little pumpkin cakes with caramel cream cheese icing recipe

I have heard on more than one occasion people commenting on how unfair it is that I don’t just let my kids eat what ever they want. Why don’t you just let them be kids? They will end up being the fussiest eaters when they grow up, you know. It must be so hard eating they way you do, they must feel really deprived. Yes. I hear you.
It may seem like I’m the big bad, over-the-top hypochondriac mother who is so scared of the world that I won’t let my kids just eat whatever. Some may even call me a control freak. A few have. But I’m not. I’m just a mum, who wants my kids to be happy, pain and excema-free. It’s that simple. If it means we have to eat a certain way, then so be it. I think if anyone should be moaning about it, it should be the kids right? But they don’t. I make sure of that by cooking for them whatever their little hearts desire; you want pizza? Sure, I’ll make you a version you can eat. You want cake? Sure, how about sweet little gluten-free pumpkin cakes with caramel cream cheese icing?
Deprivation. I think not.
The only time I've ever really felt like the grinch who stole kids happiness, is when a Mr Whippy van drove down our street recently. Ada knows from one time before when it went past that she couldn’t eat anything on offer. She simply peered out the window and murmured I hope Mr Whippy makes his cones gluten-free one day mum. My heart broke.
I have such fond memories of staying with my aunt and uncle in Auckland (the big city to my small-town eight-year-old self). Hearing the faint jingle from down the road, running out as fast a we could just in case we somehow missed it, to get a ice cream cone, flake topped if we were lucky. 

With most things I try to make sure that I am prepared with suitable gluten-free alternatives, whether it means making muffins to take along to a birthday party in lieu of the cake, or buying gluten-free cones to make our own ice cream at home in summer time. But there is something about the whole Mr Whippy experience; the excitement as you hear the van coming from down the road, the running, the choosing, that makes it so much more than just the ice cream. 

Now, I'm not about to go out and buy a Mr Whippy van to serve gluten & dairy-free ice cream cones just to appease my nostalgia. But one thing I can do to treat my kids, is make cake. I mean really, you can't say that my kids are hard done by as far as food goes. Sweet little gluten-free pumpkin cakes with caramel cream cheese icing anyone?

These cute little pumpkin cakes will kick any hankering for sweet treats you may have. Lord knows I’ve been having plenty of them lately. Eight weeks without barely any baking other than my quinoa Anzac cookies, although good for my waistline, has not been so good for my insatiable sweet tooth!

Delicately spiced with a tender crumb these little cakes are perfectly fine to eat by them selves, un-iced if you are strictly dairy-free. We ate about half of ours like this, after Kye decided he liked them plain. Perfect really, as he is the one out of all of us that reacts to dairy the most. Smart boy.

Or if you are in for a real tooth achingly sweet treat, go for the full shebang. Cream cheese icing, smooth caramel sauce and crunchy sweet toasted pumpkin seeds.
I was just thinking... maybe I need to find a song that I can play every time I've baked a cake? You know, the kids hear it, get excited knowing what it means, come running, grab some cake, leave happy as.
Just a thought?

little gluten-free pumpkin cakes with caramel cream cheese icing
The actual cakes here are dairy-free. If you are strictly dairy-free simply use soy cream cheese in the icing, and dairy-free margarine. I find soy cream cheeses to be on the sweeter side, so I'd just add icing sugar to taste. Use coconut cream in place of regular in the caramel. Cakes keep well 2-3 days. Store airtight if un-iced or covered in the fridge if iced. Store toasted seeds airtight and caramel sauce in the fridge.
Makes 23. 


  • 1 cup (200g) organic raw sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) water
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla essence


  • 1 1/2 cups (180g) fine brown rice flour
  • 3/4 cup (90g) quinoa flour
  • 1/2 cup (50g) tapioca flour
  • 1/2 cup (55g) ground almonds (almond meal)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups (400g) organic raw sugar
  • 1 cup (250ml) rice bran or olive oil 
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (425g/15 oz) pumpkin puree *
  • 2/3 cup (160ml) cold water

toasted pumpkin seeds

  • 1/4 cup (30g) raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1 egg white, lightly whisked
  • 1 tablespoon organic raw sugar

cream cheese icing

  • 230g (8oz) cream cheese
  • 115g (1/2 cup) butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup pure icing sugar (powdered sugar), sifted
  • the juice and zest of 1/2 lemon

To make the caramel sauce; place the sugar, water and lemon juice into a heavy-based pan. Bring slowly to the boil over medium heat. Do not stir, simply swirl the syrup around a few times until the sugar has dissolved. Boil until the syrup turns a light golden amber colour, remove from the heat and gently with your arm at a length, pour in the cream (it may splatter so take care) and vanilla. Swirl to fully incorporate. Pour into a bowl and set aside to cool.

To make the cakes; Preheat oven to 180 C/350 F. Grease either 1x12 hole friand tin (you will have to cook the mix in two batches) or 2x 12 hole friand tins if you have them. Sift all the flours, baking soda and spices into a large bowl. Using a whisk, give it all a good few mixes to fully combine the flours (important for gluten-free baking). In another smaller bowl, whisk the sugar and oil until blended. Beat eggs in, one at a time, until the mixture goes all lovely, thick and glossy. Combine the pumpkin puree and the cold water and stir into the egg mixture. Pour into the dry ingredients, and mix to fully combine. Spoon mixture into friand tins (like I said before, you will have to bake in two batches if you just have one 12-hole tin), and bake for 15-20 minutes or until risen, golden and cooked through when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from oven, cool in tins 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the toasted pumpkin seeds; place seeds into a small bowl, add just enough of the egg white to coat lightly. Toss with the sugar, spread out onto a lined tray in a single layer. Bake at 180 C/350 F for 5 minutes, remove and mix, cook for a further minute or until golden and crispy. Set aside to cool.

To make the cream cheese icing; beat the cream cheese and softened butter together until light and fluffy. Add icing sugar, zest and juice and continue to beat until fully incorporated.

To assemble cakes; once cakes are cool, ice with cream cheese icing, drizzle over a little caramel sauce and sprinkle on some toasted pumpkin seeds.

* To make the pumpkin puree; roast chunks of peeled and seeded pumpkin (you will need approx 1/4 large crown pumpkin for this recipe) with a touch of vegetable oil at 190 C/375 F until cooked through. Puree with a stick blender until smooth. You can pass the mixture through a sieve using a metal spoon if you want a really smooth puree. Cool before using. This stage can be done 1-2 days before you need it, if you want to cut down on cooking times. Pumpkin puree can also be frozen and defrosted when needed.

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  • Reply
    Angry Asian
    May 4, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    i find it enchanting that you do what you can so your children still have some sweetness in their lives (pun all around intended). it's also good that they are aware of their dietary limitations, accept it and work around it. i'm an adult and i'm having a hard time accepting the things i can't eat any longer.

  • Reply
    May 4, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Oh I so hear you. While my kids were dairy-free we were made to feel like mean old ogres, mostly by the in-laws. They refused to respect our decision and reasons (such sore sore tummies for my babes). Even fed them cheese-sauce!!! Needless to say I was never happy with the idea of leaving the kids in their care – sad really.
    I heard a comedian say once that they told their kids the music Mr Whippy plays is to let everyone know they have run out of ice cream – cute!
    Umm I don't think your kids are deprived at.all. xx

  • Reply
    May 5, 2011 at 1:36 am

    These look simply incredible! I'd take your cakes over Mr Whippy any day! And I think your kids are very lucky to have such wonderful food made for them:)

  • Reply
    May 5, 2011 at 5:00 am

    Thanks lovely ladies 🙂

    Angry Asian~ I think it's easier for kids to accept, as they don't really know any different. Bit harder for us oldies, we know what fluffy Turkish bread tastes like! *sigh*

    Lyns~ Haha I have heard that one about the Mr Whippy music meaning they've run out! Classic.

    Georgia~ 🙂

  • Reply
    May 5, 2011 at 5:16 am

    These look absolutely amazing, and I'm not even a sweet tooth. I'd take them over Mr Whippy any day!

  • Reply
    your little brother
    May 5, 2011 at 6:07 am

    sucks you dont live down the road anymore!
    those look mmmmm mm!
    Its funny, jamara said something like this to me, "yours sisters blog is beatiful, but man you Galloways have one hell of a sweet tooth!" :p

  • Reply
    May 5, 2011 at 6:20 am

    haha, all in moderation though aye Lou 😉 At least it's homemade sweet treats. Not chemical laden store-brought. Wish we still lived down the road too, I miss my little foodie brother. Xx

  • Reply
    May 5, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    oh no… I have written a long answer and lost it…

    the juice of it, don't give you kids crap, no matter what other people say, give them your home bake treats!!


  • Reply
    May 5, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    Mmmmm doesn't look like you are depriving your kids of anything at all!
    Mr Whippy simply cannot compare to home baked goodies. Yum!

  • Reply
    Janet NZ
    May 5, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    Wow – these look FABULOUS!
    I'm trying so hard to not eat sweets at the moment 🙁

  • Reply
    Leigh @ Toasted
    May 6, 2011 at 4:34 am

    Oh, bless little Ada! From memory, those whippy ice creams taste pretty bad next to proper gluten-free ice cream served at home, in a bowl , with extras on top!

  • Reply
    May 6, 2011 at 9:08 am

    Haha Louie snap I was just thinking that and man Emma anyone who dares to give me grief about the dietary limitations my children have they get withered with my protective mumma look.
    I wish Otis' excema was solely dietary but looks like it is a combo of diet and environmental.
    The food you create is amazing and you have inspired me to go back to vegetarianism just struggling to get the kids as enthused.
    They look mighty fine those cakes may give them a go this weekend.
    Happy mothers day

  • Reply
    May 6, 2011 at 11:16 am

    Hi Jamara :-)I love that "withered with my protective mumma look". Xx

  • Reply
    May 6, 2011 at 11:51 am

    I have fought going dairy free with the exception of ricotta and cottage cheese for a long time, and now I am being compliant – finally!! It took getting pretty sick for me to wake up to the fact that since birth I have had issues with it. Omg!!! Soy is also out for me so that's that. ; ) But, with all the wonderful bloggers, such as yourself, I have to say it's getting easier to accept. Just your blog name was a draw since thyme is one of my favorite herbs. By the way, I finally made the nettle tea recipe just ss you wrote it and it's lovely, yummy, and all that.

  • Reply
    May 8, 2011 at 3:28 am

    Have just found your blog – love the story of how it got its name! How rude and intrusive of people to say those things. I think I'd wayyy rather have this cake than a Mr Whippy. But then, I'm not a kid anymore 🙂 I particularly like the sound of the pumpkin seeds, I bet they'd be good on ice cream, be it Mr Whippy's or homemade…

  • Reply
    Couscous & Consciousness
    May 8, 2011 at 8:53 am

    Hi Emma – I just saw your comment on Laura's blog (Hungry & Frozen), and since I am also a fellow NZ blogger thought I would stop by to say hi.

    Your blog is absolutely beautiful and I will definitely be visiting again.

    And, for the record, it definitely doesn't seem like your children are deprived – in fact, the more I read I decided I'd like to be one of your kids too – any chance of that!! Nobody knows what's right for your children better than you (and it sounds as though they know it too) – I think it's very sad that other people think they have the right to try and tell you otherwise – how rude.

    Keep on being a great Mum and a very cool blogger.

    Sue 🙂

  • Reply
    May 8, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    ~Shend, I'm glad you liked the nettle tea.

    Hi Laura & Sue. Welcome 🙂 It's so nice to "met" fellow nz food bloggers!
    @ Laura, I bet those pumpkin seeds would be awesome on ice cream 🙂 Ada just ate them as is, most didn't make it on the cakes.
    @ Sue, I'm glad to read you are safe and well following the Christchurch earthquakes. Xx

  • Reply
    May 8, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    Oh and thank you all for your kind words, just to make it clear… most people are totally understanding about our food choices. It's only a few that I was referring to here. But I really don't let it bother me. Thanks all, loves xx

  • Reply
    May 8, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    These look amazing! I would choose these over a Mr Whippy ice-cream any day!

  • Reply
    May 9, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    No one could ever, ever feel deprived with the scent of these cakes baking in the oven pervading the house! Amazing 🙂

    P.S. My mum never let us have Mr Whippy either. Then once, when she was out, he came by and so dad bought us a cone. Even at the age of nine, I remember being disappointed by how disgusting the ice cream was… Mums know best! 😀

  • Reply
    May 10, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    Oh. My. Goodness. Looks and sounds amazing! Not just icing, but caramel and seeds – swoon!

  • Reply
    The InTolerant Chef
    May 15, 2011 at 4:25 am

    It's really no ones business but your family's.
    The trouble is the 'faddy' people out there who spoil it for us true InTolerants, by asking for gluten free meals then swapping them for more exciting sounding gluten meals, or those asking for soy milkshakes but still with cows milk icecream- 'they just want to be a bit healthier' is no excuse for plain fussiness. This is one of the reasons some people don't take us seriously with real dietary issues.

  • Reply
    July 3, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    Hi Emma.. Has been a while since I have cooked from your blog (still avidly reading your posts though, while drooling!). Today is a GF buddies birthday and this was the perfect recipe for her and to get me back on baking track!! I used 2 x 12 cup muffin tins, making exactly 24 cupcakes with my mix. A couple un-iced for GF, dairy and soy free daughter, most iced going to the birthday girl, and a few leftovers to hubby and co at work. Fantastic recipe, really reminds me of Little and Friday's style – taking something yum and adding extras to make it insanely delicious and decadent!! Thanks again.

    • Reply
      July 4, 2012 at 1:17 am

      Awesome Rach, so glad you liked them 🙂 xx

  • Reply
    September 29, 2012 at 5:58 am

    Hi Emma,
    I tried your flourless chocolate cake and I loved it so much I always am tempted to bake it again and again (but I thought I should have more variety hehe). My mum went around telling everyone about it!

    Anyway, as I was reading your post, I wonder if this can be made flourless too?

    • Reply
      September 29, 2012 at 6:27 am

      Hrmm, as I haven't made these flourless before I couldn't say. It would require a lot of almond meal/ground almonds to replace the flours (3 1/4 cups all up), but if you do try it and it works I love to hear about it! xx

  • Reply
    November 23, 2014 at 8:59 am

    I love this! I think it is so important to give your kids the best start in life by offering healthy alternative. I feel it's what makes you a great mum! I think offering your kids high sugar foods and preservatives is awful. I understand a lot of parents aren't educated in that sense and it makes me sad. Keep up the great work of being a fabulous mum and an awesome blooger! Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    UK Fashionablefoods
    June 23, 2016 at 9:53 am

    This one is just awesome. I am trying this soon.. 🙂


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