Pumpkin Layer Cake

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This Pumpkin Layer Cake is the perfect way to enjoy pumpkin season! Soft, moist, and delicious, it’s loaded with warm spices and filled and frosted with a rich, velvety cream cheese frosting. Finish it off with a drizzle of caramel sauce and you’ve landed in dessert heaven.

The Best Pumpkin Layer Cake

It’s fall and, as such, we are all being inundated with pumpkin this and pumpkin that. You might be asking yourself “Why this pumpkin recipe?”. My answer to you is, first, “Why not?” and, second, that it’s simply the best pumpkin layer cake you’ll ever have. It uses the same batter as my pumpkin cupcakes but it’s baked up into 3 incredibly moist, fluffy layers of cake that are just bursting with the flavors of fall. Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and, most importantly, the subtle sweetness of pumpkin. Yum. All of these nostalgic flavors are surrounded by the wonderfully rich, just-the-right-amount-of-sweet cream cheese frosting that fills and frosts the cake.

Surprise your loved ones this holiday season and swap the pumpkin pie out for this elegant, unique layer cake. I mean, if you want pumpkin pie, make that too but you really need to try this recipe. It will turn heads, wow taste buds, and convince everyone who tries it that you are practically a professional baker.

Pumpkin layer cake on a cardboard cake circle.

Why You’ll Love This Easy Pumpkin Cake

There are so many pumpkin desserts out there but this one really takes the cake (ha!). It’s so moist and flavorful and the frosting is just to die for. Here’s what makes it so special, in my opinion.

  • So moist. The combination of a generous amount of pumpkin puree and the use of vegetable oil (as opposed to butter) in the batter makes the pumpkin cake layers some of the moistest and fluffiest I’ve ever tasted. Every bite practically melts in your mouth.
  • The frosting. Speaking of melt in your mouth, this cream cheese does just that. It’s so rich and creamy and just the right amount of sweet. I can’t get enough of the way it marries with the sweet, spiced cake layers to create the perfect combination of flavors and textures.
  • Simple mixing method. The cake batter itself is so easy to put together. No fancy mixing methods required. Simply whisk together the wet ingredients, then the dry ingredients, and put it all together. All that’s left to do is bake, stack, fill, and frost.
  • Nostalgia. As the sweetness of the pumpkin and the symphony of the warm spices that fill this cake dance over your taste buds, you can’t help but be reminded of crackling fires, falling leaves, and the comforting embrace of seasonal gatherings. Each bite is like a familiar hug from autumn itself.
Ingredients for pumpkin layer cake.

What You’ll Need

Here’s what you’ll need to make this heartwarming pumpkin cake. For precise measurements, scroll to the recipe card below.

Pumpkin Cake Layers

  • Light brown sugar – The brown sugar adds extra flavor and moisture compared to regular sugar.
  • Vegetable oil – This adds so much moisture to this cake.
  • Vanilla extract
  • Eggs – Use large eggs, not medium or extra large.
  • Canned pumpkin puree – Use the canned stuff. Seriously. Homemade pumpkin puree has too much variability when it comes to moisture and sweetness to turn out a predictably perfect cake.
  • All-purpose flour – Be sure to measure accurately. I recommend a food scale, but you can also use the scoop and level method. You could use a 1:1 gluten-free flour here instead.
  • Leavening – A little of both baking powder and baking soda give you the best texture. It’s firm enough to work with, but still super soft.
  • Spices – The combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves is perfect.
  • Salt – For flavor. Don’t leave it out.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Cream cheese – The cream cheese should be at room temperature. Otherwise, it won’t mix smoothly with the butter and you will likely find yourself with a lumpy frosting. On the other hand, if it’s too warm and soft, it won’t stay on your cake very well.
  • Butter – Be sure that the butter is softened at room temperature. If it is too cold, it won’t mix smoothly with the cream cheese. If it is melted, you’ll find yourself with a runny frosting.
  • Powdered sugar – I use a fair amount of powdered sugar to thicken my frosting so that it stays on the cake well and adds volume to the frosting. You can reduce it, but keep in mind you’ll have a much thinner frosting. If you want to reduce it, I would actually recommend reducing the overall amount of frosting and reduce everything in equal proportions.
  • Vanilla extract – For flavor.
  • Caramel Sauce – I highly recommend making your own homemade caramel sauce. While the sauce (homemade or store-bought) is optional, I think it adds a lovely touch of extra sweetness and festivity.

How To Make A Pumpkin Layer Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting

Here’s a quick overview of how to make layered pumpkin cake. Be sure to scroll to the recipe card below for more detailed instructions.

For the Cake Layers

  • Prep. Preheat oven to 350°F, line the bottoms of three 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper, and spray them with non-stick baking spray.
  • Combine the wet ingredients. Whisk together the brown sugar, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, eggs, and pumpkin puree.
  • Combine the dry ingredients. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and salt.
  • Put it all together. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until smooth.
  • Bake. Divide the cake batter between the prepared cake pans and bake for 18-23 minutes.
  • Cool. Allow the cakes to cool in their pans for a couple of minutes before turning them out onto cooling racks to cool completely.

Frosting and Assembly

  • Make the frosting. Beat together the cream cheese and butter. Mix in half of the powdered sugar followed by the vanilla and then the other half of the powdered sugar.
  • Level the cakes. Cut the domes from the tops of the cakes so they are flat.
  • Layer. Place the first cake layer on a serving plate and spread 1 cup of frosting over the top. Add the second layer of cake and top with another cup of frosting. Add the last cake layer.
  • Frost. Frost the top and outside of the cake with the remaining cream cheese frosting.
  • Decorate. Drizzle caramel sauce around the sides of the cake and pipe shells of frosting around the top edge. Garnish with candy pumpkins, if desired.

Watch How to Make Pumpkin Cake

Read Transcript

Tips for Success

Striving for perfection? That’s the spirit! I have every confidence that you’ll be able to get this cake right, especially if you pay close attention to these tips and tricks.

  • Use canned pumpkin puree. I’m all for homemade everything, just not here. I highly recommend that you use canned pumpkin puree rather than homemade. Homemade pumpkin puree is just too unpredictable when it comes to moisture content, sweetness, and more.
  • Spoon and level (or food scale). Measure your flour with care. Adding too much flour will give you an overly dense cake. Too little flour and your cake won’t hold together. I suggest using the spoon and level method. Spoon the flour into your measuring cup little by little, then level it off with a butter knife.
  • Don’t over-mix the batter. When combining the wet and dry ingredients, it is important not to over-mix. Mixing the batter beyond the point of being smooth and well incorporated can cause the glutens in the flour to overdevelop, giving you tough, dense cake layers.
  • Room temperature ingredients. Allow the butter and the cream cheese for the frosting to soften at room temperature. If they are too cold, they won’t mix together smoothly and you will likely find yourself with a lumpy frosting,
  • Scrape the sides of the bowl. As you add ingredients and mix them in (both for the batter and the frosting), scrape down the sides of the bowl intermittently with a rubber spatula, bringing any ingredients stuck to the bottom and sides of the bowl into the batter/frosting. This will help ensure that everything makes it into the mixture and is well incorporated.
  • Cool. Allow the cake layers to cool completely before stacking, filling, and frosting unless you want the cream cheese frosting to melt and slide right off.
  • Caramel sauce. I find it’s best to add the caramel when it’s at room temperature or just slightly warmer. Too cold and it won’t cooperate. Too warm and it’ll just slide down the cake. I like to use a squeeze bottle to add the caramel drip.
A slice of pumpkin layer cake on a plate with a bite taken out of it.

Serving Suggestions

Is your slice of pumpkin cake calling out for a friend on its dessert plate? I suggest you listen to its pleas and set it up with one (or several) of these delicious sweet accompaniments.

  • Ice cream. Grab a pint of vanilla ice cream or whip up a batch of this Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream. Savor every spoonful with a bite of pumpkin layer cake.
  • Sauce. Make a little extra caramel sauce and drizzle it over individual slices. You could also try my Easy Homemade Hot Fudge Sauce and/or this Salted Caramel Sauce.
  • Garnish. Make this cake extra festive and add candy corn or pumpkin candies to the top. You could also chop up some toasted nuts (pecans would be a great choice) or your favorite cookies and sprinkle the pieces over a slice or over the entire cake.
  • With apple cider. Really get in the fall mood with a cozy mug of Homemade Apple Cider. The spices in this cider play perfectly with this sweet, moist cake.
Pumpkin layer cake on a cake stand.

Can I Make This Pumpkin Cake in Advance?

You can! Go ahead and make the pumpkin cake layers up to 2 days before you plan on assembling and serving the cake. Allow them to cool, and store them in separate Ziplock bags at room temperature. The frosting can be made up to 3 days in advance. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge.

When you are ready to serve, all that’s left to do is level the cake layers, stack, fill, frost, and decorate.

How to Store Leftovers

If you end up with leftover pumpkin layer cake, save it for later by following these directions:

  • Refrigerator. Store the whole cake in an airtight cake carrier or wrap it in a double layer of plastic wrap (be sure to prop the plastic away from any decorations with toothpicks). You could also slice the cake and arrange the slices in an airtight container. In any case, store it in the fridge for up to 5 days. Let it sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes or so before diving in.
  • Freezer. Pop the cake in the freezer for a couple of hours to firm up before wrapping it in a double layer of plastic wrap. If you already sliced the cake, arrange the slices in a single layer in an airtight container. Store it in the freezer for up to 3 months. Allow the cake to thaw in the fridge and then let it sit on the counter for 15 minutes or so before serving.
A slice of pumpkin layer cake.

More Pumpkin Desserts

It’s pumpkin season and that means it’s time to make all kinds of pumpkin cakes, like these ones!

Print
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A slice of pumpkin layer cake.
Recipe

Pumpkin Layer Cake

  • Author: Lindsay Conchar
  • Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 23 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 53 minutes
  • Yield: 12-14
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This Pumpkin Layer Cake is so soft and moist! It’s loaded with warm spices and filled and frosted with a rich, velvety cream cheese frosting. Perfect for the holidays!


Ingredients

Pumpkin Cake Layers

  • 1 1/2 cups (338g) packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup (240ml) vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups (466g) canned pumpkin puree
  • 2 1/2 cups (325g) all-purpose flour (measured correctly)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 16 ounces (452g) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (172g) butter, room temperature
  • 10 cups (1150g) powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Toppings


Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C) and prepare three 8-inch cake pans with non-stick baking spray and parchment paper in the bottom.
  2. Add the brown sugar, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, eggs and pumpkin puree to a bowl and mix together until well combined.
  3. In a separate medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and salt.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until well combined and smooth.
  5. Divide the cake batter between the three prepared cake pans and bake for 18-23 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  6. Remove cakes from oven and allow to cool for 2-3 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack to finish cooling.
  7. To make the frosting, add the cream cheese and butter to a large mixer bowl and mix until well combined and smooth.
  8. Add about half of the powdered sugar and mix until well combined and smooth.
  9. Add the vanilla extract and mix until well combined and smooth.
  10. Add the remaining powdered sugar and mix until well combined and smooth. Set aside.
  11. To build the cake, first use a large serrated knife to remove the domes from the tops of the cakes so they are flat. Place the first cake layer on a serving plate or on a cardboard cake circle. Spread about 1 cup of frosting on top of the cake layer. Add the second layer of cake and another cup of frosting.
  12. Top the cake with the third layer and frost the top and outside of the cake with the remaining cream cheese frosting.
  13. If adding a caramel drip, add that now. I like to use a squeeze bottle to add the drip. I find it’s best to add the caramel when it’s at room temperature or just slightly warmer. You don’t want it to be too warm or it’ll just slide down the cake.
  14. Pipe shells of the remaining cream cheese frosting around the top edge of the cake. Finish it off with candy pumpkins, if desired.
  15. Store cake in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 4-5 days. Best when served slightly cool, but not cold.

Notes

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 Slice
  • Calories: 869
  • Sugar: 107.3 g
  • Sodium: 390.6 mg
  • Fat: 38.3 g
  • Carbohydrates: 129.4 g
  • Protein: 6.6 g
  • Cholesterol: 112 mg

Keywords: pumpkin layer cake, layer pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting

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Lindsay
About Lindsay

I'm a wife and a mom to twin boys and a baby girl! And I've got a serious sweets addiction! Bring on the treats!

Scripture I’m Loving

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29