Pumpkin Ricotta Bundt Cake

By |2019-01-06T18:03:47+00:00November 2nd, 2016|Cakes, Desserts|35 Comments
Pumpkin Ricotta Bundt CakePumpkin Ricotta Bundt Cake

I originally was going to call this Pumpkin Ricotta Bundt Cake, “Pumpkin Ricotta Custard Bundt Cake.”

Pumpkin Ricotta Bundt Cake. Pour a sweet ricotta custard over the batter before baking. It will magically bake into a lovely swirl in this delicious cake.

But, that’s a mouthful of words that doesn’t quite roll off the tongue. So, I took, “Custard,” out of the title and made peace with it. Or not.

Because custard is the highlight of this cake, the pièce de résistance. Aaand, that custard forms magically for you in the oven!

Yep! You just pour the custard on top of the cake batter and it travels nicely down to the bottom of the cake baking into lovely swirl. There’s no layering of filling and batter; just pour it on top and science takes over and does the rest of the work.

Pumpkin Ricotta Bundt Cake. Pour a sweet ricotta custard over the batter before baking. It will magically bake into a lovely swirl in this delicious cake.

Let’s back track a bit. The origin of this wonderful cake harkens back a million years when I had my first job out of college. I was in an executive training program at a large department store and my position was sales manager. I had a wonderful team of ladies that worked in my department.

They were long term, loyal employees that had probably worked at the company for more years than I was alive. Clearly, they were going to teach me more than I was ever going to teach them, and they quickly took me under their wing.

In addition to teaching me all about the product in our department, how to keep the stock boys in line and how to manage the various buyer personalities that came out to visit our store, they also liked to bake.

Pumpkin Ricotta Bundt Cake. Pour a sweet ricotta custard over the batter before baking. It will magically bake into a lovely swirl in this delicious cake.

There was one woman, another old timer from one of the other nearby departments, that baked a ricotta cake for some event we were having. It was a yellow cake with a layer of the most delicious custard.

I had never had anything like it up to that point! I was in love. When I found out it was made with a yellow box cake mix and just a few extra ingredients, my single girl working 60-70 hours a week self was sold.

If I ever needed to bring a quick, yet impressive cake somewhere, that cake was certainly going to become a go to recipe for me. And so it did. And every time I brought it somewhere, I was asked for the recipe. Every. Single. Time.

Pumpkin Ricotta Bundt Cake. Pour a sweet ricotta custard over the batter before baking. It will magically bake into a lovely swirl in this delicious cake.

Then my sister in law asked for the recipe. I think she started making it at Christmas and maybe for some other events.

When I would see it on her dessert table, my eyes would always light up and I knew that I had to save room for a slice of it, regardless of what other treats might be gracing her spread of delicious desserts.

At some point I realized that I wasn’t making it at all anymore. What happened? I was too busy testing other recipes and working on ideas for the blog.

Pumpkin Ricotta Bundt Cake. Pour a sweet ricotta custard over the batter before baking. It will magically bake into a lovely swirl in this delicious cake.

And then I came up with an idea…what if I made a pumpkin version? I figured, how hard could it be? All I needed was a good pumpkin cake recipe. Piece. Of. Cake. *car brakes screeching to a halt* Or maybe not.

Pumpkin Ricotta Bundt Cake. Pour a sweet ricotta custard over the batter before baking. It will magically bake into a lovely swirl in this delicious cake.

Maybe the first cake I made was not partially raw when I cut into it. Maybe I didn’t then cut slices of said cake and bake them again so that they could fully cook… and then offer the now toasted slices of cake to my family. Ugh!

Oh, now don’t feel sorry for them. It was a strange twice baked cake creation, but some of them actually asked for seconds! Clearly, though, that concoction was not going to be bloggable.

It’s the pumpkin, I tell you! Pumpkin always changes the texture of a recipe (#sconegoals) and now that I was combining it with a custard, I had twice the challenge.

Pumpkin Ricotta Bundt Cake. Pour a sweet ricotta custard over the batter before baking. It will magically bake into a lovely swirl in this delicious cake.

I’ll skip the trials and tribulations of the following test rounds of cake batter that were simply too moist to handle the addition of custard, and instead tell you that I just ended up going back to a favorite tried and true recipe hoping that it would work with my custard.

I even changed the recipe for the custard just to insure my success. (To be honest, I was simply trying to create a recipe that used a full can of pumpkin so I wouldn’t leave you any leftovers, but it was a no go. #good intentions)

Pumpkin Ricotta Bundt Cake. Pour a sweet ricotta custard over the batter before baking. It will magically bake into a lovely swirl in this delicious cake.

You might think that my family was sick of pumpkin cake. I know I was. I had already planned to give at least half of the final and successful cake away to friends. After photographing it, I headed out for an evening meeting, leaving my family home to test the latest cake.

When I got home, I asked how the cake was. My husband told me they ate half of it. What?!? That’s insane! See what happens when I leave, letting go of all of the mighty control I exert over the household every day? ;)

Oh, and then they told me they didn’t want to give any of it away. Yep, I’m outing my family…specifically my husband, because there’s at least one person who now knows she got cheated out of some cake :)

The cake itself is tender and moist. It’s not super fluffy, and it’s just gently spiced. I’ll add notes to the recipe if you want to add more spice, but the lack of a strong spice profile really does make this a little more mass appeal.

It’s kind of like pumpkin cake rolls; they never seem to be strongly spiced. I’m going to try it with a little more spice and some orange zest the next time around, though. Just for fun.

Pumpkin Ricotta Bundt Cake. Pour a sweet ricotta custard over the batter before baking. It will magically bake into a lovely swirl in this delicious cake.

Because the custard is so moist, the edges where the custard meets the cake batter, even when fully baked, will be a little like pumpkin pie. In fact, one of my taste testers thought the cake should be called a “pie” cake.

But that would be yet another word that would make the title rather unwieldy to repeat. Pumpkin Ricotta Custard Bundt Pie Cake? Pumpkin Ricotta Custard Bundt Cake? Yeah. No.

I think Pumpkin Ricotta Bundt Cake is enough. I’ll probably leave off the bundt part of the name in regular use and just call it Pumpkin Ricotta Cake. It doesn’t really matter what you call it…because in a word?

Pumpkin Ricotta Bundt Cake. Pour a sweet ricotta custard over the batter before baking. It will magically bake into a lovely swirl in this delicious cake.

It’s delicious! :)


Pumpkin Ricotta Bundt Cake. Pour a sweet ricotta custard over the batter before baking. It will magically bake into a lovely swirl in this delicious cake.
4.5 from 2 votes

Pumpkin Ricotta Bundt Cake

In this cake, a delicious ricotta custard is poured over pumpkin cake batter and bakes into a delicious cheese layer within the cake. How much your custard layer "sinks" into the cake will depend upon the consistency of your pumpkin puree. Check recipe notes before beginning for best results.

Servings 12 -16 slices


For the cake:

  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground all spice
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup 2 sticks or 1/2 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups pureed pumpkin not pumpkin pie filling, see recipe notes on consistency
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

For the filling:

  • 1 pound ricotta cheese I used part skim from Belgioiso
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • confectioner's sugar for topping


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a bundt pan, tapping out excess flour or see notes for a super easy way to do this. Adjust oven rack down to the bottom third of the oven. For me, this is just one level down from the center.
  2. Make the cake. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, all spice and nutmeg. Set aside.

  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin, vanilla and buttermilk until fully combined. I like to do this in a large liquid measuring cup for easy pouring. Set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time mixing until incorporated after each addition.
  5. Alternate adding flour and pumpkin mixture to the butter mixture (1/3 flour, 1/2 pumpkin , 1/3 flour, 1/2 pumpkin, 1/3 flour) mixing until just combined after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  6. Pour batter into prepared bundt pan.
  7. Make the filling. In a medium bowl or large liquid measuring cup, combine ricotta, eggs, sugar, vanilla and 2 Tablespoons of flour. Whisk until thoroughly combined. Carefully pour all over the top of the cake batter in the bundt pan. Jiggle the pan a bit to even out the cheese mixture, if necessary.
  8. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes in the pan.
  9. Place a cooling rack on top of the cake and flip cake over and out onto rack. Allow to cool, then dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Recipe Notes

*For an easy way to grease/flour your bundt pan, melt 1 Tablespoon of butter and mix with 1 Tablespoon of flour until combined into a paste. Use a pastry brush to apply paste to all the ridges, nooks and crannies of your pan making sure to coat all of the sides as well as the center tube.

*Cake should be stored in refrigerator. My family prefered it cold, but it gets too dense for me when it's cold. If it has been stored in the refrigerator, I would allow it to come to room temperature before serving, although my favorite way to eat it is heating up a slice for just a few seconds in the microwave. It becomes really soft and kind of fluffy when it's warm. Love it!

*If you want to add more spice, I would increase cinnamon to 2 teaspoons and add 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger and 1/8 teaspoon cloves. Love ginger? Don't increase cinnamon and add a full teaspoon of ginger instead. Or skip all of the spices and replace with 3 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice. I also think adding the zest of 1/2 an orange would taste amazing. My advice is to try it first as the recipe is written, so that you have an idea of how much you'd like to adjust. It's really wonderful as is, though.

*My bundt pan is about 10" across and about 3 3/4" tall. I've made the original recipe in a 13 x 9" pan, but I haven't tried this pumpkin version in that sized pan so I'm not sure if it works well or not. Sometimes recipes translate to other sized pans, sometimes they don't.

*If you want to try the original recipe, just prepare a boxed yellow cake mix as directed. Spread the batter in a bundt or 13 X 9 pan (well greased and floured) and pour custard mixture over the batter. Bake at 350 for 50-55 minutes. In this version, the custard will sink completely to the bottom instead of forming that "filling" effect that you see with the pumpkin version.

*UPDATE 9/23/18-Some readers have had issues with their cheese filling not properly sinking to the bottom of the cake while baking. I think this is due to different moisture levels in pumpkin puree which subsequently affects how thick the cake batter ends up. My puree had more water content and was more on the loose side, like very thick baby food, instead of very thick. If your puree is very thick, I would remove a Tablespoon of the puree and replace it with a Tablespoon of buttermilk to loosen it up just a little. Then check it for consistency. You can sub out another Tablespoon if you need to before you mix it into the batter. Results will vary on how much your cheese filling sinks, but regardless of what position it ends up in, the cake will still taste delicious.

Base cake recipe adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod via Epicurious

The Merchant Baker Copyright © 2016

By |2019-01-06T18:03:47+00:00November 2nd, 2016|Cakes, Desserts|35 Comments


  1. edee November 2, 2016 at 3:57 pm - Reply

    This looks wonderful, could you also post the original yellow cake with ricotta cheese cake please?

    • Ramona November 2, 2016 at 4:23 pm - Reply

      Hi Edee, I wrote that in the notes right below the recipe, knowing that some of you might want that recipe as well :) Basically, you prepare a yellow cake mix according to the box directions. Spread that in a greased and floured 13 X 9″ pan. Pour the custard mixture from the recipe over the cake batter and bake at 350 degrees F. for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. You can also make the yellow cake in a bundt pan, if you prefer. Enjoy!

  2. Jean November 2, 2016 at 5:11 pm - Reply

    You are a goddess! I was born on Thanksgiving, so I’m pretty picky about my traditions. But this is going to be one that goes on for generations. Bless you – from the original turkey!

    • Ramona November 2, 2016 at 7:51 pm - Reply

      Oh wow! A goddess? (looks down shyly and kicks in the dirt, imagining a glorious white gown and gold leaf crown ;) I’m so excited that this recipe could become a tradition for you! Having a birthday on or near a holiday can sometimes be difficult, but it sounds like you’ve got the whole thing locked down! Happy early birthday!

  3. Carol G November 2, 2016 at 6:11 pm - Reply

    Oh Ramona….I can see that this recipe is gonna get me into a whole lot of trouble. I’m an Italian girl so I adore ricotta in everything. And I do love pumpkin so this cake is the marriage of 2 perfect ingredients for me. I’m really looking forward to having an occasion to make this. Thanks so much for all the work you did to make what looks like one perfectly delicious cake.

    • Ramona November 2, 2016 at 7:54 pm - Reply

      Carol…ditto on the ricotta! (Or as my mother said it, “reh-goh-ta”) Soooo, now knowing you’re a ricotta lovin’ girl, you might want to check out the Lemon Ricotta Crumb Cake, just in case you run out of “trouble” ;)

  4. Kathy @ Beyond the Chicken Coop November 3, 2016 at 8:28 am - Reply

    This cake looks gorgeous! Love how you’ve adapted an old favorite into a new pumpkin version!

    • Ramona November 3, 2016 at 11:17 am - Reply

      Aww thanks, Kathy! We really loved the new version!

  5. Iga Dietmap November 4, 2016 at 9:38 am - Reply

    can i replace ricotta on cream cheese

    • Ramona November 4, 2016 at 11:35 am - Reply

      I haven’t tested it that way. You may have to layer it in the middle of the batter instead of pouring it on top since it will be thicker than the ricotta mixture. You could always try it. It just might not sink down into the batter the way the ricotta custard does.

      • Iga Dietmap December 1, 2016 at 6:57 am - Reply


  6. […] 4. Pumpkin Ricotta Bundt Cake […]

  7. Sharon Rigsby November 13, 2016 at 9:05 pm - Reply

    A friend got your recipe off of our Buzzfeed post and made it for a supper club I belong to tonight and everyone loved it! It was delicious!My husband wants me to make it for our Thanksgiving meal! Great job!

    • Ramona November 14, 2016 at 7:35 am - Reply

      Yay! That’s fun feedback. And I’m flattered that your husband deemed it worthy of your Thanksgiving table. Thanks for choosing it for your buzzfeed round up!

  8. Nikki November 13, 2016 at 10:05 pm - Reply

    I tried this tonight and it didn’t turn out like the photo – the custard layer totally sunk to the bottom, so when inverted it is an unappetizing pale layer on top and then the pumpkin cake layer on the bottom, not like the filling effect in the photo. I followed the recipe strictly, I think, other than using whole milk ricotta instead of part-skim. Any idea what could have gone wrong?

    • Ramona November 14, 2016 at 7:47 am - Reply

      Hi Nikki, I’m not sure what went wrong. First, the custard layer is supposed to sink. Whenever I’ve made the original yellow cake box version in a 13X9 pan or a bundt pan, the custard always sinks completely to the bottom, which never bothered me. I was actually pleasantly surprised that in my scratch made pumpkin version that it ended up with that filling effect. I also want to mention that I tested this cake multiple times and every single time it baked with the custard sinking to the bottom, but exactly as you see it, as filling.If you made the yellow cake version, that’s probably what happened. It will sink to the very, very bottom. I’ll add that to the boxed cake version note. If you made the pumpkin version, whole milk ricotta has extra fat and it’s possible that the extra fat had something to do with it. I used part skim in every test.

      • Nikki November 15, 2016 at 9:17 am - Reply

        Thanks, Ramona, for your reply! I may try again sometime with part-skim – your version looks lovely!

  9. Letty Sonn November 14, 2016 at 7:09 pm - Reply

    Ramona, this cake looks fabulous! Just wondering if you tried freezing the cake to eat at another time?
    It sure would alleviate the heavy burden of baking right before Thanksgiving? Thanks

    • Ramona November 14, 2016 at 7:40 pm - Reply

      Letty, I’ve frozen a lot of things, but I’ve never frozen this cake. Custards don’t do well in the freezer and the filling here is a custard. I feel your burden on trying to get so many things done for such a big meal, but I think the best you can do to get ahead with this cake is make it the day before. Hopefully, there’s enough other items on your menu that you can make further in advance to help give you some time with the baking closer to the big day.

  10. Azu November 15, 2016 at 9:16 pm - Reply

    I just found this cake when I decided to stop baking with pumpkin for this year. Definitely a recipe I will try next year.

    • Ramona November 15, 2016 at 9:35 pm - Reply

      It’s a good one to save!

  11. Jessica November 21, 2016 at 4:35 pm - Reply

    Hello! I am excited to try this recipe tonight. May I ask if you baked at 350F convection or not? My oven converts for me, but if you did not bake convection, I will not either.

    • Ramona November 21, 2016 at 5:12 pm - Reply

      Hi Jessica, I do have a convection oven, but I baked this in my regular oven. I generally bake anything that needs to really rise (cakes,muffins, biscuits etc) in my regular oven and things like cookies in my convection oven. So bake this WITHOUT convection at 350 degrees. Don’t forget to lower the rack from the middle position down just one level so that your cake isn’t too close to the heating element.This adjustment keeps the pan in the center of the oven since the pan is so tall. The time it took to bake is based on my regular oven at that temperature. But definitely use a toothpick to check for doneness at the earlier time so you can adjust as needed. Good luck!

  12. Danielle November 23, 2016 at 3:26 pm - Reply

    Hi! Just wondering if this can be made with almond milk instead of buttermilk? Thanks! Looks amazing!!

    • Ramona November 23, 2016 at 3:40 pm - Reply

      Danielle, I’m not completely sure. I think if you try it, you’d want to “sour” your almond milk with vinegar or lemon juice so that it has a similar acidic property as the buttermilk. To do that, pour the 3/4 cup of almond milk into a measuring cup. Remove 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons of the milk and replace it with 1 1/2 Tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. Let sit of a few minutes. The other issue you might have is that it will be thinner than buttermilk, so your cake batter might be thinner and the custard may sink completely through the batter and end up as the top layer. That wouldn’t bother me since that’s how the original version of this recipe bakes up. I would guess that it would still taste good and the texture should be fine, but you just don’t know until you try. I tested this cake 3 times with different ratios and every shift lended a different result, but they were all edible. I don’t think it would be a huge risk, though, to try your substitute. Good luck and let me know how it works out. I’m sure it would help other readers as well :)

  13. Michael November 24, 2016 at 11:25 am - Reply

    Thank you for a Great recipe. I used it for Thanksgiving 2016 and it was a big hit. Not too sweet with a good pumpkin flavor. I highly recommend it.

    • Ramona November 24, 2016 at 11:39 am - Reply

      That’s wonderful to hear, Michael :) Happy Thanksgiving!

  14. Jean November 24, 2016 at 1:02 pm - Reply

    Hi Ramona, Thanks for the recipe. I made this last night and followed the directions but most of the custard stayed on top. Still got the custard effect but in reverse. Other than that, the cake was delicious! Any ideas on why the custard didn’t sink to the bottom?

    • Ramona November 24, 2016 at 9:42 pm - Reply

      Hi Jean, the only thing I can think is that maybe your ricotta was thicker than mine. The next time you make it, don’t add flour into the custard mixture and that should help. Also, if your cake was denser than mine was, that could be an issue. That could happen if you measured your flour differently. I always use the spoon and sweep method, fluffing the flour first, spooning it into the cup and then sweeping a butter knife across the top. Does your oven run hot or cold? Did you remember to lower the rack to one down from the middle? In baking, every thing is important. Did you use buttermilk? The buttermilk and baking soda produce gas which makes the cake batter less dense than the custard batter, allowing it to sink. I’m sure there are many other reasons that it might not have sunk. That’s all I can think of without seeing exactly what you used. Every time I’ve made this cake whether I’ve used a box cake mix, or my own scratch cake, it always sinks to the bottom. In any case, I’m glad that you enjoyed the cake, even if it was reversed.

  15. Kristina November 8, 2017 at 1:48 pm - Reply

    Made it this weekend and it was a hit. Better after sitting a day or two in my opinion. For those who were wondering … I made it in a 9×13 pan because I don’t have a bundt pan and it came out fine, cooking time was essentially the same. I had to sub in some cream cheese for the ricotta because I was short about 6 ounces and it did cause my custard to not sink to the bottom, but we really didn’t mind. All the delicious flavors were there and I liked the tang from the cream cheese!

    • Ramona November 9, 2017 at 7:14 am - Reply

      Kristina, thanks for sharing your success with different pan sizes and ingredient sub. I’ve made the original in a 9 x 13, but have never baked this new pumpkin version in anything but a bundt. All cakes are different and not all can handle pan size changes well. Good to know the pumpkin is as versatile as the original box mix version.

  16. Natalie Nazario November 23, 2017 at 5:09 pm - Reply

    Made this today for Thanksgiving and it was super good. The ricotta layer stayed on top but it still looked pretty when I flipped it and tasted great. Thanks!

    • Ramona November 23, 2017 at 6:01 pm - Reply

      Natalie, I’m not sure why the cheese didn’t sink. It could be any of a number of things. I think it’s probably that my pumpkin had more liquid in it. I used Trader Joe’s for this recipe and it’s pretty loose. A thicker pumpkin would make your batter thicker. Different brands of pumpkin can vary in density. I made a pumpkin pie yesterday with yet a different brand organic pumpkin and it was much different than when I made it with the looser Trader Joe’s. If you decide to make it again, I’d try it with Trader Joe’s (if you have access) or I’d maybe take a couple of tablespoons of the pumpkin out of the can of thicker puree and replace it with extra buttermilk until the consistency loosens up more. Or, our flour measurement could be different. More flour, denser cake. I use the spoon and sweep method which yields a cup of flour about 4.25 ounces. Well, whatever the issue was, I’m glad it still worked out for you. Even if the cheese doesn’t sink, you still get a delicious custard layer. Happy Thanksgiving!

  17. Pam November 26, 2017 at 9:51 am - Reply

    Loved, loved, loved this cake. My custard sank, but ended up looking like a retro-tunnel cake. I omitted the powdered sugar (thought I’d prefer less sweetness), and it makes a wonderful breakfast coffee cake as well as a dessert!

    • Ramona November 26, 2017 at 11:10 am - Reply

      Pam, thanks for such a nice compliment! Different factors will affect the sinking of the custard. I think it’s kinda cool that you ended up with a retro tunnel effect:) And I’m so happy you enjoyed the flavors. I agree, it would be lovely as a breakfast coffee cake!

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