Sunday Brunch: Pumpkin Tea Cake Recipe

This comforting and easy spiced pumpkin cake is a perfect brunch treat or after dinner dessert.

Photographs: Robin Bellinger

It's been a while since I baked something I simply could not resist (I've been experimenting with applesauce-sweetened, bran-laden toddler "cookies") so it was a relief to bite into this pumpkin tea cake and discover that I can still test my own willpower mercilessly. Who can think about good health and sculpted upper arms in the presence of something so tender and fragrant? Only a heartless, stomachless monster, that's who, and if you're such a creature, well, I have a recipe for applesauce bran cookies for you.

The rest of us will be curled up with a slice of autumn and a mug of tea. We'll save the crunchy top for last and then decide we'd better investigate the cake's moist underbelly again, perhaps this time with a thicker piece.

Adapted from Tartine by Elizabeth Prueitt.


  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons pumpkin or squash puree (canned or homemade)
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons sugar for topping; I used crunchy turbinado sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pepitas (optional but highly recommended)


  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 9x5 inch loaf pan.

  2. Sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

  3. In another bowl, beat together the pumpkin puree, oil, sugar, and salt on medium speed (or by hand--that's how I did it) until well mixed. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. On low speed, add the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Scrape down the sides again, then beat on medium speed for 5 to 10 seconds to make a smooth batter. The batter should have the consistency of a thick purée. Make sure not to overmix, or you will end up with a coarse, tough crumb.

  4. Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle the top evenly with half the topping sugar, then the optional pepitas, and then the rest of the topping sugar. Bake until a tester emerges clean from the center, about 1 hour (I left mine in a bit longer, and it was still ever so slightly underbaked).

  5. Let cook in the pan on a wire rack for about 20 minutes. Then invert the cake onto the rack, turn right side up, and let cool completely. Serve at room temperature. The cake will keep, well wrapped, at room temperature for 4 days or in the refrigerator for about 1 week.