reduced, expect approximately 28-35 minutes. Bundt pan: Readers have reported this cake baking in approximately 45 minutes in a bundt pan. Cupcakes: Please see my pumpkin cupcake recipe, instead.
StoringStore in an airtight container at room temperature for several hours or covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.
Note: I originally shared this recipe in 2017. I’ve added new photos and a video and have updated the text, but the recipe remains the same!
Could I use one to one GF flour do you think?
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
That should work just fine, Stacey! Enjoy 😊
My family and friends loved your pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting. Since gluten free cakes can be very dense, I used 2 cups gluten free flour (King Arthur’s) with 1/2 cup corn starch sifted together. The cake was moist and fabulous and you would never know it was gluten free. Thank you.
This looks like the cake would be amazing! I am wondering if I could use buttermilk instead of milk? Also how big of a problem would it be if I I only use one can (427g) instead of slightly more at 488g of pumpkin?
Hi Floyd! The buttermilk could work here, but I haven’t tried it. I’m not sure the extra pumpkin will work. You are entering in more moisture and it could be problematic.
Thanks for the very quick reply. Perhaps I misworded my earlier comment, but I would actually be using 67 grams less in pumpkin. The recipe calls for slightly more than one can (488g) and I would only be using one can; which contains only 427g. So, the moisture would be slightly less than called for. Perhaps I could reduce the amount of flour?
I think you may have to make some more alterations if using less pumpkin here, but without having tried it, it’s going to be difficult to say exactly what needs to be done. 🙁
I took my chances and used only one can since I didn’t have time to go to the store and get an extra one. Everybody was so pleased with the cake, it was moist and still was full of pumpkin flavor. Everything else was exactly as the recipe says. I’ve made a lot of Sam’s recipes and this pumpkin cake is definitely on the top three of most compliments received.
I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Liz! 🙂
Great pumpkin cake recipe, already made two of them and got rave reviews from everyone. Can’t wait to try the pumpkin cheesecake recipe as I’m already a huge fan or your regular cheesecake.
I’m so glad everyone has enjoyed it so much, Paul! 🙂
My birthday is in October. So every year to celebrate, I eat this cake. It’s fall perfection. The cake is moist and has a wonderful pumpkin flavor without being over the top. The frosting is light and delicious and pairs perfectly with the pumpkin cake. The recipe is easy to follow and results in a perfect cake every time. Thanks for this amazing cake Sam!
I’m so glad you enjoy it so much, Aleah! Happy Birthday month! 🙂
This is a delicious moist cake! My husband and daughter made this together as a fun daddy/daughter time and our whole family enjoyed it! He used a Bundt pan (~45 min) and we opted for a ginger glaze since he doesn’t like cream cheese. Thanks for a great recipe Sam!!
I’m so glad everyone enjoyed it so much, Laurel! 🙂
Omg…forgot to add the five stars!! Best cake EVER!!!!
I just made this cake last weekend and it is literally the best cake I have ever eaten, much less made. I followed the directions exactly (for once!). It turned out perfectly moist and delicious. Thank you so much! I’ll be making this again soon.
I am so glad you enjoyed it so much, Mary! 🙂
I would love to make this recipe but I’m confused – is it 1 cup of butter OR 1/2 cup of oil? Are these interchangeable? Also, could I use part applesauce? Thank for your help!
Hi Alison! You need both the butter and the oil. I’m not sure how the applesauce substitute would go. I haven’t tried it before. I hope you love it. 🙂
I made this cake for Thanksgiving and it was a huge hit! It was extremely moist and delicious. I followed the instructions exactly as they are written and it turned out perfectly. I am brand new to baking and found it easy to make. I would highly recommend this recipe. I’ll definitely be making it again. Thanks!!!
Sugar Spun Run
I am so happy to hear that the pumpkin cake was a big hit at Thanksgiving, Gina! Thank you for trying my recipe and for commenting. 🙂
Where are the rest of the comments on this AH-MAZING cake!? Anywho, I made this cake and it was delicious…like Christmas in July! I went by all the directions, except I failed to read the directions on NOT using pumpkin pie filling. That big ol’ can had been in the cabinet for 2 years, so I used the whole can (approximately 800g) for this cake. I also deviated by making a bundt cake instead. I had to bake the cake for an hour instead of 30-45 mins. And guess what…DELICIOUS! LOL! This recipe is seriously one I will be making this holiday season, but it’s currently July at the moment so anytime you want to bake is going to put smiles on your friends and family’s faces. THANK YOU SAM! xoxo!
Thank you so much, April! I am so glad you enjoyed the cake! 🙂