The Great Pumpkin Cake consists of three super moist warmly spiced cake layers. and tucked between them is a delectable cinnamon cream cheese frosting.  This is a great cake to fix for a special occasion or holiday!

Pumpkin Spice Cake.

When I set out to make a pumpkin cake, I wanted to make a cake that wasn’t quite as heavy or dense as some pumpkin desserts can be.

My first attempt resulted in a cake that was too moist and soft and fell apart when I inverted the layers onto a cooling rack, and although I used one whole tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice in the recipe, I could hardly taste the warm spice flavors. 

My second attempt resulted in success.  I added the pumpkin pie spice but also added additional cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.  I also cut back on the amount of canola oil in the recipe.  The result was a soft and moist cake, but not overly moist to the point of falling apart and the warm spice flavor shined through.


  • ALL PURPOSE FLOUR –  Cake flour will not hold up in this thick wet batter, so I used all-purpose.
  • PUMPKIN PUREE – I used one whole can of pumpkin puree in this recipe.  Pure pumpkin puree adds moisture to the cake.  You also don’t need to worry about what to do with leftover pumpkin.
  • BUTTERMILK – Buttermilk adds moisture to the cake and a slight bit of tanginess.
  • CANOLA OIL – Canola oil adds moisture to the cake.  Not much is needed in this recipe since both pumpkin and buttermilk add moistness.
  • PUMPKIN PIE SPICE – Pumpkin Pie Spice is a combination of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and sometimes allspice and mace, depending on the brand of pumpkin pie spice you purchase.  For example, Spice Islands brand contains cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, mace, and cloves., whereas Kroger brand contains cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves.  Pumpkin Pie Spice lends a mild warm spice flavor to the cake.  However, since I used a whole can of pumpkin puree in this recipe, it wasn’t quite enough of some of the spice flavors to suit me.  Therefore I added additional cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon.  These spices are essential in any pumpkin dessert.
  • BUTTER – Butter makes everything taste better!
  • SUGARS –  I used both granulated and brown sugars in this recipe.  The use of all granulated sugar is fine, but I like adding some brown sugar because it adds more flavor and moisture to the cake.
  • EGGS – Eggs provide structure and richness to the cake.
Pumpkin Cake.


I made a Cinnamon Cream Cheese frosting for this cake…an excellent complement to the flavors in the cake.  I also made an additional 1/2 batch of frosting to make decorations for the top of the cake.  I used Wilton colors, copper, brown, and pale blue to color the frosting for the decorations, and Wilton tips 8 & 4B.  As you can see above, I’m far from being a professional cake decorator.

Pumpkin Cake.


Can I use pumpkin pie filling in this recipe?  No.  Pumpkin pie filling already contains sugar and spices.  You need to use pumpkin puree, which has no added sweeteners or spices.

Can I use freshly cooked pumpkin puree?  Yes.  However, fresh pumpkin puree needs to be drained before using.

Can I make homemade pumpkin pie spice?  Yes.  You can combine 1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground cloves, and ground ginger.  However, I sometimes like a little more of certain spices such as in this recipe.

Why should I bake this recipe at 325 degrees?  If you want the cake layers to be flat without domed tops, baking at a lower temperature is the way to go.  Baking the cake at a lower temperature slows down the leavening process, which in turn prevents a dome from forming on top of the cake.

Can I bake this cake in 9-inch cake pans?  Yes.  You can bake two 9-inch layers.  I have not tried this cake in a 9 x 13 cake pan.  If you want to make a sheet cake you might want to make my Pumpkin Sheet Cake recipe.


Perfect Pumpkin Roll

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

Pumpkin Bread

Baked Pumpkin Donuts

Pumpkin Torte

I have so many pumpkin recipes that I created a category just for pumpkin recipes here on my blog!

If you make this recipe please rate it, and leave a comment below on how you liked it. I love hearing from you!

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The Great Pumpkin Cake

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  • Author: Cindy Gibbs
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 to 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 33 minute
  • Yield: 12 servings 1x
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: American


The Great Pumpkin Cake consists of three super moist warmly spiced cake layers. and tucked between them is a delectable cinnamon cream cheese frosting.  This is a great cake to fix for a special occasion or holiday!


Units Scale


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 can pumpkin puree, 15 oz. (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup full-fat buttermilk


  • 12 ounces cream cheese, softened (1 1/2 packages)
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 7 cups powdered sugar



  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line three 8-inch cake pans with rounds of wax paper.  Grease the wax paper and insides of pans and lightly flour the pans, tapping the pans to remove excess flour.  Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl of a stand mixer, or using a hand mixer, cream the butter and both sugars together on high speed until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time on medium speed until incorporated.  Add the vanilla, pumpkin, and vegetable oil and mix until well combined.  Add the dry ingredients and buttermilk alternately with the buttermilk, beginning with the buttermilk and ending with the dry ingredients.  Mix the dry ingredients only until incorporated.  Do not overmix.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans.  I use a kitchen scale but you can eyeball it.  If you don’t have a kitchen scale, I suggest lifting up each pan to see if one feels heavier than the others.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean.  Allow the cakes to cool for 5 minutes.  Run a sharp knife around the edges of the cakes.  Gently shake each pan up and down to make sure the cake is not sticking to the pan.  Invert the cake layers onto wire racks, peel off the wax paper and allow the cakes to completely cool before frosting.


  1. Mix:  In the large bowl of a stand mixer, or using a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese on high speed until it is very light and creamy with no lumps.  Add the butter and mix together on high speed for about 30 seconds until the mixture is combined.  Add the salt, vanilla, and cinnamon and mix to combine.  On low speed, add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition.  The end result should be a perfect spreadable and piping consistency.  If the frosting is a little too thick, add a tiny bit of milk or half, 1 teaspoon at a time.  If the frosting is a little too thin for piping or spreading, add a little more powdered sugar, 1/4 cup at a time.
  2. CRUMB COAT (OPTIONAL):  If you want a nice smooth frosting free of crumbs you can opt to frost the cake first with a crumb coat.  This is optional.  To do the crumb coat, make sure the cake layers are cool.  I placed them in the freezer for 5 minutes.  Place the layers on a cake plate, spreading a thick layer of frosting between each layer.  Spread a thin layer of frosting around the sides and over the top of the cake.  This is the crumb coat.  It will coat all of the loose crumbs so they don’t pop up in your frosting later.  Place the cake in a freezer for about 10 minutes to set the crumb coat.  Finish the cake with a thick layer of frosting over the sides and top of the cake.
  3. CAKE DECORATIONS (OPTIONAL)  I mixed up an additional 1/2 batch of the frosting to make decorations.  Note, I am not in any way, a cake decorator.  See my notes above this recipe for the colors and cake decorating tips I used, or go with your own idea of how to decorate the top.



  1. Store cake covered in the refrigerator.  Set out about 30 minutes before serving for the best flavor.  This cake should stay fresh for up to 4 days if refrigerated.
  2. This cake has a mildly spiced flavor.  If you love a certain spice, such as cinnamon, feel free to add a little more spice to your liking.
  3. This cake freezes well.  Place the cake in a freezer for a few minutes to firm up the frosting.  Wrap the cake securely with two layers of plastic wrap, then one secure layer of foil.  Freeze for up to 3 months.  To thaw, place the cake in the refrigerator overnight.  Set out about 30 minutes before serving.