Last updated on November 14th, 2020
Soft and moist gluten-free pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting. This spiced pumpkin cake recipe bakes up super fast and easy in a sheet pan. Frost it right there in the pan and slice and serve bars.
I’m disoriented. It’s mid-October and my heart knows it’s fall pumpkin baking season, but also it’s 99°F right now. I’m also sewing Halloween costumes for the family and Zoella has decided she will be Santa, Ira a reindeer, me an elf, and daddy THE SLEIGH (yup, the sleigh).
And since we won’t be able to properly trick-or-treat, we’ll be doing a Halloween egg monster hunt in the backyard.
Somehow this all feels about right for the times. Good thing I’ve got these pumpkin bars to ground me.
You, too, are only a sheet pan and a can of pumpkin away from decking your house out in full fall mode (even if you’re wearing a Santa hat doing an egg hunt in a heatwave).
Once you make them, these gluten-free pumpkin bars with swirls of cinnamon cream cheese frosting are sure to become a fall staple.
Gluten-free pumpkin spice bars versus pumpkin cake
What makes these pumpkin bars versus pumpkin cake? This recipe is a bit more moist than a traditional fluffy cake, almost like a pumpkin bread baked up in a jelly roll sheet pan. They’re thinner and easily picked up and eaten like a brownie.
Though honestly, the distinction is subtle, and if you came here looking for a super easy gluten-free pumpkin cake, make these pumpkin bars and you’ll be so happy you did. They’re swirled with cream cheese frosting so they satisfy the cake cravings.
But you can also call them bars like I do and pretend it’s breakfast food. The cake bars are so tasty that you could leave the frosting off and eat it like pumpkin bread. Then it’s definitely appropriate for breakfast. Maybe even toss in some mini chocolate chips!
Optionally, I have this fluffier gluten-free pumpkin cake with salted caramel recipe that’s perfectly fall as well!
Gluten-free pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting
There’s something about the pumpkin spice blend that begs for cream cheese frosting. And because this pumpkin bread-style recipe is baked up as bars, it’s the perfect opportunity to slather cream cheese frosting over top. The pairing is arguably even more harmonized than carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.
The best part is you can swirl the frosting over the pumpkin bars right there in the pan! Slice and serve straight from the pan.
How to make easy gluten-free pumpkin bars from Scratch
I’m here right now for super easy recipes with minimal cleanup. Here’s all it takes:
- Sift together dry ingredients.
- Whisk together wet ingredients.
- Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients.
- Pour into parchment-lined 10×15 jelly roll pan and bake! (Because these gluten-free pumpkin bars are baked in a jelly roll sheet pan, they bake up super quickly!)
- Cool and slather with cream cheese frosting.
Gluten-Free Pumpkin Bars Flour Substitutions
With plenty of eggs and pumpkin to hold the crumb together and keep the cake moist, these gluten-free pumpkin bars can be forgiving when you need to substitute with what you have or can get your hands on. Note: I have not tested all of these substitutions, but they are based on my experience with baking gluten-free cakes/bars.
Gluten-Free Oat Flour Substitution: Oat flour helps create fluffiness and retain moisture in the cake.
- Option: grind up gluten-free rolled oats in a food processor or blender, then sift out any big pieces. Make sure to measure this by weight as homemade gluten-free oat flour is less finely ground so the volume per weight will be different.
- Sub in by weight: sorghum flour, or all-purpose gluten-free flour. With sorghum flour, your bars will be slightly less fluffy – adding 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum should help!
Tapioca Flour/Starch: I’ve added tapioca flour here for both chewiness and to help mimic the fluffiness of a classic cake. I exclusively use Bob’s Red Mill tapioca flour (and, in fact, I find others to be too gritty).
- Sub in by weight: arrowroot flour, potato starch, or Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 all-purpose gluten-free flour blend.
Sweet Rice Flour Substitution: Sweet rice flour is the most difficult flour to substitute in gluten-free baking and I don’t recommend it. It’s the magic weapon for gluten-free baking as its stickiness helps to bind your baked goods together. In the case of these pumpkin bars, adds the chewiness. Note: this is different than white rice flour or brown rice flour.
- Sub in by weight: All-purpose gluten-free flour or tapioca flour. (Note: I have not tested gluten-free cake with tapioca flour in place of sweet rice flour, but it is what I would try first if you can’t eat or get sweet rice flour.)
Teff Flour Substitution: Teff flour is such a warm flavorful flour that’s the perfect pairing for fall pumpkin. It bakes up soft and fluffy with rich toffee notes that accentuate the dark brown sugar.
Gluten-free dairy-free pumpkin bars Option
Save for the cream cheese frosting, these gluten-free pumpkin bars are naturally dairy-free. You can leave the frosting off and optionally add some dairy-free mini chocolate chips to the batter to eat it like pumpkin bread.
Alternatively, you can sub in dairy-free cream cheese and butter in the frosting or top it with whipped coconut cream!
Do pumpkin bars need to be refrigerated?
The frosted pumpkin bars will keep at room temperature for a few hours. Stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, they’ll last for 5-6 days.
To serve, remove the bars and let the frosting come to room temperature for 20-30 minutes before serving.
Do pumpkin bars freeze well?
You can make these pumpkin bars in advance and freeze them.
Once the pumpkin bars are cool, wrap the whole sheet pan well in plastic wrap. Store in the freezer for up to a month (if storing longer than a few days, I also wrap the pan in foil to make it even more airtight and prevent freezer burn).
When you’re ready to serve, let come to room temperature on the counter for 1-2 hours before swirling the frosting on top.
Alternatively, you can freeze the frosted pumpkin bars similarly. Once frosted, place the pan, uncovered, in the freezer for an hour to firm up the frosting. Pull the pan out and wrap it well in plastic wrap and/or foil. Store in the freezer for up to a month.
When you’re ready to serve, let come to room temperature on the counter for 2-3 hours before slicing and serving.
More Gluten-Free Pumpkin Recipes
I wait all year for pumpkin season so I can add pumpkin to all my baked goods. Here are a few of my favorites that I make on repeat all fall long.
- Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting
- Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Pumpkin Pie
- Black Sesame Pumpkin Mochi Cake
- Gluten-Free Vegan Pumpkin Bread Pudding
- Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cookies
- Pumpkin Tapioca Pudding
- Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
- Hazelnut Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pancakes
- Vegan Pumpkin Pie Bites
- 1 cup (108g) gluten-free oat flour
- ¾ cup (84g) tapioca starch/flour
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons (100g) sweet rice flour (also called mochiko - different from "white rice flour" or "brown rice flour")
- ½ cup (74g) teff flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2¼ teaspoons cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
- 2/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup (200g) dark brown sugar (light brown sugar works too!)
- ¼ cup (52g) granulated sugar
- 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups (240g) powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch of kosher salt
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 10x15 baking sheet with oil and line with a sling of parchment paper.
- Whisk together oat flour, tapioca flour, sweet rice flour, teff flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt in a large mixing bowl until well combined.
- Whisk together eggs, pumpkin, vegetable oil, dark brown sugar, granulated sugar, and vanilla extract until smooth. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and whisk until smooth.
- Pour cake batter into prepared pan and smooth it out with an offset spatula. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to release any large air bubbles.
- Bake for 25-28 minutes, until the center springs back when gently touched and a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely on a wire rack or the stovetop before frosting.
- Once cool, prepare the frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a medium mixing bowl with a hand mixer, cream the cream cheese over medium speed, until smooth. Scrape down the sides and add the butter and beat until just combined, scraping down the sides.
- With the mixer on low, slowly add the powdered sugar, mixing until combined. Add vanilla, cinnamon, and salt, and beat on medium speed until just smooth.
- Spread frosting over the cooled cake with an offset spatula or the back of a soup spoon. Dust with cinnamon, if desired.
- Slice into 20 slices and serve. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days.
See above post for gluten-free flour substitutions and dairy-free options!