Pumpkin Cream Cheese Swirl Cake combines the wonderful flavors of pumpkin spice cake with rich, custardy layers of sweetened cream cheese. A beautiful pattern is created in the cake by adding alternating layers of batter.
Note: this post was first published in February 2018 and updated in September 2020 with an improved recipe, new pictures and more detailed instructions.
Pumpkin and cream cheese are a match made in heaven, don't you think? And with this cake, you can get oodles of cream cheese with your pumpkin cake in each and every bite!
Beautiful ribbons of custardy, sweet cream cheese are layered in-between spiced pumpkin cake batter to create this intricate swirl pattern. You can make the cream cheese layers as thick or thin as you like to create your own pattern, and suit your own tastes!
- canned pumpkin puree: make sure you don't pick up pumpkin pie filling by mistake, they look very similar!
- pumpkin pie spice: to keep things simple, this recipe just calls for pumpkin pie spice rather than individual spices. If you don't have pumpkin pie spice, you can make your own! Here is a recipe I like for pumpkin pie spice blend.
- brown sugar: I used dark brown sugar because I like the extra deep flavor it gives, but light brown sugar would also work.
Do you have an extra can of pumpkin laying around? Try making my easy recipe for Carrot Pumpkin Apple Soup!
Step by step photos
1. Mix together the dry ingredients for the cake, set aside.
2. Then mix together the wet ingredients in a separate bowl.
3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, whisk until just combined. Set the pumpkin cake batter aside.
4. Beat the cream cheese to break it up a bit, and then beat in the sugar (this helps keep the sugar from flying out of the bowl!). Incorporate the egg and vanilla, then the flour.
5. Layer the cake batter and cream cheese mixture into a greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Start by spreading out a nice thick layer of pumpkin batter at the bottom. Then, add in alternating scoops of the cream cheese filling and pumpkin batter. (See the tips and tricks section below for more info on how to create the layers!)
Tips and tricks
Here are some tips I learned while testing this recipe to get the perfect swirl pattern:
- The number of layers is up to your personal tastes - five layers of each created a beautiful intricate design, but you don't get as much cream cheese flavor in each bite. Three layers created a less intricate pattern but had nice thick cream cheese bites while eating. Four layers is a happy medium!
- Try to evenly distribute the layers to avoid having too much of one batter left over at the end. This happened to me when I was testing this recipe, and I ended up having not enough cream cheese near the bottom and a big layer of cream cheese on top. If this happens to you don’t worry too much. It didn’t look quite as even, but it still tasted great!
- Don’t worry about trying to spread each layer along the length of the pan. After spreading out the base layer of pumpkin on the bottom, just stack each layer of batter on top of one another and let it spread out on its own, this will create a unique swirl pattern on each slice!
- Alternatively, if you want more uniform layers, feel free to spread out each layer of batter in the pan before adding the next.
- If your batter is mounded up in the center after doing the layering, give the pan a little jiggle at the end to help smooth it down.
Because of the large amount of cream cheese in this cake you can't leave the bread out at room temperature for an extended period of time. To store the bread, wait for it to cool completely and then wrap it tightly and store in the fridge for up to 3 - 4 days.
While this bread will stay good in the fridge for 3 - 4 days, it really tastes the best on the first day of baking (ideally, just a little bit warm still, with hot chocolate or coffee...yum!). If you're serving it after it has been stored in the fridge, I would let it come to room temperature first, or even microwave it on low power to gently warm it.
I haven't tried freezing it to be honest, but I wouldn't risk it. Freezing cream cheese can change its texture and you don't want to alter the nice creamy, custardy texture of the cream cheese swirls!
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This Pumpkin Cream Cheese Swirl Cake recipe combines pumpkin cake and cheesecake layers into one beautiful dessert and is perfect for afternoon tea or brunch.
For the pumpkin cake batter:
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon fine salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup packed brown sugar (dark or light)
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
For the cream cheese layer:
- 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- Preheat oven to 325°. Grease a 9” x 5” loaf pan. (For extra insurance against sticking, you can also line the pan with a layer of parchment paper before greasing; this is optional.)
- Whisk together the dry ingredients for the cake batter in a medium bowl: 1 ½ cups flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and pumpkin pie spice.
- In a separate large bowl, whisk the 2 eggs until slightly frothy. Add in the brown sugar and ½ cup granulated sugar, whisk until smooth and sugar begins to dissolve. Whisk in the pumpkin, oil, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add the dry ingredients gradually, whisking to combine after each addition. Continue to whisk just until the batter is smooth, set aside.
- Add the softened cream cheese to the bowl of a stand mixer or separate medium bowl (you can use the same bowl that was used to mix the dry ingredients!). Using the stand mixer or electric beaters, beat the cream cheese on medium speed for about 30 seconds, then add the remaining ½ cup granulated sugar and beat until smooth, scraping the bowl down as necessary. Beat in the remaining 1 egg and ½ teaspoon vanilla. Sprinkle in the remaining ¼ cup flour and beat until just combined.
- Add a thick layer of the pumpkin mixture to the bottom of the greased loaf pan, spreading the batter out toward the edges of the pan. Then add a scoop of the cream cheese mixture directly on top of the pumpkin mixture. Continue adding large scoops of the pumpkin and cream cheese batters directly on top of one another until all the batter is in the pan. Wiggle the pan gently to help level out the top. (See notes section for more tips on creating the layers.)
- Bake in the preheated oven for 65 - 75 minutes or until the top of the cake is firm and cracked. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove it to a wire rack to finish cooling.
The number of layers you want the cake to have is up to you - five layers of each will create a beautiful intricate design, but you don't get as much cream cheese flavor in each bite. Three layers created a less intricate pattern but will have nice thick cream cheese bites while eating. Four layers of each is a happy medium (this is my preferred way)!
For more random layers, stack the scoops of batter one on top of the other, but don't smooth them out. For more even layers, smooth each layer out towards the edge of the loaf pan before adding the next scoop of batter.
The cake is best when served the same day, but can be stored in the fridge, tightly wrapped, for up to 3 - 4 days.
Keywords: pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake, pumpkin cream cheese cake, pumpkin cream cheese bread