Pumpkin Poke Cake with Caramel Whipped Cream

September 29, 2023

My new Pumpkin Poke Cake is a fall-inspired twist on the classic Better Than Anything Cake, with the most delicious pumpkin cake soaked in homemade salted caramel and topped with a caramel whipped cream and toffee bits.

Slice of cake on a plate with a fork.

Pumpkin Poke Cake (a.k.a Pumpkin Better Than Anything Cake)

Whether you call this pumpkin sheet cake the Pumpkin Poke Cake or Pumpkin Better Than Anything Cake, it’s going to be one of your new favorite cakes to make this fall!

My new cake is a fall-inspired twist on the classic Better Than Anything Cake. Instead of chocolate cake, we’re using my super moist, flavorful pumpkin cake recipe, poking holes on the top, covering it with caramel, and the topping it with a caramel whipped cream.

Sheet cake on a cutting board.

Pumpkin Sheet Cake Recipe

For my pumpkin sheet cake, you’ll want to grab the following ingredients:

  • Pumpkin puree
  • Vegetable oil (or coconut oil works too)
  • Eggs
  • Granulated sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • All-purpose flour
  • Baking powder
  • Salt
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Ginger
  • Vanilla extract
A pumpkin sheet cake on a cutting board with plates nearby.

You’ll love how easy this cake is to mix up. You can use a single bowl and a whisk if you want!

NOTE: when I say “sheet cake” in my recipes, I’m using a 9″ x 13″ rectangular cake pan. I know many people refer to a jelly roll pan as a sheet cake, but for the purposes of turning my cakes into “sheet cakes,” just know I’m always using a 9″ x 13″ cake pan. My preferred brand of cake pans is Fat Daddio.

Slices of pumpkin cake on a cutting board.

This cake can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the freezer. If you add the caramel, you can store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator or a couple days. The caramel helps to keep the cake moist in the fridge (normally, the fridge dries out our cakes).

Homemade Salted Caramel Recipe

After the cake has cooled to room temperture, you’ll poke holes all over the top of the cake. You can use a straw, a fork, the handle of a wooden spoon, or even a chopstick. Be generous with the amount of holes you make and the amount of caramel your pour on. You’ll use half of the caramel recipe on top of the cake and half of it in the whipped cream.

Slice of cake on a plate with a bit of cake on a fork.

Caramel Whipped Cream

This might just be the most exciting part of the cake – caramel whipped cream! For this caramel whipped cream recipe, you’ll use homemade salted caramel, heavy whipping cream, and powdered sugar.

NOTE: PREP THE CARAMEL WHIPPED CREAM A DAY EARLY

After you make the caramel, you’ll add an additional two cups of heavy whipping cream and then you’ll need to refrigerate the caramel cream overnight. You want to make sure this mixture is COLD before whipping it to ensure it whips.

The recipe below creates medium-stiff peaks. If you want your whipped cream more stable, I suggest doing one of two things: using ½ cup less caramel and/or adding a tablespoon of EZ Gel when you start to whip the cream.

Plan to whip the cream when you’re ready to serve the cake.

Slice of cake on a plate with a fork.

Pumpkin Poke Cake with Caramel Whipped

4.72 from 25 votes
Pumpkin sheet cake, covered in salted caramel, caramel whipped cream and toffee bits.

Ingredients
  

FOR THE CAKE

  • 1 1/2 cups (300 g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (165 g) light brown sugar, packed
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (218 g) vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (6.3 g) vanilla
  • 2 cups (450 g) pumpkin purée
  • 3 cups (360 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (18 g) baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon (7.8 g) ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (3.9 g) ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon (2.6 g) nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon (6 g) salt

For the Caramel

  • 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (240 g) water
  • 4 teaspoons (28 g) light corn syrup or honey
  • 1 1/2 cups (360 g) heavy whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons (8.4 g) vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons 12 g salt

For the Caramel Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup caramel, recipe above
  • 2 cups (428 g) heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup (75 g) powdered sugar

Garnish

  • 1/2-2/3 cup Toffee bits – Skor or Heath Bar pieces

Instructions
 

FOR THE CAKE

  • Preheat 325 degrees F. Spray a 9” x 13” rectangular cake pan with non-stick spray, line the bottom with parchment paper ,and spray again.Set aside.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, or using a hand mixer and mixing bowl, beat the sugars and eggs together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the oil and vanilla and beat on medium until combined, about 30 seconds. Add the pumpkin puree and mix until combined, about another 30 seconds.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, and salt. With the mixer on the lowest speed, gradually add to the pumpkin/egg mixture.
  • Pour the batter into the pan and bake until a knife or toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs on it, about 33 to 37 minutes.
  • Let the cake cool completely before poking holes on the top. This can be done with a fork, straw, handle of a wooden spoon, or even chopsticks. Whatever you have on hand!

For the Caramel

  • Heat the cream in the microwave for about a minute. Set aside.
  • Combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved and then stop stirring.
  • You want the mixture to cook on its own. Stirring creates crystallization. If you notice sugar crystallizing on the sides of the pan, soak a pastry brush in warm water and run the brush along the sides of the pan where the sugar is building up.
  • Once the mixture turns amber in color, remove the pan from the heat and slowly add the cream, while stirring the caramel.
  • Add the vanilla and salt, and stir to combine.
  • Cool to room temperature before using. The caramel will thicken as it cools.
  • Caramel can be refrigerated for up to two weeks in an airtight container.

For the Caramel Whipped Cream

  • Once the caramel has cooled slightly, combine 1 cup of the caramel with the heavy cream. Mix to combine.
  • Cover with plastic wrap efrigerate overnight in a stainless steel bowl.
    A cold stainless steel bowl helps the cream to form peaks quickly. Alternately, you can store the caramel cream in another container and then place a stainless steel bowl in the freezer for about 15 minutes before you whip the cream.
  • When you’re ready to whip the caramel cream, add the powdered sugar and then use an electric mixer to beat the cream mixture into stiff peaks.
  • Best used right away.

Assembly

  • If you haven't poked holes in the cake already, do that now with a fork, a straw, or the back of a wooden spoon. I prefer something the size of a straw.
  • Cover the cake in the remaining 1 cup of caramel.
  • Top with the caramel whipped cream and sprinkle with toffee bits.
  • Serve right away or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Cake
Keyword: caramel, Pumpkin, Pumpkin Better Than Anything Cake, Pumpkin Cake, Pumpkin Poke Cake, Pumpkin Sheet Cake

Join the Conversation

  1. I’m so excited to try this! If I make it as a layered cake instead, what would you suggest for the buttercream? Or as cupcakes- will the same poke method work?

    1. Yes, for a cupcake, I would do a single, bigger hole in the center. You could do the whipped cream on top or I would do a caramel buttercream.

  2. Hi Courtney! Do you think the cake could be made in a Bundt pan?

    1. Absolutely. Bake time will be close to an hour.

  3. I made this cake for football Sunday for my family. It is phenomenal!! Huge hit!! And so easy with it being a sheet cake. Only thing I did differently is added more cinnamon but I always add more cinnamon than recipes require because I like to really really taste the cinnamon. It is soooo good and very very moist. Perfect fall cake!

    1. Thank you so much! Yum to extra cinnamon!

  4. I’m going to make this for thanksgiving, can I make it in a two layer round cake, instead of a single layer sheet cake? Will it all hold together with the caramel and whipped cream?

    1. Yes you can but I would include a buttercream – vanilla or caramel would be delicious. use the buttercream to pipe a rim around the edge of the cake to support the cake on top and to keep the whipped cream in the center.

  5. 1 star
    Sorry, I didn’t even get to making the cake. The caramel recipe failed twice for me. I followed the recipe exactly but it never did turn amber. The first time it started crystallizing quite a lot around the edges but hadn’t turned amber. So I just added the cream anyway. Did not work. So I figured I just didn’t wait long enough. Second time, I waited and waited for it to turn amber but It just turned rock hard. I love the idea of this cake, but I guess I will need to find a different recipe.

    1. 5 stars
      I also have trouble with homemade caramel (the soft type) so I buy the jar of caramel from Trader Joe’s. Try it again with that shortcut – it is really delicious!

  6. Does it make any difference the deep of the pan? I only found 9x13x4

    1. That works great!

  7. 3 stars
    I had so much trouble with this recipe. The actual cake is very good but it was too much for a 9×13 pan and sunk in the middle.
    Making the caramel was a disaster and never worked. It would be helpful to have a time frame for how long to cook the sugar mixture to get to the amber color. I really like the idea of this cake and will probably try it again but with several modifications

    1. If the cake sank during the baking process, that’s an indicator there’s an issue with the ingredients (like old baking powder), if it sinks after it bakes, that’s an indicator that the cake didn’t bake long enough. I like to offer a range of baking time, but that’s based on my oven and it’s good to remember each of our ovens bake a bit different. Try adding a few minutes to the bake time. For the caramel, if you have the heat at medium, it takes at least 5 minutes (could be longer depending on the type of pans you have) to get to a light brown, caramel color.

  8. Can I make the caramel the day before and refrigerate over night?

  9. 4 stars
    I have seriously loved every Cake by Courtney recipe that I’ve tried. She does such a wonderful job. The whip cream and the pumpkin cake turned out amazing. I do agree with some of the comments here about the caramel sauce . Mine did turn a much more pale color and taste a little more like a sweeten condensed milk. It does taste really good it’s just not that full caramel flavor. It’s a lot more subtle. I think it would still pair really well with the cake if you’re wanting it to be more like a sweeten condensed milk. I made my own caramel sauce recipe instead, and it worked really well . The caramel sauce recipe I used is melting one cup of unsalted butter in a pan , add 2 cups of brown sugar and 2/3 cups heavy cream. Bring it to a boil for three minutes, constantly stirring and then let it cool . super easy and super delicious with either one that you do. I used the caramel sauce from this recipe in the whip cream, and then I poured my own caramel sauce over the cake.

  10. Tina Firth Fountain says:

    5 stars
    Ok, I was hesitant to make this because I thought either it was going to suck, or be amazing. And it was beyond amazing! I was nervous about 5 eggs, I thought maybe it would be too dense, but it was soft and moist and not dense at all (I added 1 cup of sour cream). I made the caramel recipe and I didn’t have a glitches with it, it just took around 30 min to turn amber color. For the whipped cream I whipped my heavy cream first and then folded in the caramel which helped it to hold a stiff shape a little better.
    Anyways 5 out of 5, I have people asking me for the recipe, and my husband (who doesn’t like pumpkin stuff) loves it too!

  11. Hi!
    Would love to take to Thanksgiving but won’t have access to making whipped topping there . How far in advance can this be made? Does it store well to travel and top when ready? Thank you so much!

    1. I’m so sorry I missed your question! If you freeze the cake, it will travel well with the whipped topping on it.

  12. 5 stars
    I made this cake for a Halloween party, and it turned out delicious. I was patient with the caramel, and it worked out great. This dessert felt like the quality you would have at a bakery or restaurant. Super yummy!

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