Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting might just be a better pairing than Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting! It's so good I almost can't imagine any other topping more perfect for this cake. It's so soft, fluffy and moist with a tender crumb and toasted pecans both in the cake and on top. I usually don't prefer nuts in cake for textural reasons, but pecans are so buttery soft that it just works!
WHY YOU WILL LOVE THIS RECIPE:
- Moist pumpkin cake - this recipe makes a super moist pumpkin cake that stays moist without drying out!
- Soft and fluffy texture - you will love how tall and fluffy the cake is! It's soft and delicate with rich flavor thanks to a combination of butter and oil.
- Pumpkin spice cake - the fragrant spices are so cozy and warming, and they pair with pumpkin so well. You can use your favorite pumpkin spice blend, your make your own with a combination of cinnamon, ginger, clove, nutmeg and allspice.
- Easy one bowl recipe - all you need is a whisk, a bowl and a spatula to make this recipe. It is super simple to prepare.
- Cream cheese frosting - this is based on my favourite cream cheese frosting from my Ultimate Carrot Cake recipe! It's so easy to make - you just beat all of the ingredients in one bowl until smooth and it is just so luscious and creamy!
INGREDIENTS FOR PUMPKIN CAKE WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
- Unsalted butter - melted butter adds richness and tenderness. For this recipe you can use unsalted or salted butter. If you use salted butter, then reduce the added salt by half. I like to use butter in this recipe to carry the spice flavors so they are more rounded instead of sharp-tasting.
- Sunflower oil - this recipe uses a blend of butter and oil so that you get the flavor of butter and the soft texture from liquid oil.
- Brown sugar - brown sugar adds caramel-like flavor due to the molasses content and it really complements the pumpkin and the spices.
- Canned pumpkin - canned pumpkin is easily accessible and inexpensive. You can also make it yourself, but it is important to reduce it down so it is very thick otherwise the moisture balance will be off in the recipe.
- Eggs - one large egg will add enough structure to bind the cake without making the crumb too firm.
- Pure vanilla extract - vanilla will add rich backnotes. I like this Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla extract.
- Milk - I recommend using whole milk or 2% milk for this recipe and it helps if it is at room temperature.
- All purpose flour - regular unbleached all-purpose flour works great for this simple cake.
- Pumpkin pie spice - use your favorite brand, or make your own from a blend of 1 part nutmeg, clove and allspice with 2 parts cinnamon and ginger.
- Cream cheese - this needs to be softened to room temperature before making the frosting so pull it from the fridge 2 hours before making it.
STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS
- STEP 1). Combine wet ingredients. Add melted butter, brown sugar, egg, pumpkin puree, vanilla and milk to a large bowl and whisk until evenly combined. Add baking powder, baking soda and salt and whisk to combine.
- STEP 2). Add flour. Sprinkle over the flour and spice and fold it in until just combined. Do not over-mix.
- STEP 3). Spread it out. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread it out evenly.
- STEP 4). Bake. Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden and the cake springs back when pressed gently. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to the rack to finish cooling.
- STEP 5). Make the cream cheese frosting. Combine soft cream cheese, soft butter, icing sugar and vanilla extract in a medium bowl. Beat on low speed at first then increase to medium-high speed and beat for 1-2 minutes until smooth, creamy and fluffy. Spread it out over the cooled cake.
- STEP 6). Top with pecans. Sprinkle more toasted pecans over the cake. To toast pecans, you can do it in the oven or over the stovetop. Oven method: spread pecans out on a baking sheet and place in a 350 degree F oven for 7-9 minutes until they smell nutty and darken in colour. Stovetop method: place pecans in a dry frying pan over medium heat and shake the pan frequently to toast evenly - it may take 8-10 minutes.
EXPERT BAKING TIPS FOR PUMPKIN CAKE WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
- Do not over-mix the batter. Once the flour is mostly combined (with a few light streaks), then the batter is ready for baking.
- Use melted butter for the flavor. I like to use melted butter when making recipes that call for a lot of spice since it adds rich backnotes that carry the spice well so it is more rounded rather than sharp and astringent. If you prefer to use all oil, this recipe will still work.
- Use soft cream cheese and butter for the frosting. It's very important to have room temperature cream cheese and butter for the frosting in order to make sure it comes out smooth. Cold cream cheese will be lumpy and difficult to blend with the butter.
Can I make this pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting with oil?
Yes, you can use all oil to make this recipe and it still works well, however I find melted butter carries the spice flavours much nicer.
How to make homemade pumpkin pie spice?
Pumpkin pie spice is easy to make at home! Just blend equal portions of ground ginger, nutmeg, allspice and clove with 3 times as much cinnamon. So, you can combine ½ teaspoon each of ginger, nutmeg, allspice and clove with 1 ½ teaspoons of ground cinnamon. This will give you 3 ½ teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice.
Can I use fresh pumpkin for this recipe?
I use canned pumpkin puree for baking for two main reasons: 1). Consistency - if I buy the same brand all the time then I am guaranteed to have the same results. Homemade pumpkin puree will vary in moisture content depending on how long you cook it; and 2). Ease! - it's so much easier to use canned pumpkin and the quality is just as good.
Can I freeze extra pumpkin puree?
Since you don't need a whole can of pumpkin puree for this recipe, I always freeze the rest and use it for another recipe later on - it works so great! You can freeze it in an ice cube tray or just spoon portions of it into a ziptop bag and freeze. You can also stir it into soup, which is so delicious!
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Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- ¼ cup 56g unsalted butter, melted
- 3 tablespoon 45ml sunflower oil
- ¾ cup 165g packed light brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup 120ml pure pumpkin puree
- ½ teaspoon 5ml pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup 120ml milk
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1 ½ cups 215g all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup 45g chopped toasted pecans plus extra for topping
Cream Cheese Frosting:
- ½ block 125g cream cheese softened
- 3 tablespoon 42g unsalted butter softened
- ¾ cup 90g icing sugar
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line an 8x8-inch or 9x9-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
- Combine melted butter, oil and brown sugar in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add egg and whisk until evenly incorporated. Mix in pumpkin puree and vanilla, then whisk in milk.
- Add baking powder, baking soda, salt and spice and whisk it in until evenly combined.
- Add half of the flour mixture and begin to mix gently. Once it is mostly incorporated, add the remaining flour and chopped pecans and fold it in gently.
- Pour batter into prepared pan and spread it out evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. For a 9-inch cake it will be closer to 25 minutes. Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool.
- For the frosting, combine soft cream cheese, soft butter, icing sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer until smooth and creamy and fluffy. Spread the frosting evenly over the cooled cake and top with extra toasted pecans.