Learn how to make the best whole-wheat pumpkin bread with this easy recipe. You can mix the batter by hand, like muffins, and the baked pumpkin loaf cake is topped with thick cream cheese frosting for a delicious fall baked good.
One of the best things to make when fall rolls around is a pumpkin loaf cake. You can serve them plain or top them with a thick layer of cream cheese frosting.
The traditional pumpkin loaf cake is made with all-purpose flour to lead to a tender bread that still holds up well. One common baking substitution would be to replace the all-purpose flour with whole wheat.
This works well in the recipe below. This recipe is a variation of my perfect pumpkin bread recipe but made with whole wheat flour.
Pumpkin breads are made from a simple list of ingredients, like most loaf cakes. Here's what you need to make this whole-wheat pumpkin bread:
- whole-wheat flour, preferably an all-purpose whole wheat or whole grain wheat flour that is good for cookies and muffins
- leavening agents—you will need both chemical leavening agents, baking powder and baking soda for this recipe
- spices—pumpkin pie spice mix works great here
- salt: preferably Diamond Crystal fine kosher salt, but if you are using regular table salt, halve the amount so the cake isn't too salty.
- butter, both melted to make the loaf cake and softened to make the frosting
- sugar—you can use either granulated sugar or brown sugar. Brown sugar will give the pumpkin bread more flavour
- eggs, specifically large eggs
- pure vanilla extract, either homemade or store-bought
- pumpkin purée, either canned or strained homemade pumpkin purée to remove excess water. Read about homemade pumpkin purée if you are unsure about how to remove the water and why
- icing sugar, also called powdered sugar, tends to clump and you may have to sift it before using
- cream cheese—I prefer to make cream cheese frosting with Philadelphia brand full-fat cream cheese (the kind sold in blocks)
See recipe card for exact quantities.
Substitutions and Variations
With a simple recipe like this one, your options for making substitutions are limited. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind, depending on what you want to make:
- Flour - instead of whole wheat flour, you can use regular bleached all-purpose flour but, obviously, it won't be whole-wheat pumpkin bread anymore
- Butter - you can replace the butter in the cake recipe with canola oil (or another neutral-tasting vegetable oil). Use the same volume as the melted butter
- Eggs— if you'd like to bake pumpkin bread without the eggs, follow this healthier pumpkin bread, which has no eggs and less sugar and oil too and is vegan!
- Spices - if you don't have a pumpkin spice mix, you can use a combination of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves
- Cranberries or raisins - if you'd like to incorporate dried fruit in this recipe, I recommend raisins, dried cranberries, or even chopped crystalized ginger would be great in this pumpkin cake recipe
- Chocolate chip—you can easily stir a cup (175 grams) of chocolate chips into the batter before transferring it to the pan to make chocolate chip pumpkin bread.
See this classic pumpkin loaf cake with cranberries for a version with all-purpose flour!
How to Make Pumpkin Bread with Whole Wheat Flour
The ingredients for this whole wheat pumpkin bread are mixed like muffins or other quick breads, where the wet and dry ingredients are whisked together in separate bowls before combining the two to make the batter. This is called the two-bowl mixing method.
Step 1: Mix together the wet ingredients in a large bowl. I like to first combine the melted butter and sugar (image 1), then add the eggs (image 2), then the pumpkin purée (image 3). Use a whisk to make sure the wet ingredients are smooth (image 4)
Step 2: Whisk the dry ingredients in a separate bowl (image 5), then add these to the bowl of wet ingredients (image 6). Stir the two mixtures together until combined (image 7).
Note: the batter will be thick because of the whole wheat flour's capacity to absorb moisture. You may need to switch to a wooden spoon, spatula, or even a Danish dough whisk to mix the ingredients (image 8) properly.
Step 3: Transfer the thick batter to a prepared loaf cake pan. I like to use the OXO 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf pan. Use a mini offset spatula or a small silicone spatula to spread the thick batter from edge to edge (image 9).
Step 4: The surface of the batter should be quite smooth (image 10). Bake the loaf cake for about an hour. The loaf cake will crack a little (image 11).
Step 5: Transfer the loaf cake to a wire rack to cool completely (image 12). Once the cake has completely cooled, you can spread the cream cheese frosting on top (image 13).
Tip: If you've struggled to make cream cheese frosting in the path, having to add too much sugar to get it to thicken, read about my trick to make thick cream cheese frosting with less sugar!
You may notice a gummy layer on the bottom of pumpkin bread and banana bread. That's because either there's too much pumpkin or mashed banana in the batter, not enough leavening, or the cake is underdone. To avoid the latter, use a cake tester inserted through the centre of the loaf cake to check that it's done baking.
Store the loaf cake on a plate, covered with aluminum foil. It will store well for up to 3 days at room temperature. For longer storage, you may opt to freeze the loaf. I prefer to freeze it unfrosted.
Pumpkin isn't very flavourful when used in baked goods. You need to rely on strong-flavoured warm spices, like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves to bring more flavour. Otherwise, pumpkin bread and cakes will be bland.
If your pumpkin bread has a gummy or dense, wet layer at the bottom of the loaf, it likely means that your cake is underbaked. It can also mean that your recipe didn't have enough leavening agent (baking powder and baking soda), or that there was too much pumpkin (and other wet ingredients like milk, sour cream, or yogurt) for the amount of flour in the recipe. If the baking ratio of ingredients in the recipe is off, the loaf cake won't bake properly, regardless of what you do.
More Pumpkin Recipes to Try
Looking for other recipes like this? Try these:
If you tried this whole wheat pumpkin bread with cream cheese frosting recipe (or any other recipe on my website), please leave a ⭐ star rating and let me know how it went in the comments below. I love hearing from you!
Whole Wheat Pumpkin Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting
Brown butter cream cheese frosting
- 78 grams unsalted butter softened
- 125 grams icing sugar
- 250 grams Philadelphia cream cheese (full fat, regular) the kind sold in blocks or bricks (do not use the whipped, spreadable kind!)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175 °C). Butter and flour a 1-pound loaf pan, either a 9x5-inch (23x12.5x7.5 cm) loaf pan (like this Nordic Ware pan on Amazon) or for a taller loaf, use an 8.5x4.5-inch (21.5x11.5x7 cm) loaf pan (like this Oxo pan on Amazon). Line the bottom with a rectangle of parchment. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, spice mix, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside for later.
- In a separate large bowl, whisk the melted butter with the brown sugar.
- Add the eggs and the vanilla.
- Mix in the pumpkin purée.
- Add the whisked dry ingredients to the bowl of wet ingredients. Mix until just blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. The batter will be thick
- Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake for about 75 minutes, testing the loaf with a cake tester to verify it’s done.
- Let the loaf cool for 20 minutes before unmolding on a wire rack to cool completely before icing.
Cream cheese frosting
- To prepare the frosting, in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the softened butter and the icing sugar, then incorporate the cream cheese. Mix just until you obtain a thick spreadable consistency.
- Spread the frosting generously over the top of the cooled loaf.