{Gluten-Free/Dairy-Free} Chocolate Pumpkin Cake

O, delicious chocolate cake, I will never have enough of you! But now I’m trying to eat less sugar and gluten, so changes must be made. I’m on a mission to adapt some of my old favorite recipes as well as develop some new ones — I feel more inspired in the kitchen than I have been in quite awhile, just in time for loads of wintry bakes and holiday cookies. Starting off, a chocolate pumpkin cake that is gluten-free, dairy-free, and naturally sweetened. Whew!


For this cake I did a simple combination of sorghum flour and arrowroot; I probably would have done oat flour except that I made it for one of my Thanksgiving desserts and a gluten-free friend who came for dinner cannot eat oats. (I also  made it dairy-free because she goes light on dairy.) Feel free to sub oat flour or a gluten-free flour of choice in the recipe below as I’ve included the weight measurement to make it very easy. My general philosophy with gluten-free baking — and in baking in general — is to keep things as simple as possible, which is why I call for just one flour and one starch. But you could also do a few flours (almond flour would be lovely) to go with the starch component; just make sure the weight totals the weight of the sorghum flour and you should be good to go.

You’ll note in the cooking time that the cake should bake from between 35 to 45 minutes — admittedly a wide range, and admittedly I slightly over baked my cake, which is why I give a 10-minute suggestion. You hear that gluten free baking can take longer than “regular” baking, but I’m still on the fence about that one. It depends seems to be the best course of action, and in this case I’d say check at 35 minutes and keep checking every few minutes after that so it does not get too dry.

I reduced the sugar called for in the original recipe a bit and swapped in maple sugar and coconut sugar. I love coconut sugar’s deep undertones, similar to brown sugar but even more flavorful.  As I don’t have an issue with dairy, I would typically make this cake with butter but used Earth Balance baking sticks here, and you can’t really tell the difference taste-wise. In general, though, I like to keep to whole foods ingredients and the margarine, and even the darn coconut cream, has additives. SO in sum: simplest is best. In future, I will test this cake with olive oil in place of butter and work on a frosting alternative with more basic ingredients. In that spirit, if you use coconut milk, look for one that is guar-free (Native Forest brand does make a full fat coconut milk without guar gum).

If you’ve gotten through all of that explanation and still want to make this cake, I’ll give you a good reason to: the pumpkin is not the star here, but plays a strong supporting role, and the deep dark chocolate plays off the coconut sugar to make something really special. The coconut cream ganache is understated yet luxurious, a worthy complement to the sturdy cake with its surprisingly delicate crumb. You’ll want to cut thin slices as it’s quite rich, yet you won’t be left with a sugar crash later on and might even be able to go back for seconds.

I’m putting together a few cookie recipes that I will share next week for holiday cookie tin consideration — be sure to check back next Friday, they’re definitely not to be missed! I’ve also been working away at a site refresh, which I hope will be ready to go live by the end of the year. Fingers crossed …

Til next time – N x

Chocolate Pumpkin Cake

Recipe by Nicole SpiridakisCourse: Dessert



I adapted this cake from a recipe I developed several years ago, swapping coconut milk and coconut cream for buttermilk and heavy cream and using margarine to make it dairy-free. You may use butter, regular buttermilk, and heavy cream in place of the non-dairy alternatives in equal substitutions.


  • 1 cup pumpkin puree

  • 1/2/118 ml cup coconut buttermilk (1/2 cup whole fat coconut milk + 2 teaspoons vinegar) or buttermilk

  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons/140 grams sorghum flour

  • 1/2 cup/70 grams arrowroot

  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

  • 3/4 cup margarine, or unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 1 cup maple sugar

  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar (can go up to 2/3 cup if you like it sweeter)

  • 4 large eggs

  • Chocolate Ganache
  • 1 can coconut cream

  • 7 oz. bittersweet chocolate (I used 70%) chopped


  • Make Cake
  • Heat oven to 350 F. Grease 2 8-inch cake pans and line with parchment.
  • In a small bowl whisk together the pumpkin, buttermilk, and vanilla.
  • In a medium bowl, sift together the flours, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • Place the margarine and sugars a in a large bowl and, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat until light and fluffy.
  • Add in eggs one at a time and beat until fully incorporated.
  • Add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture to the sugar mixture, alternating, and beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Continue beating on medium until incorporated.
  • Pour batter into the prepared pan, place in the oven, and bake for 35-45 minutes, until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven, place on a rack, and cool in pan for 15 minutes, then turn out to cool completely. Let rest in fridge at least 30 minutes or overnight, covered in foil, in the fridge.
  • Make Frosting
  • In a saucepan, heat the coconut cream until  almost boiling. Place the chocolate in a large bowl. Pour the heated cream over the chocolate, let sit a few minutes, then whisk to combine.  Let mixture cool; you can place in the fridge to speed things up.
  • When cool, whip with an electric mixer as you would whip whipped cream. When the chocolate ganache is whipped, and cake is cooled, fill and frost the cake. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Cake will last up to 5 days, covered, in the fridge.
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