This Thanksgiving, Let Them Eat Vegan Pumpkin Cake


There are two things I have learned with certainty in my 31 years on earth: Don’t go to the prom with your ex-boyfriend, and don’t try to run a bakery by yourself through the holiday season while you also have a full-time job.

The latter is a lesson from when I started La Pirata Kitchen, an all-organic vegan bakery, in 2012. I lived in Huntington, worked at New York magazine, and started baking nonstop. Eventually, it evolved into a business. During my first and only Thanksgiving as a baker, I got way more orders than I could handle. I was up before the sun trying to fulfill them as well as my normal orders, and it was without a doubt the most hectic time of my life. Nothing will ever compare (I hope) to waking up at 5 a.m., baking off muffins, decorating cupcakes, signing on to work for eight hours, and then doing more prep work in the evening.

But during that crazy time, I created a ton of recipes and learned how to navigate the kitchen efficiently—these experiences will last me the rest of my life. One of those recipes was this extremely not-basic pumpkin cake, made with coconut oil and just enough extra ground cloves to take it to a spicy level that’s offset by the luscious sweetness of vanilla frosting. Cinnamon sugar coats the frosting for a pretty dose of texture.

Whether you have a vegan coming over for Thanksgiving or just want to serve something seasonal and delicious, it’s a great way to bust the monopoly pie has on the holiday. I’ve included a done-up version as well as a dressed-down one-layer cake so that you can decide how much work you want to do. They’re both equally delicious.

La Pirata Kitchen Pumpkin Cake


One Layer:
1 ¼ cups non-dairy milk + 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
111 grams pumpkin puree
88 grams virgin coconut oil
200 grams sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
210 grams flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin spice blend (ratio: 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon cloves)

Two Layers:

2 1/2 cups non-dairy milk + 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
222 grams pumpkin puree
176 grams virgin coconut oil
400 grams sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
420 grams flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 teaspoons pumpkin spice blend (ratio: 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon cloves)

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease either one or two 9-inch cake pans with coconut oil and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
  2. Mix together the pumpkin spice mix. I like to make a lot and keep it in a jar, because you can also spice up pancakes or muffins made with leftover puree.
  3. Put apple cider vinegar in the non-dairy milk and set aside.
  4. Measure coconut oil into a ramekin and place in a frying pan filled with an inch of water, then heat to low heat, allowing it to melt. Once melted, set aside.
  5. Combine all dry ingredients (not sugar) in a bowl and whisk to combine. Make sure the spice blend is well distributed throughout.
  6. Put all wet ingredients, including sugar, in a bowl and whisk well to combine. If the non-dairy milk was cold, the coconut oil may seize up. It’s best to make sure it is at room temperature.
  7. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, whisking until all lumps are gone. Pour the batter into the pan(s). Gently drop the pans onto the counter to remove air bubbles before putting in the oven.
  8. Set the timer for 35 minutes, rotating the pans mid-way through. They’re done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool completely before decorating, or (for easier decorating) freeze overnight while wrapped tightly in plastic wrap.


For the one-layer cake, place a can of full-fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight. When ready to decorate, remove the coconut cream (not water) from the can into the bowl of a stand mixer or bowl in which you’ll whip. Add one tablespoon sugar and half teaspoon vanilla, then whip at high speed until thick and creamy. Slather it on the cake and top with cinnamon sugar.

For the two-layer cake, blend 16 ounces of coconut oil with four ounces of coconut milk in a food processor. Put in the refrigerator in a new container to cool completely, until solid. When solid, add it back into the food processor with 450 grams of powdered sugar and one teaspoon of vanilla. Blend until a fluffy buttercream forms, then decorate the cake. Top with cinnamon sugar.