This soft healthy pumpkin spice cake is packed with pumpkin puree and pumpkin spice. It takes 10 minutes to prep, is one bowl and uses only 6 main ingredients, lighter, lower in calories and with no eggs. Frost this single layer snack cake with a cream cheese frosting.
This delicious healthy pumpkin spice cake is soft and moist, thanks to yogurt, and is perfect for Halloween, birthdays, and any fall or winter holiday. Serve the slices as a single layer cake, a snack cake, or as a hand-held pumpkin bar. Like my other fall favorite, cinnamon apple cake, this pumpkin cake is lighter and lower in calorie thanks to milk with lemon juice, and applesauce, no butter and no eggs.
Why You'll Love This
Quick & easy snack cake. This cake comes together with mostly pantry ingredients in one bowl, and can be on the table in under an hour.
A seasonal showstopper. Make this holiday pumpkin cake as a single layer snack cake, or double it for a layer cake, or a sheet cake. Frost and decorate with tiny pumpkins or festive sprinkles.
Healthy thanks to pumpkin. Pumpkin is a wonderful ingredient to add to cakes because it doesn't lose its nutritional powers even after backing. The nutritional power of pumpkin is significant including benefits to eyes, heart and a ton of immune-boosting antioxidants.
flour. All purpose, or a gluten free baking flour.
pumpkin puree. Canned is best. Don't use pumpkin pie filling.
milk + lemon juice. Making this buttermilk replaces eggs and most of the oil, and helps cake rise.
applesauce. Unsweetened, the pectin helps the cake rise and thus perfectly replaces eggs found in similar recipes.
sugars. Brown sugar and cane sugar. The brown sugar brings a caramel flavor to the cake.
spices. Pumpkin pie spices and cinnamon. Either store-bought or use my homemade recipes for homemade holiday spices.
Olive oil. I have included the option to add just 2 tablespoons. I have left this off with little impact, but it does make the cake slightly lighter.
baking essentials. Vanilla, baking powder, soda and salt.
See the recipe card at the bottom for full information on ingredients and quantities.
Step by Step Instructions
For more detail, visit the complete and printable recipe at the bottom of this post, but here are general steps.
Preparations: Add lemon juice to milk to make buttermilk. Add parchment paper to an 8x8-inch pan. Measure out the ingredients.
Step 1: Add the wet ingredients and sugars to a large mixing bowl. Mix with a spoon or hand mixer.
Step 2: Add in the dry ingredients and mix. Use a hand mixer or a spoon, mixing about 30 seconds.
Step 3: Pour batter into the pan. Bake at 350 F for 40 minutes. A tester should come out clean.
Step 4: Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Lift out of the pan using parchment paper ends. Let it cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes before frosting.
Step 5: Prepare or buy the frosting you want to use. To use mine, put all ingredients in a bowl and hand mix until fluffy. Frost a cooled cake.
Pumpkin puree. Use canned pumpkin puree. I used 365 Whole Food brand; if you use Farmer's Market, remove 1 tablespoon of applesauce since that brand is more liquidy. Don't use pumpkin pie filling - that has additives like sugar that will change the recipe.
Measuring flour. Be sure to carefully measure the flour so it is correct. Use a fork to loosen the flour in the bag. Then spoon it into the measuring cup and level off with a knife.
Don't mix the batter with the flour more than 30 seconds or just long enough to create a combined batter so the cake texture doesn't toughen.
For thicker slices, use a loaf pan or an 8x4-inch pan. Using an 8x8-inch pan as the recipe is written, the slices are fairly thin, suitable to make slices or bars that can be hand-held.
Yes, put your frosted pumpkin cake in a sealed container and refrigerate for up to 4 days. Before frosting, this cake can be frozen in a sealed container for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator, frost and serve.
You can use canned sweet potato or canned butternut squash, those work like pumpkin puree, giving the bars incredible texture, moisture and fall flavors.
Yes, this cake is definitely flavorful enough to go without frosting. Just dust with powdered sugar with a touch of pumpkin pie spice.
More Pumpkin Recipes
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Pumpkin Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 ¼ cup flour all purpose, or a gluten free baking flour
- ⅔ cup pumpkin purée, canned
- ½ cup brown sugar or coconut sugar
- ¼ cup cane sugar
- 6 tablespoon applesauce
- ½ cup milk dairy free
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoon olive oil optional
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice*
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 pinch of salt
- 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature dairy free
- ¼ cup butter, room temperature
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoon milk
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- Line an 8x8-inch caking pan with parchment paper.
- Add the lemon juice to the milk to create buttermilk.
- Make sure the butter and cream cheese for the frosting are at room temperature or microwave each separately for 10 seconds each.
- Add wet ingredients and sugars to a large bowl, and stir with a spoon or use a hand mixer.⅔ cup pumpkin purée, canned, ½ cup brown sugar, ¼ cup cane sugar, 6 tablespoon applesauce, ½ cup milk, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2 tablespoon olive oil
- Add the dry ingredients to the mixture and stir or mix to combine, about a minute to achieve a thick batter.1 ¼ cup flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice*, ½ teaspoon baking soda, 2 teaspoon baking powder, 1 pinch of salt
- Pour the batter into the lined pan.
- Bake the cake at 35-45 minutes. The top should be dry, tiny cracks and tinged with brown. A tester in the center should come out dry.
- Let the cake cool in the pan about 20 minutes. Use parchment to lift it out and let it finish cooling on a wire rack.
Make the Frosting
- Add the butter, cream cheese, vanilla and salt into a bowl, and use a hand mixer to cream.4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature, ¼ cup butter, room temperature, ½ teaspoon vanilla
- Add the sugar, and milk, and mix. You can add more milk, a tablespoon at a time, to achieve a creamy frosting texture.1 ½ cups powdered sugar, 2 tablespoon milk
- Make sure the cake is cool, then frost and refrigerate for 20 minutes before slicing for clean slices.