A combination of pumpkin puree, molasses, and gingerbread spices creates a moist and spicy pumpkin gingerbread loaf cake that sings with fall flavors.
This pumpkin gingerbread cake is a riff on King Arthur's Chai Spiced Pound Cake, a rich, moist, lightly spiced bundt cake perfect for winter weather. Since I had some pumpkin puree left over from making my pumpkin spice bagels, I decided to give it an autumn-inspired pumpkin gingerbread twist and bake it up in a loaf pan.
Why a loaf pan? Because more people have loaf pans than have bundt pans and I really wanted you to be able to make this cake!
So hello, fall. Pumpkin Gingerbread Loaf Cake has arrived.
This pumpkin gingerbread loaf cake would be right at home following a turkey and stuffing dinner complete with pretzel stuffing. Basically, if you're serving a fall-flavored dinner, this fall-flavored dessert is the perfect way to end the meal.
👩🏻🍳 Why this recipe works
UPDATE 9/29/21 — I've given this recipe a makeover with all new photos, a more intense gingerbread flavor, and a streamlined, easier to follow recipe. Plus, lots more tips and troubleshooting advice to help you succeed.
With plenty of molasses and ground ginger this pumpkin pound cake definitely leans more heavily on the gingerbread flavor than on the pumpkin spice side of things.
The molasses adds that classic, spicy gingerbread vibe which is emphasized by the blend of warm spices and the addition of chopped ginger snap cookies stirred in at the end. The ginger snap cookies soften in the oven and blend right into the cake texture — adding deliciously warm intensely gingery bites throughout the cake.
While pumpkin puree is usually considered a "fat" for baking purposes, it doesn't cream nicely with the butter and sugar, so instead it gets stirred into the batter at the end along with the molasses and greek yogurt.
This keeps the pumpkin gingerbread loaf cake moist and tender, without compromising its rising power.
Here's what you'll need to make this pumpkin gingerbread loaf cake.
- All purpose flour - I used King Arthur's all purpose, but just use what you've got.
- Butter - Unsalted butter preferred, but salted will work just fine.
- Pumpkin puree - I used store brand generic, there's no need to get fancy here. Just make sure it's 100% pumpkin puree, no sugar added, etc.
- Brown sugar - I use dark brown sugar for extra molasses vibes, but light brown will work too.
- Molasses - I used Grandma's Original brand molasses but if you want extra strong gingerbread vibes, you can use a "robust" molasses instead.
- Large eggs - Self explanatory.
- Greek yogurt - Whole milk, whole fat greek yogurt. This is the secret ingredient that keeps this cake so dang moist! One of those single serve yogurt cups usually has exactly the right amount (or something close to it).
- Baking powder - Don't skip this! It helps the cake rise.
- Baking soda - Gives the cake a little extra boost rising in the oven. If you don't have it, the cake will be a little less tall but okay without it.
- Gingerbread spices - Ground cinnamon (I like Vietnamese cinnamon for its stronger flavor), ground ginger, allspice, ground cloves, and nutmeg (whole nutmeg, freshly grated with a microplane). You can also use a store bought gingerbread spice blend.
- Ginger snap cookies - I used Stauffer's Original Ginger Snap Cookies which I picked up at Stop and Shop. They're crispy and hard, not chewy at all. When chopped up and stirred into the batter they blend right into the cake as it bakes, dotting it with bites of deliciously spicy gingerbread flavor throughout.
- Cinnamon sugar - Optional, to sprinkle on top of the cake before baking.
And here's what you'll need to make the cream cheese icing.
- Cream cheese - Whole fat, softened. If you use low fat or lite cream cheese the consistency will be off, and sometimes it ends up with a strange yellow color instead of white. Remove from the fridge an hour or two before making the icing.
- Butter - Salted or unsalted, either will work. You need it softened, but not melty. Take it out of the fridge an hour or two before you plan to make the icing.
- Powdered sugar - Sift it first to remove any lumps.
- Milk - Whole milk preferred. Heavy cream will also work.
See recipe below for ingredient quantities.
🔪 Mise en place (aka prep work)
Mise en place is a French culinary term which literally translates to "putting in place." It means measuring your ingredients and making sure you have the right tools ready to go before you start working.
This can make a huge difference in a) how enjoyable you find the baking and cooking process and b) the success of your recipe!
For this pumpkin gingerbread loaf cake, there are a lot of small spice quantities to measure, and you'll find it frustrating if you need to stop and dig through your cabinets once the mixer starts running.
Here's the mise en place you'll need for this recipe:
- Soften the butter - Take it out of the fridge the night before or at least 3-4 hours before you plan to bake. You want it soft but not melty. If you need to soften it quickly, I find 4 seconds per side in a microwave does the trick.
- Bring the eggs to room temperature - Leave them out for 20-30 minutes, or submerge in hot water for 3-5 minutes.
- Mix the wet ingredients - Bring the pumpkin puree and greek yogurt to room temperature and mix them together with the molasses. Room temperature ingredients combine much better and contribute to a higher rise in your cake.
- Mix the dry ingredients - Mix all of the dry ingredients except for the brown sugar together in a bowl.
- Chop the gingersnap cookies - This is my recipe and even I kept forgetting this step until the last minute by mistake while I was testing it. So please, please, please, chop the cookies and have them ready to go before you start mixing all the ingredients together. You'll be glad you did.
Tip: Room temperature ingredients incorporate more easily and rise better than cold ingredients. Take the time to get your ingredients to room temperature before mixing for best results.
- 9x5" loaf pan - I baked this in my fave USA Pan 9x5" loaf pan. Not only is USA Pan based in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA (shoutout to supporting local biz!) they make some of the best cake and baking pans around. What I like most about USA Pan's loaf pans in particular are the sharp 90 degree corners which give your loaf cakes and pound cakes a crisp, polished look. The rippled surface design helps with air flow so the cake bakes evenly and the non-stick surface is super easy to clean. (Thanks again to USA Pan for sponsoring this post, and thank you for supporting the businesses that support The Practical Kitchen!)
- Parchment paper - Even though you'll grease the pan, and even though the pan is non-stick, you'll still want to make a parchment paper sling to make lifting the cake out of the pan as easy as possible. I've been using Kana Goods' 8" square cake parchment liners, but their quarter parchment sheets also work well here.
- Mixer - A stand mixer with a paddle attachment is ideal for the cake batter, though a hand mixer will also work. You can use your stand mixer and paddle for the icing too, but I found it was easier to use a hand mixer for that step. It's really up to you and what you have in your kitchen.
We're following standard butter cake procedure here: Cream butter and sugar, add the eggs, then alternate adding dry and wet ingredients, ending on the dry and stirring in the chopped cookies to finish.
Start by beating the room temperature butter and brown sugar together with a mixer. It will take about 3-4 minutes at medium-high speed to do this right. Pause and scrape down the bowl every minute or so to make sure everything is mixing together well.
Add the room temperature eggs one at a time, giving each one a full 60 seconds at medium-high speed to incorporate. Scrape down the bowl and paddle before and after adding each egg.
Then, reduce the speed to the lowest possible setting and alternate adding the wet and dry ingredients. Add one-third of the flour and spice mixture, scrape down the bowl, then add half the greek yogurt/pumpkin/molasses mixture and scrape down the bowl.
Repeat until all the wet and dry ingredients have been added. So it goes: Dry-wet-dry-wet-dry.
TIP: Low speed is crucial once you begin adding the flour. Flour + liquid + movement = gluten development, which you don't want here! Gluten provides structure in bread, but it makes cakes tough and dense. Use the lowest possible setting on your mixer, and stop the mixer as soon as each addition of flour or liquid is mostly incorporated.
When there are still a few streaks of flour in the bowl, pause the mixer, scrape the paddle clean, and use a spatula to stir in the chopped cookie pieces. The flour will finish incorporating as you stir in the cookies and reduce the chances of over mixing the batter.
Pour the batter into a greased, parchment-lined 9x5" loaf pan and use a small offset spatula to press it into all the corners and even off the top of the cake. Top with cinnamon sugar (optional) and bake for 55-60 minutes at 350F.
The best way to know that the cake is done is when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. (Stick the knife into one of the open cracks to hide the entry point.) The cake might still look a little jiggly or under baked at that point, but don't overthink it. If the knife comes out clean, it's done.
Let it cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes, then run a knife around the edges of the pan and gently release it to finish cooling on a rack.
Don't slice it until it's completely cool. The cake will compress slightly as it cools, and if you slice it too soon it'll fall apart instead of cutting cleanly.
⭐ BONUS - Cream Cheese Icing
To make the cream cheese icing, use a hand mixer or the paddle attachment on your stand mixer to cream the softened butter and cream cheese together.
Add the sifted powdered sugar and beat well with the mixer. Start on low speed, then increase gradually so the powdered sugar doesn't go flying everywhere.
At first it will be crumbly and lumpy but just keep mixing and it will turn into a smooth paste. Add the milk 1 teaspoon at a time, beating well between each addition until you reach a pourable but not runny consistency.
I found that 1 tablespoons (3 teaspoons) was the right amount of milk, but you can adjust until it's just how you like it. If it's too runny, add more powdered sugar. If it's too stiff, add another teaspoon of milk.
If you want more of a cream cheese frosting situation, hold back on the milk. If you prefer an icing/glaze, you'll probably want the full amount of milk.
- Spicy Gingerbread - Double the amount of cloves and ginger snap cookies and use a "robust" molasses.
- Emphasis on the Pumpkin - Replace half the molasses with honey and use just 1 tablespoon ground ginger.
- Chock Full o' Nuts - Stir ½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans into the batter with the cookie pieces. Top the cake with more chopped nuts before baking. If you're using the cream cheese icing, toast the nuts separately and sprinkle them on top after icing.
- Candied Ginger - Instead of chopped ginger snap cookies, you can use crystallized candied ginger bits. They have a similar effect in the cake, but are slightly sweeter, and are a bit harder to find. You'll likely have to order them online.
📖 Recipe notes & tips
- Pay attention to the times included in the recipe — you want to give the butter and sugar plenty of time to cream together, and you want to give the eggs plenty of time to fully incorporate before you add the dry and wet ingredients.
- Scrape down the bowl and paddle after each time you add something to make sure everything mixes together evenly. This step is more important than you think! Don't skip it!
- Wait until the cake is completely cool before you add the cream cheese icing. If you add it while the cake is still warm, it will melt and slide off.
- DO NOT OVER MIX - The reason you add the chopped gingersnap cookies before the flour has completely incorporated is to prevent over mixing. You don't want the flour to start developing gluten (which will make your cake tough), so it's better to let the flour finish mixing in while you stir in the cookies.
- To make the cake as easy to remove from the pan as possible, grease the pan, then insert the parchment liner, then grease the liner. I use a non-stick spray rather than butter, but you can also rub the inside of the pan with the paper from the stick of butter if you're feeling economical.
- If you don't feel like making the cream cheese icing, I recommend dusting lightly with powdered sugar once the cake has cooled.
- The "total time" on the recipe card does not include giving the cake time to cool before icing.
💬 Recipe FAQ
2 tablespoons for mild gingerbread flavor, 3 tablespoons for more intense gingerbread flavor.
You can make the cake up to 5 days ahead of time. Store it wrapped tightly at room temperature. Add the icing shortly before you plan to serve it. The icing won't form a crust, but you do want to give it some time to set before slicing.
You can also store the cake back in the loaf pan with the icing on it. It's a little messy to transfer the iced cake back into the pan, but I did this a few times while recipe testing and the icing helped seal the cake and prevent it from drying out. It stayed moist and flavorful for 4 days!
You can make the cream cheese icing up to 7 days in advance. Cover tightly and store in the fridge. Microwave in 7 second bursts, stirring between, until it's just loose enough to pour and spread on the cake.
Use a 9-10 cup bunt pan, grease it very well, and bake for 50-55 minutes at 350°F.
What are you waiting for? Get baking!
Pumpkin Gingerbread Loaf Cake
Pumpkin Gingerbread Loaf Cake
- 113 grams unsalted butter, room temperature (½ cup, at room temp)
- 200 grams brown sugar
- 2 large eggs (at room temp)
- 200 grams sour cream or greek yogurt (1 cup, whole fat preferred)
- 113 grams pumpkin puree (room temp)
- 80 grams molasses
- 240 grams all-purpose flour (2 cups)
- 1½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1½ tablespoon ground ginger
- 1½ tablespoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ⅛ teaspoon whole nutmeg (freshly grated)
- 50 grams ginger snap cookies (approx 6 cookies)
- cinnamon sugar blend (optional, for topping)
Cream cheese icing
- 60 grams cream cheese (softened)
- 30 grams unsalted butter
- 50 grams powdered sugar
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease and line a 9x5" loaf pan with parchment paper.
- Mise en place. Bring butter and eggs and liquid ingredients to room temperature.Combine greek yogurt, molasses, and pumpkin puree in a medium bowl or large liquid measuring cup. Mix well and set aside.In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices. Set aside.Chop or break ginger snap cookies into shards roughly the size of a nickel or dime and set aside.
- Creaming. Cream butter and brown sugar together with a mixer on medium-high speed until aerated and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Pause and scrape the bowl and mixer paddle down 2-3x times to ensure even mixing.
- Eggs. Add eggs one at a time, beating for 60 seconds on medium-high speed and scraping down the bowl after each addition. The mixture should be quite pale and airy.
- Alternate dry and wet ingredients. Add one third of the flour mixture to bowl. Run the mixer on low just until the flour incorporates. Scrape down the bowl, then add half of the pumpkin puree mixture. Run the mixer on low just until combined. Scrape down the bowl, then repeat — dry, wet, dry — always mixing on the lowest speed possible.
- Add cookies. When there are just a few streaks of visible flour in the batter, pause the mixer and scrape the paddle clean into the bowl. Add the ginger snap cookie shards and use a spatula to fold the mixture together until the flour is fully incorporated. Do not over mix!
- Bake. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Top with cinnamon sugar (optional). Bake at 350°F for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. If using a thermometer, you're targeting 190°-200°F.
- Cool. Remove the pan from the oven. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack to finish cooling completely.
Cream cheese icing
- Beat soft butter and cream cheese together in a bowl. Add sifted powdered sugar and beat on low until combined, then increase speed and beat for 60 seconds or until fluffy.
- Add milk 1 teaspoon at a time, beating well between additions until desired consistency is reached.
- Once the cake is completely cooled, pour icing on top of the cake and use a mini offset spatula to spread it out in an even layer.
- If your loaf appears to be browning too quickly after 50 minutes, tent a sheet of aluminum foil over the loaf and continue baking.
- This recipe can also be baked in a 9-10 cup bunt pan for 50-55 minutes at 350°F.
- Adapted from King Arthur Baking's Chai Spiced Pound Cake recipe.
- Time given for getting ingredients to room temperature is an estimate — some ingredients may need more or less time, depending on what method you use. See blog post for tips!
- Total time does not include giving the cake time to cool before icing.
This post was originally published on 11/1/2019. If you're looking for the original version of this recipe, shoot me an email [email protected]!