Moist Chocolate Pumpkin Cake
Combine rich chocolate with the seasonal pumpkin flavors to bake this chocolate pumpkin cake. Topped with a luscious pumpkin cream cheese frosting, this dessert is perfect for Halloween or Thanksgiving!
Pumpkin desserts are the best because they always turn out super soft and moist. This chocolate pumpkin cake is no different and it’s super easy to make from scratch! Topped with an orange cream cheese frosting, the cake is perfect for fall.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Full of fall flavor! Pumpkin purée and pumpkin pie spice is used in both the cake and the frosting. The cozy fall flavors are a treat for the tastebuds!
- Get your chocolate fix. Cocoa powder and mini chocolate chips are guaranteed to satisfy any chocolate craving.
- Easy to make from scratch. The cake requires no electric mixer! Mix the wet ingredients in one bowl and the dry ingredients in another, then simply combine the two.
- Delicious holiday dessert. Whether it’s Halloween, Thanksgiving or a fun fall weekend, it’s easy to find an excuse to bake this cake.
- Pumpkin puree: Use 100% pure pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling). I prefer the Libby’s brand.
- Pumpkin pie spice: Try making your own at home or use the store-bought blend. Check that it is fresh and not expired for the best flavor.
- Cocoa powder: A good quality unsweetened cocoa powder adds rich chocolate taste. I prefer the Ghirardelli brand.
- Milk: Whole milks adds richness and moisture. In a pinch, low-fat may be used.
- Vegetable oil: To make a moist, but fluffy, texture, add oil to the batter. Any flavorless oil will work.
- Mini chocolate chips: Adds a little extra chocolate in each bite!
- Cream cheese: Full-fat, block-style cream cheese is preferred for frosting. It is thicker than the tub variety so it makes a more sturdy consistency.
- Butter: Bring unsalted butter to room temperature so it’s easy to mix for the frosting.
- Confectioners’ sugar: Also known as powdered sugar, this helps sweeten the frosting while keeping it silky smooth.
Refer to the recipe card for ingredient details and measurements.
Try a different frosting. Chocolate buttercream frosting adds some extra decadent. Another option is cinnamon buttercream frosting.
Use different size cake pans. This recipe also works for two 8-inch round pans (bake for 25 to 30 minutes) or a 9×13 rectangular pan (bake for 25 minutes).
Add some chocolate ganache. After frosting the cake, drizzle chocolate ganache on top for a beautiful finish. Salted caramel would also taste delicious!
How to Make Chocolate Pumpkin Cake
- Whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Set aside.
- Mix the wet ingredients: pumpkin purée, sugar, vegetable oil, milk, eggs and vanilla.
- Combine wet and dry ingredients. Mix just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
- Divide batter evenly among three 6-inch round cake pans. Bake at 350 F for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Make the frosting. Beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Mix in pumpkin purée, then the confectioners’ sugar, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla. Mix until smooth.
- Assemble the cake. Level the cakes with a serrated knife. Spread frosting in an even layer on top of one cake layer. Top with another layer and repeat. Frost the sides and top of the cake with a thin layer of frosting. Freeze the cake for 30 minutes to set the crumb coat. Add final layer of frosting, slice and serve.
Weigh your ingredients with a scale. This guarantees accuracy and baking success! If you don’t have a scale, spoon the flour into a measuring cup and level with a knife.
Use room temperature ingredients. The batter will come together more easily and create a smooth consistency. As a result, the cake will have a better texture!
Don’t over-mix the batter. In order for the cake to turn out soft and tender, mix the dry and wet ingredients just until combined. Once the flour has disappeared, stop stirring!
Let the cake cool completely before frosting. If the cake is still warm, the frosting will melt and the cake won’t be sturdy.
Make Ahead and Storage Tips
Store covered at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for 4 days. If baking in a warm or humid climate, I suggest storing the cake in the refrigerator and bringing to room temperature when serving.
Freeze for up to 3 months. Wrap the cake (or individual slices) in plastic wrap, then store in the freezer. Defrost in the refrigerator before bringing to room temperature.
Make ahead the frosting and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature and give it a good stir before frosting the cake. The cakes may also be made a day ahead of time before assembling. Wrap the cooled cakes in plastic wrap so they don’t dry out overnight.
Homemade pumpkin purée has more liquid content than the store-bought variety from a can. I suggest patting it dry with a clean cloth before measuring and using in the recipe.
The ingredients were either too warm or the frosting was over-mixed. Put the bowl in the refrigerator for 20 minutes, then stir for 5 seconds before using. Also, be sure to use block-style cream cheese (it’s thicker than the kind in the tub!)
Absolutely! Fill each cup about three-quarters full and bake at 350 F fro 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
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Get the Recipe: Moist Chocolate Pumpkin Cake
- 1 ½ cup (187 g) all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup (75 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ cups (350 g) pure pumpkin purée, (not pumpkin pie filling)
- 1 ½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (120 ml) vegetable oil
- ½ cup (120 ml) whole milk, room temperature
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup mini chocolate chips
- 1 cup (8 ounces or 226 g) block-style cream cheese, room temperature
- ¼ cup (56 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- ⅓ cup (85 g) pure pumpkin purée
- 2 cups (240 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Chocolate shavings for garnish, optional
- Preheat oven to 350℉. Grease two 8-inch round pans (or three 6-inch rounds). Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, vigorously whisk together sugar, pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, milk, eggs and vanilla until very well combined.
- Pour wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients. Mix just until combined. Stir in mini chocolate chips.
- Transfer batter to prepared cake pans. Bake at 350 F for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with little to no crumbs. Let the cakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- For the frosting, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Mix in pumpkin puree, followed by confectioners’ sugar, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla. Mix until creamy.
- If necessary, level the cakes with a serrated knife. Frost the top of one cake layer and place the second cake on top (repeat if doing 3 layers).
- Frost a crumb coat (thin layer of frosting) around the outside and top of the cake. Place the cake in the freezer for 30 minutes to set.
- Use remaining frosting to frost the cake. Garnish with piped frosting, chocolate ganache or chocolate shavings.