Lightened Up Pumpkin Coffee Cake

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Lightened up pumpkin coffee cake is an easy breakfast treat to feed a crowd! Each slice packs whole grains, cinnamon, pecans, and pumpkin flavor. Enjoy!

Lightened up pumpkin coffee cake

Let’s start the day off right with a warm slice of pumpkin coffee cake made with cinnamon and applesauce. Care to join me? My pantry is stocked with all the ingredients necessary for some impromptu baking. I decided for this Fall-inspired recipe I would switch a few things up for a healthy twist!

It’s okay to indulge in some comfort foods every once in a while. It’s hard to turn down cake for breakfast. The good news is with just a few simple substitutions we can provide more nutrition in each serving.

To lighten up this recipe, whole wheat flour adds increased fiber and the fat is reduced by half when using unsweetened applesauce. This pumpkin coffee cake is meant to be shared, your family or coworkers will thank you.

Red spatula mixing whole wheat flour and pumpkin puree

How to make pumpkin coffee cake healthier

Coffee cake is the world telling you to have dessert for breakfast, but often that leaves us feeling a little bit guilty. It doesn’t have to be this way! To make a healthier cake-base, there are a few key ingredients that I use:

  • Whole wheat flour: I used white whole wheat flour because it provides a similar nutritional profile as whole red wheat.  The bran and germ are in the flour, which means you still obtain B vitamins, minerals, and fiber. The main advantage is the milder flavor from the white wheat because it does not contain strongly-flavored phenolic compounds like red wheat.
  • Coconut Oil: Instead of creaming butter with sugar, coconut oil is used instead to give a tender cake structure. It contains saturated fat from mostly medium-chain triglycerides, which may be more comfortable for your body to digest.
  • Coconut Sugar: An unrefined sugar that has a natural molasses flavor, complementing the pumpkin. The benefit is it retains trace essential minerals and has a lower glycemic index compared to white granulated sugar.
  • Applesauce: Unsweetened applesauce is a magical substitute for some of the fat in a cake recipe. Instead of 1 cup of coconut oil, 1/2 cup of oil and 1/2 cup of applesauce is used. Together they keep a sturdy structure, ensuring a tender and moist cake texture.

Pumpkin coffee cake with streusel topping in a round baking tin.

You can’t have a traditional coffee cake without a streusel topping! A combination of whole wheat flour, coconut oil and sugar, cinnamon and chopped walnuts because it adds an irresistible crumbly and crunchy texture.

Pumpkin coffee cake with streusel topping and crushed walnuts

This pumpkin coffee cake isn’t overly sweet, so the addition of the streusel topping balances each other very nicely. However, I can’t resist a little drizzle on top! Instead of glopping on powdered sugar, vanilla yogurt and a hint of pure maple syrup are added right on top just before serving. I love the tiny bit of tang that it adds to each bite!

Slice of pumpkin coffee cake with vanilla yogurt drizzled on top

What type of baked product is Coffee Cake?

Coffee cake is considered a quick bread, which has a tender cake and muffin-like texture. Leavening agents like eggs, baking soda, and baking powder help the bread rise rapidly in the oven. A creaming mix method using softened coconut oil whipped together with the sugar gives structure to the cake. The flour mixture is gradually added to the wet mixture with minimal stirring to minimize gluten development and to avoid a tough baked good.

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Lightened Up Pumpkin Coffee Cake

Lightened up pumpkin coffee cake is an easy breakfast treat to feed a crowd! Each slice packs whole grains, cinnamon, pecans and pumpkin flavor.
Pin Print Review
5 from 11 votes
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time1 hr
Servings 10 servings
Course Breakfast
Cuisine American


Streusel Topping

  • ¼ cup white whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, solid at room temperature yet soft
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped pecans


  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup coconut oil, solid at room temperature yet soft
  • 1 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Yogurt Topping

  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt, soy, coconut or almond
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup


Streusel Topping

  • In a small bowl combine flour, coconut sugar, and cinnamon. Mix in solidified coconut oil into the sugar mixture until crumbly in texture.
  • Stir in the chopped pecans and set aside.


  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and lightly flour a 9-inch round cake pan.
  • In a medium-sized bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt, set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the solidified coconut oil and coconut sugar. Using a paddle attachment beat together until creamy, 2 minutes on medium speed.
  • Scrape the sides of the bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, 30-seconds on medium speed for each egg.
  • Beat in pumpkin puree, applesauce, and vanilla extract, 30 seconds on medium speed. Fold the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture until no streaks of flour are left.
  • Spread the cake batter into the prepared cake pan. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the batter and remaining chopped pecans. Allow batter to sit for 10 minutes before baking.
  • Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Cool coffee cake in pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Use a knife to release the cake around the edges, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

Yogurt Topping

  • In a small bowl whisk together yogurt and maple syrup. Drizzle on top of coffee cake right before serving.


  • Softened butter can be substituted for the coconut oil for the cake. Use chilled butter broken into pea-sized pieces for the topping.
  • All-purpose flour, gluten-free flour or whole wheat flour can be substituted for the white whole wheat flour. The texture of the cake will differ slightly and baking times.
  • Granulated sugar can be substituted for coconut sugar for the cake.
  • Light brown sugar can be substituted for coconut sugar for the topping.
  • Plain or vanilla Greek yogurt can be used for a slightly thicker topping.

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Nutrition Facts
Lightened Up Pumpkin Coffee Cake
Amount Per Serving
Calories 355 Calories from Fat 171
% Daily Value*
Fat 19g29%
Saturated Fat 12g60%
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 3g
Cholesterol 43mg14%
Sodium 249mg10%
Potassium 66mg2%
Carbohydrates 43g14%
Fiber 4g16%
Sugar 25g28%
Protein 6g12%
Vitamin A 3500IU70%
Vitamin C 9.9mg12%
Calcium 90mg9%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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6 Comments Leave a comment or review

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Adina- Yes, you can substitute the 1/2 cup applesauce with 1/2 cup coconut oil or less, depending on what you prefer.

  1. Melissa Ramirez says

    Hi Jessica,

    I enjoy your blog and recipes a lot! The science is interesting. We are gluten free due to two children with celiac and my own gluten intolerance. Have you tried this recipe with a gluten free baking flour? I’m wondering if a straight flour substitution will work.


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