This easy pumpkin cake loaded with all the flavors of fall and finished with a fluffy cream cheese frosting will be your go-to pumpkin spice dessert. I guarantee it.
It’s an easy-to-make, airy, aromatic pumpkin cake crammed with autumn’s ubiquitous flavors: cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg. If you’re anything like me, once the seasons change, your cabinet is overloaded with these spices. This recipe is going to do you a solid and make your home smell and feel like fall—all warm and cozy.
What’s even better is that this pumpkin cake uses a whole can of pumpkin purée, which means no forgotten containers of pumpkin in the back of the fridge. Delicious and resourceful? Yes, please!
WAYS TO ADAPT PUMPKIN CAKE
Nuts: Feeling a bit nutty? Go crazy by adding up to one cup of chopped walnuts or pecans. Just toast them in a 350°F (177°C) oven for 10 minutes, or until fragrant. Toasting the nuts “wakens” them up, so to speak, so that their flavor shines through.
You could also try:
- Pistachios (my personal favorite)
Spices: If, in your pumpkin spice zeal, you bought too many jars of pumpkin pie spice blend, you can use it in place of the individual spices listed in this recipe. Simply replace the cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg with four teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice.
Pan size: While I prefer to bake this cake party-style in a 9×13-inch pan, it’s accommodating enough that you can turn it into cupcakes or a two layer 8-inch round cake.
Pumpkin Cupcakes: This batter will make 1 1/2 dozen cupcakes, baked in a 350°F(177°C) oven for 18-20 minutes. Share them or eat some now, and freeze some for later.
Round Cake: Two 8-inch round cake layers bake at the same temperature for 20-25 minutes. Both are ready when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean and/or the top springs back when lightly touched.
HOW TO FLAVOR CREAM CHEESE FROSTING FOR PUMPKIN CAKE
The cream cheese frosting can be another flavor-shifter. Bourbon works well in place of vanilla. You can also get really fancy by browning your butter, then allowing it to solidify (just chill it a bit) prior to whipping it with the cream cheese.
Ride the fall theme until the wheels fall off and replace the vanilla extract with any of the extracts below:
HOW TO MAKE AHEAD AND FREEZE PUMPKIN CAKE
Prepping dessert ahead? I like your style! Freeze this cake, and there will always be dessert on hand to serve to friends and family.
To Freeze: After baking the cake, let it cool completely. Wrap the cake in a couple of layers of plastic wrap and one layer of heavy duty aluminum foil. Freeze the cake for up to two months.
When you’re ready to enjoy the cake, thaw it at room temperature and decorate as your heart desires.
Swoops of frosting are life, so I suggest frosting it after freezing and not before.
MORE DELICIOUS PUMPKIN RECIPES!
Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe
If you don’t want to measure out individual spices, you can replace the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger with 4 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice.
For the Pumpkin Spice Cake:
- 2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (226 grams or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin purée
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 8 ounces (224 grams) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (113 grams or 1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3-4 cups (360-480 grams) powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 9x13-inch cake pan
1 Preheat the oven and prep the cake pan: Preheat your oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease and lightly flour a 9x13-inch cake pan or spray the pan liberally with nonstick baking spray. Set the pan aside.
2 Sift together the dry ingredients: In a large bowl, use a spatula or whisk to combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and salt.
Fold a piece of parchment or foil in half and set it next to the bowl. Use a measuring cup to scoop the mixture into a sifter and sift the ingredients together 3 to 4 times over the parchment. When finished, transfer the dry ingredients back to the bowl. Aerating the flour this way helps the cake bake up as light as possible. Set the dry ingredients aside.
3 Combine the eggs and sugar: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl, whip together the eggs and sugar on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and the beater with a rubber spatula and continue mixing until the eggs and sugar become thick and pale yellow, or about 2 1/2 minutes more.
When properly mixed, the beater should leave ribbons in the egg mixture as it passes through it.
4 Add the butter and pumpkin: To the bowl with the eggs and sugar, add the melted butter and pumpkin puree. Mix on low speed just until combined and no yellow streaks remain, or 1 minute. Scrape down both the bowl and the beater.
5 Add the dry ingredients: Add all of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and blend on low speed for 30 seconds. Stop the mixer. Using a rubber spatula fold in the rest of the flour until it’s completely mixed in.
Hand-mixing at the end prevents you from overworking the gluten in the flour, which will produce a tough cake. The batter should be the consistency of pancake batter.
5 Fill the cake pan: Use the rubber spatula to scrape the cake batter into the prepared cake pan.
6 Bake the cake: Transfer the cake pan to the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the sides of the cake have pulled away slightly from the pan.
7 Cool the cake: Remove the cake from the oven and place it on a wire cooling rack. Allow the cake to cool in the pan completely, about 1 hour. If you plan to serve the cake on a platter, let it cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Then turn the cake out of the pan onto a cooling rack, allowing it to cool completely.
8 Make the Cream Cheese Frosting: In bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a mixing bowl and using an electric beater), add the butter and cream cheese. Beat on low speed for 1 minute.
Once the cheese and butter are smooth, use a rubber spatula to scrape down the bowl and paddle, then add 3 cups of powdered sugar and vanilla to the bowl. Beat on low speed for 2-3 minutes, or until smooth. Stop the mixer and scrape down, both, the bowl and the paddle.
Add the remaining cup of sugar, if desired to thicken, beating for an additional 1-2 minutes or until fluffy and combined.
The frosting should be thick and hold a peak when the spatula is lifted from it.
9 Frost the cake: After the frosting has been made and the cake has cooled completely, use an off-set spatula to spread the frosting over the surface of the cake. Don’t forget the swoops!
Sprinkle the cake lightly with pumpkin pie spice or grate fresh nutmeg and cinnamon over the surface, if desired.
Though the cake is best served the same day, leftovers may be kept, covered, overnight at room temperature. After 24 hours, it’s best to store it, covered, in the refrigerator.
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