An easy and healthy recipe for pumpkin cake topped with fresh cream cheese frosting! Made with homemade pumpkin puree made from scratch or from the can.
I’m an everything pumpkin girl.
My pants also tend to get a bit tighter this time of year too. Coincidence? I think not.
So I’m trying to be more mindful of what I bake. Specifically, I want to use more whole grains and less sugar. If I can use a natural sweetener, that’s even better.
Thankfully, this healthy pumpkin cake recipe checks all those boxes!!
Healthy Pumpkin Cake Recipe
I love this pumpkin cake recipe because it’s easy and straightforward to make. But I also love it because it’s:
- Made with whole grain flour – which has great health benefits.
- Lightly sweetened with a natural sweetener.
- Super moist!
- Picky-eater approved.
I do want to say that if you’re used to super-sweet desserts, you’re not going to like this. There is JUST ENOUGH sweetener to make this qualify as a dessert, but not so much that you’ll end up in a sugar coma. Which is a good thing, right?
I think so! I don’t feel bad letting my kids eat this for breakfast or an afterschool snack. And I don’t feel bad if I sneak a second piece when the kids have gone to bed!
If you want a sweeter pumpkin cake, I recommend adding ¼ – ½ cup of granulated sugar to the recipe, depending on your preferences. Remember that you can start with ¼ cup and add more.
Pumpkin Spice Cake Ingredients
This is a cake, so we need the common cake players:
- Whole Grain Flour. Not a “typical” cake player, but this is a healthy pumpkin cake recipe!
- Cinnamon + Nutmeg + Ginger. Close to pumpkin spice, but not quite. See my notes below if you want to use a pumpkin spice blend.
- Baking Powder + Baking Soda + Salt. To leaven + flavor.
- Butter + Egg. Minimal fat + binder. I haven’t tested using flax egg, but I’m betting it will work.
- Vanilla + Maple Syrup. Flavor + natural sweetener.
- Pumpkin puree. Both homemade pumpkin puree and canned pumpkin will work. See my notes below. Be sure NOT to use pumpkin pie mix!
- Frosting (optional). I recommend using cream cheese frosting but read below for other options.
Note: I buy einkorn berries from Jovial Foods (use coupon code DWCRUMBS to save 10% on your order!!) and make my own whole grain flour with a Mockmill (you can read my honest review of the Mockmill here) because it’s cheaper, but also because we realized my daughter was sensitive to gluten after doing the Whole30 as a family. If you’re curious about einkorn, you can read more about it here.
Do you refrigerate pumpkin cake?
If you want to make this ahead of time, I recommend baking the cake rather than preparing the batter. You can refrigerate the cake, but doing so will dry it out a little bit. It’s better the day it’s made.
Another option is to bake the cake and store it at room temperature for 2-3 days and make the cream cheese frosting just before serving.
How to Make this Easy Pumpkin Dump Cake
Most dump recipes are “dump and bake,” and while this one requires a turn or two of the spatula, it still qualifies as a dump cake recipe to me!
- Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl, whisk together.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Give the batter a stir or two until everything is combined.
- Bake, cool, frost, and enjoy!
As for the frosting, it’s just as easy! Simply mix the ingredients in a small mixing bowl and spread on top of the cooled cake.
Can I make a different icing for pumpkin cake?
I personally LOVE this pumpkin cake recipe with cream cheese frosting. A vanilla buttercream frosting or even a sprinkle of powdered sugar would be a great replacement for the icing.
Can I make this pumpkin cake in a bundt pan? Or in a round pan?
Absolutely! Use whatever pan you’d like to make this recipe. The cooking time will likely need to be adjusted, so use a toothpick to test for doneness. Insert a toothpick in the center of the cake. When the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is ready!
Can I make this pumpkin cake with cake mix?
I have a DELICIOUS recipe for homemade yellow cake mix, but I haven’t tried making this cake using that mix… YET!
If you want to give it a shot, I recommend using 1¾ cup of cake mix instead of the flour, baking soda, salt and maple syrup in the recipe (the homemade yellow cake mix already contains granulated sugar).
The batter might seem very dry since your leaving out a good bit of a wet ingredient, so I would add either another egg or Greek yogurt, one tablespoon at a time until you reach the right consistency.
Make sure you take notes so you can alter the recipe next time!
What is pumpkin puree? Can I use homemade, or should I use canned?
Pumpkin puree is made from baking a sugar pumpkin (also known as a baking pumpkin) and then pureeing the flesh from the inside. Here’s a tutorial showing you how easy it is to make homemade pumpkin puree.
I’ve only made this recipe using canned pumpkin, but you can certainly use homemade!
What is pumpkin spice made of?
My own homemade pumpkin spice blend is made of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and clove. You’ll notice that this recipe doesn’t call for pumpkin spice or clove. If you don’t feel like measuring out each spice and want to use a pumpkin spice blend instead, go for it! You’ll need 2 ½ teaspoons.
A few of our favorite pumpkin recipes:
- Pumpkin Donuts
- 5-Ingredient Pumpkin Fudge
- Pumpkin Larabar Bites
- Overnight Pumpkin French Toast Casserole
- Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
- Classic Pumpkin Bread
- Pumpkin Swirl Black Bean Brownies
- 5-Minute Pumpkin Pie Hummus
- Pumpkin Cookies
- Slow Cooker Pumpkin Chili
- 1 ¾ cup whole grain flour
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- ¼ tsp ginger
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp coconut oil, melted and cooled
- 1 egg
- 1 Tbsp vanilla
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- ½ cup maple syrup
1-8 oz brick cream cheese, room temperature
- 3 Tbsp butter, room temperature
- ½ tsp vanilla
- 3 Tbsp maple syrup
- pinch salt
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease an 8x8 or 9x9 square baking dish. Set aside.
- Combine dry ingredients - whole grain flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, salt - in a bowl and whisk together.
- Combine the wet ingredients - coconut oil, egg, vanilla, pumpkin puree, and maple syrup - in a small bowl and mix well. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Give the batter a stir or two, just until everything is combined.
- Pour into the prepared baking dish and use a spatula to make the surface mostly smooth.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick or knife inserted into the middle comes out mostly clean.
- Let the cake cool.
- Meanwhile, prepare the frosting. In a stand mixer, blender OR by hand, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and maple syrup. Add the salt and taste, adjusting sweetener as desired.
- Spread frosting on cooled cake and serve.
*If you want a sweeter pumpkin cake, I recommend adding ¼ - ½ cup of granulated sugar to the recipe, depending on your preferences. Remember that you can start with ¼ cup and add more.