Pumpkin cake

I know what you’re thinking. Pumpkin cake? In spring? Yes, it’s a somewhat odd choice, especially given the 30 degree (Celsius) weather we had this weekend.  For some reason, I woke up Saturday, inhaled the slightly humid New Haven air, and thought squash in dessert form would be a good idea.

Please, someone, I need an intervention.

Ok, so there’s a back story to this. I love pumpkin. We have a party planned for October. And this? it’s the start of our attempt to sort of feel out the menu.  And for your purposes, this is actually quite adaptable.  Swap pumpkin for grated carrot or zucchini, and I think you’ll end up with a semi-healthy and delicious dessert.  Turn it into cupcakes, each with a frosty peak.

Or just do what I really wanted to do and forget healthy: just make the cream cheese frosting.

You will notice we didn’t frost the outside of the cake. We couldn’t have — there wasn’t enough of it left.

Recipe after the jump.

Pumpkin cake with chocolate chips and cream cheese frosting

Serves 8-12.  It is rather heavy …

Difficulty: Easy

Cost: Moderate.  It really depends on what flour you choose to use. I had white whole wheat and organic spelt on hand, but you could probably do just as well with a mix of white and wheat.

This recipe is adapted from King Arthur Flour’s Whole Grain Baking.  This book is excellent, though most recipes tend to run a little sweet. I’ve cut the sugar down in this version, swapped spelt for barley flour, and skipped the ginger in the frosting in favor of pretty grated ginger on top.  Oh, and I added chocolate chips, just because I could.

For the record, the frosting does not hold up to warm weather well.  This means it’s a bit more luscious and drippy when it’s hot outside, which I don’t mind, but if you were to ice a whole cake with the stuff and hope it stays pretty, you’re not going to be happy.  If that’s the case, save it for the filling, and sprinkle some icing sugar on top for appearance.


  • 1-1/2 c. (6 oz.) white whole wheat flour. You can use regular whole wheat here, though I suspect it will have a slightly heavier taste.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing — this is more of a frosted quickbread than anything else.
  • 1 c. (3-1/2 oz.) spelt flour
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1 t. ground ginger
  • 1/2 t. ground nutmeg
  • 2 allspice, crushed, or 1/4 t. ground allspice
  • ~1-1/3 c. (10 oz) dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. (4 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 c. (3-1/2 oz) olive oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 c. bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350ºF / 175ºC.  Line the bottom of a springform pan with parchment, and butter its sides.

In a medium bowl, mix all dry ingredients together, except the sugar.  In a large bowl, cream the sugar, butter, and olive oil together until it’s sort of fluffy and well combined.  Add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition until the mixture is uniform.  Then mix in the pumpkin puree, followed by the dry ingredients.  Stir gently until the dry ingredients are moist and the batter is smooth.  It should be fairly wet. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the springform pan.  Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the cake.  Let cool on a wire rack before frosting or decorating.


I reduced the sugar here, too — mix to taste.

  • 6 T. (3 oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, also softened
  • 1 T. vanilla extract (I love vanilla)
  • 2 c. confectioners’ sugar, sifted. I’m guessing on this amount. The original version called for 4 cups, but I didn’t dare use anywhere near that much.  My teeth would have fallen out…

Cream the butter, vanilla, and cream cheese together, until you get a light, almost whipped cream-like texture (with a bit more body). Add the sugar slowly, mixing thoroughly with each addition (and tasting along the way for sweetness).  Once you have a nice, light, homogenous mixture, which is sweetened to your liking, you can decorate stuff. Or attack with a spoon.

Decorate the cake as you wish. I cut the cake in half (get a helper if you do this) and frosted the middle.  Then I decorated the top with powdered sugar, chocolate chips, and some crystallized ginger.

For the record, the cake is gone. It was the best breakfast ever.


Filed under baking, dessert, eggs, frosting, ginger, pumpkin, squash, vegetarian

2 responses to “Pumpkin cake

  1. ooooh, tasty. I made a 1-2-3-4 pumpkin cake recipe once that was insanely moist… but it was also overly sweet. This looks like it would have a really nice balance of flavor.

    Also, for what it’s worth about cakes… I did try the Swiss Buttercream from Smitten’s website. It didn’t go onto the cake perfectly smooth, but it looked like her pictures and it wasn’t too difficult to make. (All of her posts about it scared me, until I actually tried the recipe)

    P.S. I have 4 cans of pumpkin in my cupboard and I need to make it into something that doesn’t have sugar or white flour. This is going to take some self control : D

  2. liz

    hmmm… pumpkin spelt pancakes with apple chunks for sweetness? that’s a tough one… thanks for letting me know about that buttercream recipe. The posts were definitely a little intimidating, but maybe I’ll have a go!

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