Pumpkin Cake With Maple-Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe

Pumpkin Cake With Maple–Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe

This pumpkin cake, along with its incredible maple cream-cheese frosting, is a recipe I developed a long time ago for an article I wrote for the Los Angles Times about Thanksgiving. I was killing two birds with one stone (forgive the holiday pun) by making my editor as well as The One happy. (The One loves anything pumpkin. This cake has actually beat out his former favorite autumn dessert, pumpkin pie.) Since then, this  recipe has become one of those baked-around-the-Internet desserts, like my ultimate chocolate chip cookies. I’ve seen my cake turned into some really clever loaves, mini-Bundt cakes, and, my favorite, cupcakes. It seems to take well to any form you can think to make it in.–David Leite

LC Butter Makes Everything Better Note

Folks rave about this tmaple-cream cheese frosting. Rightly so. But it can tend to be a bit on the soft side—as in, perhaps a little too soft if the cake needs to sit out for a few hours in a warm kitchen. (And by “a warm kitchen,” we mean a kitchen in which the Thanksgiving turkey is roasting and all four burners are blasting come Thanksgiving morning.) This is easily remedied by plopping an extra stick of butter in the recipe. (Isn’t it lovely how butter can fix all manner of problems?!) The result is a sturdier frosting, with no sacrifice in flavor, that’s able to withstand sitting out for several hours in any climate. If you’re one of those people who are averse to more calories, get your hands on the darker, more robust maple syrup formerly known as Grade B and recently redesignated as “Grade A Dark Color, Robust Taste,” the frosting magically holds up like a champ and requires no extra butter.  This post has been updated. It was originally published on May 10, 2009.


Pumpkin Cake With Maple–Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Cake With Maple–Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 1 H, 15 M
  • Serves 8


  • For the pumpkin cake
  • 2 cups cake flour, plus more for the pans
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (I mean freshly ground!)
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pans
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk mixed with 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin
  • For the maple cream–cheese frosting
  • Two 8-ounce packages (453 grams) Philadelphia brand cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick (4-ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup, preferably grade B amber


  • Make the pumpkin cake
  • 1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and crank the heat to 350° (175°C). Butter two 8-by-2-inch cake pans and line them with parchment circles cut to fit the pans. Butter the parchment and coat the pan with flour, tapping out any excess. (You can instead spritz the pans with cooking spray for baking, if that’s easier for you than buttering and flouring.)
  • 2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper in a bowl until well combined. Take a whiff; it’s heaven. Set aside.
  • 3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with a good old-fashioned hand mixer on medium speed), beat the butter, dark brown sugar, and granulated sugar until fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  • 4. Plop the eggs, 1 at a time, into the bowl, beating and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Alternate adding the flour and buttermilk mixtures to the bowl, starting and ending with the flour. Dump in the pumpkin and beat just until the pumpkin is incorporated and the cake bater is smooth.
  • 5. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pans, dividing it evenly. Give each filled pan a good smack flat against the counter to release any air bubbles. (Just hold the pan a couple inches above your countertop and drop it. Trust us. This works.) Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully turn out the cakes from the pans onto the wire rack, peel off the parchment paper, turn them right side up, and let cool completely.
  • Make the maple-cream cheese frosting
  • 6. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a bowl using a good old-fashioned hand mixer on medium speed), beat the cream cheese butter, confectioners’ sugar, and maple syrup until fluffy.
  • 7. To assemble the cake, frost the top of one cake, then place the other cake on top. Frost the sides and top, swirling like the pro you are. Slip the the cake in the fridge for 30 minutes until the frosting is set, if needed.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Hey, there. Just a reminder that all our content is copyright protected. Like a photo? Please don't use it without our written permission. Like a recipe? Kindly contact the publisher listed above for permission before you post it (that's what we did) and rewrite it in your own words. That's the law, kids. And don't forget to link back to this page, where you found it. Thanks!

  1. Tania says:

    I made this cake for my nieces birthday. It was great, everyone loved it. And the frosting is so yummy with the hint of maple syrup. I made it in advance and placed it in the fridge so it would stiffen up. Once the cake was at room temp, I placed it in the fridge as well until chilled to keep the frosting at a thick consistency when frosting.
    I’m not too fond of a strong ginger taste nor of a peppery taste in my sweets. So the next time I made the cake I used 3/4 tsp. ground ginger, 1/4 tsp. of salt and totally omitted the pepper. And the result was delicious! This cake is definitely a winner with my family!

    • David Leite says:

      Tania, so glad you liked the cake. The frosting can get a bit soft, and your solution is right on the money. Some readers add more confectioners sugar to the frosting, but that yield a sweeter taste, which, to me, masks the flavor of the maple syrup. Some readers add a bit of maple extract and pull back on the syrup, which works, but tastes a bit harsh to me.

      • Tania says:

        David, I say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! The frosting is perfect as is! The second time I made the cake I used one 9-by-3-inch round cake pan, and I split the cake into 3 layers and frosted in between each layer plus the top, leaving the outside bare. The mere thought of it makes my mouth water.

        • David Leite says:

          Tania, I love the idea of leaving the sides bare. Kind of like some German Chocolate Cakes I’ve seen. Great idea!

  2. Martha says:

    So you were too ill to pick pumpkins, but well enough to bake a cake to serve to your neighbors while you had the FLU? Naughty!

    • David Leite says:

      Well, I didn’t serve THAT cake to neighbors, but I did rouse myself out of my flu stupor. Amazing what the anticipation of baking can do for a poor racked body!

  3. Cindi Kruth says:

    You know this is one of my favorite cakes, but I did find the frosting just a little soft. I experimented with the frosting again last week and you are right. Maple extract just doesn’t impart the same flavor that real maple syrup does and extra sugar mutes the maple taste and is too sweet. I have found I need to use Philadelphia brand cream cheese, the full fat variety. Other brands and low-fat, while fine for some applications, aren’t as firm and the frosting is simply too soft. Once chilled a bit the frosting firms up enough for spreading neatly.


    • David Leite says:


      I made the cake again and found that by reducing the cream cheese (Philly brand) by one-quarter and added another stick of butter gave the frosting enough sturdiness to be spread.

  4. Jackie says:

    Hi David

    What grade of maple syrup did you use Grade A, Grade B, etc.

  5. Natahle says:

    wow! This looks amazing! I think I’m going to make cupcakes with this recipe and use a brown sugar pecan cream filling…

    • David Leite says:

      Natahle, it’s one my all-time favorite. Please write back and tell us what you think!

      • Natahle says:

        I made this recipe as cupcakes and they are HEAVENLY! I filled it with a brown sugar pecan cream and topped it with pecans… so great! The frosting was a little gooey, so I added a few tablespoons of frozen shortening to it. It gave it a little more body without compromising the flavor. In case anyone wants to make cupcakes, here’s the filling that I came up with:

        1/2 c. butter
        1/2 c. brown sugar
        1/2 jar marshmallow cream
        1/3 package cream cheese
        few T. heavy whipping cream
        chopped pecans to taste

        I made it up while I was going, so I’m not certain about all of the measurements. I added marshmallow cream until it was fluffy enough for me.

        THanks for the recipe, David!

        • David Leite says:

          Natahle, so glad you like the cake. Yes, the frosting can sometimes be a bit loose. I just keep the cake refrigerated until an hour or so before serving. The filling sound delicious. Let’s see what some of our readers think!

  6. maggie says:

    Thank you so much for the recipe! I made them Thursday night for my boyfriend and his roommate and they were devoured extremely quickly! I took your suggestion to increase the butter and reduce the cream cheese and I’m glad I did since the frosting was pretty soft (but delicious). I’ll definitely be making these again at Thanksgiving.

    • David Leite says:

      Maggie, so glad you like it. The cake is truly one of my all-time favorite recipes that I created.

  7. Janine says:

    Made these last night for an office party today! So good. I split the batch between cakes and mini cupcakes. I altered the recipe a tiny bit—but think they came out great! I used almost 2 cups of pumpkin, and sweetened the icing by doubling the maple syrup. I can’t wait to make them again. Thanks!

    • David Leite says:

      Janine, so glad you liked it. I make this every autumn—in fact, it’s going to be the centerpiece dessert at Thanksgiving. But I think I’m going to make a cupcake cake out of them—a three-teired dessert made of cupcakes.

  8. patricia cartelli says:

    Made the cake yesterday. I tasted the frosting and it was so yummy I can’t wait to try it out tomorrow for Thanksgiving! I can hardly wait…it looks lovely. I do cookies well, but am trying my hand at cakes now. :) Thanks for the recipe.

  9. Carmen says:

    I made this cake for Thanksgiving tonight and it was delicious. I took your advice and cut the cream cheese, added an extra stick of butter – and the frosting was perfect. Thanks for a delicious addition to my Thanksgiving feast!

  10. Erin says:

    THANK YOU FOR THIS RECIPE! I made these as cupcakes for my friend’s birthday yesterday. They were delicious and moist! I cut the ginger to 1/2 tsp and only did a smidgen of black pepper. I also made my Cinnamon Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting to go with these.

  11. Deborah says:

    Very good! Moist, and a lot lighter than I thought it would be with over a cup of pumpkin in there! You see, I went to the farmers’ market and saw a beautiful little pumpkin, first of the year … and my husband had been begging me to make a cake … so we’re having pumpkin cake and it’s lovely!

    • David Leite says:

      Ah, music to my ears! I’m so happy you’re enjoying the cake. It is one of my very favorite. Thanks for making it.

  12. marla says:

    A stunning slice of our fall heaven on that plate. Maple and pumpkin are always my favorites!

  13. Nicole says:

    After having a print out of this recipe for almost three years (11/3/2008 to be exact), I finally gave it a go for my birthday cake (with a few adaptations to suit my own taste). The cake it so moist and light. My only chagrin is waiting this long. Thank you, David!

    • David Leite says:

      Well, Nicole, all I can say is better late then never! I’m so glad you enjoyed the cake. May I ask: What adaptations did you make?

  14. Fuji Mama says:

    Darn you! Now I may just have to make this because it looks so freaking good! Oh, and isn’t everything remedied by an extra stick of butter? Hee hee…

    • David Leite says:

      Well, Fuji Mama, just doing my job. And, indeed, everything is better with another stick of butter!

  15. Rosie says:

    What is solid-pack pumpkin? Is that different from the regular can of Libby that I get at the supermarket?

  16. Eva says:

    Hi David! Would you mind telling me the weight of the 2 cups of cake flour in oz./gr.? I just want to make the cake and I want it to be really perfect. Thanks for sharing.

    • David Leite says:

      Eva, the average weight of 1 cup of cake flour is approximately 4 to 4 1/4 ounces. Best of luck!

  17. mona says:

    I can’t say enough good about this recipe. I doubled it and made cupcakes for a concert hall I volunteer at—people actually paid a buck a piece for them and then thanked us! The cupcakes were in the oven for about 20 minutes at 350°F. I also used pink banana squash instead of pumpkin because I had an overabundance this year, and it worked beautifully. Thanks for another wonderful recipe, David. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, but it’s such a relief to be able to turn to any of your recipes and be confident that it will turn out delicious.

    • David Leite says:

      mona, if I blushed any more, my face would match the Pursian rug. Thank you for you extremely kind words. I’m thrilled to know you enjoyed the cupcakes…and that you made money on them. You did better than I did!

  18. Dana says:

    I made these in cupcake form with a cinnamon cream cheese icing and everyone loved them!! I am wondering…could you make these with applesauce instead of the pumpkin for more of an apple spice cupcake?

  19. Tammy says:

    if this was made in a 9×13 pan, about how long would you let it bake? Thank you.

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Tammy, as we tested the recipe in cake pans, I’m reluctant to give you an exact time. I would use your cake tester and start testing it at 25 minutes. Please let us know your timing, and hope you enjoy the cake.

    • David Leite says:

      Tammy, what Beth said.

  20. Jenny says:

    Hi David, What would it take to make this into a sheet cake? I’m trying to feed this to lots of people! Thanks!

    • David Leite says:

      Jenny, now you’ve got me there. I’ve never baked a sheet cake. Here’s a useful cake chart from the folks at Wilton that can give you some idea. The best way to figure this out is to fill the baking sheets you want to use with water so that it comes two-thirds up the side of the pan. The total number of cups is the amount of batter you’ll need. Caveat: This is all theoretical and mathematical; it’s not from experience. But please write back after you make the cake to help others who might be in your situation!

  21. Bonnie Shoemaker says:

    Thanks for an easy to follow and most accurate recipe for an incredible cake. Another bonus – it is not a heavy cake or a really sweet frosting. It was perfect after our Supper Club’s lasagna dinner and the folks loved it. The only thing I did different was to add some walnuts on top (mostly to hide my lack of decorating skills). Can’t wait to make this again.

    • David Leite says:

      Bonnie, my pleasure. And if I like nuts in my desserts enough, i would have added them, too. Just not my fave. I like nutless sweets!

  22. Jena Champagne says:

    I’m about to make this gorgeous sounding cake & wanna know if the recipe has been altered to ensure a firmer frosting, or I should use 12oz cream cheese & 2 sticks of butter. Thanks.

  23. SD says:

    You’re a wonderful baker, David! This cake was just a cut above on flavor and texture. Thank you so much!

  24. Isabel Gomes says:

    Hi David, we do not have canned pumpkin in South Africa, should I just steam the pumpkin until soft?

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Send it along. Covet one of those spiffy pictures of yourself to go along with your comment? Get a free Gravatar. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.


Daily Subscription

Enter your email address and get all of our updates sent to your inbox the moment they're posted. Be the first on your block to be in the know.

Preview daily e-mail

Weekly Subscription

Hate tons of emails? Do you prefer info delivered in a neat, easy-to-digest (pun intended) form? Then enter your email address for our weekly newsletter.

Preview weekly e-mail