Pumpkin Turtle Cake

I did not buy Halloween candy this year...maybe that makes me a Halloween Grinch if there is such a thing, but no trick or treaters ever visit my house anyways and I don't want to be stuck consuming a large bag of candy alone.  However, I decided that I should have a treat better than candy for Halloween weekend.  One with dark chocolate, caramel and nuts just so I wasn't feeling deprived of sweets.  I was going to bake a pumpkin cake anyways I had decided before hand, but that was quickly transformed into a turtle cake when the cravings for caramel and chocolate hit.  I thought the sweet and lightly spiced pumpkin cake would be lovely with the turtle filling and frosting in place of the classic chocolate. I tend to get chocolated out anyways when I have a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting being slightly allergic to large amounts of chocolate.
So I baked up a my vegan pumpkin spice cake recipe and it filled my kitchen with the most heavenly aroma which only got more amazing as the sweet caramel that was being made bubbled away on the stove.  As hungry as I was for the cake by that point, it was late Friday night and the cake and caramel both needed to cool before I assembled my masterpiece so I would have to wait until Saturday to enjoy any of it.  I made some dark chocolate agave frosting, and started putting the layers together.  I decided that I needed to include pumpkin seeds along with the pecans in between the layers and on the cake as it was pumpkin!  It was fun drizzling the caramel like a little kid, but I have to admit I got a little too crazy with it and it started running off the cake plate at one point.
The dangerous part of this whole process was the leftover frosting, caramel and cake trimmings which I admit ended up in my stomach...but it was all so incredibly delicious!  The finished cake was beautiful, the slice I cut a towering magnificent layering of caramel, chocolate and moist cake! The crunchy nuts added to the wow factor.  I devoured a large piece, then realized I probably should have been more conservative due to my chocolate allergy... I paid dearly but it was so worth it!  So much better than any Halloween candy!  I have included the recipe if you would like to experience the deliciousness.  Happy Halloween!

Vegan Pumpkin Turtle Cake
Makes 1 6 inch 4 layer cake

2 6 inch cake pans


  • Cake:
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup maple sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp cardamom
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground chipotle powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 3/4 cup pureed pumpkin or squash
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp maple extract
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar


Salted Maple Caramel:

  • 2 cups maple sugar or granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 2 T. Earth balance butter
  • 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp maple extract
  • 2 tsp sea salt



  • 1 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 Tbsp coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cups sifted cocoa powder, or more if needed
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp maple extract



  • 2 1/2 cups toasted pecans
  • 1 cup toasted pumpkin seeds



  1. Preheat the oven to 375F degrees and position rack in center of oven. Line two six-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides with parchment paper. Coat parchment paper and pan sides with coconut oil.
  2. Whisk flour, baking soda, spices, salt, and sugar in a large bowl to blend well.
  3. Whisk pumpkin, oil, maple extract, vanilla extract, and cider together in small bowl to blend well, then whisk into the flour mixture until well blended. Whisk in cider vinegar until pale swirls form in the batter and it is well combined.
  4. Transfer cake batter to prepared pans, place in the oven and bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Cool cakes completely in pan on rack, about 1 hour. Cut around sides of pans to loosen. Turn cake out onto platter; peel off parchment paper. Let cool completely, then place in the fridge to chill until very cold to make slicing easier. When chilled, slice cakes horizontally in half so that you have 4 layers.
  5. To make caramel, in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the sugar, agave nectar and water to a boil, stirring well at first to dissolve the sugar. Turn down the heat to low and cook until the liquid is deep amber in color, about 15-20 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally to ensure even cooking. Remove the pan from heat. Very carefully (the mixture will bubble), stir in the coconut milk, earth balance butter vanilla, maple extract, and sea salt until smooth. Let cool until it is a thicker consistency before using on cake (it gets thicker as it cools).
  6. To make frosting, whisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl until very smooth, adding more cocoa powder if the frosting is not thick enough, or more coconut milk if too thick. Place a layer of cake on a plate, and spoon about 1/2 cup frosting over, almost to the sides, then scatter with about 1/2 cup of toasted pecans and pumpkin seeds and drizzle with a heaping 1/4 cup caramel.  Top with a another cake layer and repeat. Top with another cake layer, another frosting layer, pecans, pumpkin seeds, caramel, then the top cake layer. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and the sides of the cake, and arrange whole pecans and pumpkin seeds decoratively on the top of the cake.  Drizzle with caramel, and let it drip down the sides.


*If you would like a 4 layer 9 inch cake, double this entire recipe and bake in two 9 inch cake pans.

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About the Author

I am a vegan girl who loves to make healthier desserts and dishes with lots of veggies. Recipes are meant to be shared, that is why I started blogging!

  1. October 30, 2011 at 23:53

    Holy cow. That looks incredibly rich and like I'd get myself a happy, happy tummy ache, not being able to stop ;)

  2. October 31, 2011 at 00:34

    Your cakes always look so insane! Do you have a cake bakery? I would love to be able to buy vegan cakes like this for birthdays and other special occasions.

  3. October 31, 2011 at 11:30

    Oh, my gosh, Amy! You've outdone yourself again! What a stunning cake...and dripping with caramel...wow! Thanks for the birthday wishes, too! xoxo

  4. October 31, 2011 at 21:21

    You've done it again! I love all those layers in this cake! I would much rather eat this cake than a big bowl of candy!

  5. November 1, 2011 at 17:35

    Beautiful cake! And so much more satisfying and healthy than Halloween candy, for sure!:)

  6. November 3, 2011 at 01:21

    WOW. That is an amazing looking cake! Kudos!

  7. November 3, 2011 at 02:17

    This looks absolutely fantastic Amy!<br /><br />But next year, buy that bag of candy... and then mail it to me hehehe

  8. Anonymous
    November 6, 2014 at 22:55

    Hi,Amy. It looks beautiful! I wanted to ask if maple sugar can be substituted with for example coconut sugar or...it HAS to be maple sugar. Do you use it bec you like it or because of taste/texture it gives to the cake? Thank you!Edita

    • November 7, 2014 at 00:28

      Yes it can! I just used it here because there was no coconut sugar around when I made this cake years ago.

  9. Anonymous
    November 9, 2014 at 01:21

    Thank you so much:)! Edita

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