Pumpkin Cake Bars With Cinnamon Icing

pumpkin cake bars

Pumpkin cake bars. They sound so sweet, don’t they? For me, just the name brings to mind visions of holiday family gatherings peppered with sinful desserts full of sugar, refined grains, and unhealthy fats. Not only is it hard to stay away (so hard that I’m rarely ever successful), but it’s even harder to not pack on the pounds. But you know me, I wouldn’t bring you a recipe like that! These Pumpkin Cake Bars are not only devoid of refined foods, they’re actually grain-free and dairy-free, too.

They’re the perfect alternative to sickly holiday desserts, and you won’t even feel like you’re depriving yourself.

This recipe for Pumpkin Cake Bars was shared by Megan Keatley of Health-Bent. Meagan used to be a pastry chef. These days she’s an avid CrossFitter and healthy, Real Food rebel. She’s also a web designer. Just take a look at her site’s logo, and you’ll already see that we have a lot in common:


Did you miss it? Here’s a hint:

I am a Food RENEGADE!

Now to the recipe for delectable Pumpkin Cake Bars!

Pumpkin Cake Bars with Cinnamon Icing

Yield: 9 bars

The Players

For the Pumpkin Cake
1 c pumpkin puree
1 c almond butter (where to find nut butters from properly soaked nuts)
1/2 c raw honey (where to find raw honey)
2 eggs (from pastured hens!)
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 t vanilla extract
1 t cinnamon (where to buy authentic, fresh, out-of-this world cinnamon)
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t cloves

Click here to find bulk, organic spices online.

For the Cinnamon Icing
1/4 c coconut butter (where to find coconut butter)
1/4 c coconut oil (where to find coconut oil)
1/4 c raw honey (where to find raw honey)
1 t cinnamon

The How-To

For the Pumpkin Cake

Preheat your oven to 350F.
In a medium sized bowl, combine all the cake ingredients and mix thoroughly to combine. Pour into an 8×8 oven safe baking dish (I suspect you could squeeze 12 cupcakes out of this recipe if you use a muffin tin). Bake until completely cooked through, about 30 minutes.

For the Cinnamon Icing

In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and use either your mixing blade attachment or a whisk to beat the ingredients until fluffy.

Once the pumpkin cake has cooled, cut it into 9 squares and remove from the pan. Now…if the cake isn’t completely, 100%, no doubt in your mind, cool you are not allowed to proceed. I’m telling you, if your cake isn’t cool, the icing will just slide right off into a pile of goopiness and all will be wasted. If you haven’t experienced what disastrous-ness comes from not heeded the above warning, you only need try it one time to learn.

Use a small offset spatula or a spoon and drizzle the frosting over the top.

Store the Pumpkin Cake Bars you haven’t immediately annihilated in the fridge. The icing will harden in the fridge, let it come to room temp if you’d like it soft. If you’d like it softer, faster (for the impatient types, like myself) the frosting will melt beautifully if you stick the cake bar in the microwave for 30-45 seconds. Goes great with your morning coffee or tea!

For recipes and practical instructions for eating this way (dairy-free and grain-free), I highly recommend the PaleoGrubs Cookbook.

It’s the simplest way to get started, and it includes every kind of recipe you’ll ever need (more than 470 of them!).

(Click here to check out the PaleoGrubs Cookbook.)



  1. Linda Klukosky says

    I have just found out I have a sensitivity to dairy but eggs are OK. Finding a recipie that doesnt require milk or butter has been so hard. You have answered my prayer!! Thank you!!!!

  2. says

    This sounds really good. What is coconut butter? I’m not familiar with that ingredient – I use coconut oil, flakes, milk, etc., religiously in my diets, but never coconut butter. Or, maybe I’m just familiar with it under a different name.

    I’m going to have to give these a try soon. I’m currently working on some real food pumpkin recipes myself. Tis the season for goodies … just need to make sure they’re REAL goodies!!! 😉

    • Laura says

      I like to make my own coconut butter. Process dried coconut (unsweetened, of course) in a food processor for 15 – 30 minutes. I like to give my food processor a break after about 10 minutes so it doesn’t get too hot. If it’s not getting creamy after 20 mintues, add a dab of coconut oil. More work than just buying a jar, but since my natural food store sells dried coconut for $2.19/pound, I figure the savings make it worth the effort involved.

      • KristenM says

        Great tip, Laura. You must have a workhorse of a food processor! When I first read that “15-30 minutes,” I thought it was a slip and that you really meant seconds. But then you typed it again! You really mean MINUTES. I’d be afraid I’d wear out my food processor’s motor running it like that. I wonder if there’s a way to do it in my kitchen aide? That motor’s built like a rock.

        • Tosha McDugle says

          Easy Peasy in a Vitamix. Just dump a bunch of dried coconut flakes in, push down with tamper while running on high. Wallah! Coconut butter. YUM!!! I eat it by the spoonful…a very mounded Tablespoon full. Ok, now I’ve got to dip into my mason jar full of it. Bye…

  3. says

    So yum!! These look delicious.

    My son has a tree nut allergy – any suggestions for replacing the almond butter?

    Also, what is coconut butter? I use coconut oil regularly. But I’ve not yet heard of coconut butter.

    Thank you for posting this recipe. I might make it my daughter’s 1 yr birthday cake later this month.

  4. says

    These look AMAZING. My BFF recently found out she’s allergic to eggs – could you suggest an alternative? I’ve been using soaked flax seeds to create egg white substitute but I imagine this recipe needs a bit more structure than that.

  5. Betsy says

    I wonder if Tropical Traditions Coconut Cream would work instead of the coconut butter. Has anyone used both and can compare?

  6. says

    Very, very nice! I especially like the icing since we keep bees. 😉 I’ve used sunbutter in place of almond butter in recipes for my support group because we have a member who is allergic to almonds. It works really well. :-)


  7. Alida says

    Hi Kristen! Just became #1,400 to like your Facebook page 8-D! Love your blog so far…very inspiring! I never had anything with pumpkin except an occasional slice of pie every Thanksgiving. This recipe sounds so yummy, thanks for posting! I look forward to reading more!

  8. says

    I’ve made coconut butter and yes it does take about 20 mins, keep scraping coconut down. It starts to melt after a while. It does go hard in the jar though unless it is warm where you are?
    Delicious looking recipe. I don’t eat grains and I am out of ‘baking’ to have with my cup of tea.

  9. says

    I have as whole pumpkin just waiting to be made into something luscious like this! Can’t wait to try it, but not sure I can get coconut butter around here. Might try a substitute and report my results.

    • KristenM says

      So far a couple of comments have already shared about how they MAKE coconut butter from unsweetened dry coconut in their food processors. I’d try that first.

      • says

        Getting unsweetened dry cocnut might be just as challenging! The health food store used to have it, but she stopped carrying it. I’ll be in the “big city” tomorrow and if I can remember will look for the coconut butter.

  10. says

    I had to look twice – I couldn’t believe there wasn’t any flour! These look delicious, and I love the promise of something sweet that won’t make me feel like sleeping for hours only minutes after eating it.

  11. says

    These look great and I am excited to see that they are not only grain free – but also have some volume! I am definitely going to be giving these a shot – I made some pumpkin blondies recently using coconut PB and they were DELICIOUS. So these are my next pumpkin indulgence!

  12. Jennifer says

    Do you think I could use cashew butter? This will be my first venture into grain-free baking this season and already have a snag with daughters problems with almonds….

    • KristenM says

      Jennifer — I’ve substituted cashew butter for almond butter quite well in the past. I think it would work here.

      • says

        It turned out delicious. The butter was about the consistency of pumpkin from a can, just with more flavor. I used concentrated apple cider to make it. I don’t the loaf pan was a great idea. It had to bake much longer to be done all the way thru and it got to dark on the bottom and top. I’d make it again in the cake pan. I also didn’t make the icing, but rather put butter or more pumpkin butter on the slices.

  13. says

    Mine are cooling right now, can’t wait. Do you melt the coconut oil/butter for the frosting? Mine are really hard right now since its so chilly, don’t want to wreck the mixer!

  14. says

    do not melt the coconut oil–i have made that mistake in baking a time or two. both ingredients should be a similar consistency to softened butter.

  15. Meghan says

    These just came out of the oven about 15minutes ago and half the batch is already gone! I made them into 24 mini muffins, the perfect size for my toddlers. They were so, so delicious! I LOVE that they are grain-free too. I skipped the frosting to make them more muffin-like and less cake-like, but they were still super yummy.
    This was my first time making a recipe from your blog, but I’ll be coming back for sure! Thank you!

  16. says

    I don’t usually blog on a Sunday morning, but I made these last night and have to tell you how they turned out.

    Here are some of the comments:
    “This has the best texture for a gluten free baked good that I’ve ever eaten.”

    “Are you sure there isn’t any flour in here? It’s just like cake.”

    Now, I did modify the recipe some. None of use are dairy free, and I *love* dairy, so I used some. Also, I haven’t made my own pumpkin puree in awhile, so I had to use canned. A can of pumpkin is 15 oz. and a jar of almond butter was 16 oz., so I doubled the recipe and used a 9×13 cake pan. I also used a cup of maple syrup instead of honey. This increased the bake time to about 40 minutes.

    For the frosting, I used a 1/2 cup of softened butter, 1/2 cup of softened cream cheese, 1/3-1/2 cup honey (I was eyeballing it at this point), 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.

    The deliciousness is amazing. In fact, I may have a piece for breakfast right now. Thank you so much for a wonderful recipe that my gluten-free friends can enjoy as much as I do!

  17. Kristi says

    These are amazing! I doubled the recipe and used a 9.5 x 14″ pan and they turned out great. Brought them to the gym to share following the WOD and everyone loved them!! Thanks so much for all your yummy recipes :)

  18. says

    OK, my frosting is NOT white, like your picture! The cinnamon has tinted it. Not that color matters, but it’s not whipping up into a frosting yet. I’ll give it some more time, but then I’ve GOT to try one!

    Monica-I’m going to try your version too!

    • KristenM says

      You may be over-beating the frosting. Coconut butter & oil will get creamy, but not as fluffy as a normal icing. They’re also very heat-sensitive (heat them too much and they’ll turn to liquid). So, I’d try cooling everything *really* well (but not so cold that it turns solid again), then gently beating it until everything’s well mixed.

      • says

        I warmed the oil enough to liquefy so I could measure-our house doesn’t get more than 65 this time of year. I realized while mixing that it probably shouldn’t be this warm, so I tried cooling it, but it never really mixed together. I’m using it as an additive to my morning smoothie instead of on the pumpkin bars!

  19. erica says

    These are in the oven right now. I substituted Sunbutter for the almond butter and doubled the recipe. I also used raw, unprocessed honey, which I had to soften. I keep reading the comments and I’m salivating while they bake. I don’t know if I can wait until they cool…

  20. Catherine says

    I have been wanting to make these forever. I have not been able to find coconut butter but today I found a jar of Nutiva Coconut Manna at Whole Foods. Does anyone know if coconut manna can be substituted for the coconut butter for the icing? It says on the label that it is the ‘ideal everything cream that can replace butter.’ Looking forward to any suggestions, thank you!

  21. says

    Just made these for my son’s 2nd birthday.

    Great recipe. I can see using it as a base and adding raisins, grated zucchini and chopped walnuts to make a hearty cake bar.

    I topped them with the cream cheese icing recipe on health bent and it was SO GOOD!

  22. says

    Do you think peanut butter would work instead? I don’t have any of those other kinds of nut or seed butters. I’d like to give it a try but I really don’t want to waste all those ingredients if it’s likely to be gross!

    • Lynn Zeiner says

      I just made it with peanut butter (all-natural, no added sugars) from Trader Joe’s and subbed sucanat for honey because I didn’t have enough honey and it turned out good. The peanut butter has a stronger taste but the combo is still tasty and the cake has an awesome texture!

  23. Katie says

    Do you think the overall product would change significantly if I substituted agave for the honey? alternatively, I have plenty of regular honey, but I’m not sure how that differs…any help would be much appreciated. Can’t wait to try this!

  24. Leanne says

    These look great.
    I made your pumpkin custard yesterday and thought it was delicious. My kids are going to take a little more time to come around but eventually, when there’s nothing junky in the house they’ll love it.

  25. Judith says

    I follow the SCD – do you think these would turn out if I omitted the baking podwer which is not allowed on the SCD?

  26. says

    Loved these! Thank you so much for the recipe. I am trying to create/brainstorm other recipes to put that frosting on – yum – since it’s probably not so good to eat it by the spoonful. Wondering if anyone has substituted the pumpkin for apple, banana, or some other fruit or veggie and if so, how that worked out.

  27. says

    Your pages are THE most interesting, informative and just-plain-fun pages I have ever encountered. Thank you for all the work you put into making them so. I am allergic to gluten, dairy, lactose and soy, and I always find something here to try. Thanks so much!

  28. Ashley says

    Holy calories Batman!
    These are amazing, but definitely not a low calorie food. I made them thinking they would be healthier because of the ingredients and then looked at the calories for everything and couldn’t believe it. I guess it’s better than a cake with refined sugars and other bad stuff in it, and they are quite delicious, but oy!
    pumpkin puree- 80 calories per cup
    honey- 515 calories per 1/2 cup!
    almond butter- roughly 1600 calories in a cup!
    2 large eggs- about 147 calories

    That’s 260 calories per serving (1/9 servings), adding up the carbs in each of those and dividing by 9 I got about 23.

    • Karly says

      Dear Ashley…

      If you are counting calories you must not be familiar with the way of life into which you stumbled to find this recipe. 😉 Nobody here does that. We eat real food. We are healthier because of it. I don’t care if Sugar-free Jello only has 10 calories! That isn’t food! And it sure isn’t going to help anybody out in the long run!

      Please, go read this site some more. 😉

  29. says

    I made these minus the icing. I could of easily ate the entire pan! I would love to share your site. We have a large community all doing g well eating paleo. Keep up good work!

  30. lori says

    these bars sound delish & i want to try them out…however, i am not a fan of honey at all. any suitable substitutions since it’s called for in the bar & also the frosting? or is the honey not really tasted in either the bar or frosting? thanks!

  31. Linda says

    These look and sound SOOOO yummy! Will have to find a substitute for the almond butter but should be easy enough. Must make these soon!!!! Thanks for sharing this!!!

  32. Sarah says

    This is so delicious and truly is better than traditional pumpkin bread!

    It was my first time baking sans any type of flour whatsoever. The almond butter (homemade in Vitamix a few min before) gave it a very creamy texture. I was impressed how much the cake rose and how fluffy it was.

    Going to make this again during the holidays for the fam! And I can’t wait to try it with a pecan butter!

  33. Vee says

    OMG! this cake is so ONO! I made it with almond flour because i dont have almond butter. It turned out really yummy and moist. I made one with raw honey and one with maple syrup. the one with honey is more tasty. Thnk you for sharing this recipe with us.

  34. Melisa says

    I made this for dinner tonight. I did not at all know what to expect because there was no flour of any kind in it. I just didn’t understand how it was going to turn out and look so cakeish like your photo. Well it was so good! It is kind of a mix between a pumpkin pie and a souffle type of thing. Thanks! Didn’t make the frosting cuz I don’t have coco butter but it didn’t need it.

  35. Anne Cohen says

    These were DELICIOUS! I just started paleo and was in need of something sweet, and these totally filled the spot! I added more spices, about double what was in the recipe, and didn’t put on any frosting because I don’t have the coconut oil or coconut butter and they are still FABULOUS!

    Thanks SOOO much for posting! I plan to make these at Thanksgiving for my non-Paleo visiting adult children. I’m not going to tell them they are flourless, and see what they think!

  36. says

    Well- yeah these were out of this world!!! What a great recipe combination!!! We are on the GAPS diet and this was SUCH a treat. I tested them out sunday to make sure they would make the thanksgiving menu- and they SURE do! To make it GAPS friendly I omitted baking powder, and did 1 tsp baking soda(some people disagree as to whether this is GAPS friendly…we fall on the side that it is!) ALSO- this was an extra unneccesary step- but I had two egg whites in the fridge that I didn’t want to go bad, so I whipped those up very fluffy, and added those to the icing! It was nice and tall on the bars ( I could have piped it out) and held its shape for a couple of days! Shared them with non-traditional food neighbors and they were AMAZED at how good they tasted! Thanks!

  37. says

    Yum! This pumpkin cake is amazing. I just made this last night. I used hazelnut butter instead of almond (because of an allergy to almonds) for the cake and it was perfect. It’s a soft moist cake with a great flavor. For the icing, due to a coconut allergy, I used with the exact same proportions in the original recipe: cashew butter, grass-fed butter, honey, and cinnamon. This also came out great and perfectly balanced the flavors in the cake.
    Thanks :)

  38. Erin says

    The cake was great, but the icing was just not happening. It tasted lovely, but the coconut butter and the coconut oil were not blending. I made my coconut butter in the food processor which came out with an excellent creamy consistency, but trying to combine the two was not happening. I used the paddle attachment and whisk on my mixer, tried room temp, slightly warm, and chilled…everything that I could think of. I am experienced in making my own icings with actual butter, so I am familiar with the consistency and icing making process. Also the honey and cinnamon darkens the icing to be brown like the cake. I am not sure how that photo got that white icing out of this recipe. Maybe I just went wrong somewhere. Does anyone have a good suggestion for keeping the cake from sticking to the pan without using butter? I have no objections to butter, but for this recipe I really wanted to try not using any dairy at all.

    • Rae says

      Hi Erin,
      I make mine in paper lined cupcakes and they come out perfectly. The recipe makes a full dozen cakes, I just decrease the baking time to about 22-25 minutes. I haven’t made the icing before because I couldn’t find coconut butter, and really these cakes are devoured so fast I really don’t think we need any :o)

  39. says

    I love the idea and all the ingredients but I can’t get over the amount of sugar in them from the honey. Do you think I could make them with stevia and if so any ideas how to do a swap out?

    • Lizzie says

      I cut the total sweetener in the cake bars down to 2 1/3 tbsp, didn’t make the icing, and they still tasted delicious! Not super sweet but just enough to bring out the pumpkin and spices – definitely still passed for a dessert. I used 1 tbsp sucanat and 4 tsp honey.

  40. Michelle says

    Since you are pointing out the most beneficial ingredients, maybe you should also mention to use Ceylon cinnamon, not the common Cassia cinnamon!

  41. Kristen says

    These look fantastic! :) I can’t wait to try them — I think I’m going to do some mini-muffins. I recently made some flourless chocolate muffins with nut butter and couldn’t believe how light and fluffy they turned out!

    • Kristen says

      I changed my mind and made regular sized muffins — I was able to make 12. Instead of making icing, I sprinkled a few dairy-free chocolate chips on top before I baked them. Yum! :)

  42. says

    I made these yesterday – I added some ground ginger and some chopped walnuts and made them into muffins. I also omitted the frosting. They are fantastic!! I know this is going to be a recipe I will be making often. Thanks for sharing it!

  43. says

    I love all of the real food baking recipes – except I have a tree nut and peanut allergy in my family. Suggestions for replacing almond and all nut butters in baking please! Would be appreciated :-)

  44. marian says

    These bars are amazing. The cake and icing go so well together. It’s so soft, creamy, and yummy. I made these with half the amount of honey and added a tiny pinch of salt to the cake batter because I don’t have a sweet tooth. The subtle flavors of the spices really come through. Thank you for the recipe, will definitely make these again!

  45. Becky says

    Loved this recipe… Didn’t have all of the spices but used extra cinnamon and cloves.. Plus I decide to use some paleo chocolate chips… I also made the 12 cupcakes for an even 30 minutes and let them cool completely… My children even loved them.. Will definitely make these for thanksgiving.. Didn’t make the frosting because I felt like they were good without it..

  46. Tanya says

    I have made these in the past with the honey and everyone loved them….I have been limiting my carb intake and tried stevia instead of honey. They came out fantastic. I used 1 1/2 teaspoons of lemon stevia from Wisdom Naturals and this worked out perfectly. Even using the stevia in the frosting. Using the stevia brought the carb count down to 10 per cupcake at 12 cupcakes per recipe. Very, very delicious!

  47. karen says

    these sound great! i’m going to try. but please delete that microwave suggestion at the end. microwaves damage the structure of the food.

  48. Leslie says

    Loved the pumpkin cake reciepe but the icing did not turn out like the picture. I Tried two times. Both attempts the icing was not white but brown. Plus the coconut oil was not blending to other ingredients. What did I do wrong? Also why is the icing not white like the picture?

  49. Gina says

    What am I doing wrong with the frosting? It is a mess. Separated and won’t blend together well. I tried 2 separate times to make it and never would mix together for me. I used hand whisk and then beaters then next time. Also my frosting was brown from cinamom. What frosting did you use in the picture? Thanks. I’m new to all this paleo cooking and need all the help I can get lol

  50. Traci says

    Made this for my son’s 3rd birthday and we all loved it! It was so moist and delicious! We’re on GAPS now so we omitted the baking powder and increased the baking soda to a bit under a tsp (like someone else mentioned). Took about 2 TBS of honey out of the cake and will take out some more next time. I didn’t measure the frosting so maybe I under estimated b/c I didn’t have enough to do the whole cake. I left the cinnamon out and it was still amazing. No problem with the consistency or ingredients mixing as others mentioned. I made the coconut butter by blending dried coconut flakes in my food processor (only took about 5 mins). That hardened overnight and my coconut oil is solid now too, so I put them in a Pyrex bowl on my warming burner (med setting). Once they had softened, but not completely melted I put them in my Kitchen Aid with the whisk attachment and definitely not a full 1/4 C of honey as it was so divine already. We’ll be making this again for sure :-)

  51. Erin B. says

    THANK YOU for posting this recipe, Kristen. This is the best cake recipe I have ever tried. I will be making it forever. I found out I was wheat intolerant in 2004, so I haven’t really had a good cake since then. I’m not an avid baker either, so I’m grateful how easy and fast this is.

    Today I experimented with a chocolate version and it was indistinguishable from a flour cake. My husband is so impressed with how light and fluffy it is! I whisked together enough unsweetened cocoa powder and raw milk (maybe water would work, too?) to get one cup of chocolate concoction, subbed that for the pumpkin puree, and left out the spices. For the icing, I subbed 3 tbsp. unsw. cocoa powder for the cinnamon. Bon appetit.

  52. Deviny says

    I understand that heating honey makes it toxic to the body, so I’ve quit using it in my baking, and only use raw honey as a sweetener after something’s been cooked. This might be a good foodrenegade topic to research for a future article. Also, I recently tried Xylitol, only to find my body cannot process alcohol sugar (worst bloating ever). Thus, I am back to using sugar, but limit my intake and substitute applesauce and bananas whenever possible.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>