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This classic pumpkin cake recipe is moist and perfectly spiced! Top with cream cheese frosting for an irresistible treat.

Pumpkin Cake
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Here’s a recipe that’s just right for the season: this classic Pumpkin Cake! It’s beautifully thick and moist, scented with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. The best part? A layer of tangy, fluffy cream cheese frosting is its ideal flavor match. It’s so classic and irresistible, you’ll want to make it for every gathering. It’s ideal for fall dinner parties, Halloween, Thanksgiving…or really anytime you’re craving pumpkin goodness!

Ingredients in this pumpkin cake recipe

This pumpkin cake recipe is exactly what we look for in this type of cake: beautifully moist and just sweet enough. It’s scented with just the right amount of pumpkin spices, and it’s not too rich. The recipe came about when we asked our 4 year old what else we should make with pumpkin and he said without missing a beat, “Pumpkin cake!” The cake base is similar to our Pumpkin Spice Muffins, and we created a new frosting recipe for the top. Here are the ingredients in this pumpkin cake:

  • All-purpose flour
  • Pumpkin pie spice
  • Baking soda, baking powder, and salt
  • Dark brown sugar and granulated sugar
  • Pumpkin puree
  • Eggs
  • Neutral oil
  • Unsweetened applesauce

The applesauce in combination with the pumpkin helps to make the cake incredibly moist without adding loads of oil or butter. The result is a just sweet enough, just rich enough cake!

Pumpkin Cake

For the topping: a lighter cream cheese frosting

This pumpkin cake recipe is at its best with that classic topping: cream cheese frosting! Something about the tangy, creamy texture makes magic with the fluffy cake below. For this pumpkin cake, we created a lighter version of cream cheese frosting. Here’s what to know about it:

  • This frosting has half the butter of a traditional cream cheese frosting recipe. This means it’s a little bit softer of a texture than the standard, but just as delicious!
  • This frosting has less sugar than the standard cream cheese frosting. This also gives it a looser texture. Because of this we’d recommend using it for applications like a sheet cake, but not for piping cupcakes.

Alternate topping: powdered sugar or glaze

The easiest way to top a pumpkin cake recipe? Douse it with powered sugar! This makes it a much lower calorie option, and it’s easier because you don’t have to mix up the frosting. It’s still delicious, but for top deliciousness we’d recommend making the cream cheese frosting.

For another alternative, try this easy Maple Glaze!

Pumpkin Cake recipe

Let the cake cool completely before frosting

As with any cake, let this pumpkin cake cool completely before frosting it! If you’re impatient like we are, here’s how to cool a cake quickly:

  • Cool the cake at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
  • Refrigerate until it’s room temperature, about 15 more minutes.

Pumpkin cake storage & make ahead instructions

Want to make this pumpkin cake ahead? Or want to save leftovers? Here’s what to know about storage:

  • Cake lasts 3 to 4 days refrigerated. It holds up well! Just bring to room temperature before serving: this is the best way to taste all the flavors.
  • You can freeze the cake for up to 3 months. Bake it and let it cool completely, then tightly wrap the unfrosted cake before freezing. Let it come to room temperature before frosting it!
Pumpkin Cake

More pumpkin recipes

When it’s pumpkin season, there’s nothing we crave more! Here are a few more desserts, breakfasts, snacks and drinks that make ideal pumpkin recipes:

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Pumpkin cake

Pumpkin Cake

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5 from 1 review

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 12 to 16 1x


This classic pumpkin cake recipe is moist and perfectly spiced! Top with cream cheese frosting for an irresistible treat.



For the pumpkin cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tablespoons pumpkin pie spice (purchased or homemade)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ cup dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 large eggs
  • ⅓ cup neutral oil
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce

For the cream cheese frosting (optional*)

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9 x 13″ or equivalent baking dish.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, baking powder and kosher salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, pumpkin puree, eggs, oil and applesauce. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until combined. Pour into the prepared pan and use a spatula to smooth into an even layer. 
  3. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 30 minutes, then refrigerate about 15 minutes until it comes to room temperature. (Or allow to cool and refrigerate it, then frost before serving.) If desired, dust with powdered sugar before serving or proceed to the cream cheese frosting (recommended). 
  4. Meanwhile, make the cream cheese frosting: Let the butter and cream cheese sit on the counter for 1 hour to come to room temperature. Use a fine mesh sieve to sift the powdered sugar into a bowl. Beat the butter and cream cheese with a stand mixer or hand mixer on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes until completely smooth, scraping once. Reduce the speed to low, then add the vanilla. Slowly add the powdered sugar until it comes together into a thick icing. Use immediately or refrigerate until using. Store refrigerated for up to 1 week; allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes and stir before using. 
  5. Spread the frosting on top of the cake to the desired thickness (you can use the entire batch or less if desired). Stores refrigerated for up to 3 to 4 days; bring to room temperature before serving. Freeze the completely cooled unfrosted cake tightly wrapped for up to 3 months.


*For an alternative, try topping with this easy Maple Glaze.

  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegetarian

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. Susan Meadows says:

    This was fantastic! Made for a family dinner and everyone loved it. Used grape seed oil and am so glad for that information on the oil link . I will start using that in place of other oils. We are not vegan but are trying to eat healthier. Can’t wait to try your other recipes. Thank you!

  2. Cindy Creech says:

    Could I substitute the AP flour with a 1:1 gluten-free flour blend without making any other changes to the recipe?

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Yes, that should work out.