This 100% buttercream sculpted vegan pumpkin cake is sure to impress at your next Halloween party or Fall event. Cut into this impressive red velvet cake covered in creamy hazelnut Swiss meringue buttercream.
This sculpted pumpkin cake is made of:
- 2 red velvet bundt cakes stacked to look like a pumpkin
- Creamy hazelnut Swiss meringue buttercream
- No fondant anywhere!
Now before someone asks, yes you can make this recipe a pumpkin cake recipe. You will probably need to double your favourite recipe.
Making a pumpkin spiced cake was my original plan, however, I had to improvise when I learned the hostess of the party this cake was made for is allergic to cinnamon. To be honest, pumpkin cake without its spices is just a bit too sad for my taste so it's why I went for a blood-tinted vegan red velvet cake instead.
Vegan red velvet cake
You will need the following ingredients to make the vegan red velvet cake.
- All-purpose flour
- Unsweetened cocoa powder
- Cornstarch, also known as cornflour in the UK and Australia
- White granulated sugar, make sure it is bone char free
- Baking powder, baking soda and salt. Double check it is fresh
- White vinegar and plant-based milk of your choice. When mixed together it will make vegan buttermilk. I use soy milk because it acts more like dairy milk.
- Vegan margarine. I used the spreadable margarine that is salted and usually kept in a tub for the cake.
- Substitution: You can use firm vegan butter but you will need to let it come up to room temperature.
- Light-tasting vegetable oil, I use canola oil but you can use sunflower, grapeseed, or peanut oil. Do not use coconut oil.
- Plain vegan yogurt
- Substitution: blended silken tofu
- Aquaflaxa. This is an egg replacement made of boiled whole flaxseed in water. Read more about it here.
- Substitution: You can use a traditional flax egg. Mix together 28 g (¼ cup) finely ground flaxseeds with 187g (¾ cup) boiling water and let it cool down before using
- Vanilla extract
- Concentrated vegan red food gel colouring
- Substitution: Beetroot powder for a natural alternative
See recipe card for quantities.
Hazelnut Swiss meringue buttercream
Swiss meringue buttercream is a meringue-based buttercream that is a bit trickier than your usual American-style buttercream. However, it is so much smoother and firms up beautifully when cold without crusting, which means that we can sculpt it.
You will need the following ingredients for the buttercream:
- Aquafaba is the liquid found in a can of chickpeas. Try to get the unsalted kind
- White granulated sugar
- Cream of tartar and xanthan gum are used as stabilizers
- Vegan firm unsalted butter, the kind that comes in a bloc. I use Becel Plant-based bricks but Flora and Country Crock should also work.
- Torani Classic Hazelnut Syrup
- Orange and dark brown concentrated gel food colouring. Not all food dyes are vegan. Wilton and Chefmaster offer concentrated vegan gel food colouring. If you are using liquid food colouring, you will need double the amount of food colouring
- Orange, red, gold and/or copper edible luster dust
I used Torani Classic Hazelnut coffee syrups to flavour the buttercream since I always have a bottle on hand for my coffee addiction. An alternative if bone char filtered sugar is a concern to you is to use Maison Routin 1883 Hazelnut syrup or a couple of drops of another hazelnut concentrated baking flavouring or emulsion.
📖 Variation: Cream cheese icing
Using cream cheese icing with a red velvet cake is the traditional combination but cream cheese icing is too soft for what we are making. It could result in the cake sliding and not being able to shape the buttercream into a pumpkin.
An alternative is still use a vegan Swiss meringue buttercream, but to use a cream cheese concentrated flavouring like this one from Foodie Flavours instead of using hazelnut syrup.
🥣 Decoration instructions
While this cake might look complex, don’t let it fool you, it's not as hard to make as it looks, and is very forgiving. Follow these steps to get the perfectly imperfect pumpkin cake.
Step 1: Assemble the cake
On a sturdy cake drum, smear a bit of icing to act as glue. Trim the top part of the bundt cakes to make them even and flat. Place the first bundt cake flat-side up. Pipe or spread a layer of icing and then place the second bundt cake flat-side down to make a spherical cake witha hole in the middle.
Crumb coat the inside of the cake's empty space to prevent it form drying out. Fill the empty space with the cake trimmings. You could also do like me and cover the opening with a small bowl but make sure you warn the cake cutter about it.
Step 2: Crumb coat
Place a thin layer of orange icing all over the outside of the cake to act as a crumb coat. I used a plastic bowl scraper to smooth out the icing by curving it slightly before dragging it on the outside of the cake.
Refrigerate the cake until the buttercream feels firm. Then procede with coating the cake in a second thicker coating of buttercream so that the cake doesnt show through.
Step 3: Shaping
Score the outside of the cake where you want the “wedges” of the pumpkin to be. Keep in mind that no pumpkins are perfectly symmetrical, so make some of the wedges smaller and others bigger.
With a piping bag and a large round tip, add some additional buttercream in the middle of each wedge, especially at the top of the cake to accentuate the shape of the pumpkin. This is to give the pumpkin its 3D look.
Step 3: Smoothing
Using the tip of a small spatula, follow the wedge lines you made so that the additional buttercream gets smoothed out and redistributed where you want it to. It's almost as if you wanted to make a triangular mound of icing from top to bottom where the middle of each wedge is.
It doesn't have to be perfect, so focus on getting the right shape instead of smoothing out the buttercream lines. If your small spatula feels too big or clunky, you can cut some curves and peaks on a sturdy piece of cardboard (or a clean plant milk carton) and use that as a smoothing tool.
Step 4: Texture
For this step, you want to refrigerate the cake until very cold. Place a textured paper towel like Scott or Bounty on the side of the cake and lightly rub your hand on the towel to leave an imprint on the cake. Work on small areas before moving on to the next one and add pressure if you need to remove larger imperfections in the icing.
If the buttercream starts to stick to the paper towel, it’s because you either need to change the paper towel or refrigerate the cake until the buttercream gets cold and firm again.
Step 5: Stem
Make a stem by piping a cylinder of dark icing on a piece of parchment paper using a pastry bag and a small round pastry tip, and then smooth out the outside with a spatula. Refrigerate or freeze the stem until very firm. You want the stem to be proportional to the cake.
When the stem is very cold, pipe vines on the top of the cake with the leftover dark buttercream and spread a bit of buttercream where the stem will go to anchor it.
At this point, you should be able to simply pick up the stem with a small spatula and place it in the buttercream anchor. You can add texture details with the tip of your spatula on the side of the stem if you want and cut any excess stem with a warm knife if it is too long.
Step 6: Sparkle
To make this vegan pumpkin cake even more magical, dust the cake with some golden or copper luster dust. You can also paint it on specific parts you want to highlight using a dry brush.
You will need the following equipment to make this pumpkin-shaped cake
- 9-inch metallic bund cake pan that can hold approximately 8 cups of batter
- Electric mixer, preferable a stand mixer. I use one of the largest Kitchen aid out there so if you have an artisan one, you might need to split this recipe in half.
- Small non-metallic bowl, to make the buttermilk
- Flexible plastic bowl scraper
- Flexible silicone spatula
- Small metallic offset spatula
- Piece of sturdy coated cardboard, or acetate sheet to smooth the buttercream. I used a piece of a soy milk carton.
- Textured paper towel, I use a Bounty towel
- Mini glass or ceramic bowl, to cover the cake opening in the center. Optional
- Pastry bag and tips (small and medium smooth round tips)
I highly recommend you use a digital scale and weight measurements when following my recipes as it is more accurate. The only exception is with very small quantities where I recommend using teaspoons.
Store the cake whole in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Cover any uncovered cake with plastic wrap or a small piece of parchment paper to prevent it from drying out. Leftovers can be frozen for up to 4 months in an airtight container.
Leave the cake at room temperature for 1 hour before serving.
Vegan Red Velvet Pumpkin Cake
Red velvet bundt cake
- 900 g unbleached all-purpose flour (7 ½ cups)
- 95 g unsweetened cocoa powder (¾ cup)
- 60 g cornstarch (⅓ cup + 2 tablespoons)
- 600 g white granulated sugar (3 cups)
- 20 g baking powder (1 ½ tablespoons)
- 7.5 g baking soda (1 ½ teaspoons)
- 9 g fine sea salt (1 ½ teaspoons)
- 22 g white vinegar (1 ½ tablespoon)
- 840 g plant-based milk of your choice , I use soy milk (3 ⅓ cups)
- 240 g room temperature vegan margarine (1 cup)
- 285 g light-tasting vegetable oil , I use canola oil (1 ¼ cup)
- 250 g Aquaflaxa , see notes (1 cup)
- 100 g plain vegan yogurt , or blended silken tofu (⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon)
- 18 g vanilla extract (1 ½ tablespoons)
- 17 g concentrated vegan red food gel coloring ,adjust to your desired color. see notes (1 tablespoon)
Hazelnut Swiss Meringue buttercream (SMBC)
- 1 batch vegan Swiss meringue buttercream
- 120 g Torani Classic Hazelnut Syrup (6 tablespoons)
- Orange and dark brown concentrated gel food coloring
- Orange, red, gold and copper edible luster dust
Red velvet bundt cake
- Preheat your oven to 325°F (165°C).
- In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients.
- In a smaller non-metallic bowl, mix together the plant-based milk and vinegar and set aside for 5 minutes.
- Add the room-temperature margarine to the bowl with the dry ingredients, and with the paddle attachment or an electric mixer on low speed, mix it into the flour until you reach a sand-like texture, or about 2 minutes.
- Add the rest of the wet ingredients and the milk and vinegar mixture all at once into the dry ingredients and mix on low until there are no more dry ingredients left. Scrape the sides of your bowl with a silicone spatula from time to time to dislodge any dry ingredients stuck to the side of the bowl. Mix in the food coloring and adjust to your desired color. Do not overmix.
- Lightly oil the inside of a 9-inch (23 cm) bundt cake pan and pour half of the cake batter ( approximately 1.7 kg per cake) into the prepared pan. Tap lightly the cake pan against your countertop 3 to 5 times to release any trapped air bubbles and smooth out the top of the cake.
- Bake the cake in the middle rack for approximately 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean and free of crumbs.
- Let the cake rest in the cake pan for 10 minutes before inverting it on top of a wire rack and leaving it to cool completely.
- Repeat the baking and cooling process with the other half of the cake batter so that you have 2 identical red velvet bundt cakes.
Hazelnut Swiss Meringue buttercream (SMBC)
- Whip up a batch of vegan Swiss meringue buttercream.
- When the buttercream has finished whipping, change the attachment on your stand mixer for the paddle. Add the hazelnut syrup to the buttercream and adjust the amount of syrup to taste. Beat on low for 5 minutes, or until there are no more large air bubbles in the cream.
- Put approximately 1 ½ cups of white hazelnut SMBC aside for filling the cake. Color approximately 1 cup of icing a dark brown color and place in a piping bag with a small round pastry tip. Color the rest of the icing a deep orange color and place it in a pastry bag with a large smooth round pastry tip.
- Level both bundt cakes using a sharp serrated knife by removing the domed and uneven top of each cake. Keep the trimmings.
- On a cake board or drum, add a small dab of icing to act as glue and place your first bundt cake flat side up. Spread a layer of white hazelnut SMBC from edge to edge on the top layer of the cake. Place the second blunt cake, flat side down on top of the layer of icing to make a donut-shaped cake. Take the cake trimmings from the previous step and place them in the hole in the center of the cake to fill it up. Alternative: place a small bowl where the hole in the center of the cake is to act as a barrier for icing not to fall through. Refrigerate the cake until the icing layer is firm.
- On a piece of parchment paper placed on top of a firm surface, pipe in a circular motion to make a cylinder shape out of dark brown buttercream to make the pumpkin stem. Smooth out the outside of the buttercream cylinder with a small offset spatula and refrigerate until firm.
- Crumb coat the cake using the orange buttercream and refrigerate until cold and firm.
- Apply a second, thicker coat of orange buttercream to the cake. Mark where you want the pumpkin ridges to be on the cake and then start smoothing out and shaping the buttercream using the tip of a small offset spatula. Add buttercream in the middle of the sections you made to give a 3D effect to the cake.
- Then, using a piece of sturdy coated cardboard or acetate sheet, smooth any imperfections on the cake. You might need to slightly curve the cardboard or cut it to get into hard to reach nooks and crannies. Refrigerate the cake until firm, or about 30 minutes.
- Once the buttercream on the cake is firm to the touch, press a textured paper towel on the surface of the buttercream and rub lightly with your hand before removing the paper towel to leave a slight imprint on the cake for realism. If the paper towel starts to stick, place the cake back in the refrigerator until cold.
- Using the leftover dark brown buttercream, pipe some vines and an anchor for the stem on top of the pumpkin. Place the cold and firm stem on top of the pumpkin and then trim it to size. Optional: drag the tip of a small offset spatula on the stem to add some texture.
- Brush or blow some luster dust on the pumpkin to create additional accents either on the flesh or stem.
- Keep the cake in the refrigerator and place at room temperature 1 hour before serving it. Enjoy!
Did you try this buttercream sculpted cake recipe?
Don’t be shy and let me know how it went! Leave me a comment below and share a picture on Instagram!