This super easy recipe produces the most delicious pumpkin spice cake. You won’t be able to resist! It’s an easy quick bread loaf cake with pumpkin, spices, nuts, and raisins. This tasty cake goes great with a mug of hot tea, or a creamy latte on a chilly autumn afternoon.
Autumn is here! I love this time of year. The leaves are changing, the air is crisp, and Thanksgiving is fast approaching. It is most definitely my favorite season… in part, because of pumpkins! I can’t help smiling when I go to the grocery store and see those gorgeous orange pumpkins piled high in the produce section. It’s the symbol of the season. And in my home, it means that pumpkin spice cake will be baking in my oven soon!
Pumpkin spice is everywhere at this time of year… in lattes, scented candles, cookies, cocktails, soaps. I even saw pumpkin spice butter at the market recently! It reminded me of my pumpkin challah recipe with cinnamon butter. There is something so cozy and warming about this combination of spices. But where, exactly, did this trend originate?
The History of Pumpkin Spice Cake
Let’s start with pumpkins, which originated in Central America over 7,500 years ago. Native Americans cultivated pumpkins and prized them as a food source. Because of their thick and solid flesh, they could easily be stored throughout the winter. Like other forms of squash, pumpkins are easy to grow. They became a favorite with immigrants to the New World, particularly in New England.
Pumpkins were (and still are!) prized for their versatility; they were cooked into pies, stews, tarts, soups, and puddings. The flesh could be boiled or roasted, fried or mashed. Pumpkin seeds were dried and salted as a nutritious snack food. In the early 1800’s, decorative pumpkins called jack-o’-lanterns were carved to celebrate the autumn harvest season. Washington Irving featured a jack-o’-lantern in his 1819 short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow as the “head” of his Headless Horseman character. Consequently, this played a role in the jack-o’-lantern’s association with the Halloween holiday. In the mid 1800’s it became stylish to serve pumpkin pie for the Thanksgiving holiday, a trend that continues to this day.
The “spice” part of pumpkin spice begins in 1934, when McCormick company debuted a blend of warming spices they called “Pumpkin Pie Spice.” Naturally, the original intent of this spice blend was to add flavor to pumpkin pies. It wasn’t until around 2010 that the popularity of pumpkin spice as a seasonal flavor began to trend. The blend signals comfort and coziness as the chilly fall season approaches.
Fast forward to today, and you can find thousands of pumpkin spice flavored products on the market. And of course as a result of this trend, you can also find hundreds of pumpkin spice cake recipes online! I originally published this pumpkin spice cake recipe in 2011, so I guess the flavor combination was trending at that point. Honestly, I don’t remember developing this cake as a “trendy” recipe. However I do get excited when fall rolls around… in our home, the fall season always means pumpkin spice cake.
Baking with Pumpkin
I love cooking and baking with pumpkin. Pureed pumpkin adds gorgeous color and moisture to baked desserts, and a special essence that just feels like fall. It adds moisture without too many calories, unlike oil and butter. When combined with pumpkin spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves, pumpkin takes on a magical quality.
Case in point, my pumpkin spice cake. This delicious loaf cake is one of my favorite harvest-style desserts. Some might refer to this recipe as a quick bread or pumpkin bread. In our home this is most definitely considered dessert, which is why we call it a cake. When you bake it, your house will smell like autumn. Every bite is soft, moist, sweet, and delicious. I enjoy baking this cake for Thanksgiving, Sukkot – or just because!
Pumpkin Spice Cake
- 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup avocado oil, plus more for brushing pan (you may substitute canola or vegetable oil; I prefer avocado oil for its nutritional value)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ginger
- 1 pinch ground cloves
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
- Place the raisins in a small bowl and cover with hot water. Let the raisins plump in the hot water while you create the cake batter.
- Use an electric mixer to mix together sugar, brown sugar, oil and eggs until smooth. Add pumpkin puree and vanilla extract. Mix again until blended.
- In a separate large bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves.
- Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients. Mix together until blended. Do not over-mix.
- Drain the raisins and pat dry with a paper towel. Fold the raisins and chopped walnuts into the batter.
- Grease a standard loaf pan with a layer of oil. Pour batter into the pan.
- Bake cake at 325 degrees F for about 1 hour, until the edges brown and a toothpick inserted into the thickest section of the cake comes out clean. Remove cake from the oven and let it cool in the pan for 15 minutes.
- Gently release the cake from the pan and place on a wire rack.
- Allow to cool completely before slicing.