Pumpkin Spice Trifle

In August, I begin counting down the days until the launch of the pumpkin spice season. Where I grew up, it generally is marked by the first cool evenings of September, but here in Florida it is determined by when I can start baking with nutmeg and cinnamon without getting strange looks. Naturally, creating new twists on pumpkin favorites is near and dear to my heart. The warm notes in pumpkin flavor blossomed in the presence of potent spices send you spinning into a mental montage of childhood memories and family gatherings which will always be accompanied by a smile.

I believe angel food cake is the perfect first step into gluten free baking because the egg whites create a delightful, fluffy texture that is often lost when utilizing gluten free flours. This is a wonderful dessert for a social gathering, and is one that will be popular among the adults in the group. Even in a mixed gathering, no one will know this is gluten free! Depending on your audience, however, you may choose to add a little more sweetener to the filling, this is a true spiced pumpkin recipe and isn’t sugary sweet. Pumpkin puree, orange extract, and a whipped coconut “cream” perfectly balance the lightly spiced cake which is decadent and allergy-friendly.


Never thought you would get a gluten free cake to rise like that, did you?

At first glance, it seems complicated, but reading the instructions ahead of time will prevent any hiccups. That said, I would give yourself at least 4-5 hours to prepare this dessert, because the cake should cool for at least 2 hours (after baking for 40 minutes), and I recommend chilling it before serving. If I have a chore list for the day, I start with baking my cake, complete other tasks in between, and prepare the filling once the cake has cooled. This is particularly helpful if you also are faced with making dinner for that night, meal prep is key to allergy free living! I like clean my house while I’m waiting for things to bake, particularly because in my house flour likes to jump out of bowls, measuring cups, and any other vessel it’s supposed to stay in. Today the flour was behaving, but the cornstarch decided it was made from jumping beans instead of organic, gmo free corn.



It’s important to use pumpkin puree rather than pumpkin pie filling if you are serving someone with food allergies because you have better control over the ingredients. I take a pretty hard stance against food additives, but you will need to use a coconut milk containing some kind of gum (guar gum, xanthan gum, etc.) in order to get the cream to whip properly. I haven’t experimented yet with adding grass fed gelatin, but that may be one alternative offering added stability.




Prep time: 3 hours                         Assembly: 15 minutes                        Chill: 30 minutes (optional)

Serves: 12




Several mixing bowls

Some variety of tall cake pan (mine isn’t a true angel food pan and I don’t care!)

Trifle dish or other deep glass dish



1 King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Angel Food Cake (recipe below)

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste (optional)

Pumpkin Filling:

3 cups pumpkin puree (about 2 cans)

½ cup sugar or honey

4 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

Coconut Whipped “Cream”

2 cans **full fat** coconut milk, chilled (I recommend having a third on hand just in case)

1 ½ teaspoon orange extract

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon


  1. Place canned coconut milk in the fridge the night before or before starting preparation.
  2. Place a medium or large mixing bowl (metal or glass is best) in the freezer.
  3. Prepare angel food cake as instructed below **but add 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice to dry ingredients before whisking and add vanilla bean paste to egg mixture. Also measure out and set aside the ¾ cup plus two Tablespoons of sugar before beating the egg whites. Note that post-bake cooling time is 2 hours.
  4. Whisk together ingredients for pumpkin filling, set aside to chill until cake is cool.
  5. Open both cans of coconut milk and either scoop off fat into chilled mixing bowl or pour off excess liquid, using approximately the amount of care used when separating egg yolks from the whites. (Will depend on can-sometimes fat rises, sometimes it sinks).
  6. Add remaining coconut cream ingredients and beat until well combined and soft peaks form. Depending on coconut milk, this may require adding sugar in small quantities.
  7. Chill coconut cream until cake is cool.
  8. Cut cake as instructed in step 11 below. I like 4 layers but use your best judgement.
  9. Layer cake, pumpkin, and coconut cream in a trifle dish.
  10. Chill before serving if possible.
  11. Serve and enjoy!

This recipe uses King Arthur Flour’s Gluten Free Angel Food Cake Recipe: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/gluten-free-angel-food-cake-recipe

  • Prep time: 15 to 25 minutes  Bake Time: 40 to 50 minutes  Yield: 12 to 16 servings
  • 3/4 cup King Arthur Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour or ¾ cup + 2 tablespoons brown rice flour blend*
  • 3/4 cup Baker’s Special Sugar** or superfine sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups egg whites (10 to 11 large eggs, separated, yolks discarded or reserved for another use)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract or Fiori di Sicilia, optional
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons Baker’s Special Sugar** or superfine sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and place the oven rack in its lowest position.
  2. Whisk together and then sift the flour, cornstarch, and 3/4 cup sugar. Set aside.
  3. In a large, clean (grease-free) mixing bowl, beat together the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar until foamy.
  4. Add the flavorings. Gradually increase the speed of the mixer and continue beating until the egg whites have increased in volume, and thickened.
  5. Gradually beat in the 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar, a bit at a time, until the meringue holds soft peaks.
  6. Gently fold in the sifted flour/sugar blend ¼ cup at a time, just until incorporated.
  7. Spoon the batter into an ungreased 10″ round angel food pan. Gently tap the pan on the counter to settle the batter and remove any large air bubbles.
  8. Bake the cake until it’s a deep golden brown, and the top springs back when pressed lightly, about 45 minutes.
  9. Remove the cake from the oven and invert the pan onto the neck of a heatproof bottle or funnel, to suspend the cake upside down as it sets and cools, about 2 hours.
  10. Remove the cake from the pan by running a thin spatula or knife around the edges of the pan, and turning the cake out onto a plate.
  11. Cut the cake with a serrated knife or angel food cake comb. If it’s difficult to cut, wet the knife and wipe it clean between slices.
  12. Serve with whipped cream and fruit. Wrap any leftovers airtight, and store at room temperature.
  13. *Make your own blend*: Many of our gluten-free recipes use our King Arthur Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour, which includes ingredients that reduce the grittiness sometimes found in gluten-free baked goods. Our flour also increases the shelf life of your treats, keeping them fresh longer.
    1. The following make-at-home blend, featuring stabilized brown rice flour, works pretty well when substituted; and it tastes better than a blend using regular brown rice flour.
    2. Whisk together 6 cups (28 1/2 ounces) King Arthur stabilized brown rice flour; 2 cups (10 3/4 ounces) potato starch; and 1 cup (4 ounces) tapioca flour or tapioca starch. Store airtight at room temperature. Note: You can substitute white rice flour for the brown rice flour if you like; it’ll make your baked goods grittier (unless you manage to find a finely ground version).

It’s important to note that even if you make your own flour blend, if you are particularly sensitive this may not be the right flour blend for you. Tapioca can be a gluten mimic for some individuals and you may wish to find a suitable alternative.

I always sift my dry ingredients 3 times, and I work with two separate bowls throughout the process. Why? Growing up, my mother always encouraged triple sifting for the best results, adding ¼-½ cup of the mixture at a time. Having two bowls prevents having to dump the entire mixture into the sifter at once and ensures that you will sift through the entire mix. Another dish to add to the pile, but it will cut down on spillage and the cleanup and headaches that follow it. On that note, learn from my mistakes and don’t use a plastic mixing bowl unless you are completely out of options. Any dry ingredients you are using will stick to the bowl and alter the chemistry of your recipe while contributing endless frustration, which will also lead to a floury mess on the floor. Investing in a glass or metal set of bowls is 100% worth it!

You will be tempted in the middle of beating the egg whites to think they are appropriately airy when they look like the picture (below left). Keep going! They should hold nice soft peaks, still falling over but with some shape (below right). If they start getting stiff like a meringue you went a little too far. When you fold in the dry ingredients, yes, be gentle, but also make sure you don’t end up with pockets of uncombined flour.

























Grab a slice of cake, some hot apple cider, and enjoy spirited conversations!

Happy Fall,

Dr. Chelsea