Sunday, 30 October 2016

Autumnal Spiced Pumpkin & Walnut Cakes - gluten free; dairy free

It's Halloween and that can only mean one ingredient..... Pumpkin!

Last year in the UK, an estimated 15 million pumpkins were carved for Halloween but not eaten, according to a new seasonal campaign from Unilever and environmental charity Hubbub. That is an incredible amount of food waste. Laid end to end, these uneaten pumpkins would likely stretch over two and a half thousand miles! The wasted pumpkin weighs a staggering 18,000 tonnes.

Isn't that criminal? How can an intelligent, allegedly forward-thinking nation allow that much food waste on an annual basis purely in celebration of a festival?

Pumpkin is an amazing vegetable, rich in vital antioxidants and vitamins. It is also extremely low in calories with no saturated fats or cholesterol and plenty of fibre. Even the seeds are good for you, being packed with mono-unsaturated fatty acids, which are great for heart health. Perhaps it is time to rethink all that waste!

Like most other children, Miss GF loves to carve an annual pumpkin and set it outside on the porch to show we are a 'Halloween-friendly' house. To be honest, I don't really like the whole knock on doors thing, but if anyone is willing to risk walking up our very dark, unlit road, then they deserve a treat........ We don't get many who bother!

When pumpkins are carved at GF HQ, we spend ages making sure we get as much flesh out as we can. We cut and scrape and scratch until the sides are as thin as we can dare to go. The seeds are  usually washed ready for roasting and all the flesh is saved for bakes, soups and roasted veg.

This latest cake is delicious. I had planned it some time ago with Halloween in mind and originally had every intention of topping it with cream cheese frosting. However, I had a big bowl of 'liquid' fondant icing left over from last week's Fondant Fancies which needed using, as well as a half batch of home-made marzipan, so it seemed only right to make this a bit of a 'No Waste Food Challenge' recipe.

Although it wasn't a planned addition, the marzipan perfectly compliments the flavours in the sponge, which is heady with warming autumn spice (ginger and cinnamon) and moist with pumpkin and ground walnuts. The texture of the sponge is slightly dense and a little bit sticky...... with each bite, there is a lovely crunch from the chopped walnuts hidden inside. Dense does not mean 'heavy' and without the icing, I could happily eat these as bars for breakfast (actually.... I confess, I have eaten a few for breakfast with icing too...).

The added bonus is that they are both gluten and dairy free and the ingredients are actually pretty healthy! The flours are well-balanced for nutrition, mixed with ground walnuts and with no gritty rice flour either..... They are sweetened with a half half mix of unrefined coconut sugar and soft light brown sugar (although you could use just coconut sugar) and butter has been substituted for healthier coconut oil..... If that isn't enough to persuade you of its 'betterness', the pumpkin is not only good for you but if you make the puree using your Halloween pumpkin flesh, you will ensure you are doing your bit to prevent food waste too..... The fondant icing is an optional extra (you can top or not...), but does add a little bit of naughty sweetness to the experience....

If you miss out on making these for Halloween, they would be perfect for Bonfire Night too!

I am sharing these Autumnal Spiced Pumpkin & Walnut Cakes with the following :

Simple & in Season with Feeding Boys

No Waste Food Challenge with Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary

Free From Fridays with the Free From Farmhouse (and Le Coin De Mel)

Gluten Free Fridays with Vegetarian Mamma

Bake of the Week with Casa Costello

#TheFoodCalendar with Charlotte's Lively Kitchen - celebrating Halloween

Cook Blog Share with Sneaky Veg

Sunday Fitness & Food with Ilka's Blog & Marathons & Motivation.

Other Pumpkin Recipes on the Gluten Free Alchemist :
Pumpkin Soup
Pumpkin, Sultana & Chocolate Chip Cake
Pumpkin Seed & Sunflower Seed Bread
Pumpkin Toffee-Apple Cake
Baked Apple & Cinnamon Upside-Downuts

Autumnal Spiced Pumpkin & Walnut Cakes (makes approx 24 mini cakes; 2 x 8 inch/20 cm single layer cakes; 1 x 9 x 13 inch/23 x 33 cm tray cake or 12 mini cakes and 1 x 8 inch/20 cm round cake)


80g sorghum flour
60g tapioca flour
45g potato starch flour
50g buckwheat flour
50g ground walnuts
160g coconut sugar
160g soft light brown sugar
1½ teaspoons GF baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon fine sea salt

3 large eggs
270g pumpkin puree
100g coconut oil - melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
50g chopped walnuts

marzipan - I used home-made as from this recipe (about half quantity)
a little apricot jam - warmed

a few spoons fondant softened to drizzle-point as in this recipe - coloured as you wish
or you could make some cream cheese frosting

chocolate sauce (for spider web decoration) - you can use shop bought, but I used home-made from this recipe (approx one-third quantity)


  1. Prepare your chosen cake tins(s) by base-lining with baking paper. 
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
  3. Weigh and mix together the flours, ground walnuts, sugars, baking powder, xanthan gum, spices and salt, making sure all lumps are completely broken down. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, pumpkin puree, melted coconut oil and vanilla extract until well-blended and airy.
  5. Add the dry ingredients and fold through until just evenly blended.
  6. Add the chopped walnuts and fold these into the mixture.
  7. Spoon into the baking tins (about half full) and bake for 15 to 18 mins (small cakes) or 25 to 35 minutes (large cakes) until the top is firm and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  8. Remove the cakes from the tins to a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. When cool, cut a slither from the top to give a flat surface.
  10. Spread the surface of each cake with warmed apricot jam using a pastry brush.
  11. Roll out the marzipan into a layer a couple of millimetres thick and cut out pieces the correct size and shape for the cake(s).
  12. Place a piece of marzipan on top of the apricot jam of each cake and gently press to stick.
  13. Drizzle each cake with fondant or spread with cream cheese frosting.
  14. If you are making spiders web decorations on the top, carefully drizzle (using a small-nozzled bottle) a spiral shape of chocolate sauce onto the top of the fondant (before it has set completely) and drag a toothpick from the centre of the spiral outwards to make a web pattern.
  15. Leave to set completely. 
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  1. These are adorable and sound delicious! Thanks for sharing at Sunday Fitnes & Food, can't wait to try them :-)

    1. Thanks Angela. You're welcome x Delicious for sure!

  2. Ooo these look fantastically spooky! Happy Halloween!

  3. Yum! These look gorgeous and full of goodness. Sounds like we live in the opposite kind of place to you - I have to turn all the lights off and pretend to be out when it's time to put the kids to bed on Halloween!!

    1. Thanks Mandy. I don't envy you..... I remember the days of turning lights off and hiding! These days, a knock on the door is quite exciting! x

  4. Great job on the spider web design!

  5. The icing looks great, I love pumpkin cake, it's so light and delicious.

    1. Thank you. Having just checked out your pumpkin cake, I am impressed! Looks amazing! x

  6. very cute and they look delicious too - I confess I was pestered to buy a couple of little pumpkins for jack o lanterns this year and didn't think to scrape out the flesh - they just look so pitiful compared to what I know as pumpkin - but we are having a few Halloween treats that are much more fun than the pumpkins.

    1. Thanks Johanna. Miss GF thinks I am bonkers for the amount of time I spend scraping..... But I just can't bear the waste! If I am cooking with pumpkin at other times I will buy culinary pumpkin because they are so much better and way easier to work with. I look forward to hearing all about your Halloween adventures..... x

  7. Creative, cute and delightful ♥

  8. Wow! These look and sound incredible. I have to admit to being very naughty with our pumpkins this year...although I totally agree with you on the waste. I just couldn't scrape away the flesh at all although I tried. I'm afraid the slugs will have had it by tomorrow when I bring them in. I hope you forgive me although I would have loved to have made these x

    1. Thanks Vicki. Scraping pumpkin flesh does seem to be a bit of a fine art and takes a lot of perseverance! But it was worth every blister and ache to get these! x

  9. Looks so yummy and pretty! Thanks for this recipe! Yumm..

  10. Wow these are magnificent! Love the web effect. I went trick or treating for the first time this year - I'm not a fan either but reckon after years of being inundated with people at my door, we were allowed to do it just once! Thanks once again for joining in with #BakeoftheWeek

    1. Thanks Helen. I have to say I am not in the slightest bit envious of your trick or treat adventure! I am so glad that Miss GF is now getting to an age where the isn't that bothered. Mind you.... we actually got two little gangs of kids knocking this year on our door which was unexpected. I had bought a bag of mini fudge just in case..... and was gutted that there was none left for us!

  11. I was just thinking these looked very tasty and then I found out there was marzipan too - I LOVE marzipan. I think I'd have dared the dark road to get one of these treats :)

    1. Thanks Choclette. The marzipan was a perfect addition and took these little cakes to a whole new level. So glad I had some left to use! x

  12. I have never thrown a pumpkin away in my life but I have never carved one either. I guess I have never embraced the Halloween thing at all.
    I have always thought that pumpkins are only there to be eaten. Well I love this vegetable. My dad grows a field of them every year and freezes them if he cannot eat them all. You can make so many things with them, from soups, to pasta, bread, risottos, cakes. Even ice cream and liquors. I love your cakes, just so delicious as always.
    Love your photo. Ciao!

    1. To be honest with you Alida, until I had Miss GF I was very bah humbug about the whole Halloween thing. It wasn't big when I was a kid, but seems to have grown and grown (like so many commercially-viable 'festivals'. I would happily let it pass me by, but it would feel unfair to Miss GF.
      On the other hand, it is a great reminder that it is the time of year for pumpkins. I always make sure I get a couple of culinary ones, but won't waste the carving flesh either. You are right.... it is an amazing vegetable and should be enjoyed just for itself. Love that your Dad grows a whole field of them.... yum! x

  13. What a great way to use up leftover pumpkin, and I love the decoration on top too.

    1. Thanks Charlotte. They were fun to make and delicious to eat! x

  14. Happy belated Halloween! Such a gorgeous sounding bake, this - thank you for sharing with the #NoWasteFoodChallenge :)

    1. Thanks Elizabeth. Halloween does seem a long way back now..... but the memory of these cakes still lingers x


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