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Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

We are smack dab in the middle of pumpkin season, so I have one more pumpkin inspired cake to share with you. I’ve shared some pumpkin cakes before, but somehow I’ve never shared a pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting!

While this pumpkin layer cake recipe is great on its own, it’s even better when paired with my tangy cream cheese frosting.

I love my cream cheese frosting recipe, because it’s really a cream cheese buttercream recipe. This means it has all that wonderful cream cheese taste, but also has structure.

It’s stiff enough to be used to fill and frost a layer cake, which is super important to me! It really is the best of both worlds.

image of Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, sliced

The Design for this Pumpkin Cake

It had been a while since I tried my hand at a painted cake. I decided that this cake was the perfect excuse for me to whip out my cake paint brushes!

As I thought about the pattern I wanted to paint, I pictured a pumpkin patch. A cheerful, festive pumpkin patch with colorful pumpkins.

I don’t think pumpkins even exist in the colors I painted, but I liked the colors I chose. The color scheme felt like a crisp Fall morning.

image of painted pumpkin cake

Painting on a Buttercream Cake

Painting directly onto buttercream frosting might seem a bit odd at first. However, it works surprisingly well!

Once my cake was thoroughly chilled (about 1 hour in the fridge), I mixed together some gel food coloring and gin to create my paint.

The ratio can vary based on the strength of color you’re after. In general, I like to mix about 1/2 tsp of clear liquor or extract with 1 drop of gel food coloring.

image of chelsey white painting on a pumpkin cake made with buttercream

Liquor helps the food coloring dry faster, because to it’s high alcohol content. It also thins out the food coloring.

This can help create different shades of the same, using the same gel food coloring. I love this, because it allows you to add shading, and give the design a lot more dimension.

If you don’t want to use alcohol, you can also use lemon extract or any clear extract.

Tips for Painting on a Buttercream Cake:

  • Be sure the cake is fully chilled, and that the frosting is firm to the touch
  • As you paint the cake, the frosting may begin to soften overtime. The second you notice the frosting start to soften, pop the cake back into the fridge for 15 minutes to chill.
  • Do not put this cake in the freezer! The extreme temperature change can create condensation, which will wreak havoc on your painted design
  • Leave yourself plenty of time to paint a cake. The process itself isn’t that time consuming, but it has to be done in stages to allow the layers of edible paint to dry.

Let Me Know What You Think!

If you try this pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting, I’d love to hear what think of it! Please leave a rating, and let me know your thoughts in the comments section 🙂

Yield: 24

Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

image of Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, sliced

This pumpkin cake recipe is frosted with a deliciously tangy cream cheese frosting!! It's made from scratch, and is insanely moist!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes


Pumpkin Cake Layers

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (390 grams)
  • 3 cups granulated sugar (600 grams)
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder (10 grams)
  • 1 tsp salt (6 grams)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (6 grams)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger (3 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (2 grams)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (226 grams) - 2 sticks
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract (8 grams)
  • 1/2 cup pasteurized egg whites from a carton (or about 4 egg whites) (118 grams)
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree (112 grams)
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream, room temperature (345 grams)
  • 1/8 cup vegetable oil (28 grams)

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature (339 grams) - 3 sticks
  • 1/2 cup full-fat cream cheese, room temperature (113 grams or 4 oz.)
  • 7 cups powdered sugar (875 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3 grams)
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream (or whipping cream) (29 grams)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (4 grams)

Additional Decorations

  • Cake paint brushes
  • Large piping bag
  • orange, maroon, blue, green, and brown gel food coloring
  • clear liquor or extract (i.e. vodka, gin, lemon extract, etc.)


Pumpkin Cake Layers:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line four 7 inch pans or three 8 inch round pans with parchment rounds, and grease with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment until fully combined.
  3. Mix chunks of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly.
  4. Pour in egg whites, and mix on low until just incorporated.
  5. Mix in the sour cream, then the pumpkin puree on a low speed.
  6. Add in vanilla and oil, and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on low speed for about 15 seconds.
  7. Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans.
  8. Bake for 33 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the pans to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan.
  9. Place cake layers into the freezer for 45 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process. Once the layers are fully cooled, carefully flip the pans and remove the layers from the pans.
  10. Use a serrated knife to level the tops of the layers, and save in a bowl to make the pumpkin stump.

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting:

  1. While the cake layers bake and cool, make the cream cheese buttercream frosting.
  2. Beat the butter and cream cheese on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream.
  3. Once fully mixed, add in the vanilla and salt, and beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached. 
  4. If the frosting is too thick, add in additional cream (1 TBSP at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).

To Assemble This Pumpkin Cake:

  1. Stack and frost the pumpkin cake layers on a greaseproof cake board, using a dab of frosting to help stick the first cake layer to the board.
  2. Add an even layer of buttercream between each cake layer.
  3. Apply a thin coat of frosting around the cake, to fully cover the cake layers. Smooth using a bench scraper, then chill the cake in the fridge (20 minutes) or freezer (5 minutes) until the frosting is firm to the touch.
  4. Add a second, thicker layer of frosting to the cake, and smooth using a bench scraper.
  5. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour, then paint pumpkins around the cake using a mixture of gel food coloring and vodka (1 tsp of vodka mixed with 1-2 dros of gel food coloring).
  6. Paint multiple layers of the food coloring mixture to create dimension and depth, chilling the cake as need if the frosting begins to soften.


These cake layers can be made in advance!! Learn more about how far in advance they can be made, and how to properly wrap them in my post on how to make cake layers ahead of time.

Since this frosting will be used to decorate a cake, it is important to mix the buttercream on the lowest speed at the end of the process for a couple minutes, to get out any extra air that might have be incorporated during the mixing process.

You can also stir the frosting in a bowl with a rubber spatula, pushing it from side to side, to get rid of any air bubbles.This will make it easier to get super smooth sides on your cake!

Nutrition Information



Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 533Total Fat 26gSaturated Fat 15gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 9gCholesterol 68mgSodium 236mgCarbohydrates 73gFiber 1gSugar 59gProtein 3g

Pumpkin Recipe Round Up - 8 Cozy and Delicious Recipes

Saturday 17th of December 2022

[…] 4. Painted Pumpkin Cake […]


Sunday 23rd of October 2022

That is a beautiful cake and design. You have inspired me to give it a try.


Saturday 29th of October 2022

Hi Olivia,

Thank you!! I hope that your cake turns out great!


Wednesday 3rd of February 2021

Hello. I hope you get this, can you color your cream cheese frosting?


Monday 12th of October 2020

3 cups of sugar to 3 cups of flour seem like a lot. I normally do 1 1/4 cup sugar to 2cups flour as do a lot of recipes. Is this because of the pumpkin?

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Thursday 5th of December 2019

[…] The recipe can be found here: […]

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