October 20, 2023

Everyday Pumpkin Cake

This snacking-style brown butter pumpkin cake is packed with pumpkin puree and pumpkin spice. One bowl, super easy to make and yields a single layer, ultra soft and moist pumpkin cake slices. The cake is topped with a crispy pumpkin spice sugar topping. All around it’s just perfect for any fall occasion.

4.87 from 22 votes
Yield: 1 8 or 9 inch cake
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EBC has another sister recipe! But let’s backtrack…

You might wonder, why would I need a pumpkin cake every day? Well you probably don’t ;p but the idea behind this recipe (and the original everyday butter cake) is that they’re so easy to make (one bowl! Just a whisk!) and you get this really unpretentious cake that is absolutely perfect in all the ways a pumpkin cake should be: so soft, moist, and has that signature pumpkin spice flavor.

Recipe origins

I started working on this from my everyday brown butter cake (which came from everyday butter cake, which in turn came from a pound cake recipe). Pumpkin obviously adds so much moisture to a cake batter and while I estimated I’d need to reduce the sour cream, in the end a few recipe tests told me the cake was just best without it altogether. I also opted against cake flour because I wanted a heavier flour that could absorb all that added moisture.

And then – pumpkin spice got added to that signature crispy sugar topping you all love so much =) I can’t wait for you to make this, and hope it’ll be on a regular rotation for all your fall gatherings!

Recipe Ingredients

Butter: Unsalted or salted (if salted reduce the salt added to the recipe to ½ tsp). Cold is fine.

Sugar: Light or dark brown sugar. I used light in the cake pictured. The sugar should be soft and moist. If you have large sugar clumps, press them out so they don’t bake in a clump.

Vanilla: pure vanilla extract. Vanilla paste works too.

Pumpkin: Canned pure pumpkin puree, NOT pumpkin pie filling (that has added sugars to it). My guess is the recipe will work with a butternut puree as well but I haven’t tried it.

Salt: Fine sea salt. Fine so it dissolves quickly into the batter. Sea salt is less ‘salty’ in flavor than table salt. If you’re using table salt, halve the amount.

Eggs: whole large eggs. Place them in a bowl of warm water to bring them to room temperature before you make the batter.

Baking powder: Check the date to make sure it’s fresh.

Pumpkin pie spice: You can buy this in a jar or make your own by combining cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger and cloves if you want. I really love using freshly grated nutmeg if I have it on hand. For a PS

Flour: All purpose flour. I use king arthur but any AP should do fine.

Organic sugar: The bigger granules of organic sugar make it excellent for topping. If you don’t have it you can also use turbinado sugar (raw) or just fine granulated.

 

How to make everyday pumpkin cake

Start by preparing your baking dish and preheating the oven. To prep the baking pan (metal is ideal for better heat conducting) lay a sheet of parchment paper over the greased pan (the grease helps the parchment paper hold it’s place) to create an overhang.

Brown the butter: it’s best to use a light colored frying pan so you can see the color of the milk solids as they separate and toast. Set the butter in the pan over medium heat and cook until the solids have turned a warm brown. Immediately transfer to a large, heatproof bowl.

*Remember, if you leave it in the hot pan the butter will continue to cook and then it will burn.

Add the spice, vanilla and salt. Let the hot butter cool slightly then whisk in the sugar.

*If you add the sugar too soon you risk scrambling the eggs in the next step. We don’t want that!

Whisk in the eggs one by one, until the mix is fluffy, shiny and cohesive: you don’t want to see any butter separated from the mix. The goal with a vigorous whisking is to get the eggs and fats to emulsify.

Whisk in the pumpkin puree.

*Measure your flour carefully (if not using a scale): fluff the flour with a fork then sprinkle it into the measuring cup. Level the cup too.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet.

Whisk to just combine: don’t overdo the mixing, we don’t want to develop any gluten here. Once the flour is blended in, pour the batter into the prepared pan.

For the topping: mix together the granulated sugar and pumpkin spice. Sprinkle and spread a generous layer of sugar over the batter.

Bake the cake: until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean or you can press the top and it springs back (this is a little tougher to do with a sugared topping because the sugar is hot and will burn – be careful!).

 

How to make your own pumpkin puree

I haven’t done it in a few years but it is possible and can be fun. In the past I’d follow Alton Brown’s guide: slice a sugar pumpkin in half, place it face-down on a baking sheet and roast for about half an hour. The puree is a little more watery in my experience and when you are measuring for a baked recipe I’d stir it well so you are getting a good mix of flesh and moisture.

Can this recipe be made into cupcakes?

Yep. I’d venture it would make a dozen cupcakes. Fill the cups 2/3 full and bake them at 350 F for about 20 minutes.

Can I make this pumpkin cake recipe be made dairy free?

Given that there’s no sour cream in this recipe I can totally see someone wanting to make it full dairy free to accommodate any family allergies. You can use a dairy free butter like miyokos butter which can be browned and treated like real butter.

Alternatively you could use an oil, although it will change the texture of the cake. If you’re subbing oil, avocado is quite lovely with it’s buttery consistency. I’d use about 165-180g of oil to replace the butter.

Can I make this as a sheet cake?

I totally see someone wanting to make this for a big fall gathering and needing to double it so the answer is maybe. There is the possibility that double the batter will struggle to bake in the center, there’s also the chance that if the pan’s height is too low, the batter will spill out of the edges of the pan. So if you wanted to cover all your bases you could just make it twice.

That said, I think with a 2.5 or 3 inch high pan and careful monitoring of the cake (so it doesn’t over brown while cooking fully – you can always tent it) could yield a perfectly wonderful, very large cake.

A cream cheese frosting for pumpkin cake (if crispy sugar topping isn’t your thing)

My view is that the best frosting for a a pumpkin spice cake is cream cheese based; the tangy and creaminess of it goes very well with the warm spices of fall. Bake the cake without the topping and let it fully cool before frosting.

To make a cream cheese buttercream: use the back of a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to press down on half of a brick (113g) room temperature cream cheese (it must be room temp!) then beat it with 113g or 1 stick of room temperature butter, 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, a pinch of salt and 1-2 cups powdered sugar (confectioners’ sugar). Use more sugar as needed to create a stiffer buttercream. If it gets too thick, use milk to thin it out.



Everyday Pumpkin Cake

Supersoft and moist pumpkin cake made with a ton of pumpkin puree, pumpkin spice and brown butter.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Yields: 1 8 or 9 inch cake
4.87 from 22 votes

Ingredients

Batter

  • 226 g or 1 cup butter unsalted (cold is fine)
  • 200 g or 1 cup brown sugar light or dark
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon, 1 tsp each ginger and nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ¾ tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 250 g or 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 260 g or 2 cups all purpose flour

Topping

  • 3 tablespoons organic granulated sugar for topping
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice for topping

Method

  • Brown the butter: cook the butter in a medium frying pan until it melts, then sputters, then foams. Once you start to see brown bits at the bottom, stir until all the bits are brown.
  • Immediately transfer the butter to a large heat-proof bowl.
  • Let it cool slightly (about 5-10 minutes). Prep an 8 inch square metal baking pan by greasing it then lining it with parchment paper.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  • Add the sugar to the bowl with the butter and whisk for 60 seconds.
  • Add the salt, vanilla and spices to the mixture and whisk to combine.
  • Add one egg then whisk the mix for 60 seconds. Add the other egg and whisk for another 60 seconds. The mix should look cohesive and shiny.
  • Add the pumpkin puree and whisk to combine.
  • Measure the flour on a scale. If using cups, fluff the flour with a fork then sprinkle into the measuring cup and level.
  • Add the flour and baking powder to the batter and whisk to just combine.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Whisk together the sugar and spices for the topping. Sprinkle on top of the cake in an even layer.
  • Bake the cake for 30-35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean (or the top bounces back when pressed).
  • Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes then use the parchment paper as a sling to transfer it to a wire rack to cool fully.
  • Slice the cake with a sharp knife. Store leftovers in an airtight container.

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15 comments

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Recipe Reviews




  1. 5 stars
    Hi Sam,

    Thank you for this recipe. Baking desserts is complicated, and I was worried because I lacked an understanding of baking basics. I thought my cake would be dry because my batter was slightly stiff. Nevertheless, my cake is moist and spongy (is it okay to say spongy or fluffy). Also, I am glad that I sifted my flour before use; this is something I learned a few days ago. I am enjoying my cake, and thank you for this recipe. I will make this pumpkin cake again!

    Thanks,
    Jacquetta

  2. 4 stars
    Whipped this cake up with my almost 5 year old and we had fun making it. It was so nice that it came together in one bowl. I decreased the brown sugar to appx 3/4 cup, my batter was on the thicker end, and this still came out great. Nice and moist right at 30 minutes. Next time I would increase the pumpkin pie spice and omit the extra nutmeg as I felt it was overpowering, almost soapy.

  3. 5 stars
    So wonderful for fall. I love these EBC recipes! They are great to make with my kids, simple and one bowl. This smells so wonderful and has great flavor and a great crumb. Will definitely make again! Only change I made was turbinado sugar on top for a little more crunch 🙂

  4. 3 stars
    I followed this recipe exactly and it did not turn out very cake-like at all–the batter was stiff and almost fluffy (it looked pourable in your video, more like a cake batter) and it baked up with a texture that reminded me of scones: a bit more dry and crumbly. The flavor is good! But I cannot figure out why the texture wasn’t very cake-like ???? Do you have any thoughts or ideas? Looking forward to trying other iterations of your “everyday cakes”!

    • How do you measure the flour? I noticed you had the problem of a dry/too thick dough with my one yolk cookies too so I’m wondering if the flour is being packed into the measuring cup. Flour is often the first culprit.

  5. 5 stars
    Yum! Really moist, tender and good flavor. I made twice so far and in the last batch I tried adding 1tsp espresso powder which was delicious and cut the sweetness a bit but no coffee flavor so I’ll try adding a tbsp next time for a PSL version.

  6. 5 stars
    What a wonderful cake! It’s very delicate and light. Not dense like pumpkin bread would be or sturdy as a tiered cake. The pumpkin flavor and warm spices are perfect.

  7. 5 stars
    Amazing recipe! Made it into cupcakes instead of one large cake and they turned out perfect. They also smell incredible!

  8. 5 stars
    Once again, the Everyday Butter Cake family has the win! This is an absolutely delicious spin-off of the first (and legendary) ebc. It’s super moist, and the crunchy top is fantastic! The flavors are perfect- packed full of pumpkin with that subtle hint of brown butter. Also, this is like the perfect cake to make when you don’t have much time but need to make an impressive dessert that is sure to impress. Don’t hesitate- just make this now! 🙂

  9. 5 stars
    this is fantastic! the height, texture, flavor, aroma, topping – all is wonderful. thank you for posting. first time I saw any of your recipes

  10. 5 stars
    i’ve been going through a rather rough time lately and i gotta say, Sam, you keep saving my weekends with your wonderful pumpkin recipes. the warm spices, the brown butter / brown sugar comfort help keeping the gloom at bay on these ever colder weekends :))