Pumpkin Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting

Prep 20 mins
Cook 40 mins
Total 1 hr
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This easy, moist Pumpkin Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting is loaded with warm fall spices and topped with a thin layer of sweet brown sugar frosting. It’s destined to become a family favorite!

A Simple Pumpkin Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting

If you need an easy dessert with great fall flavor, this easy brown sugar pumpkin cake is a clear winner – and it feeds a crowd, too! Made with real pumpkin, warm spices, and a thin layer of homemade frosting, it’s perfect with coffee or a glass of ice-cold milk. You can use it for afternoon snacks all week long, or bring it to your next get-together and watch it disappear. Seriously, it’s that good.

But let’s get back to the “easy” part. How easy is brown sugar pumpkin cake? Well, for one thing, similar to my Pumpkin Dump Cake, you can make it without a mixer, no sweat. There’s no need to soften any ingredients beforehand. You only need two bowls and your baking pan. And you don’t even have to wait for it to cool all the way before you frost it! But it’s still made from scratch, with no artificial ingredients. A busy baker’s friend, for sure.

If you are looking for a grand pumpkin cake, make sure to check out the recipe for this Pumpkin Dream Cake with layers of moist pumpkin cake and cinnamon cream cheese frosting!

A sheet cake cut into squares. One of the squares has been turned sideways, to show the texture of the interior.

The List of Ingredients

To make this pumpkin cake, you’ll need the usual baking staples like flour, eggs, and sugar. Note that while I use a blend of spices, you can substitute store-bought pumpkin pie spice, if you’d rather. Here’s the list:

For the Pumpkin Cake

  • Flour: Plain, all-purpose flour is my go-to.
  • Baking Powder and Baking Soda: This cake uses both, for a light texture.
  • Spices: Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves bring all those autumn vibes.
  • Salt
  • Eggs: Use large, whole eggs, ideally at room temperature.
  • Pumpkin Puree: Canned or homemade.
  • Vanilla 
  • Vegetable Oil: This guarantees a cake that’s both light and moist.
  • Sugar: You’ll want to use both granulated sugar and light brown sugar.

For the Brown Sugar Frosting

  • Powdered Sugar: For a smooth frosting without any cooking needed. 
  • Light Brown Sugar: Remember to always pack the brown sugar into your measuring cup when you measure it, unless the recipe says otherwise of course.
  • Cinnamon: Or pumpkin pie spice.
  • Salt
  • Butter: Melt the butter, either in the microwave or on the stove. I use unsalted butter.
  • Half and Half: You could also use cream or milk.
  • Vanilla

Are Canned Pumpkin and Pumpkin Puree the Same Thing?

Yes, canned pumpkin is pumpkin puree, so if you don’t have the time or don’t want to make homemade pumpkin puree, it’s a terrific shortcut! Just make sure you get regular canned pumpkin, not canned pumpkin pie filling. Pumpkin pie filling has a number of added ingredients, including sugar, spices, and dairy.

Close-up shot of pumpkin cake with brown sugar frosting, showing the delicate crumb.

How to Make Brown Sugar Pumpkin Cake

Even for a beginning baker, this cake is a snap to make. You don’t need any special techniques or equipment, and your house will smell like the holidays!

  • Prep the Baking Dish and Oven. First, go ahead and preheat your oven to 350°F. While it heats, grease a 9×13 baking dish. You can use oil, butter, baking spray, whatever you like.
  • Combine the Dry Ingredients. Next, get out a large bowl, and measure into it the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Give this a stir to combine.
  • Combine the Wet Ingredients. In another large bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients: eggs, pumpkin, vanilla, vegetable oil, brown sugar, and regular sugar.
  • Add the Dry Ingredients to the Wet Ingredients. Working in batches, add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture, stirring until the batter is smooth. (You can also use an electric mixer, just don’t over-mix or the cake will be gummy).
  • Bake the Cake.  Pour the batter into your greased baking dish, and bake for 35-40 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. 
  • Cool Slightly and Make the Frosting. Let the cake cool for around ten minutes, while you make the frosting. To do this, sift the powdered sugar into a large bowl. Add the rest of the frosting ingredients (brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, melted butter, vanilla, and half and half). Whisk until completely smooth. 
  • Frost, Cool, and Serve. Pour the frosting over the slightly cooled cake, and then set it aside to cool completely before slicing and serving.

Recipe Notes and Variations

Want to know more? You are in the right place! These are my top tips and variations for this easy, homespun cake.

  • Bundt Cake: You can use a standard-sized Bundt pan for this recipe instead of a 9×13 pan, although you may find that you have a small amount of batter left over. Make sure not to overfill the Bundt pan – it needs about half an inch at the top for the cake to rise in the oven. A Bundt cake will need more time to cool before frosting, since it won’t have the pan to keep the frosting in place!
  • The Toothpick Test: To make sure the cake is done, insert a toothpick into the center and gently pull it out. It should come out clean. If there’s any moist, batter-like residue stuck on, stick the cake right back in the oven and let it bake a few more minutes before testing it again near the same spot.
  • Frosting: While I like this cake with the brown sugar frosting, you could substitute any frosting you like: cream cheese, marshmallow, buttercream, you name it. Take care with traditional frostings, though – they can only be applied to a completely cool cake. If the cake is even slightly warm, it’ll melt most frostings and they will slide right off.
A fork inserted into the corner of a square of cake.

Should I Refrigerate a Pumpkin Cake?

Yes, I do recommend keeping brown sugar pumpkin cake in the fridge. You can place pieces of it in a large airtight container, or cover the baking pan tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Either way, it’ll stay fresh in the refrigerator for about 5 days.

A square of pumpkin cake with a bite-sized piece resting on a fork.

Can I Freeze This?

Yes, you can freeze this cake if you like. Just wrap individual portions in plastic wrap or press ‘n’ seal, followed by a layer of foil. Then place the wrapped portions in an airtight container or freezer bag, and store in your freezer for 3 months or so. Thaw in the fridge before serving.

Yield: 12 Servings

Pumpkin Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting

A square of pumpkin spice cake, turned sideways in the cake pan. The remaining pieces are still in their places, frosting-side-up.

This light, moist Brown Sugar Pumpkin Cake is loaded with warm fall spices and topped with a thin layer of sweet brown sugar frosting. It’s destined to become a family favorite!

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour

Ingredients

For the Cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoons ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 15 oz can pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar

For the Brown Sugar Frosting:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 9x13 baking dish.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt.
  3. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, vanilla, vegetable oil, brown sugar and regular sugar until smooth.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture in 2-3 batches, stirring until batter is smooth. (You can also use an electric mixer, just don’t over-mix).
  5. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cake cool for a few minutes (~10 minutes).
  6. Meanwhile, sift the powdered sugar into a large bowl. Add in the brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, melted butter, vanilla, and half and half. Whisk until completely smooth. Pour over the slightly cooled cake. 

Notes

Storage:

  • Store any leftover cake, wrapped tightly, in the fridge for up to 5 days.
  • To Freeze: Just wrap individual portions in plastic wrap or press ‘n’ seal, followed by a layer of foil. Then place the wrapped portions in an airtight container or freezer bag, and store in your freezer for 3 months or so. Thaw in the fridge before serving.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 566Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 19gCholesterol: 69mgSodium: 271mgCarbohydrates: 77gFiber: 2gSugar: 58gProtein: 4g

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More Easy Pumpkin Recipes

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Welcome!

Jessica
I'm a trial & error, self taught, sugar addict who thankfully learned how to survive in the kitchen! I am also a wife, mama of 3.
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