Pumpkin Chocolate Cake

by Sarah

in Cakes, Dairy-Free, Desserts


It’s been a whole year since I last made pumpkin cake. This year’s cake is the bigger, more chocolaty, version of last year’s mini pumpkin cake. This cake is 2 layers pumpkin, 1 layer chocolate, with pumpkin flavored frosting in between the layers, and vanilla frosting on the outside. Initially I had planned to make it four layers, with one extra layer of chocolate to make it symmetrical, but unfortunately my cake box was too short and I could not cap it closed after adding the fourth layer.

I have secretly been dreaming about this cake from the start of October, and could not wait to make it at the end for a friend’s party. My favorite part was the making of the fondant pumpkins on top of the cake. I started with a few wads of fondant in the approximate size of my pumpkins, and colored them orange (and kept a few white). If you use the wilton coloring pack, you’ll need to get a separate orange food color because unfortunately the coloring pack does not contain orange. Some of the Americolor food coloring packs do, I believe.


For the leaves and stalk of the pumpkins, I used a “Leaf Green” wilton food coloring, and the Brown wilton food coloring (included in the pack of 12 colors). Just a few swabs with a toothpick dipped into the fondant is enough to get the color you like.


To assemble my pumpkin, I rolled each pumpkin into a ball, drew down the sides with a toothpick for the pumpkin pattern. The pumpkin looks best if you draw the pumpkin pattern symmetrically so you have a even number of lines at the end, and also looks better if you err on the side of more lines. For my pumpkins with less lines, they looked too much like beach balls. Then I cut a small piece of brown fondant for the stalk. For the pumpkin vine, I twisted a piece of green fondant, and then curled it back onto the pumpkin top. To get the vine to stay looped on your pumpkin, brush a bit of water on the pumpkin where you want your loop to stick.


And there are your pumpkins! The small white one and the wide flat orange one on the left are my favorites, because with the most pumpkin lines, they looked less like beach balls than the two big pumpkins I strategically placed in the back where it is blurry 😉 For extra dazzle, dip a paintbrush in water, then in gold dust and brush the gold dust onto your pumpkins.


To assemble your cake, first bake all your layers. For this recipe, I experimented with the wilton bake strips to try to achieve the most even baking I can. It worked! I barely had to slice any tops of my cakes with my cake leveler after soaking the bake strips in water and wrapping them around each baking pan for more even heat distribution. For an excellent article experimenting with different methods of achieving flat topped cake, see the linked Craftsy article. The winners were wilton bake strips & the old wet towel method.

After I baked the cakes, I piped pumpkin flavored frosting onto the cake, then smoothed it out with an offset spatula before adding my next layer on top. When your cake is assembled, crumb coat it and set in the fridge for 30 minutes to seal the pesky crumbs. For the final layer of frosting, cover in vanilla frosting with a flat spatula for the sides, offset spatula for the top, finish it all off using either the spatulas or a plastic cake scraper. You can dip your spatula/ cake scraper in a bowl of warm water at the end to get that ultra-smooth finish since the heat of your instrument will melt the frosting as it smoothes over the edges (my favorite part of cake decorating!).

cake-collageOnce you’re happy with your frosting, fill chocolate ganache in a piping bag, snip off the tip, and pipe the edges first. I do not recommend dumping the ganache on the top of the cake and pushing it over the edges with a spatula, because if you do that the chocolate comes down in wide batches and lacks the precise look of pipped dripping chocolate. After you pipe the edges, place just enough ganache in the center to smooth and cover your cake. Add your pumpkins, sprinkle your gold stars and gold dust, and you are done!


Pumpkin Chocolate Cake
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
2 layers pumpkin, 1 layer chocolate
Serves: 20
2 layer pumpkin cake
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 and ⅔ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
  • 1 and ⅓ teaspoon salt
  • 4 Ener-G egg equivalents / 4 eggs*, beaten
  • 1 and ⅓ cup canola oil
  • 2 and ⅔ cup sugar
  • 1 and ⅓ cup pumpkin puree
Chocolate cake layer
  • 1½ cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup cocoa powder
  • 0.5 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  • 0.5 cup canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2.5 tablespoons espresso powder
Pumpkin Frosting (inner layers)
  • 1 cup non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening*
  • ½ cup vegan margarine (Earth Balance)
  • ½ cup canned pumpkin
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon pumpkin powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon soy milk
Vanilla frosting (outside of cake)
  • 1 and ⅓ cup non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening, roomp temperature
  • 1 cup vegan margarine (Earth Balance, 2 baking sticks), room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons soy milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
Fondant pumpkins
Cake layers
  1. Start by making the two pumpkin layers. Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, the wet ingredients in another bowl.
  2. Add the wet to the dry, mixing as you add.
  3. When just combined (check the bottom of the bowl to make sure you don't have dry clumps lingering there), stop mixing.
  4. (optional) Wet your wilton bake strips (or two strips of cut up old towels) in water for 5 minutes. Let excess water drip off for the bake strips (wring the towels dry since they are more water-absorbing). Wrap around the outside of your cake pan and secure in place with the fastening belt if bake strips, a safety pin if towel.*
  5. Brush vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance) onto the cake pan, then dust with flour to prevent sticking. Add in a layer of round parchment cut to be the shape of your cake pan, onto the bottom of the inside of pan.
  6. Pour batter into the bake strip wrapped cake.
  7. Bake at 325 degrees (key! bake at low heat for even baking) for 60 minutes. Insert a fruit knife or toothpick and watch for no crumbs on the way out, to indicate your cake is done.
  8. Repeat above steps for the chocolate cake layer.
  1. Cream vegan margarine and shortening (important both must start at room temp)
  2. Add in any spices (vanilla, nutmeg, etc as in ingredients section)
  3. Add in powdered sugar 1-2 cups at a time, creaming after each addition
  4. Add in the soy milk, which you can add more of if you desire a softer frosting. I recommend keeping your frosting at moderate to stiff consistency (a knife should be able to stand up in it with only a 45 degree slide if you remove your hand) because if the frosting is too soft, the cake will slide and lose shape. If the pumpkin frosting is not stiff enough, you need to keep adding powdered sugar - I found 5 cups sufficient - because otherwise the cake layers squish the frosting such it "pouches" and the side of your cake will not be smooth.
Pumpkin decorations and cake assembly
  1. Please follow directions in the body of this post, as well as the step-by-step pictures to make the pumpkins and frost the cake.
*Ener-G is an egg replacer, that can serve the same binding effect as egg for cake. You can find it at your local health food grocery, for example Whole Foods.
*Use the bake strips/soaked towel for more even heat distribution in baking, which makes for a flatter top of the cake for greater total height to each layer.
*For shortening, make sure you use non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening. I like to use the Spectrum brand (found in local health food store like Sprouts, Whole Foods). Do not use Crisco! The consistency is not appropriate for the "fluffy" texture of cake frosting.


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Cana Sun October 25, 2016 at 1:10 pm

Goodness gracious, Sarah, your cakes look amazing!


2 Sarah October 31, 2016 at 10:11 am

Thank you Cana!


3 Sonali- The Foodie Physician November 3, 2016 at 3:47 pm

Wow, this is so impressive! Such a beautiful cake and I love those adorable pumpkins! My daughter would love this :)


4 Sarah November 8, 2016 at 12:35 pm

Thanks Sonali! You could make the pumpkins together with your daughter :)


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