How to make healthy choices every day

Happy Birthday to Me! Pumpkin Spice Cake with Coconut Vanilla Icing and Roasted Hazelnuts

I know what you’re thinking, but it’s my birthday. And this year, I just felt like doing something crazy – like making a gigantic, over-the-top, totally indulgent cake…that’s healthy. You know it, I’m wild.

This wouldn’t be My New Roots if I poured a whole whack of sugar in the batter, or iced the cake with margarine. I am happy to report that this spectacular, beauty queen delight is sugar-free, dairy-free, and even made with whole grains. The cake itself is vegan, and the icing could easily follow suit (but I was just gifted with raw honey from a bee-keeping friend and of course had to use it!). Did I mention it’s delicious? I guess that was obvious.

I’ll try to make this post short and sweet, unlike this cake, which is anything but vertically challenged, and pleasantly un-saccharine. I don’t know about you, but I am not a fan of those grocery store desserts plastered in thick, white frosting that you can practically feel digging holes into your tooth enamel. This cake is eats more like a guiltless afternoon snack (or breakfast?), despite its indulgent appearance.

A couple notes: Feel free to use canned pumpkin if you are pressed for time, but of course I’m voting for the freshly roasted, homemade variety. Also, searching for canned pumpkin in a country where they don’t even celebrate Thanksgiving, I have discovered, is a very huge waste of time.
I used Hokkaido pumpkins, which seem to be very popular in Denmark (go figure). Hokkaidos are relatively small, very sweet, creamy, and the best part is you can eat the rind, which is where all the good stuff is. If you cannot find this variety, any small pie pumpkin will work. Select one that has a deep colour and is heavy for its size, as the larger they grow the stringier and tough their flesh becomes. And although I am usually up for creative food saving / repurposing, I would not recommend using your post-Halloween jack-o’-lantern pumpkin for the cake, as your neighborhood squirrel potentially used it as a motel room, which is cute but gross.

Roasting a pumpkin is disappointingly easy. Cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and stringy bits, place the halves face down on a lined cookie sheet, and bake until soft (30-60 minutes depending on the size of the pumpkin). I used two small Hokkaidos and had a little leftover for soup. If you can’t find pie pumpkins, sweet potatoes would be amazing, as would most winter squashes.

The icing recipe for this cake was adapted from the one I used on the Best Friends Banana Carrot Cake, here. If you are a vegan, use that recipe instead, but triple the amounts. I prefer this new method and combination, as it is a lot lighter tasting and simpler to make.

Okay, one last thing, I promise. The crowning glory of this cake is by far the roasted hazelnuts. Bake them right after the cake has come out of the oven (or during if you have enough space). They really add a delicious flavour and texture to the cake as a whole, and of course are stunning.

Pumpkin Spice Birthday Cake with Coconut Vanilla Icing and Roasted Hazelnuts
Serves 10-12
Dry Ingredients:
2 cups whole spelt flour
1 cup light spelt
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cardamom
½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp. ground cloves
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. sea salt
2 Tbsp. chia seeds

Wet Ingredients:
1 ½ cups pumpkin puree (homemade, or canned)
1 cup date syrup (or maple syrup, honey)
6 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large, ripe banana
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1. Roast pumpkin halves in a 400°F oven until soft (30-60 minutes, depending on size). Let cool and scoop out flesh into a food processor. Blend until smooth and measure out 1½ cups. Set the rest aside. Reduce oven heat to 350°F.
2. Put 1½ cups of pumpkin puree back into food processor and add remaining wet ingredients, except for apple cider vinegar. Blend until well combined.
3. Sift dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
4. Add wet ingredients to dry mix and stir to combine. When mixed, add apple cider vinegar and whisk quickly to incorporate.
5. Pour batter into two 8” spring form cake pans. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean (keep oven on). Let cool completely before icing.
6. Place 1 cup of shelled hazelnuts on a cookie sheet, place in 350°F oven and bake for 10-20 minutes until the skins are dry and cracking (they will also smell delicious). Let cool slightly and remove skins by rubbing the hazelnuts together.

Coconut Vanilla Icing with Roasted Hazelnuts
3 cans of coconut milk
1 vanilla bean, scraped
¼ cup creamed honey (not liquid honey)
1 cup roasted hazelnuts

1. Place cans of coconut milk in the fridge for at least 4 hours to cool and separate. Open cans and scoop out just the top cream layer, leaving the liquid portion (save for soup or stew!). Place in a bowl and whisk together with the honey.
2. Slice vanilla bean down the center lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Fold into the coconut cream and honey mixture. Place icing in the fridge to set.
3. Chop roasted hazelnuts.

Cake Assembly
1. When the cake is completely cool, remove from pans. Slice the rounded top edge off of one of the cakes (this will ensure that the subsequent layer will sit flat). Then slice both cakes in half so you have four layers.
2. Place one of the four layers on a cake stand or plate and cover with about ¼ of the icing, followed by a generous helping of the roasted hazelnuts. Add the next layers, repeating the icing and hazelnut procedure until you’ve used all four layers. Top the cake with hazelnuts. Serve. Devour. I love you too.

Copyright 2012 My New Roots at

104 thoughts on “Happy Birthday to Me! Pumpkin Spice Cake with Coconut Vanilla Icing and Roasted Hazelnuts”

  • This cake looks divine. I am thinking of making it for my sweet babe’s first birthday. Any suggestions for adapting it to a gluten-free version? Would prefer a nut-flour base, but don’t want it to end up with squishy/heavy layers, and don’t want the sugar-packed rice flour/tapioca deal either. Maybe a happy medium? Suggestions would be awesome.
    Thank you beautiful Sarah! Your food art and kitchen magic continue to inspire!

  • Hi Sarah, my mother is a very talented, though quite traditional cook, although I like to think my own enthusiasm for nutrient dense, plant based wholefoods has started to rub off. I recently celebrated my 20th birthday and, knowing my preferences, Mum surprised me with this wholesome, vegan, pumpkin spice cake. When I asked her where she found the recipe she proudly answered “My New Roots” with a big smile, knowing how much I admire your website. She made her own date paste, used chia as egg substitutes and even opted to make the cake completely vegan by sweetening the coconut cream with leftover pumpkin puree rather than honey – all thanks to your recipe and inspiration. I was delighted by all the effort she went to – not to mention the fact that it looked spectacular and tasted absolutely delicious. Thank you very much from one of your biggest Australian fans 🙂

  • Hi Sarah,
    I tried this cake on the weekend and mine didn’t rise either 🙁
    I even added a little more baking powder.
    It turned out to me more of a pumkin brownie (but it still tastes pretty good!)
    Do you know where I might have gone wrong?

  • With havin so much content do you ever run into any issues of plagorism or copyright violation?
    My blog has a lot of exclusive content I’ve either written myself or outsourced but
    it seems a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my authorization.
    Do you know any ways to help reduce content from being ripped off?

    I’d truly appreciate it.

  • My frosting has split and the colour is nothing like in your photos, kind of grey-ish. I ended up making a cashew nut frosting which was grey too so I coloured it with saffron. Tastes weird.

  • Hello Sarah!
    It’s been nearly a year since I started following you here on you blog, now I’m following you on Instagram and I just LOVE everything you post! Amazing pictures and recipes! I make every single thing you post…however, this cake didn’t work for me. It ended up being really dense and heavy. I followed the recipe by heart, measurements and everything exactly as you sad. Love the frosting but the cake itself was not good at all.
    What do you reckon I have done wrong? Any suggestions? I have ALWAYS wanted to have a spiced cake recipe as my favorite organic shop here in Brisbane, Australia, sell it and I go there every week!
    Please, if you could give me any tips, it’d be awesome!
    Lots of love. Peace. xxx

  • I tried this cake today. I couldn’t get the cake to rise at all – and I sifted twice. Hence I had a two layer cake only. The coconut cream was way to runny so I used cream cheese icing instead. It was still a hit!

  • Hi Sarah! I know that in some of your other recipes you have noted that eggs can be used as a substitute for chia seeds. Is this the case with this recipe, and if so, would two eggs be about right?

    Thanks a lot! I am looking so forward to finally making this cake instead of just drooling over the pictures 🙂


  • I am laughing at your pain of finding pumpkin with you. I lived in Odense, Denmark and tried to find pumpkin to make Thanksgiving meal for my Danish family.
    It look a lot of searching but finally found a small pumpkin and a tiny local grocery story there.
    Your recipe looks amamzing! I love all your recipes. It is so fun to get new ideas of how to eat better and feed my little children better food!

  • Hi Sabrina,

    You could always try maple syrup and then cook the mixture with cornstarch or kuzu until it thickens. I have not tried this yet, but I think it’s the best solution. Let me know if you try it!

  • Thanks so much for this lovely recipe! I made it for my husband for his birthday, and the cake was a hit with the entire family. YES the frosting is better for a sensitive tooth. Next up? The raw cashew cheese cake, with the suggested cacao addition. THANK YOU FOR BRING YOU, SARAH!

  • Hi Sarah, I know it’s a bit late but happy birthday! This cake looks magnificent and I’d love to make it but can you recommend a gluten-free flour to use instead of the spelt? I’m new to the gluten-free baking thing and still don’t know what I can substitute for what.

    Thanks very much.

  • Hi, the frosting really caught my attention…sounds wonderful! A few people commented on coconut milk not separating – I know that light c.m. doesn’t separate and some ‘american’ one’s haven’t for me either. I did goto my local asian market and found the asian brands did though. I don’t know the chemistry of it all, perhaps there is a higher fat content.

  • This looks delicious! Question: can I used cans of coconut cream instead of coconut milk? I only ask because I have coconut cream in the pantry and I know it does separate, my milk never does… Thanks!

  • a bit belated, but very HAPPY bday + a great new year full with love, luck, joy and tons of yummy new recipes:-)))I am so happy to have found your blog…and to know there are other big veggie-fruit-junkies out there;-)))

  • My mom made this for me for my birthday last week. It was INSANELY good! Thank you so so so so much for the site and the amazing recipes!

  • This cake is delicious! Now i’m on a mission to make this using coconut flour. Any thoughts on making this with coconut flour instead of spelt and what other modifications may be needed?

  • Happy Thankgiving from Canada! i made this cake this weekend as an early birthday surprise for my sister. it turned out deliciously, and i wanted to include a couple of notes. first, the cake batter was quite thick and definitely didn’t “pour” into the pans. i was a little nervous that it would be dense, but nope…all good. second, my coconut milk contained guar gum (which i didn’t realize ahead of time) and, hence, didn’t separate in the fridge. i had to improvise with another frosting recipe, which was tasty but loaded with sugar. thanks for sharing! i’ve already passed it along to a few freinds……

  • Happy belated birthday, Sarah. I’ve made nearly every recipe on your blog–all of them awesome. I wonder if this cake recipe would convert to muffins? Any thoughts?

  • I made this cake for a birthday party last night and the birthday girl loved it! I couldn’t get the coconut frosting to get to a “frosting” consistency and I even left my cans of coconut milk in thr fridge over night. It just ended up being more of a creamy glaze. It had a consistency of a pumpkin bread and people were shocked that it contained no refined sugar! I enjoyed it for sure.

  • This cake rocks! It is so amazingly yummy! You have done the impossible and convinced me that you don’t need refined sugar to enjoy sweets. Thank you! This week I’m trying the white velvet soup, so excited!

  • Happy Birthday!

    What a beautiful cake. Thank you for inspiring me to make the same cake for my upcoming October birthday! I’m so excited.

    However I was wondering where can I get (2 cups whole spelt flour and 1 cup light spelt) Do you think Whole Foods, Trader Joes, or Sprouts would have them?


  • UM! hello delicious!!!! -Happy birthday again Sarah my love (its laura :))–I am going pumpkin picking this week and will definitely be making this for Whitney..(showing her healthy things CAN be delicious!! whoop whoop). oh yes and as a side note…I think you do this well…”make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing…because really…there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon”

  • We share birthdays! Wow, this cake looks scrumptious. I actually allowed Whole Foods to make my birthday cake this year it was a vegan red velvet cake. Pretty yummy but I think next year I make my own 🙂


  • Happy Birthday!!! Your cake looks absoulutely awesome and I bet it was sooo delicious. I love love love pumpkins and can´t wait to give tons of pumpkin recipes a go this fall. 😀

  • This is amazing. Last week I had it on my list to write you and ask if you would be willing to post a pumpkin dessert recipe. My birthday is in 3 weeks and i want to make something I have it!
    Thank you for all that you do here in this space. It has been so enriching and nourishing during some megan diet transitions I’ve gone through in the last few months! xo

  • Hi Sarah,

    You could try using all whole spelt, but it may be on the heavy side. You could also try (gasp!) regular AP flour.
    Let me know how it turns out!

    Best, Sarah B

  • Hi there,

    Beautiful blog, I too found you through Green Kitchen Stories & so excited I did! I’m planning on making this tomorrow, my only concern is I cannot find light spelt? Can I just use 3 cups whole grain spelt? Or should I substitute in something else?

    Thanks so much!

  • Wow, this looks amazing! My mouth started watering as soon as I scrolled down a little to see all the pictures and description. This is the perfect autumn dessert and I might just have to run out just now to the store for the ingredients. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing, and happy belated birthday!

    Katherine @ thistle handmade

  • Happy Belated B-Day! This looks divine and I would love to make it tomorrow seeing as I have all ingredients except spelt! Are there any suitable substitutions for it?

    Hope your birthday was as wonderful as your cake!

  • Hi, How is this recipe “sugar-free” if it contains both date syrup and honey? I think the recipe works out to have well over 200g sugar, even without the icing. Not much per slice, but still…not sugar-free.

  • Hey friends!

    YOWZA ~ thanks for all the birthday wishes! It’s been a good one for sure.

    To answer some questions:
    Yes, spelt contains gluten.
    No, you don’t need to soak the chia seeds before adding them to the batter.

    Let me know if you make the cake and how it turns out!

    Peace and love,
    Sarah B

  • Happy Birthday and thank you for a wonderful blog! I had a question about the chia seeds, do you need to soak them before adding them to the batter?
    Thank you and enjoy your fall in beautiful Copenhagen

  • Thanks for sharing your birthday cake, and hope you had a great day! I couldn’t wait to try this recipe, so went and bought ingredients today and will be cooking tomorrow!

  • happy happy birthday Sarah!!

    and… the cake looks super yummy 😀 so I shall be making it a.s.a.p.!
    thanks so much for all the delicious recipes 🙂

  • I’ve been looking for a recipe like this. Thank you! Love your blog as I clean up my diet. It is a great inspiration. Happy Birthday from Saskatoon!

  • Happy Birthday, Sarah! The cake looks absolutely divine! I was wondering if it’d be ok to use EVOO in the cake or is there another type of olive oil you recommend?

  • Just came across your blog a few days ago and I am so in love. You have absolutely amazing taste and wonderful recipes! Just letting you know I will be back and I’m so happy for this find. A bit funny, I am also a Sarah B! and…you also share the same birthday with my dachshund puppy!! He turned 17 human years (not so much of a puppy) But still so great! Happy Birthday Sarah! I LOVE YOUR BLOG!

  • Happy Birthday! 🙂 This cake looks awesome and I´ll definitely try it. Just wanted to let you know that I roasted Hokkaido last weekend for the very first time and found that slicing it even improves the roasting time. So instead of using halves I sliced each half 2-3 times and they were finished in 20-25 minutes which saves time, money and of course energy!

  • Happy Birthday Sarah!

    This is such a beautiful cake. I love that you made it a pumpkin cake, because when this time of year rolls around it’s fun to eat lots of pumpkin/apple infused foods. It’s like those flavors are in the air!

    I hope you had a Great birthday(and by the looks of it, you did)

  • Hello there! I came across your blog from green kitchen stories and I am IN LOVE with your blog. Great recipes and I’m especially interested in the baking recipes you feature without all that white sugar and nonsense. This cake by the way looks amazing, and I hope you have a happy birthday! Going to add you to my blogroll so I’ll be sure not to miss a post in the future!

  • Happy Birthday!

    I’m a new reader and I love your blog. It’s lovely and so are the photographs and recipes. Thank you especially for the gluten-free posts!

    This cake looks delicious. I don’t know anything about spelt flour, though. Is it gluten free?

  • Happy Birthday Sarah! I’m glad you got exactly what you wanted – even if you had to make it yourself. I hope this year is full of love, laughter and lots of deliciousness.

    My birthday is just a few weeks away and I’m already planning some apple crisp decadence.


  • It was my birthday on the 19th – not too late for a birthday cake, right? This sounds SO amazing – slowly making my way through all your incredible recipes. They are (insert used car salesman voice) “the best on the net by a country mile!”.

    Happy birthday!!!!!

  • Oh my goodness, that cake looks spectacular!!! That icing sounds amazing, I’ve just been using some coconut milk today and it has such a nice flavour! Happy Birthday, hope it was lovely 🙂 x

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