It's that time of year to start thinking about all things pumpkin. I would be happy to have my pumpkin latte in May and my favorite Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting any time of the year. Although I suppose waiting for this cake all year makes it extra special when the weather starts changing and I want my kitchen to smell all sweet and spicy.
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When I think of pumpkin, I also think of spices, and this cake has both. Rich pumpkin puree mixed with fall's favorite spices -- cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. This cake bakes up moist and rich with a delicate, spicy pumpkin flavor. Your kitchen will smell awesome when baking this cake.
This cake is topped with a creamy white chocolate cream cheese frosting to add more flavor. Not only is the icing super simple to make, but it is one of my favorite icing recipes ever! It's creamy, not too sweet, and has a tangy flavor from the cream cheese and the lovely white chocolate flavor. Try it, and you will understand what I mean. May I just say, YUMMY!
But wait, we're not stopping there. Add a sprinkling of chopped pecans, cranberries, and ginger on top of the frosting for another layer of flavor that takes this cake over the top. It's the same topping I add to this Banana Cake Roll recipe.
Reasons To Love This Recipe
- Sheet cakes are one-layer and are served directly out of the pan, so there is no depanning or leveling out the top of the cake.
- Frosting a sheet cake is easy since you just spread icing over the top of the cake.
- Simply cut the cake into the desired size squares to serve.
- Be creative and add fun and festive toppings over the frosting.
- The icing-to-cake ratio is perfect. Every bite, you get the perfect amount of cake and icing, which is super important!!!
- Sheet cakes are easy to transport to parties, potlucks, or cookouts; they seem always to be a real crowd-pleasing dessert.
This is the simplest cake to make and creates the perfect fall dessert. Mix the wet ingredients, add the dry ingredients, spread into a sheet pan, and bake.
What is a sheet cake?
Sheet cakes are a one-layer cake baked in a rectangular pan, like a rimmed cookie sheet or a jelly roll pan. Usually, for this type of sheet cake, the pan sizes are:
Half sheet pan - 18" x 13" x 1"
Quarter sheet pan - 13" x 9" x 1"
Jelly roll pans - 15 ½" x 10 ½" x 1"
Ingredients for the cake and frosting
Add the usual cake ingredients of all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Plus these extra ingredients:
- White sugar - granulated is the best option for this recipe
- Brown sugar - you can use any brown sugar you like
- Canola oil
- Eggs - let them get to room temperature before using
- Pumpkin Puree
- Vanilla extract
- Cinnamon - use ground cinnamon for the best results
- Cloves - go for ground rather than whole cloves so it mixes in well
- White chocolate
- Cream cheese
- Powdered sugar
- Pecans - use halved pecans or chop them in half
- Dried cranberries
- Candied ginger
How to make a pumpkin cake
Step 1. Add the white and brown sugar, pumpkin puree, beaten eggs, canola oil, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. You can mix this easily with a wire whisk until thoroughly combined. When done mixing scrape down the sides of the bowl and remix if needed.
You can mix everything in one bowl and use a wire whisk. You can also mix everything in your Kitchen Aid, or use a hand mixer, but sometimes I like mixing by hand, and I realize that not everybody has a big stand mixer or even has room for one. For this cake batter, all you need is a good sturdy whisk.
Step 3. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix until the flour is completely combined. Scrape the bowl and remix.
Step 2. Mix all the dry ingredients - flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Using a wire whisk or a fork makes this easy to mix up.
Step 4. Prepare the 18" x 13" baking pan. Spray with cooking spray, then generously coat the pan with sugar; make sure to tap the pan to remove the sugar that did not stick to the pan. Normally, this is done with flour, but the sugar adds flavor and creates a little caramelization on the cake's bottom.
Step 5. Pour the batter into the pan and spread it out to the edges. Bake in a 350-degree F. oven for 20 minutes. When done, remove from the oven, place on a wire rack and let the pumpkin spice sheet cake cool completely before icing the cake.
Step 1. Melt the white chocolate in the microwave. Do this by breaking the white cholate bar into smaller pieces and put into a microwave-safe bowl, and then microwave it for 20 seconds. Remove the bowl, stir the chocolate and microwave again for 20 seconds and stir.
Do this one more time. At this point, the chocolate should be melting, and the bowl should be warm, which will help melt the chocolate.
Keep stirring until the chocolate is melted. You do not want to put the bowl in the microwave too much as it will cause the white chocolate to seize up. But if needed, put the bowl back in the microwave for maybe 12-second intervals to get everything melted. I used the Ghirardelli White Chocolate Baking Bar for this recipe.
Step 2. Beat the cream cheese and butter with a mixer on medium speed until combined, then beat in the melted white chocolate
Step 3. Mix in sifted powdered sugar on low speed with the mixer until all the ingredients are combined, and the icing is creamy.
Step 4. Spread the icing on the cooled cake, cut it into desired-size squares, and top it with chopped pecans, candied ginger, and dried cranberries.
Pecan, Cranberry, and Ginger Cake Topping
I love mixing candied ginger, pecans, and dried cranberries. This mixture can be used on so many different baked goods as a topping like bread, muffins, or pies; and, it is super tasty on top of a hot bowl of oatmeal. I love it because it adds color, flavor, and texture.
For this recipe, adding this mixture to the top of the white chocolate frosting makes this cake pop and pairs perfectly with the pumpkin flavor. It is a simple extra step that really adds to the original recipe. I also added this mixture inside this Banana Cake Roll and on top of the cake. Like I said, I love the mixture.
Give this mixture a good chop so everything is in small pieces, then sprinkle it on top of the frosted cake.
Sprinkle the chopped pecans, cranberries, and ginger on top.
This cake makes the perfect Thanksgiving dessert, and if you are at my house on Thanksgiving, we sometimes have a slice for breakfast with our tea. I have been known to make two cakes because everyone loves them and wants to take some home with them.
- You can also bake this cake in a 13" x 9" pan; increase the baking time to 30 - 35 minutes. Always test with a toothpick.
- This recipe uses cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. You can add even more spices if you like and omit one or two. You can also use pumpkin pie spice.
- Sometimes, pumpkin puree can be hard to find. I get mine at Trader Joe's; Organic 365 brands are all good, but you can also make your own from fresh pumpkins.
Other cake toppings to sprinkle on your frosted pumpkin cake
- A sprinkling of cinnamon can be added to make cinnamon cream cheese frosting
- Chopped pumpkin seeds work well in pumpkin recipes
- Chopped pecans walnuts or both are great for fall-season dishes
- Chopped dried cranberries are one of my favorite things for all fall and winter recipes
What's the Best White Chocolate to Use?
There are several options for the white chocolate baking bars, which come in the 4-ounce size needed for this recipe. Ghirardelli and Bakers Choice are readily available. Candy melts do not work as a replacement, so please get a bar of good-quality white chocolate.
Can I substitute the cream cheese frosting?
Yes, you can. If you are not a fan of cream cheese frosting, you can try using a simple vanilla glaze or even a brown butter frosting to match the warm flavors of the pumpkin cake.
Is there a vegan option for this cake?
Absolutely! For a vegan alternative, replace the eggs with a flaxseed or applesauce substitute, use plant-based milk instead of regular milk, and select a vegan-friendly margarine over butter. Also, make sure to use vegan frosting.
How long does this cake stay fresh?
When properly stored in an airtight container, this pumpkin sheet cake with cream cheese frosting can remain fresh for up to a week in the refrigerator.
Can I use fresh pumpkin instead of canned pumpkin puree?
Yes, you can. To use fresh pumpkin, select a small, sugar pumpkin. Slice it in half, remove the seeds, and roast the halves until they are soft. Once cooled, scoop out the flesh and puree until smooth. Note that fresh pumpkin is often more watery than canned pumpkin, so you may need to strain the puree to remove excess liquid before using.
Can I add other ingredients to the batter?
Certainly! For an added twist, add extras like chocolate chips or raisins to the batter. Just be sure that whatever you add doesn't make the batter too heavy, as it could affect the cake's rise.
I own lots of whisks for all different uses, and a good sturdy whisk comes in handy for mixing and whipping ingredients; this 9' Oxo Good Grips Whisk is not expensive, and I love the handle for good gripping.
Spreading icing over a large sheet cake is easy when you use an angled icing spatula. This 13' icing spatula is what I use, and because it's angled, the knife won't get into the icing.
More Thanksgiving Recipe Ideas
- When you don't want to roast a great big turkey, this Turkey Roll-Up Casserole is perfect for a small gathering. The deli roasted turkey is rolled with stuffing and cranberry sauce inside, then covered with gravy and baked. It's really good.
- Everyone loves a good side dish, and this recipe for Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Apples is simple and delicious.
- You can't have turkey without Cranberry Sauce, and this recipe only takes three ingredients.
- If you serve a Thanksgiving brunch, bake these Mini Cheese Quiches.
- Another favorite pumpkin recipe is this Cranberry Pumpkin Bread; bake a loaf and top it with a creamy orange glaze. This bread has some serious flavor.
Since this cake has a cream cheese frosting, make sure to refrigerate any leftovers. Let this cake sit at room temperature for up to 8 hours, then stick it in the fridge.
Can you freeze the leftover cake?
If you have leftover cake (we never do, but if you do), this cake is easy to freeze. Cut the cake into squares and place them in an airtight freezer container in a single layer. When ready to serve, take the cake out of the freezer and let sit for two hours to defrost.
Freezing the cake slices is perfect for small families. I like to send the slices home with my mother so she can freeze them and then pull a slice out when she wants a homemade dessert. After all, she would never make a big cake like this for herself.
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Pumpkin Sheet Cake with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
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White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
How to prepare the Pumpkin Cake
- Preheat oven to 350° F. and Prepare an 18" x 13" baking sheet. Spray with cooking spray and dust with sugar.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugars, pumpkin puree, beaten eggs, oil, and vanilla. Whisk the mixture until totally combined and the mixture is smooth. Instead of a whisk you can also use an electrict mixer and beat at medium speed.
- Mix all the dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Using a wire whisk or a fork makes this easy to mix up.
- Combine the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until the flour is completely combined, using a whisk or a mixer.
- Spread batter into a greased and sugared pan. Make sure to push the batter into the edges of the sheet pan.
- Bake for 20 minutes then transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool.
How to prepare the White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
- Melt the white chocolate in the microwave. Do this by breaking the white chocolate bar into smaller pieces and put into a microwave-safe bowl and then microwave for 20 seconds. Remove the bowl and stir the chocolate and microwave again for 20 seconds and stir. Do this one more time. At this point, the chocolate should be melting and the bowl should be warm which will help melt the chocolate.Keep stirring until the chocolate is melted. You do not want to put the bowl in the microwave too much as it will cause the white chocolate to seize up. But if needed go ahead and put the bowl back in the microwave for maybe 12-second intervals to get everything melted.
- In a large mixing bowl beat the softened cream cheese and softened butter with a mixer until smooth.
- Add the melted white chocolate and beat to combine.
- Add the powdered sugar and beat on low speed until the icing is smooth and creamy.
- Spread frosting on the cooled cake.
The Crumbled Topping
- On a large cutting board place the pecans, candied ginger and dried cranberries and chop all together to get small pieces. Sprinkle this mixture on the frosted cake.
- Since this cake has a cream cheese frosting, make sure to refrigerate any leftovers. You can let this cake sit out at room temperature for up to 8 hours, but then stick it in the fridge.
- Since this cake has a cream cheese frosting, store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to three days.
First Published: January 6, 2015... Last Updated: Oct. 2, 2023 for better readability.
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From learning to cook on a farm in Indiana to culinary school in California, my passion for food is never-ending. Turning on my oven to bake something for friends and family is my happy place, and I am glad to be here at One Hot Oven, sharing both sweet and savory recipes with all my baking friends.