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Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cake (Dairy-Free)

Is there anything more fall than pumpkin?! I think not. And this easy gluten-free pumpkin cake is not only incredibly full of fall flavor, it happens to be one of my personal favorite fall cakes. Naturally sweetened with honey and covered with the most decadent dairy-free whipped cream cheese frosting, this pumpkin cake is sure to be a fall favorite of yours too.

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A tall pumpkin layer cake frosted with white cream cheese buttercream and topped with chocolate ganache, chocolate cookies, and white frosting swirls.

The Best Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cake

Made from scratch with the most fluffy and tender of layers, this gluten-free pumpkin cake recipe is simple to make and the perfect way to welcome sweater weather. Each bite is full of warm fall pumpkin spices and tangy sweet frosting. A match made in delicious autumn heaven.

What Makes Up A Dairy-Free Pumpkin Cake

Pumpkin Cake Layers – A soft moist crumb naturally sweetened with honey and applesauce.

Honey Cream Cheese Frosting – Sweet and tangy, it’s whipped to fluffy perfection. 

Chocolate Ganache Drip – Incredibly rich and decadent, it adds the wow factor.

A tall pumpkin layer cake frosted with white cream cheese buttercream and topped with chocolate ganache, chocolate cookies, and white frosting swirls.

Pumpkin Cake Ingredients & Substitutions

As always this recipe is gluten-free and dairy-free. That said, I do test each recipe with “regular” ingredients and make notes of alternatives or swaps so that everyone can enjoy it.

Here are a few key ingredients for this cake but make sure you scroll all the way to the bottom recipe card for the complete ingredient list.

Flour: I made this cake with XO Baking gluten-free all-purpose flour blend. If you are not gluten-free, swap the flour with regular all-purpose flour. Note that gluten-free flour blends can vary in weight so I recommend measuring by the cup.

Pumpkin Puree: I used canned pumpkin puree but you could certainly use homemade. Note: do not use pumpkin pie filling.

Pumpkin Pie Spice: Most grocery stores will sell this spice year round. You can also make your own homemade blend by following this easy recipe from Liv Well Bake Often.

Oil: Use canola or vegetable oil for best results but any neutral-tasting oil will work.

Applesauce: Unsweetened or sweetened applesauce will work. I personally use unsweetened. 

Honey: Any form of raw or pasteurized honey will work. I used liquid BeeMaid honey as it’s my personal favorite. This can also be replaced with agave, date, or maple syrup for vegan.

Eggs: If you are vegan, the eggs can be replaced with liquid egg replacer, aquafaba, or 3 flax eggs. Note that the cake will be denser.

Butter: Becel plant-based bricks are my personal favorite for baking but any brick-style dairy-free, vegan, lactose-free, or regular butter will work. 

Cream Cheese: Again, as this is written dairy-free, I used plant-based cream cheese. Feel free to swap in regular full-fat cream cheese, the brick kind, in place. I use Violife plant-based cream cheese.

Chocolate Chips: I used plant-based Pascha semi-sweet chocolate chips but any type/style of chocolate chips (vegan or non-vegan) will work. You can also omit the chocolate ganache drip entirely.

Whipping Cream: Seeing as how this is a dairy-free recipe, I used Silk plant-based whipping cream. If you are not vegan, dairy-free, or lactose-free use regular heavy whipping cream.

A tall pumpkin layer cake frosted with white cream cheese buttercream and topped with chocolate ganache, chocolate cookies, and white frosting swirls.

Easy Step-By-Step Instructions

You’ll need a large mixing bowl, a stand mixer or handheld electric one, three 6-inch, or two 8 or 9-inch round cake pans, a whisk, and a spatula.

Here’s how to make this simple dairy-free and celiac-friendly pumpkin layer cake recipe.

1: Combine the pumpkin puree, honey, applesauce, oil, and eggs and mix until smooth

2: Add in the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt and mix until just combined.

3: Divide the cake batter into cake pans and bake for approximately 25-35 minutes depending on the cake pan size. Cool cakes on a cooling rack.

4: With the paddle attachment cream the butter, cream cheese, and honey on high until smooth and fluffy.

5: Add in the icing sugar and salt and mix until combined. Turn up to high and allow to cream until fluffy and smooth.

6: Stack, frost, and chill the cake. 

7: Combine the chocolate chips and cream and heat until fully melted and smooth.

8: Drip chocolate ganache over the chilled cake and decorate as you please. Enjoy!

A tall pumpkin layer cake frosted with white cream cheese buttercream and topped with chocolate ganache, chocolate cookies, and white frosting swirls.

Easy Pumpkin Cake Assembly Success Tips

Stacking a layer cake can feel a bit scary. But, as they say, slow and steady wins the race. Let’s set you up for pumpkin layer cake success with a few tips and tricks.

Fully Cooled Cake Layers: Even if a tiny bit warm, layers will slip when warm. Ensure that each cake layer is fully cooled, if not chilled. I will even work with semi-frozen cake layers if I have to bake them a few days before stacking.

Leveled Cake Layers: Flat and level cake layers will sit far easier than crooked ones. I use this super easy cake tool to ensure each cake layer is perfectly level.

Keep the Cake Chilled: If at any point you begin to feel the cake slip or the frosting is too soft to work with, pop the cake and the frosting back into the fridge to chill. Remember, don’t rush it. Take your time.

A tall pumpkin layer cake frosted with white cream cheese buttercream and topped with chocolate ganache, chocolate cookies, and white frosting swirls.

How To Decorate An Allergy-Friendly Pumpkin Cake

“As you desire” is often how I refer to cake decoration. It’s not that I don’t want you to make the exact same cake as I did, it’s simply that I don’t want you to feel like you *have* to make the exact same cake.

We all have an inner cake artist and I always want to encourage you to let it shine. That said, I quickly break down this gluten-free and lactose-free honey cake decor for you.

First: Crumb-coat the cake and allow it to chill for 10 minutes. See the above section for stacking tips and tricks.

Second: Put a final “beauty” coat of frosting on the cake and smooth the sides and top with a smoother or offset spatula. Put it back in the fridge for another 10 minutes.

Third: Drip the prepared chocolate ganache over the top of the cake and chill again until set.

Fourth: Top with chocolate cookies and frosting swirls. Enjoy!

Pro Tip: Allow the cake to come to room temperature for 20-30 minutes before slicing and serving.

A tall pumpkin layer cake frosted with white cream cheese buttercream and topped with chocolate ganache, chocolate cookies, and white frosting swirls.

Storing and Freezing Instructions

This gluten-free pumpkin cake can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Note, due to the nature of gluten-free baking, the cake will dry out as each day passes. It can also be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months. 

Pro Tip: If you want to bake the cake layers a few days in advance, you most certainly can. Allow the layers to cool, cover them tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze until you a ready to stack and decorate the cake.

Remove the cake layers from the freezer approximately 1 hour before you plan to stack and decorate and allow them to thaw slightly at room temperature.

A tall pumpkin layer cake frosted with white cream cheese buttercream and topped with chocolate ganache, chocolate cookies, and white frosting swirls.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can this be made into cupcakes?

Yes, it absolutely can. The full recipe will make approximately 24 cupcakes or you could half it for 12 cupcakes. 

What other pans can I use?

This can be baked in a 9×13 cake pan (it won’t need as much frosting though), three 6-inch rounds, or two 8 or 9-inch pans. Note that the baking time will change.

Always look for light golden edges that are pulling away from the pan, the top should bounce bake to the touch, and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out with a few moist crumbs.

Why does my cake have a gummy texture?

Unfortunately, not all gluten-free flour blends are created equal. I personally prefer to bake with XO Baking, Kinnikinnick, and GF Jules as I find they bake light and fluffy for gluten-free. Bob’s Red Mill and King Arthur, while widely available, tend to sink and have a dense more gritty gummy texture. 

Gluten-free cakes also tend to have a higher ratio of liquid ingredients so they typically need to bake longer than their “regular” cake counterparts.

Remember, look for golden edges that pull away from the cake pans, a top that springs back to the touch, and a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.

What other frosting would work?

This gluten-free pumpkin cake would be phenomenally yummy with plain vanilla frosting, salted caramel, or straight-up chocolate. Yum!

If you’re not a honey fan, you could also simply leave the honey out of the frosting recipe and stick to good old classic cream cheese buttercream.

A tall pumpkin layer cake frosted with white cream cheese buttercream and topped with chocolate ganache, chocolate cookies, and white frosting swirls.

The Best Spiced Pumpkin Layer Cake

A slice of sensational pumpkin spice, this tender dairy-free gluten-free pumpkin cake is a delicious combo of warm pumpkin pie spices, sweet honey, and tangy cream cheese in each and every bite. Perfect for any autumn occasion.

Make sure you tag me on social media @cakedbykatie and leave me a star rating and review below if you make it. I cannot wait to see!

More Pumpkin Dessert Recipes

Here are a few other perfectly pumpkin-inspired sweet treats that I know you’ll enjoy:

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A tall pumpkin layer cake frosted with white cream cheese buttercream and topped with chocolate ganache, chocolate cookies, and white frosting swirls.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cake (Dairy-Free)


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  • Author: Katie Stymiest
  • Total Time: 1 Hour 35 Minutes
  • Yield: 1 Cake – 12 Slices 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

Moist layers of gluten-free pumpkin cake full of warm fall spices and covered in a whipped honey cream cheese frosting. This easy one-bowl cake is perfect for every autumn occasion.


Ingredients

Units Scale

Pumpkin Cake

  • 1 can (15oz.) pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/4 cups (400g) honey
  • 3/4 cup (177ml) canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup (118ml) applesauce
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups (256g) gluten-free 1:1 baking blend
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Honey Cream Cheese Buttercream

  • 1 cup (227g) dairy-free salted butter, room temperature
  • 1 package (200g) dairy-free cream cheese, full-fat
  • 6 cups (720g) powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Chocolate Ganache Drip 

  • 1/2 cup (120g) dairy-free chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup (59ml) dairy-free heavy cream
  • optional: chocolate cookies for decor

Instructions

Pumpkin Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and prepare three 6-inch round cake pans with non-stick baking spray and parchment paper. 
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine the pumpkin, honey, oil, applesauce, and eggs and whisk together until smooth and fully combined.
  3. Add in the flour, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and salt and mix until just combined. Be careful to not over-mix the batter.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans and bake for approximately 30-35 minutes or until the cake edges begin to pull away from the pans, the center springs back to the touch, and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with a few moist crumbs.
  5. Allow to cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then avert on a cooling rack to fully cool.

Honey Cream Cheese Buttercream

  1. In a stand mixer or large mixing bowl with electric beaters, combine the butter, cream cheese, and honey and beat together on high until light and fluffy. This should take approximately 5-10 minutes.
  2. Add in the powdered sugar and salt and mix on low until combined.
  3. Turn the mixer up to high and allow it to beat for 5 minutes. 
  4. Place in the fridge until ready to use.

Chocolate Ganache

  1. Combine the chocolate chips and heavy cream in a microwave-safe bowl and begin to heat in 30-second intervals. Stir after each interval and continue until fully melted and smooth.

Cake Assembly

  1. Level each fully cooled cake layer with a knife or cake leveler.
  2. Place one cake layer on a plate, cake board, or cake turntable. Top with approximately 1½ cups of buttercream. Repeat with the remaining layers.
  3. Cover the outside of the cake with a thin layer of buttercream and allow to chill in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
  4. Cover the cake with a second layer of buttercream and smooth the sides and top with an offset spatula or cake smoother. Place in the fridge to chill for another 10 minutes. Prepare the chocolate ganache if doing so at this time.
  5. With a piping bag, spoon, or drip bottle, drip the chocolate ganache over the top of the cake. Place back in the fridge to chill for another 10 minutes.
  6. Place chocolate cookies around the top of the cake and pipe Wilton 1M buttercream swirls in between each cookie. Enjoy!
  7. Leftover cake should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 6 months.
  • Prep Time: 60
  • Cook Time: 35 Minutes
  • Category: Cakes
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

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