This easy vegan pumpkin crunch cake from scratch is elevated with a buttercream frosting and a divine candied walnut crunchy topping. It’s simple enough to be enjoyed as a coffee cake with your espresso, serve as a birthday cake or grace a festive holiday table.
Vegan Pumpkin Crunch Cake
A simple pumpkin layer cake using an entire can of pumpkin and dressed in a decadent buttercream frosting. Finished with the ultimate candied walnut or pecan crunch, no cake mix, no dairy, no eggs. The perfect fall dessert!
And just like that, I stepped straight into pumpkin season with a slice of cake and an espresso to go! Surrender, you know you want this!
About the Pumpkin
Canned pumpkin is your friend and you will need exactly one 15 oz can for this cake. The reason for this is that it’s always consistently thick and the exact amount. You could certainly use home cooked pumpkin puree but it’s important that it is extra thick, you’ll need about 2 cups.
The Crunch Topping
Simply candied walnuts pulsed in the food processor for the perfect crunch. You’ll want some larger pieces and a little bit of finer grind that helps everything stick to the frosting and fill in any gaps. You could use pecans if desired and you can opt for making your own candied nuts at home. Regardless, this crunchy topping is sure to elevate your cake!
Ingredient + Cake Making Tips
- Frosting – A simple vegan buttercream frosting, basically vegan butter creamed together with powdered sugar. It comes together in 5 minutes in your mixer and it’s ready to be slathered on. It takes the cake to the next level and also serves as the glue for the walnut crunch topping.
- The Pumpkin Spice – You can certainly use a store bough pumpkin pie mix but I just used cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg here. Adapt to your preference, it will be delicious no matter what.
- Sugars – I used a mix of light brown sugar and granulated cane sugar. The molasses in brown sugar is known to retain moisture so your cake will be softer, denser, moist and with a deeper caramel like flavor. For an even deeper flavor you can use dark brown sugar instead. Although you could technically replace the brown sugar with white I do not recommend it for this recipe.
- Olive Oil – Keeps the cake moist and soft; any plain vegetable oil is fine but the flavor of an olive oil cake is undeniably the best! A mild extra light olive oil is great but you can certainly explore with fragrant flavored oils here like lemon or blood orange infused olive oil. Delicious!
- Flour – Nothing fancy, just plain all purpose flour is all that’s needed.
- Baking Powder + Baking Soda – Yes we need to use both because they are not the same! They help with the leavening process but they also affect flavor and browning.
- Storage – Since this pumpkin crunch cake is vegan and dairy-free, it doesn’t need to be refrigerated (refrigeration dries out cakes). Store at room temperature on the kitchen counter for up to 5 days. Cover with an upside bowl, loose foil or a special cake box. Freeze individual cake slices in lidded air tight containers for up to 4 months, thaw out at room temperature when the cravings it.
- Serving Suggestions – Perfect as this cake might be, feel free to go wild here with a drizzle of this salted caramel or a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.
more vegan desserts…
- Chocolate Sheet Cake
- Vegan Christmas Cookies
- Walnut Cookies
- Vegan Snowball Cookies
- Cranberry Pie
- Vegan Shortbread Cookies
- No Bake Peanut Butter Cookies
- Homemade Apple Pie Filling.
Vegan Pumpkin Crunch Cake
- 2 cups all purpose flour sifted
- 1 cup light brown sugar lightly packed
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2.5 tsp cinnamon
- 1 pinch grated nutmeg
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 15 oz can pumpkin puree
- 1/4 cup light olive oil
- 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1.5 cups candied walnuts
- Preheat your oven to 350”F.
- In a large mixing bowl sift the flour. Add the sugars and remaining of the dry ingredients. Whisk together until well combined.2 cups all purpose flour, 1 cup light brown sugar, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 2.5 tsp cinnamon, 1 pinch grated nutmeg, 1 tsp baking soda, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt
- In a separate bowl whisk together the pumpkin puree, olive oil, vinegar and and vanilla.15 oz can pumpkin puree, 1/4 cup light olive oil, 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, 2 tsp vanilla extract
- Pour the wet mixture on top pf the dry mix and using a spatula fold everything together until combined. The batter will be thick but the cake will be moist, do not fret.
- Prepare a 9 inch round springform pan lined wit parchment paper. Pour the cake batter inside and spread evenly with a spatula.
- Transfer the cake pan to the preheated oven and bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. (Baking times vary depending on the oven so keep a close eye on it, mine was perfectly done at exactly the 45 minute mark).
- Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and carefully release the spring form pan for the air to circulate. Allow to cool off completely.
Make the Frosting
- Add the soft butter with the frosting ingredients to a mixer with a whisk attachment. Beat on low speed for about 5 minutes until everything is incorporated and a homogenous frosting is achieved.1 cup vegan butter, 3 cups powdered sugar, 2 Tbsp plant milk
Assemble the Cake
- Using a serrated knife carefully slice the cake in half horizontally so you end up with 2 cake layers. Discard the parchment paper and place one layer of the cake on a cake stand or plate.
- Spread 3/4 of the frosting all over it then top with the second cake layer. Using a spatula spread the rest of the frosting all over the top and the sides.
Make The Walnut Crunch Topping
- Transfer the candied walnuts or pecans to a food processor and using the pulse button chop them up into small pieces. You’ll want some crunchy texture but also some finer grind.1.5 cups candied walnuts
- Sprinkle the chopped nuts on top of the cake and gently press them into the frosting to stick. Keep one hand to the side of the cake to catch some of the falling nuts and pat them gently into the frosting on the side of the cake to get a nice coverage all over. (Messy is ok so do not worry too much about it, this is a rustic simple cake, we are looking for delicious not perfection).
- Store on the kitchen counter in a cake box / keeper for up to 5 days or loosely covered with an upside down bowl, parchment paper or aluminum foil. Since this cake is vegan it doesn’t contain dairy or eggs so there’s no need to refrigerate it, they dry out that way anyways.
- Yes you can also freeze this cake, I suggest cutting into thick slices and placing them individually in lidded freezer proof containers. Thaw out on the kitchen counter when the cravings hit.
- Cake Storage - Store on the kitchen counter in a cake box / keeper for up to 5 days or loosely covered with an upside down bowl, parchment paper or aluminum foil. Since this cake is vegan it doesn’t contain dairy or eggs so there’s no need to refrigerate it (it dries out that way anyways). The cake can also be frozen, I suggest cutting into thick slices and placing them individually in lidded freezer proof containers. Thaw out on the kitchen counter when the cravings hit.
- Baking Times - Keep in mind that baking times vary depending on the oven so keep a close eye on it, mine was perfectly done at exactly the 45 minute mark.
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