Pumpkin Cake

If you’ve ever spent any amount of time with me, our conversation is likely to include some talk of food. I love to hear about family holiday traditions, favorite restaurants, new spices, gardening, late night snacks, cooking techniques, party ideas, and my all time favorite topic…recipe sharing.

This is a recipe a colleague of mine shared with me about 15 years ago. You’ve likely seen a version of it already as all things pumpkin overwhelm the internet (Pumpkin Spice Peanut Butter anyone?…I’ll pass). I’ve modified the original version only slightly and since the first time I made it, I continue to get requests for it every year. It has a firm but tender crumb with traditional spice flavors that taste like home. It’s not too sweet and the cream cheese frosting is the perfect finish for this traditional spice cake.

Unlike most cake recipes, this one is difficult to mess up. It comes together with a little more effort than a boxed mix and it uses simple ingredients which you may already have on hand. If not, it’s worth a quick trip to the store for this rustic treat.

I love the look of a sheet cake as I’ve prepared here, but I’ve also baked the batter into a round stacked cakes, mini cupcakes, and even a bundt cake. Bake the cake part ahead and freeze it for Thanksgiving and you’ll have one less thing to do before company arrives. I’m planning to make several bite-sized desserts for our Thanksgiving table, and these cake/bars/cupcakes (however I serve them) will definitely be on our menu.

It’s not likely you’ll have left-overs but if a doughnut passes as breakfast, then this cake certainly will too. The spice flavors with the cream cheese frosting are a match made in heaven with a hot mug of coffee.

Jump to the recipe now

Preheat your oven to 350° F. Setup your Mise en Place and prep your pan with parchment paper on the bottom and butter on all sides & on the parchment paper too.


Whisk together your dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.


In another bowl, whisk all of the wet ingredients together.


Make a ‘well’ in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients.


Mix everything together….


being careful not to over-mix. A few lumps and white specs are fine. Over-mixing results in a tough cake.


Pan and bake for 30 – 35 minutes.


While the cake bakes, make the cream cheese frosting.


Allow the cake to cool until you can lift the pan without oven mitts. Flip the cake on to a cutting board allowing it to cool it completely.


Once the cake has cooled completely, slather it with the cream cheese frosting.


Slice into rectangles and top with half of a candy pumpkin. Not only do the pumpkins look festive, they also let your guests know what’s in the cake, as a garnish should. If you add walnuts to your batter, you’ll want to include finely chopped walnuts in your garnish.

TIP – microwave the candy for a few seconds to soften in up which makes it much easier to slice.




Pumpkin Cake Recipe

Serves: 12

Prep, baking, frosting time: 90 minutes

Mise en Place

  • 2 cups all purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon Ground Cloves
  • 3 teaspoons ground Nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup finely chopped Walnuts (optional)
  • 1 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1 cup Canola oil
  • 15oz. Canned Pumpkin (optional: use spiced pumpkin for added flavor)
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F, and grease and line a 9×13 inch pan.
  2. Whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, spices, baking soda/powder, salt, optional walnuts) in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients (eggs, oil, sugars, vanilla and pumpkin).
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.
  5. Pan and bake for 30 – 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean from near center of the cake.
  6. Allow the cake to cool until you can touch the pan without using oven mitts.
  7. Flip the pan onto a cutting board or platter and allow it to cool completely. If you’re making this ahead, at this point you would wrap the cake in 3 layers of plastic wrap and freeze it for up to a month.
  8. Frost the cake, add your garnish, then cut and enjoy!

Make the frosting while the cake bakes:

Mise en Place

  • 12 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature (1 1/2 blocks)
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 1 1/2 cups Powdered Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Seeds from 1/2 of a vanilla bean pod
  • Pinch of salt (scant 1/8 of a teaspoon)
  1. Combine everything into your mixing bowl.
  2. Fitted with the whisk attachment, whip until well combined.
  3. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl.
  4. Continue mixing until light and fluffy (about another two minutes)


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Kitchen Composure

Doing what I can, with what I have, in my kitchen.

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