Brown Sugar Pumpkin Cake
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A pumpkin layer cake full of spice and frosted with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting for extra spiciness. This cake is a tasty treat for the fall including Halloween and Thanksgiving holidays. I decorated this cake with marzipan pumpkins but you could also make fondant pumpkins. You can buy pre-made marzipan or fondant but for best flavor make your own.

Tip: The cake can be prepared the day before to make final cake assembly quicker. In fact a chilled cake is easier to work with and there are less crumbs when it is cut or handled. Once the baked cake is completely cooled, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
Recipe type: Dessert | Pumpkin Cake | Cream Cheese Frosting
Serves: 8 to 10 servings
Small amount of vegetable shortening and flour for preparing pans
Cake Batter:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ cup buttermilk (preferably whole buttermilk)
  • 1¼ cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1½ cups dark or light brown sugar. Tip: Either dark or light brown sugar may be used. I prefer dark brown sugar in this cake for its richer taste.
  • 3 large eggs
Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • 12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
Decoration (optional):
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare two 8 inch round layer cake pans; lightly grease the pans with shortening and dust with flour. Tip: to make baked cake easier to remove from pan, lightly grease the pan, line with parchment paper, and then lightly grease the top of the parchment paper and dust with flour.
Cake Batter:
  1. In a medium-size mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves; sift or whisk together to mix. Set aside.
  2. In a medium-size mixing bowl, stir the buttermilk, pumpkin puree, and vanilla together. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Tip: To cream, start by placing the butter in the bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed begin by beating the butter about 1 minute until it is smooth and light in color. With the mixer still on medium speed, slowly add the sugar to the butter, one or two tablespoons at a time, taking from 4 to 8 minutes to add all of the sugar, and beating until the butter and sugar are fully incorporated and the mixture is has a light and fluffy texture. While adding the sugar, stop the mixer occasionally to scrape the mixture off the paddle and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula so the mixture blends evenly.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, beating until thoroughly mixed.
  5. With the mixer on low speed, add about one third of the flour mixture, mix just until the flour is almost completely blended. Scrape the bowl down, and add about one half of the pumpkin mixture, blending just until mixed. Scrape the bowl down again and continue alternating with the flour mixture and pumpkin mixture, ending with the last portion of the flour, and stirring just until blended.
  6. Bake: Spoon the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the surface with a small offset spatula or the back of a large spoon. Bake 30 to 36 minutes or until a long toothpick, wooden skewer, or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Tip: 36 minutes bake time was just right in my oven.
  7. Remove from oven and place pans on a wire cooling rack to cool for 10 to 15 minutes then remove cake from the pans and place the cake on the wire cooling rack to finish cooling.
Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting:
  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, butter, and vanilla; use an electric hand mixer or wooden spoon and beat together until mixture is smooth. Add powdered sugar; beat until frosting is smooth and creamy. Add cinnamon and cloves and beat until thoroughly combined.
  2. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  1. Using a long serrated kitchen knife, split each cake into 2 horizontal layers.
  2. Place one of the bottom halves of the layers on a cake plate. Using an offset spatula spread a heaping ½ cup frosting over the layer. Repeat with the next two layers. Place the last cake layer on top.
  3. Crumb coat the cake by covering the sides and top of the cake with a thin layer of the frosting. Refrigerate the cake until the crumb coat is firm, about 30 minutes. Tip: the crumb coat is a thin layer. Don’t worry if the cake shows through in places, it will be covered again with the final layer of frosting.
  4. When the crumb coat is set, cover the sides and top of the cake with the remaining frosting.
  1. Frosting Finish: Start with a smoothly frosted cake sitting on top of a turntable. To finish the sides of the cake use the tip of a small offset spatula and make vertical lines. To finish the top of the cake place the tip of a large offset spatula at the outer top edge of the cake. Pressing slightly into the frosting begin spinning the turntable while moving the spatula gradually toward the center of the cake to create a swirl.
  2. Marzipan or Fondant Pumpkins: Plan on making the pumpkins at least a day in advance so they will be ready when time to use. Use Marzipan or Rolled Fondant and tint with orange food coloring for the pumpkins and just a very small amount tinted green for the stems. Shape pieces of orange fondant into small ½ to 1 inch balls. Use a toothpick or back of a butter knife to press creases around the outer edges from top to bottom. Roll a tiny bit of green onto the top for the stem. Set aside to dry.
  3. Place a pumpkins on top of each frosted cake.
  4. Refrigerate cake until ready to serve. Refrigerate leftovers.
Adapted from Porschen, Peggy, Lovely Layer Cakes
Recipe Notes
Pan: Two 8" Round Layers Pan Prep: Greased and floured Oven Temp: 350° Storage: Cover and refrigerate

Help: Cake Hints and Tips | Marzipan | Rolled Fondant

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