Nutty Pumpkin Pecan Cake with a “Cream Cheese” Topping

Nutty Pumpkin Pecan Cake with a "Cream Cheese" Topping {Free from: gluten, grains, dairy, eggs, and refined sugar. Full of: wholesome awesomeness!}

Oh, hai there. Did I interrupt your staring? Well, I just wanted to tell you the scoop on this wholesome slice of nutty pumpkin goodness — I hope you don’t mind, and don’t worry — lots more yummy cake photos up ahead ;)

So I have a very sweet blog reader named Brianna, a mom to the cute tiny munchkin for whose birthday I made this infamous cake earlier on in the year {if you’re on facebook, check out this photo of him enjoying a slice — I love how seriously he’s taking it, for cake eating is serious business indeed! ;)  }.

Brianna’s big 30th birthday is coming up soon and she asked if I’ve got a pumpkin cake she could make for the occasion, especially maybe something gluten-free, dairy-free, and on the healthier side, oh and a cream cheese topping is a fave of hers — of course I couldn’t say no to any of that! :P

So this week I’ve been experimenting with different pumpkin cakes {as you may have seen on Instagram}. When she first asked about a recipe, I had one particular one in mind that I thought of re-working, but once in the kitchen I quickly got over-adventurous with ideas and made 3 completely different cakes in one go… and then had the difficult job of sampling them all out to pick out the best one because I really wanted it to be the best for the occasion {it was a tough job, but someone had to do it… ;) }.

This was my first trial:

Nutty Pumpkin Cake with a "Cream Cheese" Topping {Free from gluten, dairy, eggs, and refined sugars}Result: pretty, delicious, but not quite there. I felt the texture needed more work, but also I wanted more drizzle, less cake, and more nuttiness. The few bits of pecans I threw in as an add-in made me want more… {Saving this one for a future re-make though, because it had potential and one can never have too many pumpkin cake options ;)}.

Second trial:

Nutty Pumpkin Cake with a "Cream Cheese" Topping {Free from gluten, dairy, eggs, and refined sugars}Result: kind of gross to be honest. Surprised? So was I. Too much cloves = bleh! Also, I wanted to experiment with a “cream cheese” topping made with sunflower seeds instead of cashews {since that’s something I’m often asked about} — I have to say it turned out terrible. I actually laughed out loud when I tasted it {after spitting the frosting out} because I just couldn’t believe something could have tasted so odd… My taste testers {all but one} agreed. Inedible. So what’s a girl to do? I scraped off all that frosting and drizzled some delicious cashew-based cream cheese topping on instead, and the result?

Nutty Pumpkin Cake with a "Cream Cheese" Topping {Free from gluten, dairy, eggs, and refined sugars}

Pretty awesome… That frosting totally saved the cake {phew!}. Made for some great breakfast bars too ;) {I’ll have to share the recipe to the base of this one some other time — needs a few tweaks, and I think you’ll love the next version better anyhow…}

Nutty Pumpkin Cake with a "Cream Cheese" Topping {Free from gluten, dairy, eggs, and refined sugars}

You like this third one? I thought you would :) This one was the real deal! It’s an uber nutty flourless version and it totally did the trick! I knew this one was it the moment I tasted it. I loaded it up with walnuts, almonds, pecans — AMAZING.

Flourless Nutty Pumpkin Pecan Cake with a "Cream Cheese" Topping {Free from: gluten, grains, dairy, eggs, and refined sugar}

I topped it off with a bunch of pecan halves, walnut pieces, some sesame seeds, and some flax seeds prior to baking — really any similar combination of nuts and seeds would work. It add some extra crunch, flavor, and wholesomeness, and of course it helps to pretty things up naturally too.

Nutty Pumpkin Cake with a "Cream Cheese" Topping {Free from: gluten, grains, dairy, eggs, and refined sugar}

And then I poured some yummy drizzle on top…

Nutty Pumpkin Cake with a "Cream Cheese" Topping {Free from: gluten, grains, dairy, eggs, and refined sugar}

And then some more — I have to say it really makes the cake ♥

Nutty Pumpkin Pecan Cake with a "Cream Cheese" Topping {Free from: gluten, grains, dairy, eggs, and refined sugar}

All done :)

Nutty Pumpkin Pecan Cake with a "Cream Cheese" Topping {Free from: gluten, grains, dairy, eggs, and refined sugar}

Sorry for the photobombing btw — just wanted to show you options because as you can see you can dress this cake up any-which-way.

Ok, so at this stage I’d say the cake was really awesome, but then more ideas came to me and I decided to play around with the possibility of different nut flours, just to see what works best… I used walnuts as the main base flour in this on my first trial, and it made for an incredibly delicious cake, but I felt like pecans and pumpkin would be a nice pairing too — so I just went ahead and made a 4th version, this time with pecans as the main player. Big win. It was so good I had a hard time saving enough for the taste testers :) {all of whom gave it a big thumbs up btw. And all of whom were sad the pumpkin cake taste testing came to an end too… I think they got a little spoiled with 4 cakes in one week!}. The nut flour is not overpowering the pumpkin flavor, but pecans definitely complement it beautifully.

The photos below are from the quick trial with pecans. Showing it off in case you want to make the cake in a square pan instead of a round one {as depicted above} — this is what it looks like square {and without the extra nuts on top}:

Nutty Pumpkin Pecan Cake with a "Cream Cheese" Topping {Free from: gluten, grains, dairy, eggs, and refined sugar}Nutty Pumpkin Cake with a "Cream Cheese" Topping {Free from gluten, dairy, eggs, grains, and refined sugars}

Now the one thing all the good cakes had in common was the incredible dairy-free “cream cheese” topping. I made multiple batches even after the cakes were gone — and if it wasn’t on something, I may or may not have been spotted just eating it with a spoon out of a jar… I’ve always loved a good cashew cream cheese frosting, but somehow this one turned out extra good — I think because of the saltiness factor perhaps? Anyhow, it was addictive!

*Quick note for those with cashew allergies: as an alternative topping for this cake you can use something like the frosting from this carrot cake.

And yeah, don’t be fooled by the light pretty drizzle you see on the cake for serving in the photos — the frosting recipe makes a lot more so you can pour more on individual slices, and I know you’ll want more. Trust :) . So here’s how it’s really done:

Nutty Pumpkin Pecan Cake with a "Cream Cheese" Topping {Free from: gluten, grains, dairy, eggs, and refined sugar}

Celebratory slice {insert *party hat* emoji} :

Nutty-Pumpkin-Pecan-Cake-with-a-'Cream-Cheese'-Topping-{Free-from--gluten,-grains,-dairy,-eggs,-and-refined-sugar}-recipe

I hope you have a very happy birthday, Brianna! And thank you for inspiring me to make this delicious pumpkin cake ♥ It turned out an awesome dessert, but also a great wholesome snack and breakfast bar. And even after 4 of these in one week, I want to go and make more :)

5.0 from 6 reviews
Nutty Pumpkin Pecan Cake with a "Cream Cheese" Topping
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook/Chill Time: 
Ready In: 
Makes: 10" round cake
 
Ingredients
Cake Ingredients:
  • 4 cups pecan halves {walnuts, almonds, and other similar nuts would work too}
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • ¼ cup tapioca flour
  • Spices: 2 tbsp cinnamon, ½ tsp allspice, ⅛ tsp nutmeg, ⅛ tsp cloves
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1½ cups pumpkin puree {I used canned pumpkin}
  • 1½ cups maple syrup, or liquid sweetener of your choice {like agave, brown rice syrup, honey, honee, etc.}
  • ½ cup olive oil {or a cooking oil of your choice}
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup raisins
  • Optional: If you want it even sweeter, add 6 medjool dates
Extra Toppings:
  • Optional: extra nuts and seeds of your choice for garnish {I used more pecans, walnut pieces, flax and sesame seeds}.
Frosting Ingredients:
  • *Make sure all frosting ingredients are at room temperature prior to starting!
  • ¾ cup raw cashews
  • 3-4 tbsp non-dairy milk of your choice {I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk}
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup {or a liquid sweetener of your choice}
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Oil a cake pan and set aside {I used a 10" shallow pie plate, but any pan or oven-safe dish of a similar size would work}.
  2. Place the pecans in a food processor and process into a flour consistency {the coarser it is, the more "textured" the cake will be. I ground mine pretty fine. Just make sure you don't over-process the mixture into a nut butter :) }. Add in flax seeds, tapioca, spices, and salt, and pulse a few times to mix the dry ingredients through. Add in all remaining cake ingredients, except raisins, and process the mixture to combine into a batter. Add the raisins {and dates if using} in and pulse to mix and process them into the batter.
  3. Transfer the batter into a prepared pan and smooth it out into an even layer with a spatula. Top with extra toppings if using.
  4. Bake in a pre-heated oven for approximately 1 hour and 15 mins {or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out dry}. Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool completely.
  5. When the cake has cooled completely, prepare the frosting. Place cashews into a glass bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow the cashews to soak for about 15 mins to soften up, then strain and discard the water. Place all frosting ingredients into a blender and process until the mixture is completely smooth {I used my Vitamix for this. If not using a high-power blender, add in a bit more non-dairy milk as needed -- 1 tbsp at a time -- to help with the blending, and be patient! :) You don't want it to be grainy or chunky...}. Drizzle the frosting onto the cooled cake, reserving the extra topping for individual slices. Slice, plate, serve, and enjoy! :)
Notes
If the cake is not fully cooled off when you frost, the frosting will change color as it warms up into a more yellowish hue. To avoid that, cool cake completely {even overnight}.

The more milk you add to the frosting, the runnier it will be. The consistency is up to you...

I used a frosting pen to make the fine drizzle on my cake {I got mine on Amazon, but I've recently seen similar ones at Walmart for even less} -- it's a tool I find invaluable for quick and easy elegant drizzles. You can also use a pipping bag or just drizzle the frosting with a spoon if you prefer. Or you can just pour all the frosting straight onto the cake evenly and call it a day :) {use less non-dairy milk though to make it less runny if doing that}.

For those with cashew allergies: as an alternative topping for this cake you can use the frosting from this carrot cake.
Happy baking!

Audrey

P.s. I’m starting to work my way through various recipe requests I got while away. This was a first of several to come! :)

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