This chocolate cake with pumpkin is packed with pumpkin puree and topped with the silkiest pumpkin chocolate buttercream. It's rich, moist, and has a subtle spice to it. The cake batter is an easy one bowl recipe. It's baked in a sheet pan - no need to stack and frost the sides (options for turning this into a layer cake are in the recipe notes). There are mini pumpkins piped all over the top. The perfect cake for a fall celebration!
Why you will LOVE this recipe:
- Pumpkin: This recipe uses over 2 cups of pumpkin to get all the pumpkin flavour and moisture.
- Texture: It's like a cross between a chocolate cake and a fudgy brownie with a hint of pumpkin. Rich, chocolatey, and so addictive.
- Chocolate pumpkin frosting: The pumpkin inside the buttercream makes it extra silky smooth!
- Mini piped pumpkins: The cake has mini pumpkins piped all over the top. They're so fun and easy to pipe making this the best pumpkin theme cake for fall.
- Easy: The perfect easy, one bowl pumpkin chocolate cake to whip up for a party.
Pumpkin inside the batter gives the chocolate cake a lot of moisture, keeping it rich and moist for days. It took a while for me to get the perfect texture and flavour but the end was well worth it. I hope you love it too!
Pumpkin in chocolate buttercream is a game changer
The frosting is a chocolate buttercream with some pumpkin puree mixed into it. It gives the frosting the silkiest texture. I set aside some buttercream right before adding the cocoa powder to colour and pipe the pumpkins on top. If you want to skip the pumpkins on top you can just make it all chocolate flavoured.
Full steps and ingredients in recipe card below. But read through these for all the tips you will need for success!
Pumpkin puree: The cake batter has a whole two cups of pumpkin. Use a store bought canned pumpkin puree or make your own. Make sure that the puree is very thick, like a thick greek yogurt. It needs to stick to the spoon when you flip it upside down. Either reduce the puree or strain it with a cheesecloth.
Pumpkin spice + cinnamon: A touch of cinnamon and pumpkin spice let the pumpkin flavour shine through the chocolate. It makes for a lightly spiced and fragrant cake. If you can’t find pumpkin spice you can make it at home.
Buttermilk: If you don’t have buttermilk you can make it by combining 1 cup of room temperature milk and 1 tablespoon white or apple cider vinegar. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes until it thickens and looks curdled. Do not use hot milk - you will get ricotta.
Sour cream: Sour cream makes the cake rich and moist. Use a full fat sour cream. Low fat sour cream has too much water.
Cocoa powder: This gives the cake its chocolate flavour. Use a natural cocoa powder for the best texture. Dutch processed cocoa powder is alkalized and won’t give you that rich and moist texture in this recipe. You want a more acidic (natural) cocoa powder to react with the baking soda in this recipe.
Heavy whipping cream: Heavy cream makes the frosting lucsious and silky. I prefer using cream to milk in buttercream because it makes for a silkier frosting that holds its shape well. Cream is the way to go! Use heavy or whipping cream (at least 35%).
All purpose flour: Weigh the flour to get the most accurate results. If you don’t have a scale, measure properly by stirring the bag and spooning gently into a measuring cup. Scrape the excess off the top with the flat edge off a knife without packing it into the cup.
Step by step
Step 1 - Wet ingredients. combine eggs, melted butter, brown sugar, salt, and vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth and combined. Add pumpkin puree, buttermilk, and sour cream, whisking in between each addition.
Step 2 - Dry ingredients. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin spice, and cinnamon right into the bowl. Fold the batter well, just until no more streaks remain. It will be a thick batter. Add chocolate chips and fold just until incorporated.
Step 3 - Bake. Spread into the prepared 9"x12" baking pan and bake at 355°F (180°C) for 50-65 minutes. Let cool completely.
Step 4 - Beat butter. Beat softened butter in a large bowl or stand mixer (with paddle attachment) until light and fluffy - for 5-10 minutes. Scrape the bowl down frequently.
Step 5 - Add pumpkin. Add pumpkin puree and beat until well incorporated and the frosting becomes even fluffier, about 30 seconds. Set aside half a cup of frosting and three tablespoons of frosting.
Step 6 - Finish off frosting. Into the remaining frosting, add sifted cocoa powder and beat well until smooth. Pour in the cream two tablespoons at a time, beating in between additions. Stop adding cream when the frosting becomes silky smooth.
Step 7 - Colour. Into the set aside three tablespoons of frosting add green food colouring to get a green frosting. Add orange food colouring to the half cup set aside frosting for the pumpkins. Transfer into separate piping bags.
Step 8 - Frost. Spread chocolate frosting on top. Mark where the pumpkins will be, about 2.5” apart. Snip the ends off the piping bags and pipe pumpkins on the marked areas. Start off with piping a circle and filling it in with lines to make it look like a pumpkin. Pipe a stem on each pumpkin with the green frosting and a little vine swirl.
I use store bought pumpkin puree in a can. If you use a homemade pumpkin puree, make sure it has the consistency of really thick greek yogurt. You can strain or reduce the pumpkin puree on the stove top to get it to a thicker consistency.
Canned pumpkin pie filling won’t work because it doesn’t just have pumpkin in it. The cake will be too dense and sweet. Use 100% pumpkin puree.
Start off with room temperature butter. It’s important to beat the butter as much as possible before and after adding the powdered sugar. The more you beat it, the fluffier and less butter flavour it will have. It especially helps if you have a stand mixer but you can just leave it on for 10 minutes. You can also use an electric handheld mixer. Instead of adding milk to loosen the buttercream, add heavy cream. It makes it silky smooth while keeping it thick.
I highly recommend sifting the powdered sugar because it helps to break up any lumps, keeping the frosting extra smooth and fluffy.
You can cut the sheet cake in half and stack the halves on top of each other. For enough frosting to cover the sides, you will need to double the frosting recipe. Alternatively bake into two 8” round pans or three 6” round pans.
Related fall recipes:
Check out my best pumpkin desserts for more easy pumpkin recipe ideas.
Chocolate Cake with Pumpkin
- 9" by 12" baking pan
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 1 cup butter melted and cooled
- 1 ½ cup brown sugar packed
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups pumpkin puree
- 1 cup buttermilk room temperature
- ¾ cup sour cream room temperature
- 3 cups all purpose flour 360g
- 1 cup natural cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon pumpkin spice
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 cup chocolate chips
- 1 cup butter softened
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 ½ cups powdered sugar icing sugar
- ½ cup pumpkin puree
- 5 tablespoons natural cocoa powder sifted
- 3-6 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- 1-3 drops green food colouring or matcha powder
- 1-3 drops orange food colouring or turmeric
- Grease and line a 9” by 12” baking pan with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 355°F (180°C).
- In a very large bowl, combine eggs, butter, brown sugar, salt, and vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth and combined.2 large eggs, 1 cup butter, 1 ½ cup brown sugar, ½ teaspoon sea salt, 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- Add pumpkin puree, buttermilk, and sour cream, whisking in between each addition.2 cups pumpkin puree, 1 cup buttermilk, ¾ cup sour cream
- Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin spice, and cinnamon right into the bowl. Fold the batter well, just until no more streaks remain. It will be a thick batter. Add chocolate chips and fold just until incorporated.3 cups all purpose flour, 1 cup natural cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 tablespoon pumpkin spice, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 cup chocolate chips
- Spread into the prepared baking pan and bake for 50-65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool completely in pan before lifting out.
- Beat softened butter in a large bowl or stand mixer (with paddle attachment) until light and fluffy; 5-10 minutes. Scrape the bowl down frequently.1 cup butter
- Add powdered sugar a half cup at a time, vanilla, and salt. Beat for 5-10 minutes until very light and creamy. Scrape sides down a few times.1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract, 3 ½ cups powdered sugar, ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- Add pumpkin puree and beat until well incorporated and the frosting becomes even fluffier, about 30 seconds. Set aside half a cup of frosting and three tablespoons of frosting.½ cup pumpkin puree
- Into the remaining frosting, add sifted cocoa powder and beat well until smooth. Pour in the cream two tablespoons at a time, beating in between additions. Stop adding cream when the frosting becomes silky smooth.5 tablespoons natural cocoa powder, 3-6 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- Into the set aside three tablespoons of frosting add green food colouring to get a green frosting. Add orange food colouring to the half cup set aside frosting for the pumpkins. Transfer into separate piping bags.1-3 drops green food colouring, 1-3 drops orange food colouring
- Spread chocolate frosting on top of completely cooled cake. With a toothpick, mark where the pumpkins will be, about 2.5” apart.
- Snip the ends off the piping bags and pipe pumpkins on the marked areas. Start off with piping a circle and filling it in with lines to make it look like a pumpkin. Pipe a stem on each pumpkin with the green frosting and a little vine swirl. Cut the cake and serve!