Friday, December 31

Recipe: Old-Fashioned Pumpkin Spice Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
Let's end the year with cake!

I love it when cake and fate come together.

Back in October, I tried a recipe in The Little Big Book of Comfort Food (this is such a cute book) for a 9"x13" pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting. The name of the recipe was actually pumpkin bars, but it seemed like cake to me. It tasted good, but it wasn't fabulous, and I was pretty sure the reason was the lack of any butter or oil in the batter (it had a cup of applesauce instead).

A few weeks later I came across two forgotten cans of organic pumpkin in the pantry and thought about making the cake again, this time with some butter, but decided not to. About an hour later I found myself at Beauty that Moves, where Heather was raving over her friend Cathleen's incredible pumpkin cake with orange cream cheese frosting, and taunting me with a mouthwatering photo.

I had all the ingredients, including the orange. (Dashing out to the grocery store for one or two ingredients isn't something I do these days since it requires an 80 mile drive). Like I said, cake and fate.

Cathleen's pumpkin cake recipe turned out to be nearly identical to the one in I'd tried, only hers called for a cup of canola oil instead of the applesauce. I split the difference, using half a cup of melted butter and half a cup of applesauce. Perfect! This is an easy to mix up, moist and flavorful cake that stays fresh in the fridge for days. And the orange cream cheese frosting is amazing.

In lieu of baking myself a birthday cake a few years ago, I made several different brownie recipes instead. I played around with frostings, too, including chocolate cream cheese. Since I was combining two of my favorites—cream cheese and chocolate buttercream—I figured this would be the frosting to end all frostings. Instead I thought it was a little weird. But orange cream cheese frosting? Not that is the cat's meow.

You can make this cake with applesauce from a jar, but homemade applesauce tastes miles above anything store bought, is a great healthy snack (or baby food!) to have around, and is ridiculously easy to make. It's an ideal way to use up apples that are past their prime, and it even freezes well.

To make homemade applesauce, you simply peel, core, and chop some of your favorite apples into chunks (or combine two or three varieties), toss them in a covered pot with a splash of water or apple juice, let them simmer until very soft (about 25 to 40 minutes), and then mash them up with a potato masher.

If you like your applesauce smooth, you can put it in the food processor. My big 12-cup KitchenAid processor has a dandy little 4-cup mini bowl that works perfectly for puréeing things like dips and small batches of applesauce. I cooked up some Jonathan apples recently, and the processed sauce came out so creamy I couldn't believe it.

If you have a food mill (I love my new Oxo Good Grips food millthanks to all of you who encouraged me to buy one!), you can just cut whole apples (skins, cores, and all) into large chunks, cook as above, and then put the entire contents of the pot through the food mill.

The amount of applesauce you end up with depends on the apples and the method you use, but on average, I've found that one pound of apples makes roughly one cup of applesauce. Unfortunately apples are #1 on the Environmental Working Group's
List of the Most Contaminated Produce, so organic apples are the way to go.

As always, I urge you to seek out local and organic ingredients; they really do make a difference. Organic flour bakes up beautifully, and
canned organic pumpkin is reasonably priced and easy to find. Even organic sugar is becoming mainstream. I stock up on organic butter when it goes on sale and freeze it. Look for farm fresh eggs at the farmers' market; you won't believe how good they taste. An easy way to find local food for sale in your area is to search on
Good baking equipment is an affordable investment that will last for years and makes time spent in the kitchen much more enjoyable. I bought myself a 9"x13" Chicago Metallic commercial baking pan as an early Christmas present, and it's just as wonderful as the Chicago Metallic commercial loaf pans I've been using and raving about for years. You can read about some of my other favorite kitchen essentials—most are under $25—here.

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

Old-Fashioned Pumpkin Spice Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes one 9"x13" cake

** Click here to print this recipe **

This is my favorite kind of cake: comforting and homey, easy to make. I'm a real 9"x13" cake kind of girl. It's perfect as an after school snack or at tea time, but it's nice enough to serve at a dinner party or Sunday buffet. I like it for breakfast with a tall glass of ice cold milk.

You should store your cake in the refrigerator because of the cream cheese frosting, but it tastes best when served at room temperature.

4 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 ounces) organic butter, melted
1/2 cup unsweetened organic applesauce
2 cups organic all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder (make sure it's fresh!)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Heat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9"x13" baking pan.

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar, melted butter, applesauce, pumpkin, and vanilla with a hand held electric mixer on medium speed until smooth.

Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves; mix on low speed until smooth.

Spread the batter into the greased pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 30 to 40 minutes. Make the frosting while the cake bakes (recipe below).

Let the cake cool completely before spreading on the frosting. Sometimes I hurry along this process by sticking the warm cake pan and the wire cooling rack in the freezer for 30 minutes.

This cake will keep for several days in the refrigerator and can also be frozen. It tastes best served at room temperature.

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes enough to generously frost one 9"x13" cake

I love the subtle hint of orange in this frosting, which becomes more pronounced the next day, but you can up the orange flavor by adding extra orange zest. Heather also uses orange juice concentrate instead of orange juice in her version. If you like a thicker frosting, simply add a little more powdered sugar.

8 ounces organic cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 ounces) organic butter, softened
3 Tablespoons organic orange juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped or grated organic orange zest
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted (measure before sifting)

In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter with a hand held electric mixer on medium high speed until combined. Mix in the orange juice, orange zest, and vanilla. Add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth, adding more powdered sugar if desired.

More pumpkin cakes from other food bloggers:
Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake from Pinch My Salt

More Farmgirl Fare sweet treats:

Hungry for more than dessert? You'll find links to all my sweet and savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index.

©, the frosted foodie farm blog where we love our homegrown vegetables, but there's always room for cake.


  1. I could live on cake alone.

    I've lost count now of the number of "dessert" recipes you've mentioned you eat for breakfast. I love that.

  2. The combination of the spices and the orange zest sound so yummy! I love to eat dessert for breakfast too.

  3. Yowza! 65 miles to a grocery - you are the real deal :D. I'd like to see your grocery list....

    Best wishes to all for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2011!

  4. What a great blog, where have I been! Glad to have found you, we are cake people for New Years too! Hope it's a good year for you and yours. Thank you! Susan

  5. Holy Maloney! I loved this posting ('cuz who doesn't love cake???), but to add even more 'icing' to this cake who got a comment from THE Susan Branch!!! I am totally impressed! I love her site sooo much - seriously, you two are my two favorite "Susan sites".

    Happy New Year, Susan, and thank you, again, for sharing your amazing life on the farm!

  6. This recipe looks great! I am really looking forward to trying it. Our daughter loves cakes like this. So glad to have found your blog.

  7. EngineerChic1/03/2011 6:58 AM

    Since it's still early in January (time when resolutions are still on the brain) I made a batch of the Ginger Pear Bran Muffins instead. They are pretty delightful, too :)

    Funny story - when I buy pears now I buy extra & plan to smush/freeze the super-ripe ones in 2 cup containers. I did that & had put a container too close to the frozen soups (because I have 3-6 kinds of soups in the freezer on any given day). Yep, I thought it might be a container of ham & bean soup and tried to heat it for lunch one day. Lesson learned - but at least I had the pears already defrosted for making muffins :)

  8. Looks like making this was in your destiny!

  9. This recipe sounds great. I love that it uses a whole can of pumpkin. So many recipes with pumpkin in the title only have a half a cup or so and wind up with no pumpkin flavor at all!

    Also, not sure I posted anything at the time but, please don't get bitten by any more snakes!! That post had me in tears twice; once when I read it and again when I read it to my husband the next day!

  10. love that you made this! i'd like to cover the world in orange cream cheese frosting. seriously, has there ever been a more perfect combination? forget the cake to spread it on, just pass the spoon... ;)

  11. I just made this again! Thanks so much for posting this recipe! Here it is:


  12. Wish I'd seen this yesterday! Made Crescent Dragonwagon's recipe for Pumpkin & Kidney Bean Lasagna (with carmelized garlic) but I had extra pumpkin. Next time....

  13. This sounds wonderful. Looking forward to trying it. For what it's worth, I have been making cream cheese frosted cakes for 40 years (wow that makes me sound ancient!) and have never stored them in the refrigerator. Never had a problem.

  14. Sounds just like the Pumpkin Bread I've been making for 42 years. Except I've never frosted it. I bake mine in 4 1 lb. coffee cans. They make a beautiful presentation as gifts for my Lunch Bunch group. Next time I will certainly try your frosting. One year I baked them in mini bundt pans and put two together to make pumpkins. Could have used the frosting. Who Knew?? Happpy New Year to you both/

  15. Happy New Year from NYC to you, Susan and Joe, and may you and all your critters have a safe, prosperous, happy, healthy and non-drought-y 2013. Thanks for your generosity in sharing your lives with us.

    And a Happy New Year to all Farmgirl Fare readers!


December 2015 update: Hi! For some reason I can't figure out, Blogger hasn't been letting me leave comments on my own blog (!) for the last several months, so I've been unable to respond to your comments and questions. My apologies for any inconvenience! You're always welcome to email me: farmgirlfare AT gmail DOT com.

Hi! Thanks for visiting Farmgirl Fare and taking the time to write. While I'm not always able to reply to every comment, I receive and enjoy reading them all.

Your feedback is greatly appreciated, and I especially love hearing about your experiences with my recipes. Comments on older posts are always welcome!

Please note that I moderate comments, so if I'm away from the computer it may be a while before yours appears.

I try my best to answer all questions, though sometimes it takes me a few days. And sometimes, I'm sorry to say, they fall through the cracks, and for that I sincerely apologize.

I look forward to hearing from you and hope you enjoy your e-visits to our farm!