Pumpkin Earthquake Cake

Prep 20 mins
Cook 40 mins
Total 40 mins
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With smooth, rich cream cheese swirls and a warm blend of autumn spices, Pumpkin Earthquake Cake is a moist and decadent dessert that just can’t be beat. Studded with chocolate chips, toasty coconut and crunchy praline pecans, this fun and quirky cake explodes with mouth-watering flavor.

Easy Pumpkin Cream Cheese Swirl Cake

Pumpkin earthquake cake is a fun dessert that’s packed with flavor. It may not have the elegant beauty of a traditional cake, with no smooth coat of frosting or fancy decorations, but it has its own quirky charm. It’s almost like abstract art! This makes it perfect for more casual get-togethers or events like pot lucks and bake sales.

Putting pumpkin and cream cheese together is a wildly popular combination for a reason. The earthy flavor and fluffy texture of this pumpkin cake perfectly complement the smooth, tangy richness of the cream cheese swirls. Together with the melty chocolate chips, crunchy praline pecans and toasty coconut flakes, this flavorful dessert is guaranteed to rock your world.

Looking for more pumpkin desserts made easy with a boxed cake mix? Check out these other favorites: Pumpkin Dump Cake and Pumpkin Honeybun Cake!

A side-view of a square of Pumpkin Earthquake Cake surrounded by equal-sized pieces.

Why Is It Called Earthquake Cake?

There are a few reasons this cake was given its iconic name. First, the ingredients tend to shift around in the cake during baking, like the ground during an earthquake. The cream cheese sinks down, while the coconut and chopped pecans often migrate upward. Which brings us to the second reason this cake gets its name – the top of the cake is full of cracks and crevices when it comes out of the oven, making it look just like the ground after a large-scale earthquake!

All the ingredients for Pumpkin Earthquake Cake laid out on the counter in bowls.

What You’ll Need

We’ll start with the ingredients for the pumpkin cake batter, then move on to the cream cheese swirl. You can scroll down to find the exact amounts for everything in the recipe card.

For the Earthquake Cake

  • Yellow Cake Mix
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Water
  • Pumpkin Puree
  • Light Brown Sugar: Tightly packed.
  • Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Eggs
  • Praline Pecans: Chopped.
  • Shredded Coconut: I use the sweetened kind.
  • Chocolate Chips: I like using semi-sweet chocolate morsels.

For the Cream Cheese Swirl

  • Cream Cheese: Brought to room temperature.
  • Powdered Sugar: Sifted to get rid of clumps.
  • Unsalted Butter: Melted.
A close-up of several squares of Pumpkin Earthquake Cake taken to show the filling.

How to Make Pumpkin Earthquake Cake

This cake comes together with only 20 minutes of active prep. After that, you can sit back and relax while the oven does its thing.

Prepare Your Materials: Preheat your oven to 350°F. Coat the inside of a 9×13-inch cake pan with butter or non-stick cooking spray and set it aside. 

Pumpkin cake batter in a bowl with a whisk.

Mix the Batter: Whisk the yellow cake mix, vegetable oil, water, pumpkin purée, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla extract, and eggs in a large bowl until they’re fully combined. Set this bowl to the side.

Cream cheese swirl filling in a bowl with a spoon.

Make the Filling: Combine the powdered sugar, cream cheese, and melted butter in a medium bowl. Start beating it with a hand mixer on the low setting, then gradually increase the speed until the mixture is thoroughly combined.

Praline pecans and coconut flakes scattered over the bottom of a cake pan.

Pour the Cake: Evenly sprinkle shredded coconut and chopped praline pecans over the bottom of the pan. Then, pour the cake batter on top of the coconut and praline pieces. 

Add the Swirl: Place large dollops of the cream cheese mixture onto the top of the cake. Use a butter knife to swirl the batter and the cream cheese together. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the top and swirl the batter one more time.

Cook: Bake your cake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the cake is just set. The center should have a slight wobble to it.

Pumpkin Earthquake Cake being sliced into 15 even squares.

Serve: Allow the cake to cool completely before slicing and serving it. You can serve it warm, room temperature or chilled.

A slice of Pumpkin Earthquake Cake with a single bite taken out of it and balanced on a spoon.

Tips for Success

With only 7 steps, this cake is so simple to make. Follow these helpful tips so that your earthquake cake comes out perfect every time.

  • Toast the Coconut: Popping the shredded coconut in the oven until it just starts to brown can really unlock the flavor. It can also improve the coconut’s texture, giving it a subtle crunch.
  • Use Room Temperature Ingredients: This cake will come out best if you take both the cream cheese and the eggs out of the fridge beforehand and let them get to room temperature. This will make sure that the chemical baking process happens the way it’s supposed to.
  • Don’t Swirl Too Close the the Edge: When you put your dollops of cream cheese filling on top of the batter, make sure you don’t drop any of them too close to the edge of the pan. You want to leave at least an inch of unswirled batter around the edges so they don’t collapse.
Three squares of Pumpkin Earthquake Cake seen from above, two of them stacked on top of each other.

Variation Ideas

There are so many ways to shake things up with this decadent pumpkin earthquake cake. Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

  • Add Toppings: If you want to add even more flavor, you can top this cake with a sprinkle of powdered sugar or caramel sauce before serving it. A dusting of cinnamon sugar is also a great way to go.
  • Use Different Chocolate Chips: I think the semi-sweet chips are a perfect fit for this cake, but other kinds can be pretty tasty too! You can go with milk chocolate, dark chocolate, or even white chocolate morsels.
  • Try Chocolate Cake Mix: Instead of using yellow cake mix as a base, you can try making this cake with a chocolate cake mix. Adding cocoa powder to the batter can also have a similar effect.
  • Go Nuts: The praline pecans are a great way to add some crunch to this cake, but you can swap them out with other nuts and get something just as tasty. Try using praline almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts or even peanuts!
  • Cinnamon Swirl: Adding cinnamon to your cream cheese swirl can really help the pumpkin pie spice flavors shine. You could also try going for a chocolate cheesecake swirl by adding cocoa powder instead.
A slice of pumpkin cake taken from the side to show a layer of cream cheese filling and melty chocolate chips in the middle.

Storage and Reheating

If you have any leftover cake, place it in an airtight container and pop it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Make sure to seal it tightly so it stays moist. You can take it out and wait for it to warm to room temperature before serving it, or you can go ahead and serve it chilled if you prefer. You can also give it a quick 10-second zap in the microwave if you like it warm and gooey.

Two slices of pumpkin earthquake cake stacked on top of each other on a plate.

Can I Freeze Earthquake Cake?

Yes, this cake can absolutely be frozen! Just be sure to wrap it up tightly in plastic wrap, and it should stay really fresh in the freezer for up to 2 months. When you’re ready to dig in, let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight before serving it chilled, at room temperature or slightly warm from the microwave.

Yield: 15 Slices

Pumpkin Earthquake Cake

A side-view of a square of Pumpkin Earthquake Cake surrounded by equal-sized pieces.

With smooth, rich cream cheese swirls and a warm blend of autumn spices, Pumpkin Earthquake Cake is a moist and decadent dessert that just can't be beat. Studded with chocolate chips, toasty coconut and crunchy praline pecans, this fun and quirky cake explodes with mouth-watering flavor.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Ingredients

For the Earthquake Cake

  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup pralines, chopped
  • 1 cup shredded coconut sweetened
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

For the Cream Cheese Swirl

  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare a 9x13 cake pan with butter or non-stick spray and set aside. 
  2. In a large bowl, whisk to combine the yellow cake mix (dry mix), vegetable oil, water, pumpkin purée, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla extract, and eggs. Mix until fully incorporated. 
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, add powdered sugar, cream cheese, and melted butter. Using a hand mixer, start on low speed and gradually increase speed until thoroughly combined.
  4. Next, on the bottom of the pan, evenly sprinkle shredded coconut and chopped pralines. Then, pour the cake batter on top of the coconut and pralines. 
  5. Place large dollops of the cream cheese mixture onto the top of the cake. Using a knife, swirl the batter and the cream cheese together. Top with chocolate chips and swirl the batter one more time.
  6. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the cake is just set. The center should have a slight wobble to it. Allow the cake to cool completely before serving. Can be served warm, room temperature or cold.

Notes

    • To Store: Seal in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Warm to room temperature or serve chilled.
    • To Freeze: Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 2 months. Let thaw fully in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

15

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 560Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 69mgSodium: 344mgCarbohydrates: 75gFiber: 2gSugar: 57gProtein: 5g

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More Decadent Pumpkin Dessert Ideas

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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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