This single-layer cake is a fabulous alternative to your traditional pumpkin pie for the holidays. Topped with a lush, vegan, cream cheese frosting, this pumpkin cake is bound to be a crowd-pleaser!
I’ve been wanting to make this cake for AGES, and I’m so glad that I finally did. If you’ve had the pumpkin cream cheese muffins from Starbucks (it’s been over a decade for me), this is kinda like that but better! I’m an absolute sucker for cream cheese frosting, and the last time I made a dessert with it was my chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter cream cheese frosting, so it’s been entirely too long.
I love the idea of having this cake instead of pumpkin pie because one: it’s just better, two: I feel like it’s also easier to make! The cake itself is a one-bowl recipe, and the frosting doesn’t need to be piped or perfect, so it’s low-pressure. Now, for a little decoration, I air-fried some sugar-coated apple slices to make some very crispy apple chips. But, sugared cranberries or even persimmon slices would also be a great seasonal addition to the top of this cake.
Substitutions + Tips:
- All-purpose flour – If you’d like this cake to have more of a bread texture use 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour.
- Cane sugar – you can use coconut sugar instead for a lower-sugar option, but the flavor will be more subdued.
- Pumpkin pie spice – if you don’t have a premade spice mix, you can make your own pumpkin spice.
- Ground turmeric – this is for a touch of color, and teeny bit of zest, but is totally optional.
- Pumpkin puree – I used plain, canned pumpkin puree for this.
- Olive oil – if you’d like an oil-free cake, substitute this oil with cold water.
- Apple cider vinegar – this is to activate the baking soda as leavening, you can also use white vinegar if you don’t have it on hand.
- Molasses – if this is missing from your pantry, substitute the cane sugar in the recipe with dark brown sugar.
- Vegan cream cheese – I use Tofutti because it has a nice firm texture that holds up for a frosting, even when not totally chilled. Other brands can sometimes be too soft or too savory in flavor.
- Vegan butter – you can also use vegetable shortening for a more solid frosting that stands up to warmer rooms, just taste the frosting and see if you’d like to add more salt to compensate.
- Powdered sugar – make sure to sift this, as the clumps in the frosting will be such a pain in the butt to whip out, if you don’t!
- Cake garnish – as mentioned before, I made apple chips to go on top of this, but sugared cranberries or persimmon slices with pomegranate seeds could be equally as good.
For more pumpkin recipes:
- Pumpkin Pie on the Rocks
- Pecan Pumpkin Pastries with Maple Glaze
- Pumpkin Cream Cheese-Stuffed French Toast
For the cake batter
- 1 3/4 cups (242 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 cup (240 g) cane sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice blend
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric, optional
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 cup (125 g) pumpkin puree
- 1/4 cup (50 g) olive oil
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) cold water
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons molasses
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the vegan cream cheese frosting + topping
- 6 ounces (170 g) vegan cream cheese
- 1/4 cup (52 g) vegan butter, slightly softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups (215 g) powdered sugar, sifted
- Pinch of salt, or to taste
- 8 half-moon apple chips, for topping (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350F (176C or gas mark 3) and grease an 8-inch cake pan. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, pumpkin spice, turmeric, and salt with a whisk.
- Add pumpkin puree, olive oil, water, apple cider vinegar, molasses and vanilla extract to the dry mixture, and whisk just until there are no dry pockets. Quickly transfer the batter to the cake pan, spread it into an even layer and to the edges of the pan. Place in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes or until an inserted toothpick draws clean.
- Cool on racks for 20 minutes, before transferring to the refrigerator to chill. And, while the cake is baking, get started on the frosting.
- In a mixing bowl, place vegan cream cheese, vegan butter, and vanilla extract, using a hand mixer on high speed, cream the ingredients together until well-combined and whipped. Then slowly add powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time while mixing at high speed. Once sugar is incorporated, beat until fluffy and smooth. Then chill until ready to use.
- Once both cake and frosting are chilled, place the cake on your serving plate and spread the cream cheese frosting over the top of it in a layer roughly 3/4-inch thick. Arrange the apple chips on the frosting as you prefer and serve!
Some ovens tend to creep up in temperature as baking time goes on, so I always have a separate thermometer in my oven to double check. If it does start creeping up I adjust the temperature accordingly.