Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting
Does the internet really need another pumpkin sheet cake recipe? Probably not, but I’m forging ahead and bringing you one regardless! Sheet cakes are unfussy, practical, and best of all, easy to prepare.
So, here’s the thing. I’ve been sitting on this cake recipe for an entire year. Yes, really, that long. I developed it a little bit too late into the season and decided to tuck it away for another time. Today’s the day.
As I’m sure you can guess by the copious amounts of spiced cream cheese frosting shown above, we’re making no illusions to health food today. This is a rich cake worthy of celebration. As with any sheet cake recipe, this one serves upwards of 12 people, so be sure to have a good number of friends and family in close proximity to help take it off your hands. I kept coming back for more.
Sheet cakes can come in a lot of forms, but this pumpkin cake is a true sheet cake. The cake is baked in a classic half sheet pan. The same one that you use for roasting vegetables, baking cookies, and countless other tasks in the kitchen.
This cake doesn’t require any fancy equipment, piping tools, or pans. The batter can be prepared with just a few mixing bowls, a whisk, and a spatula. You’ll need a simple hand mixer or stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, for the icing. Nothing more.
Most people associate sheet cakes with a simple one-layer cake topped with frosting. While all of that is true, many recipes require a rectangular cake pan, measuring 9 inches x 13 inches across. Can I make a confession? I don’t really consider that a sheet cake. Yes, it produces a literal sheet of cake (and one that is taller!) but it might necessitate buying a pan that you might not use for much else.
Doesn’t that sort of defeat the purpose of making a sheet cake? I consider my kitchen fairly well stocked and even I don’t own one.
Benefits of an Authentic Sheet Cake:
By baking this pumpkin sheet cake in a half sheet pan, it allows you to produce a moist cake that bakes up in just 17 to 20 minutes. Since it has a large surface area and is relatively thin, the cake also cools quickly allowing you to frost and assemble the cake in just over an hour.
You might be wondering how this is a sheet cake if it contains two layers. Let me explain. While you could certainly prepare this cake as a single, thin layer, we’re going to slice the cake in half to produce a simple two layer cake.
It’s a simple step, but adds height and elegance without requiring any additional tools. I also secretly love the inner layer of cream cheese frosting, so there’s that.
5 Reasons Why I Love This Sheet Cake Recipe:
- it requires no special equipment or cake pans (this is a great-quality affordable half sheet pan, if you’re looking for recommendations – affiliate link)
- the cake itself has great spice flavor from cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. there’s no need to buy a special pumpkin pie spice blend. this flavor carries over to the spiced cream cheese frosting, which is infused with pure maple syrup, cardamom, and cinnamon.
- it uses one entire (15 ounce) can of pure pumpkin puree, so there’s no need to store (and inevitably throw out when you forget about it) awkward leftovers in the fridge.
- to make ourselves feel slightly better, the cake is prepared with whole wheat pastry flour (you can read why I love it so much here!) so it is technically whole grain. if you don’t have it on hand, simply substitute it with an equal quantity of unbleached all-purpose flour.
- it gives us an excuse to eat cream cheese frosting, which let’s face it, is the best type of frosting.
It’s worth noting that this recipe produces a generous amount of cream cheese frosting, which is quite rich. If you are not a frosting lover, use your judgement when frosting the cake itself or consider cutting the frosting recipe in half. The measurements make it easy to do so.
I mean, look at that bite!
Pumpkin Sheet Cake:
- 2 and 1/4 cups (270 grams) whole wheat pastry flour (*or substitute equal amounts unbleached all-purpose flour)
- 2 and 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 and ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) melted unrefined, cold-processed coconut oil (*liquid state, but not warm) or vegetable oil
- 1 and ½ cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 and ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 can (15 ounces) pure pumpkin puree
- ½ cup (125 mL) milk, room temperature
Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 4 ounces (113 grams; 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 8 ounces (1 block) cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 pinch of kosher salt
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) pure maple syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 2 cups (240 grams) confectioner’s sugar, sifted
- Prepare the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176 degrees Celsius) with a rack in the center position. Grease a sheet pan with butter or cooking spray and line with parchment paper. Grease the top of the parchment paper with cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt until well combined. Set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the melted coconut oil, sugar, and vanilla extract. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, allowing each egg to incorporate fully before adding the next. Whisk in the pumpkin puree until smooth.
- Using a spatula, add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients in three parts, alternating with two additions of the milk. Allow each flour addition to be almost completely absorbed before adding each addition of milk. Mix the batter with a spatula, scraping the bottom of the bowl, to ensure all of the ingredients are incorporated evenly and the batter is mostly smooth. Transfer the batter to the parchment-lined sheet and using a large offset spatula, spread the batter into an even, thin layer until it fills the entire sheet pan. Hit the sheet pan onto your countertop to remove any air bubbles.
- Bake at 350 F degrees until the cake springs back when touched with your finger and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 17 to 20 minutes. Place on a cooling rack and allow the cake to cool completely in the sheet pan.
- Lay a large sheet of parchment paper on your countertop. Carefully invert the sheet pan and turn the cooled cake onto the sheet of parchment. Peel off the top parchment paper and discard. Using a long serrated knife, slice the cake in half crosswise, cutting through the paper below to allow the cake layers to be transferred later. Set aside.
- Prepare the frosting: Using a hand mixer and large bowl or a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, cream cheese, and salt together at medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the maple syrup, cinnamon, and cardamom and mix until incorporated. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the powdered sugar until smooth. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to ensure all the ingredients have been incorporated. Increase to high speed and beat for about 30 seconds to a minute.
- Assemble: Using the parchment paper, carefully transfer one cake layer half to a large, flat cutting board, serving platter, or an inverted clean sheet pan. Scoop just under half of the cream cheese frosting onto the center of the cake layer. Using an offset spatula, spread the frosting into an even, thin layer, with some space left on the edges of the cake (to prevent any overflow).
- Carefully lift the second half of cake (the cake is delicate, so you might want to enlist hands or use two large spatulas to help achieve this) and place on top of the frosted layer, pressing down lightly to adhere. Spread the remaining frosting onto the top of the cake in an even thicker layer. Create swirls, if desired, with the edge or back of the offset spatula.
- If not serving right away, store the cake, uncovered (or covered with plastic wrap once the frosting has set) in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Allow the cake to sit at room temperature for at least an hour before serving. I prefer it with just the slightest chill from the fridge. Slice into squares and serve.
I prefer to use unrefined, cold processed coconut oil (melted) in lieu of traditional vegetable oil, because it is more minimally processed and is touted to have higher health benefits. Feel free to use any neutral vegetable oil as a substitute if desired. Since coconut oil is solid at room temperature, it is even more important that all of your ingredients be at room temperature when preparing the batter. Room temperature ingredients will make sure that the coconut oil does not potentially solidify again during mixing.
Tips For Success:
- It’s worth noting that this recipe produces a generous amount of cream cheese frosting, which is quite rich. If you are not a frosting lover, use your judgement when frosting the cake itself or consider cutting the frosting recipe in half. The measurements make it easy to do so.
- The easiest way to store the cake is on a large, clean cutting board or on the back of a sheet pan. Cut it with a serrated knife for clean, even slices.
- Unrefined coconut oil adds the subtlest coconut flavor to this cake, whereas refined coconut coil is neutral in flavor. Feel free use one or the other in this!
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