Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Tested & Perfected Recipes
Pumpkin Cake

Topped with swirls of cream cheese icing, this pumpkin cake is easy to make and 100% kid-approved — the perfect fall treat for potlucks, bake sales, and holiday parties.

pumpkin cake

Topped with swirls of cream cheese icing, this pumpkin cake is a dessert version of my grandmother’s now-Internet-famous pumpkin bread (which, for many of you, was the gateway recipe to my blog). Not only does the cake keep well, but it’s also easy to make, easy to transport, and 100% kid-approved — making it the perfect fall treat for potlucks, bake sales, and holiday parties.

What you’ll need to make pumpkin cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

how to make pumpkin cake

If canned pumpkin isn’t available where you live, or you’d just prefer to use fresh, that’s not a problem.  For baking, the most flavorful pumpkins are smaller than those typically associated with Jack-O-Lanterns.  They’re usually in the 4 to 8-pound range and are referred to as sugar, cooking, or pie pumpkins.  This detailed piece from King Arthur Flour provides guidance on how to convert a whole pumpkin into purée that can be used in this cake (or any of my other pumpkin recipes).

While my preference in this recipe is to use cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg to spice the cake, many readers have asked if these three spices can be replaced with pumpkin pie spice. Although the mixture of spices in pumpkin pie spice is not an exact match (pumpkin pie spice often includes ginger and/or allspice), it’s fine to use it here.  Just replace the individual spices with an equal amount of pumpkin pie spice, so in this case, you’ll need 3 teaspoons (1 tablespoon).

How to Make Pumpkin Cake with cream cheese Frosting

Begin by combining the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl.

how to make pumpkin cake

Whisk well to combine.

how to make pumpkin cake

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the melted butter and sugar.
how to make pumpkin cake

Beat on medium speed until just combined.

how to make pumpkin cake

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

how to make pumpkin cake

Add the pumpkin.

how to make pumpkin cake

Beat until combined.

how to make pumpkin cake

Add the dry ingredients.

how to make pumpkin cake

Mix on low speed until well combined.

how to make pumpkin cake

Turn the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

If you’d prefer a cake that you can remove from the baking dish, feel free to give my Glazed Pumpkin Pound Cake a try (it’s made in a Bundt pan).

how to make pumpkin cake

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Set the cake on a wire rack to cool completely.

how to make pumpkin cake

Meanwhile, make the frosting. Combine the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl.

how to make pumpkin cake

Beat on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute, then beat in the salt and vanilla. how to make pumpkin cake

Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat on low speed for 30 seconds.

how to make pumpkin cake

Switch to high speed and beat until light and creamy, about 2 minutes.

how to make pumpkin cake

Spread the frosting on the cooled cake.

I really like using an offset spatula to frost cakes, particularly cakes that are served right from the baking dish like this one.  These angled spatulas make easy work of spreading frosting onto the corners of the cake.

how to make pumpkin cake

Create swirls in any pattern you like.

how to make pumpkin cake

Cut into squares and serve. Cover any leftover cake tightly with aluminum foil and store in the fridge for up to 4 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

pumpkin cake

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Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Topped with swirls of cream cheese icing, this pumpkin cake is easy to make and 100% kid-approved — the perfect fall treat for potlucks, bake sales, and holiday parties.

Servings: 12 to 16
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 45 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1-1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 (15-oz) can 100% pure pumpkin

For the Frosting

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3-1/4 cups confectioners' sugar

Instructions

For the Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and set an oven rack in the middle position. Grease a 9-x-13-inch baking dish with butter or nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the melted butter and sugar on medium speed until just combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the pumpkin. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until well combined.
  4. Turn the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Set the cake on a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Frosting

  1. In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Beat in the salt and vanilla. Add the confectioners' sugar and beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then switch to high speed and beat until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Spread the frosting on the cooled cake. Cut into squares and serve. Cover any leftover cake tightly with aluminum foil and store in the fridge for up to 4 days (bring to room temperature before serving) or at room temperature for up to 2 days.
  2. Make-Ahead Instructions: The cake can be made and frosted up to two days ahead of time. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and store in the refrigerator; allow the cake to come to room temperature before serving.
  3. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: Freeze the unfrosted cake, tightly wrapped, for up to 3 months. When ready to serve, defrost the cake to room temperature, make the frosting, frost, and serve.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (16 servings)
  • Calories: 417
  • Fat: 20 g
  • Saturated fat: 12 g
  • Carbohydrates: 58 g
  • Sugar: 44 g
  • Fiber: 1 g
  • Protein: 4 g
  • Sodium: 229 mg
  • Cholesterol: 96 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Reviews & Comments

  • Hi Jenn:
    can this recipe be made for cupcakes?

    Thanks!

    Lisa

    • — Lisa D’Abramo on December 14, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Lisa, If you want to make cupcakes, I’d suggest this recipe. Because they have a streusel topping, the muffins themselves contain less sugar (which would be good if you will be icing them). You can skip the streusel and ice them instead. The recipe makes 12 muffins, but I’d put less batter in each well and make a total of 18. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on December 15, 2020
      • Reply
      • Thank you for the information (and responding so quickly!!!).

        Will be making it in about 10 minutes.
        Thank you!

        Lisa

        • — Lisa on December 15, 2020
        • Reply
  • Very delicate and light yet packed with flavor. A very easy make ahead recipe.

    • — Niki on November 24, 2020
    • Reply
  • I made this cake today exactly as directed and it was absolutely amazing!! My husband and son loved it!! So delicious, I highly recommend!!

    • — Lisa Wild on November 18, 2020
    • Reply
  • Haven’t teied it yet but frosting was so terrible it’s inedible.

    • — E on November 1, 2020
    • Reply
  • Hi! I would love to make this cake for a party as I’m a huge fan of the bread version. For the cake, would it change the flavor or rise of the cake if I wanted to use canola oil instead of the butter?

    • — Marie on October 24, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Marie, Unfortunately, oil won’t work here — sorry!

      • — Jenn on October 24, 2020
      • Reply
  • This cake is delicious and so easy to whip together! I texted my mom the recipe as I was putting mine in the oven because I could smell from the batter that it would be a winner, and she immediately made it, too!
    I halved the recipe, and it fit beautifully in my 8×8 brownie pan. The amount of frosting was perfect – not too much or too little.
    My mom made the (full recipe) cake in her bundt pan, and it came out perfectly, as well.

    • — Caitlin on October 14, 2020
    • Reply
  • Hi! I’ve made this cake before and it’s absolutely delish! If I wanted to make mini cupcakes, do you have any suggestions on how to do so? Thanks!

    • — Mary S on October 6, 2020
    • Reply
    • Glad you like it! For mini cupcakes, I’d keep the oven temp the same and start checking them at 12 to 15 minutes. I’d love to hear how they come out!

      • — Jenn on October 7, 2020
      • Reply
  • Served this delicious cake last night. My guests took some home and I ate the last piece this morning for breakfast:) Super easy and yummy. Thanks again for making me look like a super star!

    • — wendie morin on October 3, 2020
    • Reply
  • Oh a addition to my review. There is a lot of cake for me and my husband, so cut it in half and put one half in freezer. Nice to be able to freeze for later for unexpected guest.. So fluffy and great tasting. Thanks again.

    • — Carol Dovel on August 23, 2020
    • Reply
    • Very easy to make and very delicious! Love how moist it is.

      • — Margaret Yarak on November 6, 2020
      • Reply
  • This is the second recipe that I have tried from your web site. We are gluten free so I did use a couple of different ingredients. I used gluten free flour. Also used coconut sugar. Everything turned out and looked like your pictures. A little darker due to the sugar. Thank you for a desert that will be used many times.

    • — Carol Dovel on August 23, 2020
    • Reply
  • Have made this many times before and it’s unbelievable. Would this recipe work well for a pumpkin layer cake? Could I cook this in round cake pans and then double the cream cheese frosting recipe to have enough to frost and cover the outside of the cake? Would love to turn this into a birthday cake.

    • — Christine on August 22, 2020
    • Reply
    • So glad you like it! Yes, I do think it would work as a layer cake and that you should double the frosting (you may end up having a bit of frosting leftover).

      • — Jenn on August 25, 2020
      • Reply
  • This recipe is perfect as is written, have made this many times and my family truly enjoys it every time. Thank you for sharing!

    • — Christy on June 18, 2020
    • Reply
  • Delicious! I made for Thanksgiving Day dessert. So much tastier than the same old pumpkin pie. The cream cheese on top was divine!

    • — Dawn on December 6, 2019
    • Reply
  • Great cake – it’s very moist, but the only issue is the 1 tsp. of cloves is too much. I cut it down to 3/4 of a tsp. and clove was still the dominant flavor. I will cut it down to 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. next time. Rather than cream cheese frosting, I used a recipe for boiled cider glaze. I also make the pumpkin bread recipe on this site and it’s awesome.

    • — Michele on December 1, 2019
    • Reply
  • Could I sub pumpkin pie spice? If so, use the same amount?

    • — Rosie on November 26, 2019
    • Reply
    • That should be fine, Rosie. Hope you enjoy! 🙂

      • — Jenn on November 26, 2019
      • Reply
  • I have made this several times and it is always a hit! Thank you for another fabulous recipe!

    • — Jess on November 23, 2019
    • Reply
  • I made the pumpkin pound cake and took a photo. I’ve tried to send twice but I keep getting an error message. My five star rating is for the pumpkin pound cake.

    • — Phyllis on November 14, 2019
    • Reply
    • So glad you enjoyed the cake and sorry for any frustration regarding sending a pic! The blog isn’t set up to receive pictures, but feel to email it to me at [email protected] or share it on Instagram (and tag me @onceuponachef)! 🙂

      • — Jenn on November 15, 2019
      • Reply
  • Hello,

    If I wanted to use vegetable oil instead of butter for the batter, how much should I use?

    Thanks.

    • — Rose on November 11, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Rose, I think this is best with butter, but if you’d like to use oil, here are some guidelines. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on November 11, 2019
      • Reply
  • I just sent a question but forgot to put my 5 stars!!! Sorry! I’ve never written a review before. LOL

    • — Margit on November 8, 2019
    • Reply
  • First let me say that this cake is delicious and moist and everyone loves it!!!!! My question is that I find the pumpkin flavor doesn’t come through as much as I thought it would. I cringe that this sounds like a criticism, but I wondered if you had any suggestions??

    • — Margit on November 8, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Margit, pumpkin on its own doesn’t have a ton of flavor. What you’re tasting are the spices added to the pumpkin. If you’d like to up the flavor a bit, you could add an additional quarter teaspoon of each of the spices. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on November 12, 2019
      • Reply
  • I think this recipe needed oil, I feel the cake was to dry.

    • — Cheryl on November 5, 2019
    • Reply
  • Baked this cake over the weekend to celebrate fall. This cake is a perfect fall cake and brought back memories of a simpler time! Absolutely delicious!

    • — Juliana C Griffiths on October 28, 2019
    • Reply
  • Wow this cake is DELICIOUS! I followed the recipe to a T and it’s perfect!!

    • — Arielle on October 27, 2019
    • Reply
  • WOW.. this is amazing. I did half the sugar for both cake and frosting and it was still amazing. Love everything I’ve tried in her cook book/online so far.

    • — SK on October 24, 2019
    • Reply

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