Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cake with Maple Icing

Karina's amazing frosted pumpkin cake. #glutenfree

Pumpkin Cake to the Rescue

Today I'm digging into the recipe archives (back to 2005!) to share an old favorite. My pumpkin cake recipe. We're so busy sorting, bagging clothes and boxing up books for donation, getting ready for the big move to Los Angeles (next Thursday!) that yours truly has not had time to bake.

But if I did? I'd whip up this moist and tender beauty of a cake.

Today it snowed. Our first snow of the season. After photographing the backyard oak and apple branches dusted in sugary white like some fairy confection I thought of James Taylor's line in Sweet Baby James. The Berkshires seemed dream-like on account of that frosting. And I decided to bake a cake. With cinnamon.

I tried to whistle my way back to the house, to pierce the soft silence that only snowfall can bring, but I am not gifted in whistling.

A crow swung low overhead and cawed, unimpressed with my feeble tune.

Karina's Maple Frosted Pumpkin Cake Recipe

Originally published December 2005.

This cinnamon laced pumpkin cake is so moist and delicious, you'll never believe it's gluten-free. (The recipe is inherently dairy-free- except for the frosting. See notes below to keep the icing GF/CF.)


3 extra large organic free-range eggs
2 cups organic light brown sugar, not packed
1/2 cup light olive oil
1 15-oz can cooked pumpkin
2 teaspoons bourbon vanilla extract
2 cups gluten-free flour mix* see notes
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon gluten-free Pumpkin Pie Spice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt


Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a 10 x 13" baking pan with greased parchment paper.

Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl till light and frothy; add the brown sugar, beat till smooth; add the oil, pumpkin, and vanilla; beat to combine.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (the GF flour mix through sea salt). Add the dry ingredients into the wet mixture a little at a time and beat to combine- for two minutes.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 30 minutes, or until the cake is firm and a wooden pick inserted into the center emerges clean.

Cool on a wire rack while you make your frosting.

Note: I'm now using less brown rice and brown rice flour, and eating fewer rice cakes, etc. Here's why- there are elevated arsenic levels in rice.


Maple Cream Cheese Icing:


8 oz. softened cream cheese or vegan cream cheese
3-4 tablespoons softened unsalted butter or vegan margarine
3 to 4 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons bourbon vanilla extract
3 cups GF powdered sugar (more, if needed)


Beat until the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add 3 tablespoons of the maple syrup, and vanilla. Add in the powdered sugar a cup at a time; beat till smooth. Add another tablespoon maple syrup, if needed. Add more sugar, if needed.

When the cake is cool, frost with the Maple Cream Cheese Icing. Sprinkle with finely chopped pecans or walnuts, if desired. For nut-free, skip the nuts.

Yields 15 pieces.

Store cake chilled. Wrap and freeze leftovers after 2 days for best taste and texture.

Recipe Source:

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Karina's Notes:

My GF flour mix changes from recipe to recipe. For this cake I used my standard baking mix - 1 cup sorghum flour (or brown rice flour) + 1/2 cup buckwheat flour + 1/4 cup tapioca starch + 1/4 cup quinoa flour. Quinoa flour has a strong, nutty taste that compliments pumpkin and spice. Almond flour also works well instead of the quinoa flour. [See comments below for more discussion on baking with various flours.]

Before I had to go dairy-free I often used Pamela's Ultimate Baking & Pancake Mix as my flour mix. It works well in this recipe. I used a simple vanilla icing, and sprinkled sweetened flaked coconut on top.

To make sweets for future treats: This pumpkin cake freezes quite well. I place the whole frosted cake into the freezer for about 20 - 30 minutes before slicing and wrapping individual pieces (this chills the frosting a bit so it doesn't stick as you slice and wrap). I store the wrapped pieces in a zip-sealed freezer bag.

To keep this scrumptious cake dairy-free use dairy-free frosting or vegan cream cheese and buttery spread, or organic coconut oil, or Spectrum Organic Shortening; and add an extra teaspoon or two of vanilla extract.
Reader Christine reports she made this recipe as cupcakes- with much success. She said it took about 20 minutes for the cupcakes to bake.

Enjoy sugary treats in moderation. Gluten-Free Goddess advises consuming no more than 2 tablespoons of sugar a day.

More favorite pumpkin recipes from Karina:

Pumpkin Scones with Maple Nutmeg Icing

Brown Sugar & Spice Pumpkin Bars

Karina's Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Corn Muffins

More gluten-free pumpkin recipes from food bloggers:

Elana's Pantry Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie Muffins

Simply Recipes Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cupcakes

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars at Gluten-Free is Life


Susan G. said...

This recipe is similar to my pumpkin bread recipe. Hmm. I'm thinking I could convert it. I use my old recipe from Fannie Farmer. Thanks for sharing!:)

karina said...

Hi Susan! Thanks for stopping by. I have very good luck using traditional recipes; in fact, most of my recipes are my pre-GF recipes, converted with GF flours, of course, and tweaked for texture changes. Have fun!

Anonymous said...

I was wondering what the exact measurements for the gf flour are, and is there a substitute for the corn?

karina said...

Truthfully, my gluten free flours vary and I have no exact formula.

For an exact formula that I know works well, try using Pamela's Ultimate Baking Mix [and leave out the leavening as mentioned].

To answer your question as best I can, though, I'd guess I used roughly a cup of superfine brown rice flour, and mixed in a half cup sweet rice flour, and a quarter cup starch, and a quarter cup quinoa flour. [By starch I mean cornstarch or arrowroot starch.] You can also sub tapioca starch for any recipe calling for cornstarch.

I find that gluten free baking is not an exact science. Humidity and other mystical factors seem to affect GF baking more than traditional baking. My cakes never turn out the exact same way twice. I've learned to roll with it and develop a *feel* for the batter as I make it. Intuition comes with practice.

My general baking preference is to use a combo of the rice flours [brown and sweet], almond meal, and cornstarch. I add buckwheat or quinoa in small amounts sometimes for added protein. I avoid soy and bean flours because I simply don't like the taste [or the gassiness that ensues!].

Hope that helps! [This really is a delicious cake. Worth trying.]

Good luck!

Brenda said...

Love your site and recipes. Just discovered I was gluten intolerant and your site was my saving grace. The great thing is, my kids absolutely love the recipes also!
I was wondering if you have ever tried substituting some apple sauce for a portion of the oil used in your baking recipes.

Karina said...

Hi Brenda!

Thank you- I'm so glad you like the recipes. I have not personally tried the applesauce substitution- but some of my readers have; they report good results.

If you do experiment, please stop back and let me know how you did it and what works.

My intuition is that the sub would work in cakes and muffins best of all (though not my totally flourless chocolate cake).

Take care!


Anonymous said...

Oh my land of mercy! Was this ever good!! I did this as cupcakes for Thanksgiving, and they were a big hit. I am taking the rest tonight to a home school meeting and don't expect for there to be even one left!

Thanks so much for your recipes. They are so tasty, that there is no need to say "these are gf" as a warning. Instead, when they love what they have eaten, I casually say, "Oh, yeah, those are gf".


Karina said...

Hey TrinaBambina!

So happy you liked the recipe- and what a fab idea- to make it as cupcakes.

I've been toying with that idea, too- to convert it to egg-free (I can't do a lot of my recipes any longer, due to new food allergies, and I'd love to have this recipe back- it's a good one).

Take care, and thanks for the lovely comment!


Anonymous said...

It's me again, after trying the banana snack cake I tried my hand at this one :) I'm new at the gf flours thing, and after reading your summary of legume flours I think I"ll just skip those (I can't do large amounts of legumes anyways, large amounts being anything over 1/4 cup LOL) so I used 1 cup almond flour and 1 cup sorghum flour. I cut back on the oil to just under 1/2 cup and used coconut oil, and used 1 cup organic brown sugar and 3/4 cup agave nectar. My husband comments that they taste better than their floured counterparts! (giggle-I love that since I'm the only gf one in the house and the only one that bakes!) I frosted with a vanilla spiced frosting, I'm seriously thinking about doing this cake for my daughters birthday in november! She's in love with it as well :) Thanks again for making my transition into gf baking a smooth one!

Munch said...

As a recent celiac, I have been without cake, cookies, muffins or bread for too many weeks too long. I finally found some Pamela's Baking Mix, along with some other exciting GF baking ingredients and can't wait for that first taste of delicious cake. Currently I have a big can of pumpkin pie mix, (which was bought by accident). Do you think I can substitute this for the pureed pumpkin or am I asking for disaster?

Karina Allrich said...

Becky- Thank you- and thanks for sharing your tweaks. I'm going to try this recipe with agave next- and heartier flours.

Munch- I'm not familiar with pumpkin pie mix. Does it have sugar? Thickeners added?


Satori said...

This looks really good! Any thoughts on a homemade frosting for those who can't do dairy or soy?

Karina Allrich said...

Hi Satori- Yes- I have actually modified this frosting myself to make it dairy-free.

What I do: Pour a box of gluten-free confectioner's sugar into a bowl (I'd say around 2 cups) and add 3 to 4 tablespoons pure maple syrup and a drizzle of your favorite dairy-free milk; mix and beat; add enough liquid to make it smooth and spreadable; beat till creamy.

Taste test and add vanilla or maple extract if you need to boost the flavor.


Karen said...

I had this cake for each of my 3 birthday parties this month. I LOVE IT! Thank you so much Karina. Your recipes are the best! Cannot wait to try the pumpkin pie.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the recipe. I made it for my BF's birthday and it was delicious.

I used half rice/half buckwheat flour which resulted in a very nice cakey texture.

Also adapted it by using roasted butternut squash/pumpkin/sweet potato instead. Also left out the powdered sugar from the frosting - it gave it a lovely sharpness in contrast to the sweetness of the cake. Yum.

Man with a Pan said...

Our son has been GFCF for almost eight years. Your site is my go-to for recipe ideas. Just made this cake over the holiday break. Perfect treat for this crisp weather, and you're right, it freezes very well. Our son has announced that this is his new favorite. Another winner for the Goddess. Thanks, Karina.

Stephanie O'Dea said...

I wish you could feel my excitement for this cake! I have every single thing in the house, and need to make some sort of coffeeish cake for picky 8yr olds spending the night tomorrow.

I'm positively giddy.

xoxo steph

Nancy Ball said...

Hi Karina, This cake looks wonderful. The best part of fall is eating pumpkiny foods. I was wondering what the best substitute for quinoa is - we're off quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth (and soy). Maybe millet flour?


Nancy Ball said...

Hi Karina,

I just found your substitutions page - millet it is, then. Thanks for your wonderful recipes!


Michelle Doyle said...

This came at the most perfect time as yesterday I processed the pie pumpkins in my garden and have an abundance of pumpkin to use! Thanks for all the fabulous recipes!

VeggieGirl said...

Holy yum!!

Chocolate Shavings said...

what a perfect recipe for the holidays!

langelw46 said...

Karina...when did you get to go back to LA?? I guess I missed that part.


Anonymous said...

Hey Karina-

I was wondering if simply using rice flour and cornstarch would work instead of the GF flour mix?


Anonymous said...

I just made a version of this recipe. I swapped in 3/4 cup of montina for some of the brown rice flour and all of the quinoa flour. Montina (the straight stuff, not the prepackaged flour mix) sticks to the teeth, but it tastes really good. I subbed potato starch for the corn starch. I also had butternut squash instead of pumpkin, so I subbed that.

I measured out my flours by weight.

I don't seem to have luck with GF baking in my 9x13 pan, so I used two bread pans. This baked up into really nice looking quick bread. Tastes fabulous, too.

Kim said...


This cake looks amazing! I can't wait to try it!

Thanks for linking my Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars on your blog...I am very honored!


Anonymous said...

Hi Karina,

I love all your recipes and just have a quick question about this one...I usually use Bob's Red Mill GF Flou Mix, but most things need a
"gum" to go along. Does Pamela's have that mixed in already or do you do this without the "gum" added? Also, any experience with doing a flax replacement for the eggs?


Anne Marie said...

Karina, My best wishes for your move. I so share your passion for life and people in the city! I also share your need for 'safe' healthy foods. Your recipes have been an inspiration. I have made many of them and my son and I are finally once again excited about delicious cooking. You are an amazing, creative cook! Thank you for sharing. (I also love your photograpy.)Anne Marie

Karina Allrich said...

Thanks so much, everyone for your kind comments. I'm so excited I can't sleep. xox


As for flour subs- I don't see why any gluten-free flour baking or pancake mix wouldn't work. In fact, using a pancake mix in a baking recipe often helps boost the height and tenderness.

Rice flour question: I'm not a fan of rice flour, so if you like the rice flour/starch combo in your gluten-free baking, you may like it in this. If you try it, stop back and let us know.

As for the xanthan gum...

Here's what I find: In a recipe that uses pureed pumpkin, banana or applesauce, the xanthan gum is not as important because the moisture (and pectin, perhaps?) from the puree really helps the gluten-free flours.

And as for eggs... I'm not a fan of flax seed gel in gluten-free baking because I think it often gives GF vegan baked goods a gummy center. If you like using it, though, I wonder if cutting back on the fat a bit might help the batter from getting too heavy and dense?

Thanks to those who stopped back and shared their changes to the recipe. So many of us have unique needs (and various food allergies) when it comes to baking gluten-free. Sharing your tips really helps others in the same boat.



Nora Q said...

I'm so excited you're moving to LA! I had a hard time moving here because I'm used to being empassioned by my home and city (which used to be Chicago and Montreal - wonderful places) and found I couldn't get the same type of enjoyment in LA - but it opened up a whole new world of self-discovery and personal enjoyment regardless of my surroundings, and now I love LA in a broken, sweet sort of way... like I love it for what it is now, and how it's helped me to grow. And just think of all the great places you can find to eat at that cater to GF and CF diets! It's a life-saver. Welcome to the sun!

Nora Q said...

Haha that came off more negative than I intended! I love LA, and you're going to enjoy it too. Good gluten-free times ahead! :)

taleoftwovegans said...

Finally! I was so happy when I popped on here to read that you are finally able to break free! I am excited to see what the new environment stimulates you to create!
That pumpkin cake looks delicious too, I am loving that we are back into squash season.

cranberrygrower said...

Let me just say " It was the Bomb! Our entire family gobbled it up! Our 7 and 9 year old had two friends spend the night and they gobbled it up! Didn't have a clue!

I bought some variety of " better than cream cheese" at the health store! I was a bit worried....but you couldn't even tell! THIS, I am making AGAIN tonight!!!! It didn't make it to leftovers!

Shawn Sween said...

Thanks for all of your great posts, Karina! I made this cake last night and shared it with our non-GF friends, who all loved it. My kids have wheat allergies but can handle other gluten grains according to our allergist and experience, so I made this with spelt.

We're also egg-free, so I used 1 part Ener-G egg replacer and two parts flax gel to replace the eggs. The cake rose and cooked beautifully with no gummy center. It was an egg-free success!


Karina Allrich said...

Thanks for the fun comments.

Shawn- I am SO happy to hear that you made an egg-free version of this cake. I'm going to try an egg-free version as soon as we are settled in Los Angeles.



Anonymous said...

This was wonderful!!! I read all your feedback on the flour and decided to gamble on using brown rice flour with the 1/4 c. cornstarch. Cake came out WONDERFULLY! No funny texture. Cake was moist and the texture was so smooth I needed to keep reminding myself that I did, indeed, use gluten free ingredients!!

Anonymous said...

Num! I've never really baked anything (pre or post gluten) that didn't come from a box. I cook. I am afraid of baking.

This was my first (gluten free) homemade baking experience and the result: AMAZING! 4 thumbs up (my boyfriend loves it too!)

Thank you. You rock.--- Nikki

(Question: Is there a reason that the middle of my cake sank a little bit?)

Karina Allrich said...

Anon and Nikki- So glad you liked the cake. :-)

Notes to Nikki:

If the oven was not fully pre-heated to proper baking temperature, the cake may not be evenly/thoroughly baked in the center. Or if your oven runs slightly cooler- same. Or your ingredients were cold. Or it is humid and the flours were damp (maybe need 1 tablespoon less liquid). Also- with baking- measurements are pretty critical; best to use dry measuring cups for flour, and liquid for wet, etc.

Hope that helps!


Jennifer said...

I have a dear friend who will be the matron of honour at our wedding in 3 weeks: we're doing cupcakes or bundt cakes instead of the typical wedding cake, and I had planned to bake something specially for Julia as she is both gluten and lactose intolerant: this recipe sounds awesome (I've used some of your recipes before in dinner parties with her: they've all been great successes). Does this cake recipe translate well to cupcakes and/or bundt cakes? Do you know if there's a change/reduction/increase in baking time and temperature?


Anonymous said...

Hi Karina, I just love your site! Thank you so much for posting all your lovely recipes and for sharing your gf cooking experiences. As I am from 'down under' Australia, and we don't have all the same products...i was just wondering if its ok to use gf self raising flour? Also, could you please suggest a recipe for making my own pumpkin pie spice? One more thing, I cant have sugar and usually use maple syrup as a substitute. Will it work in this cake and how much do you suggest I use?

Thanks again,

Debbie xoxo

Anonymous said...

Curious if this could be made with Agave necture? 2 cups of brn sugar & then the 3 cups powdered sugar is...a BIT much.

Anonymous said...

Amazing cake. Made it for Thanksgiving dinner. Terribly moist and delicious.
Thank you!

Queen Snarfy said...

I believe you posted this recipe last year about Thanksgiving time and I made then. LOVED it! It will definitely be on the menu again this year! Thanks for such a fabulous recipe!

Anonymous said...

If this is made as cupcakes, should I use an olive oil spray on the liners so they don't stick... i've been having issues with everything sticking lately (maybe it's because i'm trying to cut down on the oil and use apple sauce instead?). Any thoughts

Karina Allrich said...

I've never used agave in this recipe. You'd have to experiemnt. See my post on subbing sugar for details on how to adjust recipes.

As for batter sticking to liners... possibly less fat makes this happen- I really don't know. I recommend using oil in gluten-free baking. A half cup divided by 12 or 15 servings is really not much oil. Our bodies need healthy oils and fats.

xox Karina

Christine in VA said...

THANK YOU SOOOO much!! I just made these into cupcakes and they are over the top delicious!! I am so thrilled to have a yummy dessert recipe that is gluten free AND just as good as the gluten filled. Thumbs up from all the little ones in our house. ;)
They only took 20 min. to bake as cupcakes.

alyssa said...

I loveee it gluten free but I was wondering if you cvuld u regular and whole wheat flower instead. A friend made it gluten free due to allergies but I'm not allergicc. Help!

Anonymous said...

Do you think you could make this cake in a Bundt pan?

Karina Allrich said...

Alyssa, I develop my recipes gluten-free- I haven't baked with wheat flour in nine years. So I hesitate to even guess how to convert my gluten-free recipe to a whole wheat recipe.

Anon- In theory- yes. What you'll need to do is match the volume of the batter to the correct sized Bundt pan. Compare your other successful Bundt recipes to this one and see if the volume matches.

Cheers! Karina

Karina Allrich said...

Thank you, Christine for stopping back to share the cupcake success! I'll make a note in the recipe. xox Karina

Anonymous said...

I made this cake yesterday and it's delicious! This is probably a silly question, but does the cake need to be refrigerated because of the cream cheese frosting? I hope not . . . I left it out on the counter last night! I hope I didn't ruin this yummy cake!

Karina Allrich said...

Yes- I generally recommend chilling all gluten-free cakes- for up to a day; then I suggest slicing, wrapping and freezing the rest for best taste and texture. That said- you might be all right; the sugar acts as a preservative. I would chill it now, definitely. And freeze leftover pieces by tomorrow. Karina

brittany said...

I just made these today (in cupcake form) - they were phenomenal. A girlfriend of mine was having a Holiday party & she's gluten intolerant so I decided to make these for her. They didn't last 10 minutes - no one even knew they were GF!

Personally I was a little concerned with the initial outcome because I thought they were the tiniest bit grainy but I think it's because I spend entirely too much time around non-GF baked goods. I used King Arthur's GF flour blend & given the reaction of celiac's and wheat eaters alike I am going to continue using it instead of having a million different flours in my tiny kitchen!

THANK YOU GF Goddess!!
Britt :)

Karina Allrich said...

Thanks, Brittany! I'd love to try these as cupcakes. Glad you stopped by to share your success. Much appreciated! xox Karina

brittany said...

PS Mine took 15 or 16 minutes as cupcakes, and were perfectly moist & cooked throughout.

Suse said...

Karina, I just made it for the first time (my son is autistic and we've been on a gluten free diet for a few months now with huge success) and although I haven't had the opportunity to try it yet, it smells delicious, the texture seems wonderful, and I found it difficult getting the frosting from bowl to cake without significant detours to my mouth. Thank you for your beautiful recipes - even though we have only been GF for a short time you've been an inspiration. I'm about to order flours to start baking my own bread, and I'm super excited about it!

Suse said...

To update - this recipe is superb. The flavour and aroma was perfect, the texture was wonderfully moist and dense yet not at all heavy, even using the dreaded generic rice flour blend it was unrecognisable as a gluten free cake, My non-GF friends all loved it, the kids loved it, and best of all, my son thought it was wonderful. This will be made again, and again, and again. Thank you!

Trisaratops said...

Hi Karina! Recently have gone off gluten, soy and dairy - and love your site. Would this cake work as an unfrosted bundt? Or is it too sticky? I thought that's why you suggested the parchment. Happy Thanksgiving!

Karina Allrich said...

Thank you all for the lovely comments! xox

Trisaratops, this might be a little sticky for a bundt pan. I do have a vegan pumpkin bundt cake recipe- I wonder if you could use eggs in that one instead?

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