Pumpkin Spice Cake

This year the compost pile sprouted a couple of pumpkin vines. One yielded pumpkins big enough for jack-o’lanterns, the other produced seven pie pumpkins. A lucky thing because the two hills of pumpkins I planted on purpose produced only two, still green, struggling to ripen before frost. The compost pile pumpkins, glowing a deep orange, have already proved useful, and the recipe that follows used one of them.

I was hankering for a spice cake that would use pumpkin. I crossed up the oil, butter, sugar, buttermilk, and pulp mixture from a favorite zucchini cake with the flour and spice combination from a favorite spice cake and came up with a sheet cake to frost with lemony cream cheese icing.

One pie pumpkin ought to make one pie, or when cooked produce about two cups of pureed pulp. I ended up with about one and three-quarters of a cup, which is just a tad less than a standard fifteen-ounce can of prepared pumpkin. A couple of tablespoons one way or another makes so little difference that I don’t worry about it.

You may already know that if you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can substitute soured milk, obtained by adding a few drops of vinegar to regular milk. For the amount needed below add a couple teaspoons of vinegar to the measured one-third cup whole milk.

Give this a try, and if you have a pumpkin cake you like better, and don’t mind sharing, send the recipe along.

Pumpkin Spice Cake
Serves: Makes one 9x13x1 cake
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon cloves
  • ¼ cup or one-half stick butter
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup, tightly packed, dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1½ to 1¾ cups pumpkin puree
  • ⅓ cup buttermilk
  1. /3 cup buttermilk
  2. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Line with parchment of you wish to turn the cake out.
  3. Sift together flour, baking powder and soda, salt, and the spices.
  4. Cream together butter and granulated and brown sugars.
  5. Add and beat in oil and eggs.
  6. Mix in pumpkin.
  7. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk and mix enough to make a smooth batter.
  8. Pour into the baking pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a tester inserted comes out clean.
  9. For serving, dust with confectioner’s sugar, or sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, or frost with your favorite cream cheese frosting.


Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.