Pumpkin Spice Cake on a table in a Studio
Scott Suchman for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post
The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Pumpkin Spice Cake

This is a tweaked version of the recipe that ran in The Washington Post in 1936 -- perhaps the first in print to join the words "pumpkin" and "spice" in modern harmony. The original called for shortening, a full teaspoon of ground mace, raisins and for the cake to start in a cold oven; the result was a somewhat dense loaf with an overwhelming taste of that spice.

Here, we've used unsalted butter, reduced the mace to 1/4 teaspoon, added chopped crystallized ginger and placed the cake in a preheated oven; the result was moister and taller.

The cake can be wrapped and stored at room temperature for up to 5 days. The cooled cake, wrapped well in plastic wrap, can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Adapted from a Washington Post recipe.


measuring cup
Servings: 12 (makes one 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf)
  • 5 tablespoons (70 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup (215 grams) canned or cooked pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) whole milk
  • 1/4 cup crystallized ginger (45 grams), finely chopped


  1. Step 1

    Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan (preferably glass) with oil and dust lightly with flour.

  2. Step 2

    In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or using a large bowl and a handheld mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until lightened, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and beat on medium until well incorporated, about 2 minutes, stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed -- the mixture will be grainy. Add the egg and beat on medium speed until well incorporated and a bit fluffy, about 2 minutes, stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.

  3. Step 3

    In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, mace and cloves. In a large liquid measuring cup or bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and milk until combined.

  4. Step 4

    With the mixer on medium-low speed, alternate adding half of the flour mixture, followed by half of the pumpkin mixture to the butter mixture, beating until incorporated; scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Repeat with the remaining flour and pumpkin mixtures to form a thick batter. Stir in the crystallized ginger until evenly distributed.

  5. Step 5

    Transfer the batter to loaf pan and use a small offset spatula or spoon to smooth out the top. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. The cake will be lightly browned at the edges and may develop a crack on top.

  6. Step 6

    Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then invert the cake and cool directly on the rack for at least 20 minutes before serving. Let cool completely before storing.

Nutritional Facts

Per serving

  • Calories


  • Carbohydrates

    37 g

  • Cholesterol

    30 mg

  • Fat

    6 g

  • Fiber

    1 g

  • Protein

    3 g

  • Saturated Fat

    4 g

  • Sodium

    110 mg

  • Sugar

    19 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

Adapted from a Washington Post recipe.

Tested by Kara Elder and Ann Maloney