in the kitchen · recipes

Pumpkin Spice Cake

Pumpkin Spice Cake

The thing with recipe testing is that you have to have people other than yourself make your recipes before you hit publish and send it out to the world. When I say “people” I mean the people in my family. So, this past Saturday, I ever so sweetly asked our 15-year-old son, “Do you want to go to your sister’s soccer games (plural) and cheer her on or do you want to stay home and bake a double-layer pumpkin spice cake and frost it?”

He chose the “stay home out of the rain bake a pumpkin spice cake with cream cheese and buttermilk frosting option.” Honestly, I wanted to stay home and bake the cake myself because the forecast was calling for cold and rainy weather. We were having dinner at our friend’s house that night and I had offered to bring dessert.

Fall cake

What I love most about having my son recipe test is that he likes to play absolutely dumb when it comes to anything in the kitchen. My husband totally falls for it but I do not at all. I’m what you call a “mean-mom” when it comes to my kids having to fulfill their kitchen and chore related responsibilities. When my son is home alone, he eventually gets the job done on his own.

When we’re around, my son acts helpless and says to my husband, “Dad, will you come in the kitchen and help me with ……” and you can fill in the blank. My husband always obliges while I sip wine or doze off in the living room. I do give my husband the look that says, “You are such a sucker and don’t you want to sit in here with me and sip wine while dinner gets made?” Nope. He likes to have company in the kitchen when he cooks and is happy to give our son the company in return.

Cake recipe pumpkin spice
Dry ingredients in one bowl and wet ingredients in another bowl.

Not me. I’ve earned my off time from helping in the kitchen. Who do you think taught that helpless teenager how to cook?

To get an idea of a completely capable and yet trying to get help from any source possible 15-year-old boy in the kitchen, picture a turtle on his back with arms and legs flailing and saying, “Oh, help me, please, I can’t turn back over and I’m totally helpless.” That’s what it’s like when my son is in the kitchen. He has plenty of skills but really no desire. He likes to play dumb – or turtle stuck on his back.

Teenager in the kitchen

In his defense, he does cook, bake, and clean-up and he does an excellent job of it, too, when he does have to do it on his own without anyone coaching him or “baby-stepping” him through every painstaking step. He also does his own laundry, keeps his room relatively clean, dusts, vacuums, and cleans bathrooms. He’ll make an excellent roommate someday. I’m not allowed to say spouse because he claims he’s never getting married.

Ingredients pumpkin spice cake
Ingredients: cream cheese, buttermilk, pumpkin, and fresh eggs from our backyard chickens.

My recipe testing son says to add these notes which I thought were understood but clearly not:

  1. Use round cake pans when baking a double-layer cake. Honestly, I’m not sure I’ve seen many double layer cakes that have been baked in square pans but maybe there are some out there.
  2. Use two beaters with the electric hand held mixer when making frosting. Do not use the single mixer attachment that you would use for making a milkshake. The milkshake maker attachment does not actually mix the ingredients properly and this was proven on Saturday.

Pumpkin spice cake

My son’s version of this cake still tasted great even though the frosting had big chunks of powdered sugar left in it. Served with vanilla ice cream, it was a big hit when we showed up at our friend’s house with this pumpkin spice cake baked in round cake pans (and not square) with frosting that had big chunks of powdered sugar in it.

My husband doesn’t like to have cake on his birthday. He always asks for a pumpkin pie which I always bake for him. I made this recipe because I thought this pumpkin spice cake would convince him to skip the pie and go for the cake.

Homemade pumpkin cake recipe

Not happening. Pie it is.

Scratch kitchen pumpkin spice cake

Pumpkin Spice Cake
Recipe Type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Sara Tetreault
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8-10
While I usually bake this cake in the fall, it’s good year round. Get a teenager to make it for you!
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup organic sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 can (15 ounces) or 1 3/4 cup pumpkin
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • Frosting
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) of cream cheese – low fat
  • 2 Tablespoons buttermilk – low fat
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Prepare two round 8″ cake pans.
  3. Crack eggs into bowl and whisk together before adding next ingredients.
  4. Add vanilla and buttermilk to eggs and whisk again.
  5. Add sugar, molasses and pumpkin and whisk together.
  6. In a separate bowl, mix all dry ingredients together.
  7. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir.
  8. Mix until just combined.
  9. Pour evenly into 2 cake prepared cake pans.
  10. Bake in 350 oven for 32 minutes.
  11. If using a 9″ X 13″ pan, bake for 35-40 minutes.
  1. Place low fat cream cheese and low fat buttermilk together in a bowl while cake is baking and bring to room temperature.
  2. Slowly add powdered sugar and beat with a hand held electric mixer until lumps have disappeared – about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Once cake has cooled, about 30 minutes, remove from pans one layer at a time and frost.
  4. Begin frosting bottom layer middle first and then add second layer.
  5. Frost second layer and then sides, if you’d like. This cake still looks pretty and tastes good without frosting sides of cake.
You can bake this cake in a 9” x 13” pan as well. Prepare your baking dish with a light coating of baking spray and pour all ingredients into pan. Bake for about 35-40 minutes – or until done. I still make the frosting for this size, too, because frosting is good.

Even more notes:

Do you like cake on your birthday or pie? Which would you choose – baking a cake or going to a soccer game?

Go Gingham related links:

Betsy’s best brownies – our chicken who is no longer with us
Healthy and tasty chocolate chip cookies – yes, with flax seeds and chocolate chips!
Delicious cake to make with apples – excellent cake
Take the night off and let your kids cook dinner every week

I use canned pumpkin in this recipe but if you want to bake your own pumpkin, check out the “Lightly Crunchy” blog. You’ll find instructions on how to make pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice. Heidi talks about how she’s lazy when cooking pumpkin – she’s my kind of cook!

15 thoughts on “Pumpkin Spice Cake

  1. This cake is absolutely delicious (lumpy frosting and all!) and I plan on making it for our Thanksgiving meal. Thank you for sharing another fabulous recipe with us Sara :).


    1. Darcy, you are so welcome! Thank you for sharing your home with us on Saturday. It was lovely! This cake may be at our Thanksgiving meal as well. There’s never enough cake in life 😉
      Thanks, Darcy!


  2. So there’s no added oil to the recipe? Just checking. Also, would it work just as well in a 13×9″ pan? (That would be … rectangular … for your shape-obsessed son).

    I was chuckling through your whole post–helpless teenager, sucker for a father, and all.


    1. Kris, no oil and no butter in the cake. I know it’s strange but I think the consistency of the pumpkin really helps hold it all together. I always try baking cakes and cookies without butter or very little as a way to make them healthier. I know we’re eating them so regularly so why not make them more healthy rather than less?
      It’s a super moist cake especially if you frost it – which is not necessary and yet totally delicious. I’m a proponent of frosting especially since the cake is not overly sweet.
      Yes, my son would say that the 13″ x 9″ pan should be rectangular. Is there another shape? 😉
      Thanks, Kris! Can’t wait to hear how it goes…


      1. You know, I’ve never seen a triangular cake pan. Hmm.

        I try to “health up” a lot of my baked goods, too. But usually I use a little oil so that’s why I checked. I’ve had baked goods end up with a rubbery consistency when I’ve only used fruit/veggie purees with no added oil or butter–I’m betting it’s the buttermilk that makes your cake work.


  3. I’m with your husband when it comes to pie. I’m really not a fan of cake. Last night, baking 49 red velvet cupcakes for my daughter’s upcoming Halloween dance at school, didn’t improve my stance at all.

    Our daughter also plays “upside-down turtle” when we are around and available to help with something. I do find it helpful to just walk away, or drink a glass of wine. Somehow it all works out in the end.


  4. The cake look yummy. I might have to have one of my teenage boys try the recipe. : )

    Your son sounds a lot like my oldest son in the kitchen. He is very capable but asks a million questions if I am around. I am now just answering him with “you can figure out” It seems to be working. Everything has turned out fine.


    1. Good strategy, Kristen, on the “you can figure it out” approach. I think that’s a good attitude for parents and kids to take. I’ve come to realize that having my kids do things exactly how I do them isn’t nearly as important as them having to figure it out on their own.
      In the end, it all gets done which is what really matters.
      Yes, have one of your teens make the cake. I can’t wait to hear what tips your bakers think I should add 😉
      Thanks, Kristen!


  5. Pie. Always pie.
    Having said that, Parents arriving in 2 hours for dinner and my daughter’s concert. Working at home today, so I just made this cake and did a liiiiitle cleaning, so I’m almost ready! It smells sooo good – I love pumpkin. I made the 9×13 version, so I’m thinking I could sneak a little piece just to test it out! Can’t wait to eat it.


    1. Michelle, I love pie, too, just not on my birthday. My birthday cake is a lemon cake with so many lemons – juice and zest – that arms start cramping when it’s being put together!
      I’m so excited that you made this cake already! I hope you enjoyed it. It’s also excellent with coffee in the morning but perhaps you’ve already figured that out 🙂 !!
      Thanks, Michelle. Hope the concert went well.


  6. Your son is right – the recipes should come with more specific directions. Things that we understand, my pre-teen daughter has no idea about either. I guess the understanding comes with experience in the kitchen. Seems like he is well on his way.


    1. Heidi, true the understanding does come with experience but often times I think, “Oh, I’m sure people know this.” I guess that’s the benefit of having a parent help in the kitchen because then they can share the techniques and tips. Honestly, I feel like that’s what I’ve done over the years but there we are back to the turtle on the back syndrome!
      Thanks, Heidi. I loved your directions on how to cook a pumpkin, too.


  7. Thanks for the great recipe to add to the “favorites” book at our house! Whole grain, low-fat, pumpkin goodness from the first piece to the last.

    I made this cake Saturday (27th) and we, and everyone else who sampled it over the weekend, loved it. I used palm sugar instead of white sugar (palm sugar is a natural, low-glycemic sugar, a rich golden brown color – more like brown sugar). I blended palm sugar in my Bullet blender until fine and used it for the frosting (1/2 a recipe was plenty for a 9×13″ pan). Because of the palm sugar, the frosting was more like a caramel frosting in looks and taste, so if you have a favorite caramel frosting, it would be a good substitute. I used Pumpkin Pie Spice, which is a mixture of the same 4 spices called for in the recipe. You could bake it in two 9x9x1-1/2″ square pans instead of rounds. All around, a great cake!!!

    Karen G.


Comments are closed.