Pumpkin Layer Cake
This incredibly moist Pumpkin Layer Cake is made with delicious pumpkin cake layers and a smooth cream cheese frosting. The pumpkin cake layers are bursting with pumpkin flavor and your favorite fall spices! It’s the perfect fall cake recipe.
I paired the pumpkin cake with a cream cheese frosting. I contemplated using a chocolate frosting because I love a good pumpkin and chocolate combo (see my pumpkin chocolate chip cookies). If you’d like to try that combination, use my smooth chocolate buttercream recipe! I’m obsessed with pumpkin season and I have a lot of pumpkin recipes to prove it. My pumpkin scones are a huge favorite around here as are my pumpkin bars.
Why This Recipe Works
- Beyond moist! This pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting is literally so moist! The moistness in the cake comes from the oil and, of course, the heaping cups of pumpkin puree. Using oil in cakes helps them stay moist at room temperature because oil is a liquid at room temperature.
- Smaller cake. The cake layers are made in three 6-inch circle cake pans. This means the cake is smaller, great for transporting to events, and when stacked, provides frosting in between each of the layers.
- Cream cheese frosting isn’t overpowering. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good cream cheese frosting! But not at the expense of masking another delicious flavor. This cream cheese frosting is perfectly balanced to complement the pumpkin cake and not too overpowering to completely lose that delicious pumpkin flavor. We use 1 cube of butter and only 1/2 a cube of cream cheese, which is just enough to give that yummy cream cheese flavor but not too much!
- Oil: Using vegetable oil in cakes helps keep the cake moist. This is because oil is a liquid at room temperature.
- Eggs: Eggs are one of the building blocks of baking. They work as a binding agent for the rest of the ingredients and they also act as a leavening agent to provide lift to the cake.
- Brown Sugar: Using brown sugar in addition to granulated sugar helps give added flavor and moisture to the cake due to the molasses in the brown sugar.
- Pumpkin Puree: This is different from pumpkin pie filling. If making your own pumpkin puree, see my recipe tips for a helpful link.
- Combine the wet ingredients. Add the eggs, oil, vanilla, pumpkin puree, and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix until well combined.
- Combine the dry ingredients. In a separate medium-sized bowl whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and pumpkin pie spice.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Add slowly on a low speed.
- Prepare the cake pans. Grease and flour three 6-inch cake pans. I love the look of the 6-inch cake pans, so that’s what I use. Place the pans on the scale to ensure they each have the same amount of batter in them.
- Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow them to cool for 5-10 minutes in the cake pan and then turn them out to finish cooling on a wire rack. Once the cakes are cool, level them with a knife or cake leveler. Frost the cake at room temperature or chilled.
- Make the cream cheese frosting. While the cakes are baking or cooling, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed in a stand mixer for 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, a pinch of vanilla, and a splash of milk.
To frost the cake, place the frosting in a pastry bag and cut off the tip of the bag. Place a cake layer on a cake stand and top the cake with frosting, spread the frosting around to make an even layer. Add another cake layer on top of the frosting and repeat until all cake layers have been used.
Spread a thin layer of frosting around the outside edge of the cake and use a bench scraper to smooth out the frosting. If you don’t have a pastry bag, use a zip top bag instead! To make frosting the cake easier, chill the cake layers. Once the cakes are level, I like to double wrap each cake layer in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or overnight.
If you’d rather make your own pumpkin puree, Ree Drummond has a great guide for how to make homemade pumpkin puree.
I add my dry ingredients slowly, however, adding the dry ingredients all at once won’t hurt either. The key is to not over mix the cake batter. As long as you don’t over mix the batter, you’ll be good.
You can make this in 6×2-inch cake pans or 6×3-inch cake pans. I use these and love them! (affiliate link)
You can make this pumpkin cake recipe in two 9-inch sized cake pans, just know the baking times will differ so keep an eye on the oven.
I always use a kitchen scale when making cakes. I place the greased and floured cake pan on the kitchen scale then tare the scale (which sets the weight back to zero). Then add some batter to the cake pan. I’m basically eyeballing the batter and dividing it into thirds. Set the filled cake pan aside, place an empty cake pan on the scale (it should go back to zero by itself because we tared the empty cake pan prior to adding batter) and add another third of the batter to the cake pan. Repeat with the third and final cake pan. This helps so each layer is a bit more even.
Make Ahead, Storing, and Freezing
Serve the cake immediately, or leave at room temperature for 2 days, or in the refrigerator for 5 days.
Yes, you can make this cake ahead of time! Completed cakes are actually really easy to freeze and thaw for later. To freeze this cake, you can either freeze the cake layers and assemble the cake day of, or you can freeze the completed cake.
To freeze cake layers, let the pumpkin cake layers cool completely. Wrap each cake layer twice in plastic wrap. If only storing in the freezer for a few days, the plastic wrap is sufficient. If storing for 1+ weeks, finish with a layer of aluminum foil and then freeze. Cake layers can stay in the freezer for up to 2 months. Remove the cake layers from the freezer and store in the fridge overnight. Pull them out and let them come to room temperature and then layer and frost.
To freeze a completed cake, chill the frosted/decorated cake in the freezer until firm (about 20-30 minutes). You want the frosting and decorations to be completely set so when you wrap the cake it doesn’t get messed up. Wrap the entire cake in plastic wrap twice. If storing in the freezer for only a few days, the plastic wrap is fine. If storing for 1+ weeks, finish with a layer of aluminum foil. The completed cake will stay in the freezer for up to 2 months. Remove from the freezer and store in the fridge overnight. The next morning, pull the cake out and unwrap it and let come to room temperature.
I wouldn’t because pumpkin pie filling has a lot of sugar and added spices that we don’t account for in this recipe.
Using oil in cakes is usually on purpose because oil in cakes really helps the cake stay moist. When oil is at room temperature, it’s a liquid, meaning when the cake is at room temperature, the oil in the recipe helps the cake stay more moist. If a cake recipe calls for oil, I wouldn’t recommend swapping it out for butter. Baking is all about food science so if you are looking for substitutions, you’d want to pick an ingredient that has a similar make up and purpose as the one you are swapping out.
Yes you can! Flash freeze the completed cake until it is set. Then wrap is twice in plastic wrap and store in the freezer for up to 1 week. If freezing for longer, wrap with an additional layer of aluminum foil and freeze up to 2 months. Remove from the freezer and let thaw overnight in the fridge. Remove in the morning and unwrap and let come to room temperature.
More Cake Recipes
- Orange Cranberry Cake
- Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake
- Spice Cake
- Biscoff Caramel Cake
- Apple Cider Bundt Cake
6 Inch Pumpkin Layer Cake Recipe
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- pinch ground cloves
- 4 large eggs - at room temperature
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 15 ounce pumpkin puree - (1 – 15 oz can pumpkin puree)
- 1 cup light brown sugar - packed
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter - at room temperature
- 4 ounces cream cheese - softened
- 2 1/2 -3 cups powdered sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease and flour 3 – 6 inch round cake pans. Set aside.
- In a medium size bowl whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and cloves. Set aside.
- In bowl of your electric mixer, add the eggs, oil, vanilla, pumpkin puree, and sugars. Mix until combined.
- With mixer on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined. Don’t overmix.
- Pour the batter amongst the 3 cake pans. Smooth out the top with a spatula. Bake for 35-38 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Remove cakes from the oven and allow them to cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Turn the cakes out and let them cool completely. Frost the cakes, or you can cover the cakes with plastic wrap and place them in the fridge overnight. Remove them the next day and frost them.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- In bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth and creamy. Add a splash of milk until you reach your desired frosting consistency. Frost the cake.
This recipe was originally published on Oct. 4, 2019. It was updated on Dec. 10, 2021, to include additional information and photos.