Baker, recipe developer, and cookbook author Jessie Sheehan shares her recipe for a pumpkin snacking cake. This version is spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, then swiped with a layer of chocolate cream cheese frosting. It’s so quick and easy that you’ll find yourself making it often—long after pumpkin season ends.  

Snacking cakes are my favorite cakes. If you have crossed paths with my apple snacking cake—and I certainly hope you have—then you have likely already heard me wax eloquent about them. But if you’re in need of a refresher: Snacking cakes are easy to assemble, incredibly moist and tender (as they often call for oil, rather than butter), and adorable to behold in their 8x8x2-inch pans. This pumpkin version, with the most divine, deeply chocolatey, tangy cream cheese frosting, is perfect for your Thanksgiving dessert table.

Related Reading: How to Line Every Pan with Parchment

Swap Pie for Cake This Thanksgiving

Although this may come as a surprise, not everyone loves pie. In fact, many are team cake (including me: I am the self-proclaimed captain) and would be over the moon to see a cake among all the apple and pecan and sweet potato pies. I’m certainly not advocating that you scratch all pies and only make snacking cakes for Thanksgiving (but I won’t lie: I would love you for doing that), but if you can substitute even a single pie for a snacking cake, you’ll be simplifying holiday baking in the most delicious of ways.  

This snacking cake is far easier to construct than any of the pies you would be laboring over in anticipation of turkey day. It comes together quickly and bakes in about 30 minutes. Plus, chocolate and pumpkin is a marriage that is often unfairly sidelined. The spices that usually accompany pumpkin—nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice—mesh brilliantly with the chocolate frosting, and chocolate unquestionably helps those who are apprehensive about pumpkin ease into the ingredient.

Jessie Sheehan

Its Simplicity Will Give You Time to Focus On The Rest of the Cooking

This cake—frosted and all—can be baked and frozen up to a month before Thanksgiving. That means you can make it tonight, freeze it, forget about it, and then pull it out Thanksgiving morning. It’ll come to room temp by the time the big meal is served, leaving you with one less thing on your plate during the busiest of prep days.

Related Reading: Fall Recipes Perfect for Those Sick of Pumpkin-Flavored Everything

Simply transfer the frosted cake to a cookie sheet and stick it in the freezer. Once frozen, tightly wrap it in plastic wrap and a sheet of tinfoil and return to the freezer until ready to eat. Let it come to room temperature, unwrapped, before serving. Your friends and family members— whether they’re team cake, team pie, or team pumpkin—will be delighted.

Pumpkin Snacking Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Snacking Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes: 12 slices
Ingredients
  • For the cake:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cake flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Rounded ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 7 1/2 ounces pumpkin puree (half of a 15 ounce can)
  • For the frosting:
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • One 8 ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8x8x2-inch pan with cooking spay or softened butter. Line the bottom with parchment paper and grease again. Set aside.
  2. Whisk the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices in a medium-sized bowl and set aside.
  3. Place the oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whisk to combine. Add the eggs and yolks and continue whisking until smooth. Add the pumpkin and whisk again. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and using a rubber spatula, gently fold to combine. Do not over mix. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula or butter knife.
  4. Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating at the halfway point, until a cake tester comes out with a moist crumb or two. Let cool until easy to handle before inverting the cake on to a cooling rack and then flipping it right side up to cool to room temperature.
  5. To make the frosting, combine the butter and cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and on medium high speed, beat the butter/cream cheese until smooth and uniform. Add the vanilla and beat again.
  6. Sift the confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder, and salt into a large bowl and whisk until combined. With the mixer on low speed, add about a cup of the sugar at a time to the mixer bowl, beating after each addition until thoroughly until combined. Once all of the sugar has been added, increase the speed of the mixer to medium or medium high and beat the mixture until smooth. Do not over mix, or the frosting will lose structure.
  7. Generously spread the top of the cake with the frosting. If you’d like to freeze the cake, do so after frosting it, covering it in plastic wrap only once it is frozen solid. Remove the plastic wrap and let come to room temperature before serving.
  8. The cake will keep wrapped in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for up to three days, and is even more delish on day two.

Header image courtesy of Jessie Sheehan

Jessie Sheehan is a cookbook author, food writer, recipe developer, and baker. She is the author of The Vintage Baker (one of the Washington Post’s best cookbooks of 2018) and the co-author of Icebox Cakes (both published by Chronicle Books). She has developed recipes for many cookbooks, besides her own, and has contributed recipes/and or written for Rachael Ray Everyday, the Washington Post, Better Homes & Garden, Yankee Magazine (October 2020), Epicurious, Food52, Fine Cooking, TASTE, Chowhound, Yummly, Spruce Eats, and Little Sous, among others. She blogs at jessiesheehanbakes.com and can be found on Instagram at @jessiesheehanbakes. She likes layer cakes with lots of frosting and cookies that are thick and chewy. Oh, and she has a soft spot for chocolate pudding. She lives in Red Hook, Brooklyn, with her husband and two boys, not far from her beloved Baked, the bakery where she got her start.
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