Introducing Pumpkin Spice Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting – this warm, richly spiced, single layer cake highlights the best flavors of fall – cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and pumpkin. The batter is a cinch to mix together – a hand mixer and rubber spatula does the job – and it bakes into an impressive and crowd-friendly dessert that’s just right for every holiday gathering. The cake is wonderful served unadorned or with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar. Simple yet lovely and elegant. That said, I’m especially fond of topping it with a brown sugar cream cheese frosting. The dark brown sugar lends a maple flavor to the frosting which marries well with the flavors of pumpkin and spice in the cake. While you could easily serve this as a Thanksgiving dessert, it’s equally good for breakfast, an afternoon snack or dessert anytime. This is one recipe you will turn to again and again.

The cake can be baked up to two days before frosting and serving. Once the cake is frosted, plan on serving within 10 hours. Leftovers can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.


Kitchen Notes


  • For the best baked texture with a soft, fine crumb, use a spatula to fold in the flour and pumpkin puree at the end of mixing. Continuing with the electric mixer at that point can quickly over-mix the batter, resulting in tunnels running through your baked cake.
  • Here’s my annual plug for cracking open new jars of ground spices. The flavors dull over time and your cake will be more fragrant and robust with fresh spices. 
  • This cake can be served – frosted or not – straight from the vessel making it an easy to-go treat for a buffet, potluck picnic or holiday table. For a slightly fancier presentation, the cake can be unmolded and inverted onto flat board or plate before cooling completely and frosting. I like serving it straight from the pan but if you prefer to unmold, it is advisable to lightly grease the bottom of the pan, line with parchment and lightly grease and flour the parchment and sides. This makes unmolding the layer a more assured experience without any mishaps.


  • While the cake is baking, make the frosting.  Cover and let it sit as the cake bakes and cools – this will allow the brown sugar to completely dissolve. Just before frosting, give it a stir to be sure it is evenly blended.
  • Covered and refrigerated, the frosting can be made up to three days ahead. Bring to room temperature, give it a stir and frost as directed.

Toppings (optional)

  • For a nutty, crunchy addition, just before serving, scatter some chopped, toasted walnuts or pecans over the frosting.