This pumpkin chai cake is a warm bite of fall, especially with the nuttiness of the browned butter, maple-sweetened frosting.
The Food: Pumpkin Chai Cake with THE BEST Browned Butter Frosting
I’m not one for superlatives (it’s one of my biggest pet peeves about the blogging world, but I digress), so when I say this frosting is THE BEST, I am not being hyperbolic. Browning the butter fills the kitchen with the most inviting aroma, then mix that with maple syrup and cinnamon, and you’ll want to grab a spoon.
The Food: Pumpkin Chai Cake
Half Baked Harvest inspired the recipe and styling, but I adapted the ingredients for a more wholesome, grainy cake.
This pumpkin chai cake recipe is whole grain and gluten-free thanks to a mix of brown rice flour and almond flour. The latter adds a very tender crumb. I’ve also tried this recipe with Namaste’s Perfect Flour Blend. I typically avoid gluten-free flour mixes because they tend to be the gluten-free equivalent of all-purpose flour, but this rich blend includes whole-grain brown rice and sorghum flours.
The Food: Mini Pumpkin Chai Bundt Cakes
Included below is a recipe for the mini bundt version. It’s the same cake recipe but topped with a maple glaze, so you can add little pumpkin bundt cakes to the layer cake.
The Personal: Baking for My Mom
We gathered earlier this month to celebrate my mom, a woman who deflects all praise and compliments. This year marked a significant birthday for her – 80 trips around the sun (she’d be mad I revealed her age). She adamantly insisted we not surprise her or throw her a “birthday party.” Luckily, my sister was able to convince her we wanted to spend time together and we just wouldn’t call it a “birthday party.”
My family, like most, has had its complications and challenges, but at the end of the day, I know my mom has always loved me and sacrificed so much for my benefit. I’m the spitting image of her and looking through her old photos, it’s clear where my creative gifts originated. Her hospitality is as legendary as her giving spirit.
As a kid, I never gravitated toward cooking or baking because I didn’t need to. I have vivid memories of cookies covering the entire length of our farmhouse table, the roasts she’d plate on her finest dishes, and the many recipe clippings she lined up to try. Why would I bother going to any effort when I could simply show up in the kitchen and reap the rewards?
I came into cooking and baking out of college necessity, then a growing curiosity. I wanted to appease my sweet tooth in a more wholesome way. My baking developed after I had already moved out, and distance meant I rarely made anything for my family.
Last October, I baked this cake for a Friendsgiving gathering. This October, I revisited the recipe to make a birthday cake for my mom. I rarely repeat recipes, but the frosting really is that good. Frosting aside, this cake is special because it’s the first cake I’ve made for my mom, to celebrate her.
This cake now holds a special place in my heart. Baking is often how I express my love, and this pumpkin chai cake felt like a humble thank you to the woman who gave me more than she ever had.
Same Cake, Different Design:
You Might Also Like: Apple Season Layer Cake
If you’re really feeling the fall vibes, you might also like this Apple Season Layer Cake from my book, The Gluten-Free Grains Cookbook. Sweet layers of cake with apple butter buttercream, and a sweet and tart apple cider reduction that will make your home smell amazing. Made with fiber-rich brown rice flour, sweetened with honey, and loaded with zucchini and apple chunks, it’s a slice of the fall harvest.
The Mint ‘n Maple Corner:
All this talk of maple-sweetened cakes and frostings calls for a pic of our Maple girl. She is the goofiest, most joyful pup, and she brings so many smiles and laughs to our day.
Gluten-Free Pumpkin Chai Cake
Pumpkin Chai Cake:
- 1 ½ cups brown rice flour
- 1 ½ cups almond flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- ½ teaspoon all-spice
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 cup melted coconut oil
- 1 cup coconut sugar
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs
- 15 oz (1 can) pumpkin puree
Maple Browned Butter Frosting
- 3 sticks 1 ½ cups salted butter, at room temperature
- 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- ½ cup real maple syrup
- 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pumpkin Chai Bundt Cakes (see recipe)
- Fresh herbs like rosemary
- Cinnamon sticks
- Star anise
For the Pumpkin Chai Cake:
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease your desired size of springform pans. Pan size options: 3 (6-inch) round cake pans or 2 (8-inch) round cake pans, or 1 (7-inch) and 1 (9-inch).
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a hand-held mixer) beat together the coconut oil, sugar, vanilla, eggs, and pumpkin until combined. Gradually add the dry ingredients until smooth and no lumps remain in the batter.
- Distribute the batter evenly between the cake pans and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the tops are just set, and no longer wiggly in the center. (In the meantime, prepare the frosting)
- Remove and let cool 10-15 minutes, then run a knife around the edges of the pan and turn the cakes out onto a cooling rack. Cover and let the cakes cool completely before assembling.
For the Buttercream Frosting:
- Add the butter to a skillet, set over medium heat. Allow the butter to brown lightly until it smells toasted, stirring frequently to prevent burning. about 5-8 minutes. Stir often. Remove from the heat and transfer the butter to the mixing bowl, let cool until it's room temp. You can stick the bowl in the refrigerator to speed up this process.
- Once the browned butter has cooled, add the cream cheese to the bowl, powdered sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla extract. Beat together until light and fluffy. If the frosting feels too loose, add more powdered sugar to thicken it.
- Place one cake layer on a serving plate. Spread 1/3 of the buttercream over the cake. Repeat with the remaining cake layers. Be careful not to overfill your layers or the cake will be hard to slice. Frost the outside of the cake. Chill 30 minutes. Serve, or store in the fridge for up to 4 days. Decorate, as desired with mini pumpkin cakes and herbs.
Mini Pumpkin Chai Bundt Cakes
- 3/4 cup almond flour
- ¾ cup brown rice flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon all-spice
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
- ½ cup maple syrup
- ¼ cup coconut sugar
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
- 1/4 cup real maple syrup
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- cinnamon sticks
- Fresh rosemary
- Fresh sage
For the Mini Bundts:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a mini bundt pan with butter.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a hand-held mixer) beat together the pumpkin, coconut oil, maple syrup, sugar, vanilla, and eggs until combined. Gradually add the dry ingredients until smooth and no lumps remain in the batter.
- Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pan(s), filling it 2/3 the way full. Transfer to the oven and bake 12-15 minutes, until the tops are just set, and no longer wiggly in the center. Remove and let cool for five minutes, then invert the cakes onto a cooling rack. Let cool.
For the Glaze:
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, powdered sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and turmeric. If needed, add water to thin the glaze, 1 tablespoon at a time.
- Dip each cake in glaze and insert a cinnamon stick in the center. Drizzle chocolate around the cinnamon stick to look like stems. Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Let dry for 30 minutes. Use to decorate the cake.