Pumpkin Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I don’t claim to be an expert on many things. In fact, only three things come to mind when I think of mastery. The first: peanut butter and fluff sandwiches. The second: The View. The third: cake. I, myself, am not even on that list. And because I’m feeling generous, I’ll spare you the etymology of the fluffernutter and let you google Joy Behar behind the scenes.

Cake, however, well cake…deserves to be spoken about at length. It actually deserves a national holiday and a lifetime of dedicated study, but I’m already working on that on my own time, so rest assured.

Some people save cake, and desserts in general- cookies, pies, all the sweetest and dreamiest of confections- for special occasions. For holidays, birthdays, anything that merits a greeting card or a day off from work. The very first time someone told me that they held out on Hostess for, say, a homemade apple pie on Thanksgiving, I paused and stared at her for a good ten seconds without blinking. I may have suffered a small stroke.

The very notion was absolute lunacy to me for twenty years. After all, I had spent my entire life on a cake binge. Like ‘Cake Boss,’ but without a shred of culinary authority or expertise. Perhaps the reason why I was 135 lbs overweight. At some point, though, I realized that I was treating cake as I would the base of the food guide pyramid- with 6-10 servings a day.

Five years ago I took a break from cake. And I missed her. I think in all, my hiatus from the confectionery world was about a year long. The whole of thirteen months while I lost a metric ton. Or so it seemed. I missed cake like I would miss my best friend if she moved to Singapore indefinitely. Is she coming back? No one makes me smile in quite the same way.

The good news is that she came back, with a vengeance, and she’s never leaving my side again.

And in some respects, I get that people want cake to be special, a treat. The problem with this idea of reserving cake for a special occasion is that, to me, cake is a special occasion. A pumpkin spice layer cake frosted with upwards of an inch of cream cheese icing? That sounds quite a bit like a party.

I may be pushing it here, but I’d say that a wedge of cake and a fork, plate or no, warrants at least two mylar balloons, a greeting card, and a sequins mini. A piñata at your discretion.

For this reason, I celebrate my heart out. At least three times a week.

This cake will be a special occasion in and of itself. Pumpkin spice layer cake with cream cheese frosting. It’s moist to the point of melting and the cinnamon and ginger spice it so warmly you’ll think about flannel, a roaring fire, and log cabins. And cream cheese frosting…well…you know how that goes. It’s tangy and velvety, just the complement for the tender, large crumbed cake. A word of advice: slice the wedges thinly. I know, I’m not usually moderate like this. But you’ll have to just trust me here. The cake is dense and rich, so much so that a sliver will do.

Enjoy!

Pumpkin Spice Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl, combine the sugar and oil. I used dark brown sugar because I adore the deep caramel flavor it generally imparts into baked goods. But I think it’s best to use regular ol’ white, granulated sugar for this recipe- you don’t need the extra moisture anyway, since you’re adding the pumpkin puree.

Whisk in the eggs. Mix well.

Now add the pumpkin and stir until smooth.

Stir in the dry ingredients.

Divide the cake batter evenly among the pans. If you’ve seen the specially made baking spray- the one that coats and flours your pan with just a spritz- buy it. It’s a world easier than greasing and flouring.

Bake the cakes for 35-40 minutes at 350°F.

Now let’s frost. Place one cake layer on a large plate. It’s a wonderful idea to place strips of parchment paper under the sides of the cake so that you can pull them out when you’re done frosting and the plate will be clean. I did not do that because I like to live on the edge.

Scoop a generous amount of the frosting onto the center of the cake and spread evenly to the outer edges using an offset spatula, or a butter knife. This is your filling.

Lay your second cake layer on top.

Now plop nearly all of your remaining frosting on the top of the second layer and spread it evenly to the sides, pushing it over the edge and down the sides to cover. Focus more on creating a smooth, clean top, with no crumbs, but don’t worry so much about the sides because we’re going to cover them with chopped nuts. It helps to run a slightly wet cloth along the sides of your offset spatula; you’ll get a cleaner line this way.

Now chop your walnuts very fine. Use your hands to press them into the sides of the cake. Just slap them on, really.

At this point, you could call it a day and serve the cake as is. But a piped shell border really adds something special. I used a pastry bag fitted with a #16 tip and piped along the perimeter of the top and bottom of the cake.

Serve.

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

recipe slightly adapted from Southern Food

(makes two 9″ x 2″ cakes)

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease and lightly flour two 9” x 2” cake pans, then tap out the excess.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a separate large bowl, whisk the sugar and oil. Add the eggs and whisk well to combine. Stir in the pumpkin.
  4. Stir in the dry ingredients until the mixture is smooth and well combined. Add nuts.
  5. Divide the batter evenly among the two pans. Bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in their pans on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then turn out to cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

(enough to frost a 9″ two layer cake)

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 lb confectioner’s sugar (about 4 cups)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and cream cheese.
  2. Add the vanilla extract.
  3. Slowly beat in the sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl halfway, until the mixture is smooth and fluffy.

Comments

  1. says

    I really like the idea of this cake. I love pumpkin, but am not a fan of pie crust. Great solution. I made a crustless version of pumpkin pie last year but may opt for this beautiful cake version this year. Nice work

  2. says

    Oh my gosh. That looks straight out of a bakery. If I ever get married, will you make that as my wedding cake? Or if I ever do anything of importance, will you make that for me?

  3. says

    I’ll be trying that recipe! I just need to start a ‘Can You Stay for Dinner’ folder, because I pretty much want to try all of your recipes. :)

  4. says

    I swear that cream cheese frosting looks like it’d be the end of me.

    I don’t know how people deprive themselves of it. Seriously. I have dessert every.single.day. Not sure how it would feel to not have it. I don’t plan on finding out…

  5. says

    As much as I love all of your recipes, this may be my favorite. No lie. I’m the biggest carrot cake fan, but I love pumpkin even more. This looks like the pumpkin version of the carrot cake. And who doesn’t love cream cheese frosting? YUM!

    Definitely saving this recipe in my folder’s favorites. 😀

  6. says

    “to me, cake is a special occasion.” <— I couldn't agree more. In fact, I've been having that mindset towards all food as of late. No more "treats" or "splurges"….food is food! I'm all about eating spectacular food on special occassions, but at this point in my life – I'm trying to make every day a special occassion…

    …dessert included :)

  7. says

    I cannot wait to make this cake – thanks for the recipe!! It’s true though, I don’t usually make a cake unless its someones birthday – why not bake cake because its Monday?!

    Hope you had a great weekend!

  8. M.J. Jacobsen says

    OK, you are killing me in the very best way!!! I have to make this for my friends BD party I’m having this weekend, yummy!!!

  9. says

    haaa hands down ths was my favorite food as a kid…. requested it EVERY birthday/thanksgiving/easter/christmas hhaa….brought back lots of memories!

  10. Wendy says

    I would also like nutritional info with your recipes. I actually read your article today and admire your success. The cake looks extra yummy!!

    • says

      Thanks Wendy! I will consider adding the nutrition info for meals, but not desserts. I suppose it’s because I just don’t like to set numbers to things I love and enjoy so thoroughly. I encourage you to check out recipe calculators like the one on Sparkpeople.com! I appreciate you reading!!

  11. Dawn says

    Read your article in Woman’s World. What an inspiration! Question, would you allow yourself to have this while losing weight or just when you’ve reached your goal? I like you lost most of my weight on WW, but starting putting it back on again after eating terribly. I’m trying to eat less processed foods, but the scales are not budging. I’m looking forward to reading your blog and seeing if you have any tips. Thanks for having a healthy blog!

    Dawn

    • says

      Hi Dawn! I’m so glad you commented- it’s nice to ‘meet’ you! I love dessert, and while I was losing weight I didn’t have it (or at least, I had it very rarely during the 13 months that I was losing it all). Now that I’m in maintenance, and have been for the past four years, I eat dessert at least 4 times a week. It’s my absolute favorite thing so I cut myself a slice and enjoy every crumb. One piece of anything is bliss- it’s the seconds, the thirds, the fourths of something that isn’t so kind to your body. I believe you can take off the weight- just trust yourself. You probably know how to eat well and how to move your body in a way that feels good. Go with those truths. I wish you the best!!

  12. betty says

    LOve this recipe glad I came to check out your site. I saw you in Woman’s Day I have been on Weight watchers over a year (I have lost 90 lbs.) and hit a wall. Your article inspired me to try listening to myself. There are so many road blocks to weight loss cost should not be one of them. I understand family, work and life issues always come up. I have to learn to listen to my body and myself and try to make the best decisions for me and my body. I know what i need to do now I just need to do it. Your article made me think about what I’m doing to myself. While weight Watchers i will always be greatful to, like a love that has died it’s time to move on and take care of me.

    • says

      Ahh, Betty, your message really made my day! I’m so glad to hear that you get it- that you know to treat yourself as well as you treat the rest of the world. You are worth it. You seem to know what you need to do to and I am so supportive of that. Finding your own way is the best way. I wish you nothing but the best!

  13. Elle says

    Looks delicious! I have a few questions. Do I need to make extra frosting (other than what’s posted on the recipe) if I want to make the piped border? Also, the recipe says to add the nuts to the batter, but I’m not sure you put it in yours. Is 1/2 cup enough to put around the whole cake? Thanks!

    • says

      Elle- excellent questions!! You’re right- I didn’t put the nuts in the batter and I used probably about 1 cup of finely chopped nuts to stick to the frosting on the sides. I might bump up the frosting and make 1.5 times the amount if you want to pipe! I’m sorry that I wasn’t more thorough in the recipe- I’ll edit. I also like a lot of frosting, so it’s never a problem to make too much! Thanks !!!

  14. Elle says

    Thanks for the extra info! No need to be sorry… I’m sure an experienced baker would have known. I just started baking about a year ago, so I had to ask! Can’t wait to make it!!!

  15. Paul says

    Just used this recipe to make cupcakes. The only thing I modified was eliminating the nuts from the batter because I feel nuts are more of a cake thing than a cupcake thing. I halved the recipe and it made enough for a dozen good size cupcakes. I also halved the frosting, but without the filling element of a cake, I could have done well to 1/4 it. No problem, just froze the extra, which will give me enough for next time!

    They were really delicious! full of flavor and moist. I may follow your example though and try brown sugar next time for that added depth of flavor. Thanks!

  16. says

    Could this cake be made in a bundt pan? I want to invert one cake over the other, tint the frosting orange and make it look like a pumpkin. Would this recipe hold up to baking in a bundt?

  17. rochelle seymour says

    This recipe looked so good that I just had to bake it last night! It was soo good; the cake was super moist and flavorful. Thank you for the recipe! 😀

  18. says

    This looks delicious! Have to try this this weekend. Your pictures are beautiful and make me want to break out my cake pans. Thank you for such an awesome recipe

  19. regina says

    before i attempt this frosting recipe, im afraid that it wont turn out like planed. i cant never get mine to the right thick-ish consistency. i follow them to the T. what am i missing here? its more sorta loos and flowy and a bit gelly but not quite runny. any tips?

    • Stephanie says

      make sure the cream cheese is at room temp along with the butter. First I used my spatula and kinda creamed the cream cheese just a minute, add the room temp soft butter and work it into the cream cheese, creaming them together. I added one cup of sifted powder sugar at a time and stirred until smooth after every cup. I myself only added 3 cups instead of 4 as the recipe says but that’s just personal preference for sweetness. I let the frosting cool in the fridge for about an hour while the cakes were cooling off. Make sure not to frost the cake while the cake is still warm, it has to be completely cooled or the frosting will just melt off. Hope this helps.

  20. crystal says

    I only have one round 9″ pan. Can I bake it in this and then just cut it in two? And if so do I need to adjust time or temp? Thanks for the great post!

  21. Stephanie says

    Just made this recipe last night and let me tell you how amazingly moist and delicious it was! It was fairly simple, I just wish my electric mixer wasn’t broken for this one cause you have to whisk the batter a lot to get a smooth consistency. I just started Baking and Pastry classes at Le Cordon Bleu so I’m still an amateur, this was honestly my first pumpkin cake and I’m very proud it turned out great! Little fyi, I only had them in for 30 minutes at 350 degrees and I think any longer they would’ve been too dark. Thanks for the awesome recipe :)

  22. Erin says

    Just came across this looking for a pumpkin cake recipe. I love your attitude on cake (mine as well!) and this recipe looks great! Quick question: do you think it would hold up with stacking? I am baking my friend’s wedding cake and she really wants a pumpkin cake (in fall) but we need at least two tiers. Thanks!

    • Janet says

      I believe it would. I make a thickly iced double-layer cake from this recipe frequently. It is hands down the most complimented cake I make. If I were you, I would do some test runs well before the big day to make sure the top tier doesn’t slide, etc. I’m sure people would love getting samples of your “experiments.” What a great idea for a fall wedding! I always make a double batch of icing, which can hide any flaws. Plus the icing is delicious.

  23. Janet says

    Andie, I just won third place in the local dessert bakeoff using this recipe. I substituted Pamela’s gluten free flour for regular flour. Thanks so much for a great recipe. Everyone loves it everytime I make it.

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