The Best Pumpkin Crunch Cake ~ with or without a cake mix! This pumpkin crunch cake, aka pumpkin dump cake or pumpkin pie cake, has always tempted me. I’ve finally made this famous pumpkin dessert recipe with AND without a cake mix, and here’s what I discovered…
I’m not above doctoring a cake mix now and then, and you shouldn’t be either!
I kind of obsessed over this pumpkin sheet cake, and was determined to perfect it, so I made it multiple times with the mix, without the mix, and every which way. I did end up preferring the classic doctored cake mix version the best, it bakes up with a unique pudding/cake texture that is irresistible. It’s quite sweet, with lots of pumpkin flavor for pumpkin fans, and a really nice crunch from the nuts. If you’re having guests over for the holidays, or just want to treat the family, this would be the perfect thing to serve up on a pre or post holiday grazing table. I think it’s got Christmas brunch written all over it.
whether you use a cake mix or not, this easy pumpkin pie sheetcake comes together in just a few steps ~
- Blend together your pumpkin, milk, sugar, and spices. Pour it in a lightly greased 9×13 pan.
- Sprinkle your cake mix (homemade or boxed) evenly over the pumpkin puree.
- Sprinkle the nuts (the crunch!) over the flour mixture.
- Drizzle melted butter evenly over all.
- Bake. At about the 40 minute mark the kitchen starts to smell pretty good!
I made this with a Duncan Hines yellow cake mix and also with my own homemade ‘cake mix’ ~ here’s my conclusion…
The boxed mix takes the cake!
- The boxed cake mix version baked up with a richer warmer surface, where the homemade version had a more ashen, lumpy appearance.
- The box mix baked into more of a cohesive soft cake than the homemade version did. The homemade version had a more distinct top cake layer and a bottom pumpkin pie layer.
- There was a slight floury mouth feel to the homemade version, too, where the flour didn’t sink in as completely.
- For a once or twice a year treat, I think it’s worth using the readymade mix ~ it’s more convenient, and makes a better cake. (But I’ve included the directions for the homemade version in the recipe card below.)
YES this is super sweet, and quite rich. It’s not for every day, but it makes a great holiday brunch cake.
If you love your sweets soft and slightly under baked, if you love skillet cookies and other desserts meant to be scooped rather than sliced, I think you’ll flip for this. I want to say this cake is all about the texture, but that’s not completely true because the pumpkin flavor, the toasty nuts, the rich butter, and all the spices contribute to one amazing treat.
tips for making the best pumpkin crunch cake ~
- Don’t skimp on the nuts, I use a good heaping cup full, they really add flavor and contrasting texture to the cake. The nuts can get quite deeply toasted in the 50+ minutes of baking, so loosely tent with foil if you like during the last part of baking.
- Be sure to drizzle the butter evenly across the whole surface of the cake. I melt it in the microwave in a Pyrex measuring cup and use the spout to evenly distribute butter across as much of the surface as I can. This results in a prettier more homogenous surface when baked.
Can I reduce the sugar in pumpkin crunch cake?
- Yes, you can play around with reducing the sugar in the pumpkin portion if you like. You might try subbing some of the sugar for applesauce or apple butter. Maple syrup would be lovely here, too.
Can I make pumpkin crunch cake ahead?
- This can be made ahead, just keep the cooled cake on the counter loosely covered with foil. If you want to make it the night before, I would prep the pumpkin layer and other ingredients and then throw it together the next day so it’s nice and fresh.
Can I make this into cupcakes or bake it in a bundt pan?
- This will not work as cupcakes or in a bundt pan, the consistency is too moist and fragile.
Can I freeze this pumpkin crunch cake?
- You can freeze the cooled cake, just wrap well first. I prefer to make it fresh, though, because it’s so quick and easy.
What to serve with pumpkin crunch cake
- I chose to serve it with a maple whipped cream, but ice cream would be good, I would stick to vanilla because there is so much flavor in the cake itself. My personal favorite way to eat it is hot from the oven with vanilla ice cream. Second favorite way? Microwaved with my morning coffee.
Does pumpkin crunch cake need to be refrigerated?
- Yes, I would refrigerate it after an initial 12 hours. The issue is the pumpkin/custard component.
Can I make pumpkin crunch cake gluten free?
- This would be a good candidate for a gluten free version, just use your favorite gluten free yellow cake mix, King Arthur Flour makes one.
the Great Island kitchen recommends: a sturdy 9×13 pan
Cakes bake better in sturdy insulated pans like this USA non-stick aluminized steel pan. Since I’ve switched to this brand of pans my baking has gotten more even and reliable, I love these pans, and they’re made in the USA, yay!
I’ve used this very pan for my Pecan Pumpkin Praline Cake, and my Eggnog Streusel French Toast Casserole, two other holiday favorites!
Pumpkin Crunch Cake
- 9×13 cake pan
- 16 ounce can of pumpkin puree (not pie mix)
- 12 ounce can of evaporated milk
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp allspice
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
- 15 ounce yellow cake mix (I like Duncan Hines)
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 1 cup butter, melted
- sparkling sugar for garnish, optional
maple whipped cream
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3 Tbsp maple syrup
- 1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
- Preheat the oven to 350F Lightly spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray.
- Whisk the first 10 ingredients together (pumpkin through nutmeg) until smooth and pour into your pan.
- Sprinkle the dry cake mix evenly over the pumpkin in the pan.
- Sprinkle the chopped nuts evenly over the cake mix.
- Drizzle the melted butter evenly over the surface of the pan.
- Bake the cake for about 50-55 minutes, or until golden and just starting to pull away from the edges of the pan. Let cool on a rack before slicing if you want neater slices, but I love it warm out of the oven. Sprinkle with sparkling sugar if you like.
- Whip the cream with the maple syrup and nutmeg, and serve with the cake.
Questions and Reviews
Can I make this the day before thanksgiving!
Yes, I would let it cool completely, and then just loosely cover with foil. It will lose some of its ‘crunch’ overnight, but that’s to be expected.
I love the recipe. My question is can you use egg substitute for some of the pumpkin custard? With the price of eggs…
I would think that would work fine Rebecca.
Delicious.. it was a big hit! I used a spice cake mix and reduced the sugar to 1 cup( next time I will try 3/4 cup sugar). I cut the spices by half because of the spice cake mix. Had to bake about 60 minutes.
Have you ever given any thought to try this with Pumpkin Pie Mix?? Isn’t that basically the same thing as the purée with all the same spices already added? Pretty much? Just wondering if it would work with less work!? Ha!
Well, that’s not a bad idea, if that’s what you’ve got. I tend to think fresh spices are better because there are often artificial ingredients in the premade mix, but in this case we’re already using a boxed cake mix, so I say go for it 🙂
I was wondering if you have ever used a “spice” cake mix for this recipe instead of yellow cake? Do you think it would be too much?
You can absolutely do that, and you might cut back on adding extra spice to the batter.