Can we talk about sheet cakes for a minute? I love a good sheet cake. They’re easy, casual-yet-classy, and best of all, feed a crowd. Most sheet cakes you can serve in big squares and eat with a knife and fork, or cut in small bars and serve as finger food.
This spiced pumpkin version is one of those recipes that everyone should have in their repertoire. And I bet lots of you do have it in your repertoire. It’s been around forever in old recipe binders in kitchens across the country. My copy is handwritten on an old piece of paper and I genuinely have no idea where it came from. But it’s one of those go-to, everyone-loves-it, can’t-go-wrong recipes. If I have to take something to a family dinner, potluck or party during the months of October or November, this is what I make 90% of the time. So quick, so easy and so, so, so good.
There’s no fuss here. Everything just gets dumped in a bowl and mixed on up.
You can really customize the spices in this cake to your liking. I’ve included the easiest method in the instructions, which is just to use pumpkin pie spice.
Even when I use pumpkin pie spice, I usually add in a little extra nutmeg and cloves. I just eyeball it, but I feel like sometimes the pre-mixed spice jar lacks a little oomph.
Spread the batter out onto a sheet pan and bake it until just done. Since sheet cakes are thin, they can go from perfect to overcooked in just a minute, so make sure you check it and take it out just when moist crumbs are attached.
Now remember that Brown Sugar Caramel Frosting from last week? These were meant for each other. Although if you prefer, you could go for a Cream Cheese Frosting or Brown Butter Frosting. All of those would be amazing here.
Notice I just have a thin layer on this cake. Since sheet cakes are thinner than a traditional cake, you don’t really need to pile it on high or it’s overwhelming. This sweet layer is absolute perfection with the mellow spice cake.
I like to sprinkle a little cinnamon and a teeeeny bit of nutmeg on top. You can serve this with a knife and fork, or also, after it all sets up, these work great as finger food if you cut them smaller.
Pumpkin Sheet Cake
- 1 15 ounce can pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
- 2 cups white sugar
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 4 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/2 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- optional: a few dashes nutmeg and cloves
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons cream (or milk)
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. My original recipe specifies a 15 x 10-inch pan, but my pan is about 13 x 17, so anything in that arena shoud be good. Set pan aside.
- In a mixing bowl, beat pumpkin, sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla.
- In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Add dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture, and beat until mixed.
- Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 20-30 minutes, until tested with toothpick and just moist crumbs attach.
- Right when cake comes out of oven, begin frosting.
- Heat butter, brown sugar, cream, and salt in a pot until melted and combined. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into a mixing bowl. Let cool to luke warm (about 10 minutes) and then beat in powdered sugar and vanilla. Adjust consistency by adding more powdered sugar to thicken, or more cream or milk (little by little) to thin. Use immediately as frosting will thicken upon standing.
- Frost when just barely warm and sprinkle lightly with cinnamon to garnish.
- This cake is also fantastic with a classic Cream Cheese Frosting or our Brown Butter Frosting.
DELICIOUS! Will definitely make again and again!
I’ve made this cake three times in the last week and a half (twice as a sheet cake and once as cupcakes) and it was always a big hit wherever it was served. Thank you for sharing! This is a fall family staple now! One alteration I made the 2nd and 3rd times is to sub half the oil for applesauce (so 1/2 cup oil, 1/2 cup applesauce) – it bakes up fluffy and delicious!
LOVE this cake! The cake was perfect and that frosting was AMAZING! And I love that the leftovers taste just as good days later. Definitely becoming a fall tradition around here!
So these bars are amazing. I added a 1/4 teaspoon maple extract and used 1/4 cup dark brown sugar and 1/2 cup light brown sugar for the frosting. That maple extract and bit of dark brown sugar sent it over the top!
If you made this into cupcakes instead of a sheet cake, would you need to adjust the baking time?
You would need to reduce it, but I’m not sure by how much. So sorry I can’t be of more help!
I’ll try and keep an eye on them and report back! Thanks!
Reporting back… it made 24 cupcakes plus more for a quarter sheet cake!
The cupcakes baked for 14-15 minutes in my oven, the ones on the lower shelf were done after 14 and the top shelf needed an extra minute. The quarter sheet cake baked for around 18 minutes I think.
Also SUCH a huge hit, I brought them into work and got so many compliments and then I tell everyone about your site! Thank you for a great recipe as always!!
Does this cake freeze well?? Frosting and all..
I’m not sure, I’ve never frozen it with the frosting, but plain cake freezes beautifully!
Does it have to be frosted immediately? Can I make the frosting later that day?
Yep you can totally the frosting later!
Do you think it would work as a layered cake? I want to do a pumpkin cake for my daughter’s birthday. I have a recipe that I usually use, but I want to try this one. I’m thinking two layers with the frosting in the middle and on top. Thoughts?
Ya know, I’ve never tried it, but I *think* it would work just fine? Can’t make any promises though. You might want a test run!
Test run- that would imply that I was planning her party more in advance than the day before. Oops! 🙂
I appreciate the feedback. Now I’ll debate if I should risk it or do it in a 9×13. That’s still festive 🙂
Thank you! Love your blog, love your honest take on life. Ya’ll rock!
Has anyone used applesauce in place of the oil in this recipe? I’ve heard people do that for cakes but I’ve never tried and I don’t want to ruin this but I’m trying to be annoyingly semi-healthy…
I made this recipe, but had to make some changes with perfect success. The recipe has way way too much oil! I decreased the oil to 1/2 cup and added 1/4 cup of plain Greek yogurt; added a little extra flour maybe 1/4 cup, as the batter was too thin; added 1/4 cup of plain Greek yogurt; added a little extra flour as the batter was too thin; and baked the cupcakes between 17 and 20 minutes.
Good right out of the oven, but sensational the next day!
So yummy! I love brown sugar in the fall. It’s the perfect touch to maple and cinnamon. Pinned!
Just finished frosting the cake and sprinkling it with cinnamon! That frosting is amazing. The party I’m taking it to isn’t until this evening. Do I need to refrigerate the cake until then, or is it okay sitting on the counter?
Nope, just leave it at room temp 🙂
Thanks for this recipe! I made it last night for a work BBQ, and it was a huge hit. I was concerned at first because my sheet pan is larger than 10×15 but it still baked within your recommended time. I am not great at making frosting but this one was easy (and delicious!)
Made this using homemade pumpkin puree following the instructions on how to make it from your website! Made it with the brown sugar caramel frosting as recommended. So so SO good! Fall is officially here. It’s funny because when the batter was in the bowl I was thinking there’s no way all this liquid will fit in a 15 x 10 tray, but it did!
Funny you posted this because we have made pumpkin sheet cake like four times in the last couple of weeks at our house. We love it! I actually had the idea this year to pair it with this maple buttercream from a pumpkin cookie recipe I had on file and it is divine! You need to try it Sarah!
ooh, I bet that’s delicious!
Can you double this for a thicker cake in a baking dish?
You could just bake the recipe as is, in a 9×13 pan. Since the pan is so much smaller, it will be twice as thick.
Would this recipe work for cupcakes? And this is a silly question but I have never made sheet cake before–is there a certain sheet cake pan sold for recipes like this? Thanks. Can’t wait to try it.
I’ve never made it into cupcakes but it would definitely work. It’s a good all around cake so it should be yummy. And you just need a regular rimmed baking sheet, like you would use for cookies. We have them linked in our favorites section, here!
So I just checked your link out because I am worried that my half sheet is too big (it’s like 13 x 18, or something), but your link says the pan is a half sheet size. Is that correct? Your recipe says 11 x 15. I want to make this for the fall festival on Saturday at my kids school. Your help is greatly appreciated! You ladies are awesome!
No, your pan is just fine. I just measured mine and that’s the same size mine is so you’re good!
Sarah, what frosting do you normally put on it the most?
The brown sugar caramel frosting!
I’m so glad you added this recipe. I figured I was the only person left in the world who doesn’t have it and it is in the top ten of my favorite desserts! Thank you!
I know this just posted, but it looked so good I made this tonight for a family night refreshments!! This is to DIE FOR!!! Sooo good!! I made the brown sugar frosting. I can’t tell you how awesome this turned out! I haven’t baked in a really long time, and this made me want to get back in the kitchen. This is going to be one to take to any fall event!! Thanks for posting. Love it!
SO happy to hear!
Even better for breakfast today, if that is possible. 😉
IF YOU WERE NOT USING PUMPKIN PIE SPICE, WHAT WOULD SPICES/AMOUNTS WOULD YOU USE?
You could google a homemade pumpkin pie spice. Honestly I’d just eyeball it and probably add about 2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg and cloves and 1/2 teaspoon ginger.
My mouth is watering already. Yum!
I’ve been making this recipe for years. It truly is the best sheet cake. I get rave reviews every time i bring to a dinner or something.
This looks so yummy! I need this in my life!