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Pumpkin Cake with Toasted Coconut Frosting – Thanksgiving Dessert

One of my mother’s time honored traditions was to serve a pumpkin cake each year, for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, with her special toasted coconut frosting.

She is not with us now, but that does not mean the cake will be missing! My whole family takes turns at making the cake for our Thanksgiving celebration.

The pumpkin spice cake is super moist and delicious with the lovely flavor of fall pumpkins.  The top of the cake is iced with a normal butter cream frosting, but it has the special surprise of being sprinkled with oven toasted coconut.

My husband is not normally a fan of anything with pumpkin in it unless it’s a carved pumpkin.  He could easily be called the Pumpkin Scrooge!

But he definitely makes an exception for this great tasting cake, and it is always included on our Thanksgiving table with pride.

This pumpkin cake is moist and delicious and has a crunchy toasted coconut frosting.

Want to try using fresh coconut in this recipe? It will make this frosting even sweeter.  See my tips for buying and storing fresh coconut here.

Pumpkin season is here! All of the fall holiday celebrations seem to include it and this spicy pumpkin cake would be the star of any holiday dessert table.

Slice of pumpkin spice cake with a toasted coconut frosting on a white plate with a fork.

This is the start of everything pumpkin season. This pumpkin spice cake has a toasted coconut frosting for extra flavor and crunch. Get the recipe on The Gardening Cook. 🍰🍂🎃 Click To Tweet

Ingredients for my mother’s pumpkin spice cake

Just look what is going to go into this delicious cake recipe!  My mouth is watering already, thinking of how great it is going to taste.  I used unbleached white flour for this recipe.

Flour, spices, eggs, oil, pumpkin and sugar

The pumpkin spice cake is a wonderful blend of unbleached white flour with cinnamon, eggs, oil, pumpkin and the Christmas spices nutmeg, and allspice. 

If you have harvested pumpkins from your garden, you can make your own pumpkin purée or use canned pumpkin.

It is topped off with a delicious toasted coconut frosting.

Making this pumpkin cake with toasted coconut frosting

So, let’s get down to business.  No messing around.  This is one of my FAVORITE cakes.  It is moist and full of pumpkin flavor.  It tastes fabulous on its own, but add the frosting? Oh my goodness – perfection in a pan! 

The bonus with this toasted coconut frosting is that the frosting gives a nice bit of texture to the cake without adding nuts or seeds to it!

To start the cake, combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk them well.  Mum used to re-sift all of her dry goods but I find that whisking them is quicker and still gives a light textured cake.Dry ingredients fin a bowl with a blue whisk.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the sugar, oil and canned pumpkin. Mix well, and then beat in the eggs, one at a time.Eggs, oil and butter in a stand mixer with broken eggs in a bowl.

Next comes the flour mixture.  Just like I do with any cake, I added it gradually, mixing well between each addition.Cake batter in a mixing bowl with a spatula in a spoon rest.

The cake goes into a prepared 9 x 13″ pan and then into a preheated 350º oven for 45-50 minutes.Pumpkin spice cake in a clear baking dish with parchment paper.

The cake is ready when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out cleanly.  Look at that golden pumpkin color!  I can’t wait to dig into it.

The kitchen smells divine right now.Pumpkin spice cake cooling in a glass pan.

This recipe makes a very large cake.  When I serve it for Thanksgiving or Christmas, I frost the whole cake.

But at other times, when we don’t have such a large gathering, I cut it in half and freeze one half of the cake for later. It can be frozen both iced or plain.

The cake will keep for a few months in the freezer either way.Pumpkins and leaves near a half of a pumpkin spice cake.

The frosting is a simple butter cream frosting with a special coconut treat on top.  I just mixed together the melted butter with the powdered sugar, milk, and pure vanilla extract.

Once the cake had totally cooled, I frosted it with the buttercream icing.Pumpkin cake with toasted coconut frosting near leaves and small knives.

To make the toasted coconut surprise, just place flaked coconut on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Be sure it is spread out well.

Toast the coconut flakes in a 350º oven for about 5 minutes until lightly browned.

Check it often so that it doesn’t burn. I took mine out about half way through and stirred it around.Toasted Coconut on a silpat mat.

Sprinkle the toasted coconut over the whole cake, then cut and serve.Faux pumpkins with pumpkin cake with toasted coconut frosting.

Every bite of this delicious pumpkin cake with its yummy coconut frosting is a reminder of the holiday season.

It has the savory flavor of spicy pumpkins, and the frosting has a nice texture from the crunchy coconut that is sprinkled over it. Plate with cake that has a coconut frosting and leaves and knives.

Your family will love this delicious spice cake and it’s bound to become one of your family traditions just like it has in my family..Pumpkin spice cake on a white plate with a fork.

This homemade pumpkin coconut cake with its crunchy frosting makes the perfect fall dessert. It should really be nicknamed Autumn in a Cake.

This super moist pumpkin cake is so easy to whip up for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any holiday party. The flavors combine really well together and make for an over the top delicious dessert!Faux pumpkin and slice of cake cut from a larger cake.

For more great Thanksgiving ideas, be sure to visit my Let’s Give Thanks board on Pinterest.Pumpkin cake with toasted coconut icing on a plate with a fork.

Pin this post for my pumpkin cake with toasted coconut frosting

Would you like a reminder of this delicious coconut pumpkin cake recipe?  Just pin this image to one of your dessert boards on Pinterest so that you can easily find it later.

Frosted cake on a cutting board with words Pumpkin Spice Cake.

More pumpkin recipes to try

Do love to use pumpkins in recipes this time of the year? Try one of these ideas:

Admin note: this post for coconut pumpkin spice cake first appeared on the blog in October of 2016. I have updated the post to add new photos, a printable recipe card with nutritional information, and a video for you to enjoy.

Yield: 20

Pumpkin Cake with Toasted Coconut Frosting

This pumpkin cake is moist and delicious and has a crunchy toasted coconut frosting.

One of my mother's time honored traditions was to serve a pumpkin cake each year, for both of these holidays, with her special toasted coconut frosting.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes


For the Cake:

  • 3 cups Unbleached all purpose white flour
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoons of sea salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups of granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups of canola oil
  • 1 14 ounce can of pumpkin

For the Frosting:

  • 1-2 tablespoons of milk 
  • 1/4 cup of unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 pound of powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp of pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup of flaked coconut, toasted


  1. Preheat the oven to 350º F.
  2. Grease and flour a 9 x 13" pan, or line it with parchment paper and spray with cooking oil.
  3. Combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, baking soda, baking powder and sea salt in a large bowl.
  4. Gently whisk to combine all of the ingredients well.
  5. Place the sugar, oil and canned pumpkin in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  6. Mix well until it is thoroughly combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
  7. Gradually mix in the dry ingredients, beating well between each addition.
  8. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and cook in the preheated oven for 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out cleanly.

To make the frosting:

  1. Place a silicone mat or parchment paper on a baking mat and spread out the flaked coconut.
  2. Put in a preheated 350º oven and cook for 5-7 minutes until the coconut is lightly toasted. Watch it carefully so that it does not burn.
  3. Place the melted butter in a large bowl.
  4. Stir in the pure vanilla extract and gradually add the confectioner's sugar.
  5. Slowly add the milk until you get the consistency you like.
  6. Beat the mixture well and frost the cake after it has cooled completely.
  7. Sprinkle the entire cake with the toasted coconut. Enjoy


NOTE: This is my mother's recipe and is Decades old. If using raw eggs is a concern for you, just add extra milk to the icing to get the desired consistency and omit the egg.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 437Total Fat: 21gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 53mgSodium: 282mgCarbohydrates: 60gFiber: 1gSugar: 44gProtein: 4g

Nutritional information is approximate due to natural variation in ingredients and the cook-at-home nature of our meals.

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Laura Hawkins

Wednesday 1st of July 2020

Well am a working mother and usually busy in my work - only get Sunday off so Carol can you give a very simple pumpkin cake/bread recipe?

Carol Speake

Wednesday 1st of July 2020

This recipe for pumpkin cake with a toasted coconut frosting is one that my mother came up with and it's pretty easy to make.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission from the sale, but the price is the same for you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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