Pumpkin Pie Cake

By Ann Fulton

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Pumpkin pie meets coffee cake in this crowd-pleasing, easy-to-make dessert that makes use of a convenient shortcut! 


Somewhere along the way, you’ve likely been warned not to roll your eyes skyward lest they stay that way. To ward off cramping, it’s best not to swim for an hour after eating—and if it’s carrots you’re consuming, you will surely see well. If your ear happens to itch as you ponder all of this, no doubt, someone is talking about you.

My grandmother was the queen of old wives tales and questionable theories. She was certain that drinking tea would cause one’s nose to grow and that an itchy nose meant good things were in store.

One of her lesser known sayings was repeated every Thanksgiving as she sliced through the golden, flaky crust of the pies she’d lovingly prepared: “Save the tip for the final bite.”

Like eating pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day, this simple act was certain to bring good luck. Amidst the chuckles, everyone would dutifully slice off the pointy end and slide it to the plate’s edge before indulging as usual. Years of experience determined that starting with the crust just didn’t seem right. I always made a wish as I savored my lucky bite. Good fortune and a wish seemed to go hand in hand.

Like many grandmothers, mine was revered for what she crafted in her kitchen. In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, the shelves of her cellar became crowded with pies. Apple, pumpkin, pecan, black raspberry, and the occasional chocolate cream. If one of her guests had a favorite, she’d bake it. After all, an extra pie or two would never go to waste.

The only thing that rivaled her handcrafted pies were her homemade cakes. Fittingly, the following family favorite is a hybrid of sorts that’s a welcome alternative to the typical holiday dessert. Thanks to its crumbly topping, I’ve occasionally passed it off as coffee cake.


Pumpkin Pie Cake - Pumpkin pie meets coffee cake in this crowd-pleasing, easy-to-make dessert that makes use of a convenient shortcut!

Though most everything created in her kitchen came from scratch, my grandmother would never turn her nose up at an occasional shortcut, on which this recipe relies. Passing judgment wasn’t her nature—and she’d likely tell you that it wasn’t lucky either!

P.S. To fashion a point when cooked in a rectangular pan, simply cut the cake into larger squares and then slice diagonally into triangles. It’s still lucky if you fudge it! 😉

Sweet-tart Sparkling Cranberries make a pretty garnish for holiday cakes and pies, are a lovely addition to a cheese board, a festive cocktail garnish, and a delightful option to dried cranberries in your favorite salads.

Pumpkin Pie Cake
Yield: 12-16 servings
Pumpkin pie meets coffee cake in this crowd-pleasing, easy to make dessert. Coconut complements the pumpkin beautifully without tasting “coconutty,” although there are options for those who wish to avoid it.
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1-1/2 cups canned coconut milk (see notes for details and substitution)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup (192 grams) granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 (15.25-ounce) package yellow cake mix (may substitute spice cake mix; your favorite 15-ounce gluten-free mix may be used)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (or a mix of both—use 1 -1/2 cups if you like lots of nuts)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened grated coconut, optional
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • Optional for serving: vanilla ice cream or whipped cream
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the pumpkin puree, canned milk, eggs, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and salt until smooth. (You may use an electric stand mixer, hand beater, or simply whisk well by hand.)
  3. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Wash and dry the bowl, and then add the cake mix, nuts, and optional coconut. Drizzle the melted butter over all, and stir to thoroughly mix.
  4. Use a clean hand to sprinkle the cake mixture (it will seem like wet crumbs) evenly over the pumpkin mixture. Do not stir.
  5. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the center feels just barely firm.
  6. For serving: You may serve right away, although I prefer this cake once it has cooled completely. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream as desired. The cake can sit at room temperature for the first day—cover and refrigerate beyond that. Prior to serving, return the cake to room temperature or enjoy cold.

As an option, one 12-ounce can of evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed milk) may be used. When using canned coconut milk, full fat or light may be used. Just make sure to stir well to fully mix the coconut water and thick cream that tends to separate and rise to the top of the can.

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  1. Diane Luta

    How far ahead can I make this Pumpkin Pie Cake? I need it for Thursday noon. Would it be OK to make on Tuesday if kept in the fridge? Or … would making it Wednesday be best? I’m looking forward to trying this recipe.

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Diane, I’ve kept leftovers of the pumpkin pie cake, tightly covered, in the fridge for several days and it still tastes great. I think you’d be fine to bake it two days in advance. This dessert always goes over well here, and I hope it’s a hit with your group too!

  2. Nancy Bradley

    I loved watching your arugula salad video, Ann. In the process I learned a new tip – how to cut an avocado! Having spent our winter in Florida, I have grown accustomed to buying avocados every week and adding them to our salads.
    Now I plan to make your dressing and the salad. Thanks so much!

    1. Ann Post author

      You are most welcome, Nancy. I’m glad you learned a new trick and hope you enjoy the salad as much as we do!

  3. Molly Milner

    Just served this to Bernadette’s family. It was a big hit. I used the options of evaporated milk and cinnamon and nutmeg and pecans, but greased the pan with coconut oil. Thank you for this wonderful recipe.

  4. Suzanne Post author

    I made a dry run yesterday thinking this might be a good addition to our Thanksgiving menu, and it is a definite keeper! Thank you for the recipe!