Holistic Cooking

Easy gluten-free pumpkin cake

WOW! I cannot believe it is October already. September is always such a busy month for me that it disappears without me noticing. I am always hoping that next year I will be more organized; meaning I will have less stressful September days. Oh well, one can always hope.

But finally I have a few minutes to think about what’s next. Suddenly I remembered that I wanted to try something from the Gluten-Free cookbook. I never made a gluten-free dessert or cake – in fact I never made a gluten-free anything, so just the thought of it made me a bit anxious.

I reviewed chapters, 6 and 8, that deal with cookies/cakes and desserts and pies and selected to try as my first gluten-free product the fall harvest cake. I also liked the idea that it is nearly pumpkin time so more people will be interested to see how it came out, how it tasted and how easy it is to make it.

I was concerned with this project not only because of the use of unfamiliar ingredients, but also because I had this preconceived notion that this soft flour will not support a cake of this size and I will end up with tasty crumbs instead of a cake.

I also must confess that I was skeptical about the taste; although I was delighted not to see xanthan gum as one of the ingredients. If you are not familiar with gluten-free recipes, a large majority of these recipes contain xanthan gum. If you have ever worked at a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility (or if you read labels on medicines) you have seen this material being added to nearly every tablet production, as a binder.

At first I was questioning the reason for the use of this material in food, but when I found out that they are using it for the same purpose as the pharmaceutical manufacturer – as a binder/emulsifier – it made sense. However, I do not chew my medicine, but I do chew my food, including cakes and I am wondering how this affects the taste. I am determined to find out (dough not today) so for the next testing I will use a recipe that uses this gum and I will let you know my opinion.

Since I never worked with some of these ingredients (how many times I said that?) I was also skeptical about the outcome. Actually, skeptical is not the right word – concerned is more appropriate. I was actually arguing with myself about how to handle this mishap (as you can see I already decided that this one will be disaster) Should I blame it on my inexperience with the ingredients? Or should I try to examine the cause? I do not like to write “bad” report about a dessert, unless I encountered a real error in the recipe, or in the method of preparation, or problems with the oven. Finally, I agreed to take the “wait and see” attitude.

I know that the authors did a great job with the writing of the recipes and with adding more useful information for people who are not able to tolerate gluten in their diet. So, if anything goes wrong, I certainly cannot blame them. The ingredients are still option.

I think I better stop worrying and start baking.


Fall Harvest Cake

Adapted from: “Gluten-Free Made Simple

Carol Field Dahlstrom, Elizabeth Dahlstrom Burnley & Marcia Schultz Dahlstrom

Categorized by the authors as: in Addition to being Gluten-Free, the cake is Vegetarian and Casein-Free (free of dairy)

Note: I decided to beautify the cake even further and added a chocolate glaze. The cake is not casein-free with the chocolate glaze



  • 1 1/2 cup (340g/12 ounces) granulated sugar (I use Bakers’ sugar in all my baking product because it melts and blends evenly)
  • ½ cup (100g/3.5 ounce) brown sugar (I used dark brown sugar; the authors do not specify which one; I guess that means that either one is OK. Use your preference)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla (use a good quality, no imitation)
  • 1-teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves (I added this; original recipe do not contain this)
  • ½ teaspoon freshly graded ginger
  • ½ cup toasted pecans (I used walnuts because that is what I had in my freezer)
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1-cup (8 ounce/237 mL) oil (authors used canola oil; I used walnut oil for added flavor)
  • 15 ounce (425g) pumpkin puree in a can
  • 2 cups (240g) gluten-free flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose Gluten-Free flour)
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder (I added this; original recipe do not contain this)
  • 1 apple peeled and chopped (I used Granny Smith to add tartness to the sweet cake; but this apple is not juicy, so if you want to add moistness rather than tartness, use Gala or Golden Delicious. I think if you use Cortland you will get tartness, as well as enough juice for moistness in one apple)

For the Glaze

  • 5 ounces (140g) of good quality bittersweet chocolate (I used Lindt)
  • 3 ounces (85g/6 tablespoons) of sweet butter
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml/1 ounce) chocolate liqueur

Method of Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F
  2. Butter and flour the pan. The authors used a 10-inch fluted tube pan. I used a fluted designer pan.
  3. In a large bowl mix the two sugars and the spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves)
  4. In another bowl whisk the eggs with the vanilla and the freshly graded ginger, then add the oil and mix well; next add the pumpkin puree into this mixture
  5. In the third bowl sift the flour, then add the salt, baking soda and the sifted cocoa powder
  6. Add the sugars to the bowl with the pumpkin puree and mix well.
  7. Add the chopped nuts and apples into the bowl where the pumpkin puree was added.
  8. Last step: pour the content of the bowl with the flour slowly in to the bowl where the pumpkin puree is, in three increments, stirring after each addition.
  9. Make sure that everything is mixed well; the batter appears to be smooth, unified color (no unmixed flour or other ingredient is visible)
  10. Add the entire content to the baking pan you prepared with the butter and flour and place the pan in the oven on the lower third rack.
  11. Bake for 60-70 minutes in a conventional and 50-60 minutes in a convection oven or until a cake tester comes out clean
  12. Let the cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes then turn it out.

Prepare the glaze:

  1. Melt the chocolate in the microwave with the butter. Mix it well then add the liqueur and pour it immediately on the cake. Note: melt the chocolate on high power in increments of 20 seconds. After each 20 second, mix the chocolate with he butter to see if you need to continue to melt it or it will melt with the continued stirring.
  2. Let it set for 20-25 minutes before serving.
  3. You can still add whipped cream either next to the slice or on top of the slice.

I trust you will recreate this cake. It looks inviting (and trust me, you will serve seconds) . Do let me know your opinion.

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