Pumpkin Cake has stick-to-your-fork moist layers of one-bowl spiced pumpkin cake, filled with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting, Salted Caramel Sauce, and Candied Cinnamon Pecans & Pepitas. This show stopping dessert is perfect for Thanksgiving, Halloween, or any fall celebration!
Why you’ll love this Pumpkin Cake:
- Moist Pumpkin Layer Cake – I defy you to find a more moist cake than this one! It’s made in one bowl, too, with no mixer for total ease! And, it’s full of pumpkin flavor and a pumpkin pie spice blend.
- Salted Caramel Sauce – My Salted Caramel Sauce takes just 4 ingredients and 10 minutes to make and is perfectly balanced.
- Candied Pecans & Pepitas – These add a beautiful crunch to contrast with the fluffy pumpkin cake, and come together in a skillet in less than 10 minutes.
As always, the full ingredient list can be found in the recipe card at the end of the post.
- Vegetable Oil – Vegetable oil keeps this cake ultra moist!
- Butter – I always use salted buter for the best flavor, but feel free to use unsalted butter if you prefer. This is not used in the cake, but in the frosting & caramel sauce.
- Vanilla extract – Use real vanilla extract for best results.
- Canned Pumpkin – This cake calls for canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling), but you can use homemade pumpkin puree if you aren’t able to purchase this in your local grocery store.
- Eggs – Be sure to buy large eggs for baking, always.
- Maple Syrup – Be sure to use real, pure maple syrup for best results.
- Dairy-free – This cake is already dairy-free, but you can make the frosting dairy-free by using your favorite dairy-free cream cheese and butter. I’ve heard that coconut milk works in place of the heavy cream in caramel sauce, but haven’t tested it myself. You can also use a store-bought dairy free caramel sauce.
- Brown Sugar – You can use dark brown sugar if you want a deeper flavor.
How to Make this Pumpkin Cake Recipe Step-by-Step:
Step 1: Make the Caramel Sauce. This comes together in just 10 minutes! Follow my post on how to make caramel sauce here. Let this cool while you make the cookies.
Step 2: Make the Candied Pecans & Pepitas. Add brown sugar, water, cinnamon, and salt to a saucepan and cook for 1-2 minutes until you have a bubbly sauce. Stir in the pecans and pepitas, then transfer to a baking sheet to cool.
Tip: Make extra, and include them in your thanksgiving table decor as an edible treat, or to include on holiday cookie plates & tins!
Step 3: Make the Delicious Pumpkin Cake & Bake. In a large bowl, whisk up your wet ingredients – real pumpkin, vegetable oil, eggs, and brown sugar. Then, add the dry ingredients – flour, baking soda and powder, and cozy fall spices. Divide the batter between your prepared cake pans and bake as directed in the recipe card below.
Step 4: Make the Frosting. Cream together butter and cream cheese, then mix in cinnamon, vanilla extract, and salt. This frosting is a fall dream!
Step 5: Assemble the Cake.
Stack your cooled cake layers with a filling of our cinnamon cream cheese frosting, salted caramel sauce, and candied pecans & pepitas.
Full directions with tips on this process are in the recipe card below, and the piping tips and tools I used are linked below.
You will go pumpkins (get it – like going bananas? Ok, terrible joke) for this perfect fall dessert! The layers are spiced, flavorful, and moist. The frosting is ultra creamy, and the salted caramel sauce and candied nuts add beautiful salty sweet contrast to the frosting, with an added crunch.
Serving + Storing this Recipe:
Chill the frosted cake for 30 minutes or so before serving to help everything set up nicely. Store the leftover cake in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-4 days. I recommend putting plastic wrap over the cut part of the cake as well, to help keep it from drying out.
Expert Success Tips:
- Break Up the Steps – This cake and each of the elements are simple to make, but can feel like a bit of work if you try to do it all in one day. I recommend making the nuts and caramel a few days ahead (up to 2 weeks ahead for the caramel). Then, bake the cake layers and either frost and assemble them the same day, or the next day. This makes the whole process manageable!
- Avoid Runny Frosting – People often over-soften their butter & cream cheese, ending up with frosting that’s too soft or even runny. Cream cheese only needs 15-20 minutes or so to come to room temperature because it’s softer than butter in it’s cold state. Beating in the cream cheese last also helps prevent weeping! If your frosting becomes weepy at any point, pop it in the fridge to help stiffen it.
- Frosting the Cake – Remember to never frost a warm cake, as everything will melt and it will be a disaster!
- Oven Thermometer – An oven thermometer will tell you if your oven is actually running at the temperature you set it to. Your oven may not be accurate. Accurate oven temperature is crucial for most bakes, so I leave an oven thermometer in at all times to keep an eye on my oven’s calibration.
- Kitchen Scale – A food scale is the best way to make sure your flour is at the proper weight, since amounts will vary SO widely based on how you measure it, as well as the measuring cup you use, as they are not standardized.
- Fewer Steps – Feel free to omit the salted caramel sauce and/or the candied nuts if you want more of a classic pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting, and fewer steps. Although I truly believe nothing compares to homemade salted caramel sauce, feel free to use your favorite store-bought in a pinch.
- Brown Butter Frosting – Browning the butter for your frosting is an easy way to add even more flavor! If you are a frosting pro and aren’t worried about weepy frosting, beat the room temperature liquid brown butter into the cream cheese, then add the remaining frosting ingredients. If you’re not there yet, bring the butter back to room temperature consistency before mixing up the frosting, so that you can beat in the cream cheese last.
Yes, the cake layers can be baked, cooled, and tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and frosted the next day. The frosting can be made a day ahead, & refrigerated in an airtight container. Let it come back to room temperature for a bit before using, and re-mix it to get it creamy again. The caramel sauce can be made up to 2 weeks ahead and kept in the fridge.
Leftover cake slices can be individually wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen in freezer safe airtight containers or bags (suck the air out with a straw) for 1-2 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight before enjoying.
(The links below are affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission if you make a purchase using that link.)
- Offset Spatula – Offset spatulas make frosting a cake so easy! They can also be used for spreading cake and brownie batters evenly.
- Cake Turntable – If you make even a few cakes a year, a cake turntable makes the frosting process a breeze!
- Piping Bag & Piping Tip – I like to use a reusable piping bag and a Wilton 1A or 2A piping tip for piping the borders between layers, but you can use a plastic bag with the corner snipped off in a pinch. I used a Wilton 1M piping tip for the swirls.
More Favorite Pumpkin Recipes:
- Pumpkin Streusel Muffins with Maple Glaze
- Pumpkin Snickerdoodles with Rum Caramel
- Pumpkin Cupcakes with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
- Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake
- Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
- Mom’s Best Ever Pumpkin Bread
- Pumpkin Pasties with Maple Glaze
- Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
More Layered Cake Recipes to Love:
- White Forest Cake
- Gingerbread Cake
- Perfect White Birthday Cake
- German Chocolate Cake
- Raspberry Chocolate Ganache Cake
- Best Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting
Did you make this recipe? Snap a photo and leave a comment!
Ultimate Pumpkin Cake with Salted Caramel & Candied Pecans
For the Salted Caramel Sauce
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 6 tbsp salted butter, cubed
- 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp heavy cream
- pinch of flaky sea salt
For the Candied Pecans & Pepitas
- 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp brown sugar, packed
- 1 and 1/2 tbsp water
- 1 and 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup pecan halves
- 1 cup pepitas these are small, green roasted pumpkin seeds
For the Pumpkin Cake:
- 5 large eggs
- 1 and 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp brown sugar, packed
- 1 and 1/4 cups vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp real maple syrup
- 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 18.75 ounces canned pumpkin You'll need one full standard 15 ounce can plus about 1/3 cup + 1 generous tbsp of a second.
- 2 and 1/2 cups + 1 tbsp all-purpose flour 345 grams
- 2 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 and 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1 tbsp + 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 and 3/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1 and 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 3/4 tsp ground ginger
- 3/4 tsp allspice
- 1/2 tsp salt
For the Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 1 and 1/2 cups salted butter, softened at room temperature
- 16 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature Use full fat, in the blocks
- 7 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon plus 1/4 tsp extra, to taste (I always add it!)
- pinch of salt to taste
- Make the Salted Caramel Sauce: Follow the directions and recipe in this post to make the Caramel Sauce! Let cool, then store in a jar in the fridge until ready to use (or up to 1 month).
- Make the Candied Pecans & Pepitas: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Add the brown sugar, water, vanilla extract, and cinnamon to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Let cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes, until bubbling. Stir in the pecans and pepitas to coat, then continue stirring and cooking for 2-3 minutes. Place on prepared pan to cool and set up.
- Make the Cake Batter: Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease & flour three 9-inch round cake pans.In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, oil, maple syrup, vanilla, and pumpkin. Add the dry ingredients and whisk together just until the batter smooths out, making sure no dry bits are hiding in the bottom of the bowl.
- Bake: Divide the batter between your prepared pans, and bake for 20-24 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes will pull out moist crumbs, not wet batter. Let cakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.Note: I prefer to bake two pans on the same rack at one time, then do the third one separately after that, for the most even bake.
- Make the Frosting: In a large bowl, cream together the butter and cream cheese for 2 minutes. Ad the powdered sugar, 2 cups at a time, mixing between each addition. Mix in the cinnamon, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt to taste. Tip: If your frosting becomes too soft to work with, pop it in the fridge to chill and stiffen up.
- Assemble the Cake: Place the first cake layer on a cake stand protected with wax paper strips, or a turntable (or even on the cake stand, on top of the turntable). (A turntable is the easiest!) Use a dab of frosting to secure the layer in place. Fill a piping bag fitted with a round tip with 1/2 cup of frosting. Frost the first layer with 1 cup of frosting, spreading it evenly with an offset spatula. Pipe a border of frosting around the cake layer and fill with 1/2 cup of caramel sauce. Add 1/2 cup of the nuts. Place the second cake layer on top and spread the excess frosting peeking out between the layers to begin your crumb coat around the first two layers. Chill for 5-10 minutes to set things so the layers don't slide around. Repeat with the second layer. Add the final layer upside down (for a flat top!) and give the cake a thin layer of frosting on top and on the sides.Use a cake scraper to smooth out and remove excess frosting. This is your crumb coat, so don't fret if it isn't perfect. Pop the cake in the fridge for 30 minutes to set the frosting. Then, apply the remaining frosting, using the cake scraper to smooth the top and sides of the cake. Create a drip around the edge of the cake with the remaining caramel sauce – simply pour it slowly along the edge while turning the cake, and let it drip down. Pipe extra frosting in swirls on top of the cake and decorate with the remaining nuts and a pinch of flaky sea salt. Chill the entire cake in the fridge for 30 minutes, or longer if your frosting got soft while working with it (with plastic wrap or a cake lid).Note: All tools mentioned here are named and linked in the "special tools" section of the post, just above the recipe card.
- Serve + Store: Serve the cake once it's had at least 30 minutes in the fridge to set up. Slice and enjoy! Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. Press plastic wrap over the cut part of the cake to help preserve it, even if it's enclosed in a cake container. See tips for freezing in FAQs above.