Warmly spiced with a tender, moist crumb, topped with a fluffy espresso buttercream and then lightly drizzled with butterscotch sauce, the pumpkin spice latte literally takes the cake! This vegan pumpkin spice latte sheet cake with glossy butterscotch swirls is the perfect fall dessert.
This vegan sheet cake is easy to make, and fuss-free to assemble. It is perfect for Friendsgiving, Thanksgiving, Halloween or just to have as a tasty treat. It’s a single layer, so leave it in the pan for easy transportation!
Added bonus? Your home is going to smell amazing while the pumpkin cake bakes. We’re talking that cozy scent of autumn – cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice and ginger – wafting through your kitchen.
How to Make Vegan Pumpkin Spice Cake?
The method for making this pumpkin spice latte sheet cake is nice and easy:
- sift and blend the dry ingredients
- whisk the wet ingredients
- add the wet ingredients to the dry
- bake the cake in a prepared 9″ x 13″ pan & cool
- while the cake bakes, make the quick butterscotch sauce & cool
- make the espresso frosting
- spread frosting on cake and drizzle with butterscotch sauce
We want all of the pumpkin flavor and moisture from the pumpkin but there’s a fine line between a pumpkin cake which is moist and one that is gluey and no longer has a tender crumb. After lots of testing, I’m happy to report that this recipe will give you that delicious pumpkin flavor and a perfect crumb!
Pumpkin: I recommend using canned pumpkin over homemade pumpkin puree. Homemade pumpkin puree often has much more moisture in it than the canned variety and because of the variance between different batches, this may have a negative effect on the texture and flavor of your cake.
Make ahead instructions: Bake the cake, let it cool, then cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze (wrapped and airtight) up to a month. While the cake thaws to room temperature, make the frosting and butterscotch sauce.
How to Make Espresso Frosting?
As we can’t have a pumpkin spice latte without the coffee, I topped this pumpkin spice cake with vegan espresso frosting.
Espresso buttercream is easiest to make with instant espresso powder. It’s very fine and dissolves easily in the frosting without adding any extra moisture.
Instant coffee granules are not the same as instant espresso powder. The flavor is different but more importantly they don’t dissolve unless they’re mixed with hot liquid. If you only have instant coffee powder, you could try turning it into powder by placing it in a blender first, but I have not tested this yet.
If you love espresso or coffee flavor , then you’ll love my vegan chocolate sheet cake with espresso buttercream! It’s another easy recipe, and is for coffee and chocolate lovers, alike.
Back to the espresso buttercream: I like using a combination of vegan butter and shortening for the fluffiest frosting. Make sure they are at room temperature so the vegan butter is softened for easier blending and to avoid lumps in the icing.
Tub vegan butter (or vegan margarine) contains more water so the frosting will be much softer and melt at room temperature. To avoid this frustration, use stick-style vegan butter.
The pumpkin spice lattes that I’ve had in cafes have a caramel or butterscotch undertone. To include this in the pumpkin spice cake, I added caramel extract to the frosting instead of vanilla. Many grocery stores carry this in the baking section and it’s a flavor which I found really hits the mark for replicating that coffee shop pumpkin spice latte flavor! That said, if you don’t have it, you can just use vanilla and the frosting will still be delicious!
What’s the Difference between Butterscotch Sauce and Caramel?
There’s not much difference between butterscotch sauce and caramel. It comes down the sugar used! Caramel is made with white sugar, while butterscotch is made with brown sugar.
Now this recipe is not the technical way for making butterscotch. It’s a quick and easy version so no need for a candy thermometer! I figured it might be a bit silly for me to have a technical candy recipe included in a quick and easy vegan cake recipe, right? That said, it’s delicious and I’m not sure I’ll go back to the traditional way of making butterscotch!
How to Make Vegan Butterscotch Sauce?
This easy vegan butterscotch sauce is ready in under 5 minutes. It’s sweet and satiny, and perfect for drizzling over the espresso frosting.
To make this cheater butterscotch sauce, we whisk all of the ingredients in a small pan and let it simmer for about 4 or 5 minutes. Let it cool completely otherwise it will melt the buttercream.
I have tested this recipe with vegan butter and it’s been good, although I recommend not using ones which contain flax. The flax flavor intensifies during simmering. My go-to is refined coconut oil. The coconut flavor has been removed so it has a neutral flavor and so the brown sugar flavors shine.
Use a full-fat coconut milk without gums for the butterscotch sauce. Scoop out the coconut cream reserving the coconut water for another use. This is easiest if you leave the canned coconut milk in the fridge over night so the coconut cream rises to the top and hardens.
This butterscotch recipe makes about twice as much as what you’ll need for drizzling on your pumpkin spice latte cake (unless you like things really sweet). Use the leftover butterscotch for fancy hot drinks, ice cream toppings…the possibilities are endless!
If you make this Vegan Pumpkin Spice Latte Sheet Cake, please give it a rating in the recipe card or let me know in the comments! I love connecting on Instagram where you can tag me in your creations using my recipes. You can also follow me on Pinterest and Facebook. Thank you for reading along!
Vegan Pumpkin Spice Latte Sheet Cake with Butterscotch Swirls
For the Pumpkin Spice Cake:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp pumpkin spice mix
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 398 ml canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
- 1 cup unsweetened plant-based milk
- 2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 cup neutral oil (eg canola, grapeseed, avocado, etc)
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
For the Butterscotch Sauce:
- 4 tbsp refined coconut oil
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 cup coconut cream*
- 1 tsp flaked salt (or 1/2 tsp sea salt)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the Espresso Buttercream
- 1/2 cup vegan butter, softened (stick, not tub style)
- 1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening
- 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 3 tbsp instant espresso powder (not instant coffee granules)
- 1 tsp caramel extract
- 1-4 tbsp plant-based milk
For the Pumpkin Spice Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9”x13” baking pan with parchment paper, or lightly grease with coking spray.
- In a large bowl, sift and whisk the flour, granulated sugar, pumpkin spice blend, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. In a medium bowl or large glass measuring cup, whisk together the canned pumpkin, plant-based milk, brown sugar, oil, vinegar and vanilla together.
- Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix with a large spoon until combined, taking care not to over-mix. Pour into the prepared baking pan. Bake in the center of the oven for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, or with a few baked crumbs. Cool the cake completely before frosting.
For the Butterscotch Sauce:
- In a small pot over low-medium heat, melt the coconut oil and whisk in the brown sugar,coconut cream and flaked salt. Bring to a boil, and then lower the heat to simmer for 4-5 minutes whisking occasionally. (Any longer than this and you run the risk of having a butterscotch which starts to turn into candy is too thick to drizzle once cool.) Remove from heat and carefully whisk in the vanilla (stand back, the butterscotch may spatter.) Pour into a heat safe jar, and cool to room temperature.
For the Espresso Buttercream
- In a stand-mixer with a balloon whisk (or a large bowl and beaters), beat the vegan butter and shortening together until creamy. Add in the confectioner’s sugar, one cup at a time. Beat for 3-4 minutes, scraping down the sides occasionally. Add in the caramel extract (or vanilla) and instant espresso powder. Beat for 4-5 minutes, adding in plant-based milk only if necessary (I sometimes don’t need to add any). If you do add any, beat the frosting for a couple of minutes after each addition.
To Assemble the Cake:
- Spread the espresso frosting over the cooled cake. Dollop and drizzle 1/4-1/2 of the butterscotch sauce over the frosting. Use the back of a spoon to swirl it taking care not to over swirl or the butterscotch will mix with the frosting and not be as visible. Serve slices of cake with extra butterscotch sauce if desired.