Paleo Spice Cake with Maple-Cashew Frosting

July 25, 2012 in Categories: , by

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My 2.5-year old announced “let’s make cake!” and started pulling random seasonings out of the spice drawer.  She pulled out cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom, vanilla, paprika, and cumin.  Okay, maybe those last two weren’t so inspiring, but the first five looked pretty good to me!  I had been meaning to try my hand at a paleo layer cake with birthday parties in mind and this was the perfect excuse!  The end result was a perfectly moist, spongy cake with a fabulous flavor.  This cake is nut-free, although the frosting is not (because I just couldn’t resist this amazing flavor combination!).  For a wonderful nut-free whipped frosting alternative, try this recipe by Paleo Spirit.

Paleo Spice Cake with Maple-Cashew Frosting

Ingredients (Maple Cashew Frosting):

1.    I made my own cashew butter (the easiest nut butter to make at home).  I placed two cups of raw unsalted cashews into my Food Processor and blended until smooth, about 3-4 minutes.
2.    Whip cashew butter, palm shortening and maple syrup in the bowl of a Standing Mixer for 1-2 minutes, until fluffy.  Store in the refrigerator but allow to come to room temperature before frosting.

Ingredients (Nut-Free Spice Cake): 

1.    Prepare three 8” or 9” round cake pans by greasing with palm shortening.  Cut out a circle of wax paper and line the bottom of each pan.  Then grease the top of the wax paper.  Finally, dust the pan with arrowroot powder.  Set aside.
2.    Preheat oven to 350F.
3.    Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a standing mixer and whip 3-4 minutes until thoroughly mixed and smooth.
4.    Divide batter among the three pans.  Spread the batter out to the edges of each pan.
5.    Place in the oven on two racks, spacing out so that they bake evenly (you might want to rotate pans halfway through baking).  Bake for 27-28 minutes, until fully cooked and a toothpick stuck into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
6.    Cool on wire racks until cakes are room temperature.  Invert each cake over a plate or cutting board.
7.    Place the first cake layer on your serving dish, cover the top in frosting, add the second layer, cover it with frosting, add the third layer, cover the whole cake with frosting (you should have enough).  Dust with cinnamon or nutmeg if desired.
8.    Enjoy!

 Do you need help finding any ingredients?  Check out  Important Pantry Items for the Paleo Baker.


I’d love to make a smaller, single layer cake. If I cut the recipe in half do you think it would make a 9″ x 13″ cake, or 8″ square, or ??

Made this today – delicious! I cut it in half to do the 8×8 size. I only made 2 subs. I used expeller pressed coconut oil. I also used sunbutter because I didn’t have cashews. Whole family gives thumbs up!

My niece made this for me for a birthday cake. Since I am trying to stay on AIP, she didn’t put the frosting on it. Instead, she drizzled honey on it. It was YUMMY, & my non-paleo family was surprised, because they liked it too.
Thanks for this recipe!

I just tried to make this cake and followed directions for pan prep and measurements. The cake crawled up the sides of the pan and doesn’t resemble a cake layer at all. It’s like a pancake with floppy elephant ears. My eggs were even room temp. I used organic butter instead of palm oil. What did I do wrong?

I just noticed it doesn’t say what size of egg to use – I do know when I’m baking non Paleo items large eggs are standard. What size of eggs need to be used? TIA!

hiya paleomom… i made this cake the other day, and while it tasted great, the cake was a little dense. my eggs were not fully warmed to room temperature, but other than that i followed the recipe to a t. since you’ve made the recipe several times, i was wondering if you had a similar result… do you think it was the eggs’ temperature? might i get a fluffier result with more baking soda? or perhaps it is just that coconut flour-made baked goods are generally more dense than their nut flour counterparts? (i haven’t had as much experience with coconut flour compared to almond flour, so i haven’t learned its “normal” baking behaviors yet.). please let me know what you think might yield a fluffier cake, and thank you for posting this recipe!

I made this excellent cake tonight. It’s delicious! I made half a recipe in one square pan, and tweaked with the spices a little. I had a couple of issues: I think the eggs were too big because the batter was very wet. So I added quite a bit of dried coconut flakes (I love the texture! but it obviously takes away from the sponge factor) and a sprinkling more of coconut flour, and a dash of cream of tartar. The other issue I’m pretty sure was the oven’s fault: it baked extremely fast, maybe 17 minutes tops, and the cake grew all sorts of lop-sided.
Next time I make it, I’ll decrease the honey/maple syrup because I’m just not used to eating sugar much anymore, but that’s my issue not the recipe’s. I had originally planned on making another frosting (no cashews for me), but I’ve nixed that. Overall, I think it’s an absolutely excellent recipe. Thank you!

Can I make this cake with ground coconut flakes instead of coconut flour? I would like to make one for my son’s birthday. Thank you.

Generally when I use homemade coconut flour, I have to use quite a bit more than store-bought, but I usually eyeball it, so I don’t know exactly how you would have to adjust the recipe for ground coconut flakes.

This was GREAT! Made it for my birthday and will definitely be making it again. I subbed tapioca flour for arrowroot flour because that’s what I had in my pantry and it totally worked. Thank you thank you!

Hi there,
I love your recipes! Is there any way I could substitute Coconut Flour for Ground Almonds? Coconut Flour in the UK is waaay out of my price range. I sometimes makes my own at home when I need to make a batch of Coconut milk for smoothies but I bake more often than I make coconut milk + flour, haha! Any substitute suggestion would be a life saver. Tapioca Flour is really more affordable for me but it’s making my baking tough as old boots, does anyone have any tips for me? xox

Here’s a substitution (by necessity) in the frosting: I couldn’t find any palm shortening at the last minute, so I used coconut oil instead. I knew the texture wouldn’t be the same. So I added less maple syrup and added some dates and coconut sugar (nonliquid sweeteners) and because it wasn’t fluffy, added some pecans and shredded coconut, and faked it as a german chocolate cake-type frosting. It was quite good. Although next time, I’ll plan ahead and go for light and fluffy! Great recipe.

I’m sensitive to honey. Can I sub maple syrup or coconut nectar for the honey in the cake? I want to make this for my best friend’s birthday and don’t have the time to do a trial. Besides, I’d hate to waste all those eggs if it didn’t work!

I tried looking up arrow wood flour and it is a little too expensive ($30 for a bag). Is there a different substitute you recommend? Thank you!!

Wow! That’s way more than I pay (about $8). You could try tapioca or sweet potato starch, but the chemistry of those is a bit different and I’m not sure how that would affect the texture.

Please, please, please, substitute something instead of using palm shortening! I live in Indonesia, and I have driven past mile after mile of palm oil plantations where rain forests used to be, both here and in Malaysia. It’s really sad.

There really is no such thing as ‘ethical’ palm oil – it’s a misnomer. There’s ‘a bit less unethical’, or ‘somewhat more sustainable’.

As individuals and communities, we can avoid the use of palm oil on principal, but it will still be produced despite this. We should of course fight to ensure that that which is produced is done so more “sustainably”, via NGOs etc. But it remains that the overall demand for oil-seed monocultures needs reduced. A (massively global) monoculture by definition cannot be considered sustainable, by any academic or scientific standard.

You influence a lot of people’s food habits and, by extension, their consumer habits. Therein lies an implicit responsibility for what you advocate on your popular website or books, whether you wanted that responsibility or not. By dismissing the above comment, you were either whitewashing the palm oil industry (much like the RSPO at times), or you haven’t taken the time to look into the issue or read through any relevant journal articles.

Sarah does not bake with gluten-free baking flours, so I am not sure what type of results you would get. — Tamar (Sarah’s assistant)

Can I use tapioca starch in place of arrowroot powder? I couldn’t find it anywhere.

Also, I cant find palm shortening anywhere. I see i can use butter instead for the cake…but what about for the frosting? What else can I use?

Im making this tomorrow night since friday is my my birthday 🙂

Happy birthday! Sarah has not prepared this recipe with those substitutions. If you look at the comments below the recipe, you will find that people used various substitutions that worked. In the future, if you’d like to buy online any of the products that Sarah uses in the recipe, you can click on the link for that specific ingredient. I know that Sarah purchases many of her specialty ingredients online. — Tamar, Sarah’s assistant

My substitutions worked great! I think I used coconut oil for the frosting and butter foe the cake in place of the palm shortening. Came out suppppper yummy! I was very happy with it. The cake was very dense though..not sure if I did something wrong or if I can add something next time and make it fluffier. But it was still awesome! Some of my non paleo family members even tried it and liked it

This is very yummy. I made half of the recipe and baked it in an 8×8 square pan for 35 minutes. Perfect. It is dense and spongy from the eggs. I’m not using any frosting, maybe next time. It’s a nice snack cake without the frosting. Thank you. I have been doing Paleo AIP for 3 months, and recently reintroduced eggs with success. This is the first baked good that I’ve had in 3 months. Thank you! I love your recipes!

I LOVE carrot cake, and this reminds me of carrot cake! I am going to attempt to make cupcakes for Easter! I bought cashews last weekend especially for this! I will let you know how it goes! I think I will try to add carrots to half of the recipe and see how it goes! Does anyone have any suggestions–do I need to adjust anything to account for adding carrots and nuts? I’m all out of walnuts but maybe also adding cashews to the batter? Should the cashews be raw for the frosting or roasted/unsalted?

Thank you for this! It was my first attempt at baking after switching to Paleo, and it was amazing! I used unsalted butter instead of the palm shortening, and I was worried that the batter was more liquid-y than expected, but it all came out perfectly. Yum.

luckily, i have pastured non gmo feed eggs that are ginormous. problem is my recipes are off with them. could you give me a liquid measure or weight for the eggs? thanks for the trouble and the great sounding recipe. i hope to try making it in four 7″ small pans for the 4th of july!

I just baked this for my birthday on Fourth of July and it was DELICIOUS! My friends and family couldn’t tell it was paleo at all. I’m down here in New Zealand, but have an American father so we had a double celebration for my birthday and America’s. I’m obsessed with everything you post, it’s obvious you research stuff to death before you write about it and you somehow know how to write it so us non-scientific folk can understand. Thank you!

Would this freeze well? I recently made a half batch as cupcakes (16 minutes at 350) and they came out perfect! I’d like to have them on hand without having to bake so often.

I have been planning on making this for awhile now. I am nervous because we are in a 5th wheel and baking has not been successful the last few tries. I think I will attempt making cupcakes. Pray for me! 🙂

I’m curious as to wether or not you could use a combination of like a Brown rice flour, oat flour, almond flour? I think the eggs would be reduced. A ratio of 3/3/2. Or are those not paleo?

Excited to try and use this recipe in a donut pan this weekend! Also going to experiment with adding a bit of homemade chunky applesauce to make it an apple spice cake (I love fat, but assuming the right thing to do would be to cute down the fat a little if I do this or add a dash more coconut flour to absorb the moisture to make this work?)
Thanks for all the great recipes on here!

Hi, I’m making this for a birthday party but don’t have palm shortening on hand. For the frosting could I substitute unsalted butter or coconut oil instead? Thanks!

I’m making paleo cupcakes for my sister’s wedding. She wants carrot cupcakes. This recipe looks great! How much carrot would you recommend? I’m really excited to use your recipe and make the wedding allergy friendly as well as paleo friendly!

As a couple of others have asked (but I’ve seen no responses) can you substitute flax/chia/gelatin/anything else for the eggs? Allergic.

Has anyone substituted the honey for coconut sugar. I imagine I would reduce the coconut flour…any insight is appreciated! Thanks!

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