A perfectly moist Pumpkin Layer Cake with cream cheese frosting. A healthier recipe made with whole grain flour, sweetened with maple syrup and brown sugar. You will love this pumpkin cake!
Do they intimidate you?
They used to scare me a little but they’re really not any more challenging than cupcakes. There are just a few things you need to keep in mind when baking the cake and adding the frosting, but overall this tiered pumpkin spice cake is easy!
Once you make your first layer cake, you won’t be able to stop.
I love this pumpkin cake recipe because it’s perfectly spiced, moist, and completed by a vanilla bean cream cheese frosting!
A Healthier Pumpkin Cake Recipe
I love a traditional cake but I also love keeping things a little lighter and using nutrient dense ingredients when I can. Whole wheat pastry flour is perfect for baking if you want a whole grain cake recipe.
For the sweetener we are using part maple syrup with part brown sugar, and adding in some oil for moisture. Then of course canned pumpkin – make sure you’re using canned pumpkin purée, not pumpkin pie mix.
This cake is perfect if you’re looking for a lighter take on the traditional classic, or if you don’t love super sweet cake recipes. It’s moist and a tiny bit dense (compared to a traditional cake recipe) but so delicious.
Let’s take a closer look at the ingredients…
What You Need
- olive oil – keeps the cake super moist and extra delicious.
- canned pumpkin – canned pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling) will give you the best results here. I have not tested with homemade pumpkin purée.
- pure maple syrup – helps sweeten the cake and also adds to the liquid ratio. I don’t recommend replacing with a dry sweetener. Honey would probably work though.
- dark brown sugar – This cake still needs some additional sugar for the best flavor. If you try to reduce the brown sugar too much, your cake likely won’t be sweet enough.
- eggs – help maintain the structure of the cake.
- vanilla extract – always a good idea when baking cake.
- whole wheat pastry flour – When baking cakes with whole grain flour I prefer using whole wheat pastry flour as the texture of the cake will come out lighter and not as dense. If you have both all purpose and whole wheat flour on hand, you can use 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour and 1 cup of the whole wheat flour for similar results.
- pumpkin pie spice – We’re using 1 tablespoon for the perfect amount of spice. You can use store bought or make it using this simple recipe that uses just 4 ingredients!
- baking powder and baking soda – both needed to get the perfect rise on this cake.
- non-dairy milk – to help thin out the batter. I used unsweetened cashew milk but oat milk will also work to keep this recipe nut free.
- apple cider vinegar – just a little bit to add to the milk to make a homemade buttermilk.
- salt – always needed for a little flavor balancing and enhancing
How to Make Pumpkin Spice Cake
Keep scrolling to find the recipe card, and be sure to read through the entire recipe first, then gather your ingredients and read through it again as you begin the first steps. This will make going through the recipe much easier.
Continue reading here for a quick rundown of how to make this pumpkin cake recipe.
Mix Dry Ingredients
Mix together all of your dry ingredients in a medium separate bowl and set aside.
Mix Wet Ingredients
Whisk together the wet ingredients in a large bowl – maple syrup and oil, then sugar, pumpkin, eggs and vanilla.
Combine to Make Batter
Pour half of the flour mixture into bowl of wet ingredients, stirring until almost incorporated. Add milk, vinegar and water, stir gently a couple of times, then stir in the rest of the flour mixture, being careful not to over-stir.
Bake in 9″ Pans
Evenly distribute the batter into two lined 9″ round cake pans and bake for about 20 minutes, until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Make sure to let the cakes cool completely before frosting. You can place in fridge for about 45 minutes, or make a day in advance.
Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting
The fresh vanilla bean in this cream cheese frosting gives this cake a delicious flavor. It’s subtle, but highly recommended. If you can’t find a vanilla bean, just use 1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean powder.
To make the frosting it’s best to use an electric mixer so the cream cheese and butter get really smooth.
After the cake is completely cool, spread a couple of tablespoons of frosting at base of cake plate or cake stand (this will help hold the cake in place). Place one cake upside down onto the frosting. Spread an even layer of frosting on top of layer, about 1/2″ thick. Top other cake onto frosting (you can place layer upside down, or bottom side down and shave off any extra round height from top if you’d like) and frost rest of cake. I’ve been using an off-set spatula for frosting cakes and love it.
Chill the cake for at least 1 hour before slicing into so it’s easier to cut and the frosting holds up better as well.
Let me know if you make this recipe by leaving a comment and rating below! It helps others learn more about the recipe too! Xx AshleyPrint
Pumpkin Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
A beautiful Pumpkin Layer Cake that is moist, made with whole grain flour, and sweetened with maple syrup and brown sugar for a flavorful seasonal classic cake recipe. Use a vanilla bean cream cheese frosting for a complete pumpkin cake experience.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 9” layer cake 1x
- Category: dessert
- Method: oven
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Vegetarian
- 2.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 ½ tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup light olive oil (or avocado)
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup canned pumpkin
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup milk of choice (I used cashew)
- 1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)
- ¼ cup water
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 12 ounces cream cheese, softened (1.5 bricks)
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 vanilla bean pod, seeds scraped
- 1.5 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons milk of choice
- Preheat oven to 350ºF and line bottom of two, 9″ round cake pans with parchment paper, greasing edges with oil or butter; set aside.
- In medium bowl, combine dry ingredients – flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
- In large bowl whisk together maple syrup and oil. Add brown sugar and pumpkin, whisking until smooth. Add in eggs and vanilla, whisking again until fully combined.
- Pour half of the flour mixture into bowl of wet ingredients, stirring until almost incorporated. Add milk, vinegar and water, stir gently a couple of times, then stir in the rest of the flour mixture, being careful not to over-stir.
- Evenly distribute batter between two lined pans, about 2 1/4 cups each. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn pans and bake for another 10 minutes. Cake is done when inserted toothpick in center comes out clean. Allow cake to rest in pans for 15 minutes before cooling completely on wire rack.
- Meanwhile, make the frosting: In a large bowl using hand mixer or paddle attachment of stand mixer, beat together softened cream cheese with butter until smooth, add in vanilla bean seeds and powdered sugar, mixing on low speed working to medium-high speed – to thin out frosting slightly, add in 2 tablespoons of milk.
- Frost the cake: Spread a couple of tablespoons of frosting at base of cake plate or cake stand (this will help hold the cake in place). Place one cake upside down onto the frosting. Spread an even layer of frosting on top of layer, about 1/2″ thick. Top other cake onto frosting (you can place layer upside down or bottom side down and shave off any extra round height from top if you’d like) and frost rest of cake. If you don’t have an off-set spatula for frosting cakes, they are great.
- Chill cake for at least 45 minutes before slicing into. Cake can be made 1 day in advance, store covered in refrigerator.
FLOUR: For subs, half whole wheat and half all-purpose may be subbed. Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 Gluten Free Baking Flour will also likely work for a gluten-free version.
DAIRY-FREE: The cake recipe itself is dairy-free. For frosting, a dairy free butter and plant based cream cheese could likely be used. Or try this cashew frosting.
Keywords: pumpkin cake recipe, pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting, pumpkin spice cake recipe