Pumpkin makes cakes soft and tender with a glowing orange colour in a way nothing else can! This Pumpkin Cake is perfectly spiced and comes with a tangy cream cheese frosting. The only thing that could make it better? Maple syrup. So I added it!
This is a pumpkin cake recipe for people who want:
an easy, foolproof recipe (just wait until you see how simple it is!);
a cake with excellent pumpkinness* that’s not overwhelmed by the use of excessive store-bought spice mixes;
a crumb that’s springy, soft and moist, rather than tight/dense or airy/delicate (like angel cake);
a big cake to feed lots of people without the deft required to cut tall layer cakes into 16 tiny slivers; and
a cake with excellent frosting-to-cake ratio. Specifically, a cream cheese maple frosting. A dreamy combination with pumpkin!
So if all that sounds good to you, read on!
* I am not sure that’s a word but it seems fitting here.
Ingredients in Pumpkin Cake
Here’s what you need to make this cake.
Pumpkin puree options
I use fresh because it tastes better and takes 8 seconds to puree. Plus, canned pumpkin isn’t readily available here in Australia. 🙂 But canned works perfectly fine!
Canned pumpkin is a convenient option if you can get it and it works perfectly for this cake. But if you use pureed fresh pumpkin, you’ll be rewarded with a better tasting cake! It’s just a plain fact that freshly cooked pumpkin tastes better than something that’s been sitting in a can for months / years. Yes, we made and compared them side by side. 🙂
Use what works for you!
To make your own pumpkin puree, just boil chunks of pumpkin for 10 minutes or until very tender. Then blitz – it literally takes 8 seconds.
Pumpkin cake batter
Here are the other ingredient you need for the batter:
Flour – Plain / all-purpose flour. Self raising flour (also called self-rising flour) will work but it won’t rise as much. I haven’t tried this cake with gluten-free flour.
Oil – Any neutral flavoured oil like canola and vegetable oil. Using oil instead of butter keeps this cake moist. Why? Because butter firms up at room temperature whereas oil does not. So cakes made with oil are more moist. However, the trade-off is that butter tastes better than oil. In this cake, we’ve got other flavours at play here – the pumpkin and cinnamon. So I don’t miss the butter!
Baking powder – This is what makes the cake rise. As a side note, the original version of this cake used a combination of baking soda and baking powder. However, over the years, I’ve found that using only baking powder gives the cake a softer crumb. Plus, we cut out one ingredients. 🙂
Cinnamon – Flavour! Classic combination with pumpkin.
Sugar – Regular white sugar, or caster sugar / superfine sugar.
Large eggs at room temperature, which means eggs that are 55-60g/2oz each sold in cartons labelled “large eggs”. They need to be at room temperature, not fridge cold, so they blend into the ingredients better. More information on the right eggs for baking here!
Salt – Just a touch, to bring out the other flavours in this cake. Standard baking practice these days. 🙂
Cream cheese frosting
There is no better frosting for pumpkin cake! Here’s what you need:
Cream cheese – use BLOCK, not the spreadable cream cheese in tubs (too soft). If you can only get the spreadable cream cheese, add extra icing sugar to correct the consistency.
Softened unsalted butter – softened but not super soft / borderline melting.
Icing sugar aka powdered sugar – 🇦🇺 Australia, use soft icing sugar, NOT pure icing sugar (which is used for things like royal icing ie sets hard).
Vanilla extract – For flavour.
Maple syrup – UGH, forgot to put it in the photo! This is for drizzling on top. I wanted to put it in the frosting but it made the frosting too loose.
How to make Pumpkin Cake
WHY CAN’T ALL CAKES BE THIS EASY???!!
Whisk wet – Whisk the eggs, oil, sugar and pumpkin puree.
Add dry – Add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt then whisk until combined. Batter. Done!
Bake in a 23 x 33 / 13 x 9″ lined pan (or thereabouts) at 180°C/350°F (160°C fan-forced) for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. See the video for my easy way to line the pan!
Frosting – While the cake is cooling, make the frosting! Just beat the cream cheese and butter for a minute on high until creamy. Then add the icing sugar (powdered sugar) in 3 batches, starting the beater on low to avoid a snowstorm. Once it’s incorporated, crank the beater up to high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until the frosting is fluffy!
Slather the frosting on the cooled cake, and use the back of a spoon to make swirly dents for maple syrup to pool in.
Drizzle with maple syrup, as much as you want / dare, then sprinkle liberally with roughly chopped pecans.
And now it’s time to dig in!
Making this cake might be the best decision you make in October. It’s totally straight forward. Your kitchen will smell amazing. It’s big enough to share with those you deem worthy.
And that moment when you take the first bite of that soft cake loaded with beautiful pumpkin flavour, mingling with that tangy cream cheese frosting mixed with rivers of maple syrup and the littering of soft pecans….
I challenge you to stop at one piece. (Even if you cut yourself a very, very big one). – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Fresh or canned pumpkin? I’m in the fresh camp!
Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Pumpkin puree options
- 1 2/3 cups fresh pumpkin puree , I use this (Note 1)
- 15 oz / 425g canned pure pumpkin , 1 can (Note 1)
Other cake batter ingredients
- 4 large eggs 55-60g/2oz each), at room temperature
- 1 2/3 cups white sugar (or caster/superfine sugar, Note 2)
- 1 cup vegetable or canola oil (or other neutral flavoured oil)
- 2 cups plain/all-purpose flour
- 4 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1 tsp cooking / kosher salt (Note 3)
- 6 oz / 180g cream cheese block, at room temperature (Note 4)
- 1 cup / 225g unsalted butter , softened
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 cups soft icing sugar / powdered sugar , sifted (Note 5)
- 1/3 – 1/2 cup maple syrup (don't be shy!)
- 1/2 cup pecans , roughly chopped
- Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F (160°C fan-forced). Spray and line a large pan around 9 x 13" / 23 x 33cm with baking paper with overhang. (Note 6)
- Batter – In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
- Bake – Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto cooling rack to cool completely (~ 2 hours) before frosting.
- Frosting – Spread frosting on then use the back of a spoon to make swirly dents. Drizzle over maple syrup, concentrating on the dents to create maple syrup pools! Sprinkle with pecans. Then serve.
- Cream butter – Place the cream cheese and butter in a bowl. Beat for 2 minutes until smooth and fluffy.
- Add the icing sugar in 3 batches, starting the beater on low after each addition to avoid a snowstorm. Once incorporated, turn the beater up to high and beat for 3 minutes or until the frosting is light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Use frosting immediately.
Originally published in November 2016. Recipe slightly improved (I now only use baking powder as I find it makes the cake rise more evenly), recipe writing improved (I’ve come a long way in 7 years!), sparkling new photos and a brand new video with me IN it!
More pumpkin recipes
Life of Dozer
Today – visiting a local community garden just a few minutes from home called Happy Hens. What an extraordinary oasis! 100% volunteer run in a beautiful location by the water, filled with an abundance of herbs and vegetables. Everyone is welcome – so locals, drop by to see it and say g’day! Might even see you there. 🙂 ~ Nagi & Dozer xx
And from the original publication date in 2016:
d) All of the above