This Gluten-free Pumpkin Cake is light and fluffy, the perfect fall dessert and a truly delicious cake. I make this healthy pumpkin dessert all year round as a gluten-free birthday cake….it’s a moist cake with the perfect crumb, delicious pumpkin spice, slices up nicely…and the 3-ingredient vegan chocolate frosting is just….well, icing on the cake!
This post has been updated from the original published December 15, 2021.
This is BEST pumpkin cake recipe out there…you’re definitely going to want a second slice. Maybe even a third! It’s moist and fluffy, with just the right texture and can easily be frosted or decorated for a birthday or special occasion.
I’ve thrown in my easy Vegan Chocolate Frosting Recipe here so you too can make this gluten-free pumpkin cake that’s sure to be a winner.
Why you’ll love this great recipe
- A gluten free option that has traditional pumpkin cake texture and taste.
- Simple recipe…uses just one-bowl for easy cleanup.
- A Pumpkin Birthday Cake! So fun!
- Wholesome pantry ingredients you already have…plus you can make it year round.
- Decorate with candied pepitas for a fancy holiday cake.
- The combination of cake + chocolate frosting uses exactly one can of pumpkin puree…no need to store little bits of leftovers.
- Move over pumpkin pie…THIS is a fabulous, seasonal Thanksgiving Dessert.
- No refined sugar. None.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Don’t be intimidated because it looks like a lot of ingredients. Look closely and you will see familiar items that are likely already in your pantry.
- Almond flour: My go-to for grain-free baking. Be aware though, it’s not an even swap for gluten-free flour since the moisture content is different. I have a friend who made this swapping in coconut flour and said it came out great…but I have not personally tried it, since I am allergic to coconut.
- Arrowroot powder: A healthier alternative to cornstarch or xanthan gum that is pro-inflammatory. It’s easy to digest, comes from a plant and contains potassium iron and some B vitamins. It’s also flavorless, naturally gluten-free and vegan and easy to find in most super markets. You could substitute cassava flour or tapioca starch if needed.
- Ground flax: Flax helps as a binder to hold this cake together. I love to add flax to recipes because it also adds fiber, omega 3s and protein to recipes along with a nutty flavor.
- Baking powder: What gives this gluten free dessert a lift so it’s not dense.
- Pumpkin spices: I used a combination of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice. You could also use pumpkin pie spice.
- Canned Pumpkin: Use pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie filling. Look for a brand that contains just one ingredient: pumpkin.
- Eggs: I did make this a few times with flax eggs as a vegan substitution and it did work, but it was less fluffy and a bit dense.
- Maple syrup: Just ¼ cup for an entire cake is all you need to perfectly sweeten this cake….no brown sugar, coconut sugar or powdered sugar needed.
- Applesauce: Look for a brand that is organic and doesn’t contain any other ingredients than apples. Applesauce is the secret ingredients that allows for a moist gluten-free pumpkin cake with no added oil.
How to make Pumpkin Cake:
You’re going to love how easy and quickly this cake comes together. Be sure to preheat your oven to 350 and line the bottom of a 9″ round cake pan with unbleached parchment paper before you begin so everything will be ready when you are!
Looking for a pumpkin snacking cake? You can also bake this in an 8″ brownie pan or turn this into a sheet cake by doubling the recipe and using a 9×13″ baking pan and increasing the cooking time to 40 minutes.
Step 1: gather dry ingredients, including fall spices, in a large mixing bowl,
Use a fork or a whisk to mix together so make sure there aren’t any clumps of almond flour.
Step 2: In a separate bowl, gather wet ingredients including eggs, applesauce, maple syrup and pumpkin puree.
Keep whisking until mixture is fully combined and fluffy.
Step 3: Pour wet ingredients into the large bowl. Stir until mixed well.
Be sure no dry ingredients remain on the bottom of the bowl, but resist the urge to over-mix.
Step 4: Pour cake batter into prepared pan. Bang pan on counter to “settle” the cake into the pan evenly.
Step 5: Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 40 minutes. Cake is done when cake tester or toothpick inserted into center of the cake comes out clean.
Cake may have a few cracks and turn golden on top. That’s OK. You’ll turn it upside down before frosting. Let cake to sit in pan for just 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.Allow cake to cool completely on a wire rack before wrapping or frosting.
5-Minute Vegan Chocolate Frosting
This gluten-free pumpkin cake would taste great with a simple cream cheese frosting sprinkled with chopped pecans. I prefer a more decadent, rich cake…which means Chocolate Frosting.
I’ve got your back on this one too…after you use the ¾ cup pumpkin puree for the cake, there’s just the right amount left in the can of pumpkin to make this delicious Vegan Chocolate Frosting! Brilliant, I know.
Plus, this chocolate frosting uses only 3-ingredients and takes just 5 minutes to make. SCORE!!
You’ll need: Pumpkin puree, dark chocolate and maple syrup. That’s it! I’m talking no coconut oil, canola oil, earth balance or other highly processed vegetable oil. Choose chocolate to suit your dietary needs and you’re all set!
Heat the pumpkin puree in a saucepan, mix in the maple syrup and then turn off the heat and mix in the chocolate. Like I said, super simple…and you’re going to LOVE how rich and chocolaty it tastes too. YUMMY.
If you want super smooth and creamy frosting, use an immersion blender to puree after the chocolate is totally melted into the pumpkin.
Place cooled pumpkin cake onto serving platter, upside down. You’ll want the flat side to be faced up so once frosted it will look smooth, without a dome.
Use an offset spatula to spread evenly over top of cake. Then decorate as desired.
EASY CANDIED PUMPKIN SEEDS
Making candied pepitas is also quick and easy and they are a fun decoration for this cake. They do need to “chill” to harden in the fridge for 15 minutes after they’re simmered, so plan accordingly.
- Place small skillet over low heat.
- Mix together olive oil, syrup salt and cinnamon and bring to a simmer.
- Then add in pepitas and WATCH CLOSELY. Cook slowly until the pumpkin seeds begin to pop, turn a golden color and the liquid has mostly evaporated.
- Transfer to aluminum foil or parchment paper and refrigerate for about 15 minutes until the candy coating has hardened.
- Break into pieces and use to decorate frosted cake.
Debra’s Pro Tips
- My best tip: One can of pumpkin is exactly what’s needed for the cake and the frosting. If you skip the frosting, you won’t use the whole thing. Scoop any extra by tablespoon fulls onto a sheet of parchment, freeze and then store in freezer safe container.
- This is my go-to healthy birthday cake recipe, year round. Maybe add some maple cream cheese frosting and some sprinkles for a festive celebration!
- Completely cool cake before frosting.
- If making for Thanksgiving Dessert or a Christmas Cake, use the candied pepitas to form a wreath around the outside of the cake. So festive and gorgeous too!
- Pomegranate seeds are a nice touch when they’re in season. Other times of the year, use fresh raspberries for red decor.
MEAL PREP AND STORAGE
- SERVE: Frost, decorate, slice and enjoy.
- PREP AHEAD: Cake can be made ahead and wrapped well. Frost before serving.
- STORE: Cake will stay good 2 days at room temperature, 5 days in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer.
- FREEZE: Once cake is frosted, it will be difficult to freeze because frozen cake should be wrapped well in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. To reduce the chance of freezer burn, use freezer quality zip top bags.
Pumpkin Cake FAQs
I tried multiple times to substitute flax eggs for a vegan cake and found it was less fluffy, and particularly dense.
Pepitas are hulled (skinned) pumpkin seeds. Their names are often used interchangeably though and either can be used for the candied pepita decoration on this pumpkin cake.
Did you know commenting and rating recipes is one of the best ways to support your favorite food bloggers? If you made this recipe, please consider a five star rating below and leave a comment. Also, please share your photos on instagram by tagging me @dkhealthcoach and using the hashtag #debraklein
Gluten-free Pumpkin Cake
- 2 cups almond flour
- ¼ cup arrowroot powder
- ¼ cup ground flax seeds
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup apple sauce
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- ¾ cup pumpkin puree
Vegan Chocolate Frosting
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 3-oz bar dark chocolate*, chopped
- 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
OPTIONAL Candied Pepitas
- 3 Tablespoons raw pepitas*
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350 and line a 9" cake pan with unbleached parchment paper.
- In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine almond flour, arrowroot powder, ground flax, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg and sea salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, applesauce, maple syrup and pumpkin puree until light and fluffy.
- Mix dry ingredients into the wet until well combined.
- Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.
- Let rest in pan for 5 minutes and then transfer to wire rack until completely cool.
- Cake can be made in advance, wrapped well and refrigerated for 2 days or frozen for 3 months before frosting.
- Roughly chop dark chocolate
- Heat pumpkin puree in a small pan over medium-low heat, stirring constantly for about 1 minute, until heated through.
- Reduce heat to low and stir in maple syrup. Then add half the chocolate, stirring as it melts. Add the remaining chocolate. Turn off the heat and continue to stir until all chocolate is dissolved and frosting has a creamy texture.
- For a really smooth frosting, use an immersion blender until desired consistency is achieved.
- Let frosting cool to room temperature. Extra frosting (or if you've made it ahead) can be stored in the fridge for up to a week. Bring to room temperature before spreading.
CANDIED PUMPKIN SEEDS:
- Have a piece of parchment or aluminum foil ready to transfer the pumpkin seeds onto in one compact layer as soon as they're finished cooking.
- Plase small skillet over low heat. Measure out the oil, syrup, salt and cinnamon into the skillet. Let is come to a simmer and then add in the pumpkin seeds. Cook over VERY LOW HEAT until the seeds begin to pop and attain a golden color and the liquid has mostly cooked off. This will take just about 5 minutes…and you need to pay attention. If you try to rush the process, everything will burn and you'll have to start over.
- Transfer the golden pepitas onto the prepared parchment and place in the fridge for about 15 minutes until the candy coating has hardened.
- Break into pieces and use to decorate your frosted cake.