This easy vegan pumpkin cake is extra fluffy and topped with vegan cream cheese icing. It’s baked in a large sheet pan, then cut into bars for a sweet and nicely spiced fall treat you can feed to a crowd.
When you need a crowd-pleasing dessert for the holidays, turn to these Vegan Pumpkin Cake Bars! They’re fluffy, soft, moist, and packed with delicious pumpkin spice.
As a finishing touch, the vegan pumpkin cake is decorated with the same “cream cheese” frosting used on my Vegan Pumpkin Cookies. It’s just as easy to make as vegan buttercream but contains one secret ingredient to help it taste exactly like the real thing.
This is the best vegan pumpkin spice cake because it’s:
- Incredibly fluffy and moist: The pumpkin cake bars have a light crumb, are full of warm pumpkin spice flavors, and taste deliciously moist and fluffy. This to-die-for texture is all thanks to the pumpkin puree, coconut oil, and other simple baking staples in the batter!
- Decorated with vegan cream cheese frosting: This magically sweet and tangy frosting tastes like a real cream cheese icing, but isn’t made with any vegan cream cheese. The secret? Apple cider vinegar. It’s incredible!
- A tasty fall and winter dessert: This recipe makes 20 cake bars. That’s a lot! Thankfully, this means you’ll have enough treats to bring to the Thanksgiving, Christmas, or holiday party.
Ingredients needed (with substitutions)
- Ground flaxseeds – You’ll need these to make the flax eggs, which will help bind the batter together. Chia seeds can be used as an alternative.
- Canned pumpkin puree – Make sure you buy canned pure pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling. The latter is better suited in a pumpkin pie.
- Coconut oil – Make sure to use refined coconut oil to avoid a coconut flavor in the pumpkin cake. If you don’t have coconut oil, use canola oil, avocado oil, or melted vegan butter instead.
- Granulated sugar – White sugar, cane sugar, and coconut sugar are all great options.
- All purpose flour – I always end up with a light and fluffy cake when I use all purpose flour. I haven’t tested this recipe with a gluten free flour, but a quality Gluten Free Flour Mix should work just fine.
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Vegan butter – This is the base of the vegan cream cheese frosting.
- Powdered sugar – Don’t leave this out. Without the powdered sugar, the cream cheese icing won’t taste sweet enough or be sturdy enough for frosting.
- Apple cider vinegar – Adding vinegar to the frosting produces that tangy flavor you’d find in a traditional cream cheese icing. Apple cider vinegar is the best option because it’s mild and pairs well with the warm spices, but lemon juice would also make a suitable substitution.
- Vanilla extract
- Non-dairy milk – Any unsweetened non-dairy milk can be used to thin out the frosting.
How to make vegan pumpkin cake
Find the complete printable recipe with measurements in the recipe card below.
Make the flax eggs by whisking the ground flaxseed and water together in a small bowl. Set it aside to thicken.
Next, whisk the pumpkin puree, coconut oil, sugar, and flax eggs together in a large bowl. Sprinkle the flour on top. Then add the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Mix until just combined.
Pour the cake batter onto a greased jelly roll pan. Spread it out to touch the edges of the pan and smooth into an even layer.
Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let it cool while you make the icing.
Use a handheld or standing mixer to beat the softened vegan butter until it’s creamy and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, apple cider vinegar, and vanilla and beat until the icing is smooth and creamy. You can add one tablespoon of milk at a time until you reach the desired consistency.
Once the cake is fully cool, spread the frosting on top. Cut the cake into bars, then enjoy!
I haven’t tested it but the batter should be able to be used to make pumpkin cupcakes too! Make the batter as normal and pour it into a lined regular-sized cupcake tin. Bake at 350ºF for 15 to 20 minutes.
Frequently asked questions
- What size cake pan do I need? This sheet cake is baked in a 15 x 10 jelly roll pan, which holds a lot of batter. If you don’t want to make as many cake bars, cut the recipe in half and bake the batter in a 9 x 13 inch cake pan.
- Can I make a layered cake instead? Yes. This recipe makes enough batter for two round 9-inch cake pans.
- How do you store the cake bars? The frosted pumpkin cake bars can be stored in a covered container at room temperature for 2 to 3 days or in the fridge for 4 to 5 days.
- Can you freeze the cake? Yes, the cake freezes well with or without the frosting.
Want more vegan pumpkin desserts?
- Pumpkin Coffee Cake
- Vegan Pumpkin Cupcakes
- Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Vegan Pumpkin Roll
- Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake
- Starbucks Copycat Vegan Pumpkin Scones
Vegan Pumpkin Cake Bars
- 2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds
- 5 tablespoons water
- 15 ounces canned pumpkin puree
- 1 cup melted coconut oil*
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) vegan butter, softened
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1-2 tablespoons non-dairy milk, as needed
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a jelly roll pan (15 x 10 inches). Set aside.
- Mix the ground flaxseed and water in a small bowl and set aside to make your flax eggs.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, coconut oil, sugar and flax eggs until smooth.
- Now add the flour to the wet ingredients. Sprinkle the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt on top of the flour and mix with a large spoon until just combined.
- Pour into the prepared pan and smooth out evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely before frosting.
- Make the Frosting: Using a hand mixer, beat the softened vegan butter for about 2 minutes until creamy, then add the powdered sugar, apple cider vinegar and vanilla and beat everything together until smooth and creamy, adding a tablespoon of non-dairy milk at a time as needed. If you add too much milk and it gets runny, you will need to add more powdered sugar.
- Once the cake is cooled completely, frost the cake, cut into bars and serve. Enjoy!
- Use refined coconut oil if you don’t want a coconut taste. May also substitute canola oil, avocado oil or melted vegan butter. You could probably use 1/2 applesauce and 1/2 oil to cut down on the fat but it will affect the overall flavor and taste of the cake.
- I haven’t made these gluten free, but like most of my cake recipes a quality Gluten Free Flour Mix would likely work just fine.
- This recipe makes a lot of bars (20) so if you want less feel free to cut the ingredients in half and make it in a 9 x 13 inch cake pan.
- Make sure the cake is completely cooled before frosting so it doesn’t melt. You can speed up the process by placing the cake in the refrigerator.
- Store leftover cake bars on the counter for 2-3 days, covered, or in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. They can also be frozen with or without the frosting.
Is there cream cheese in the cream cheese frosting? I’m so confused…
No there is not. I talk about it in the post. It’s a vegan buttercream based frosting that has a special ingredient to give it a little tang. If you want, you can top them with my Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting that DOES have vegan cream cheese in it.
I made this for a church fellowship and everyone loved it, even the little ones! I used King Arthur’s 1:1 gluten free flour substitute and used 1/3 cup of applesauce and 2/3 cup of canola oil in replacement of the coconut oil. I also swapped the nutmeg for pumpkin pie spice. For the frosting, I used Good and Gather’s plant based butter sticks. Also added a sprinkle of cinnamon on top of the frosting. Baked a full recipe in a glass 9×13 pan at 350 then dropped the temp to 325 after about 10 minutes and baked it for about a total of 20-25 minutes. I used the extra batter to make mini baked donuts. Thanks for this awesome recipe! So yummy and versatile!
Hi Camille. You are welcome! Fantastic that the cake bars were a hit! Thanks for sharing your tips and great feedback!
I can’t speak to the icing because my kids forgot to bring the vegan cream cheese for Thanksgiving. But the cake even without icing is delicious. It’s somewhat dense and very moist and perfectly pumpkin-y. With the icing, I think it would be an excellent (easier!) substitute for pumpkin roll. Definitely a keeper!
These are SO good! Ultra moist cake and the frosting is delicious! I will definitely be making these over and over again
I’m so happy you loved them! These are one of my favorites! Thank you for your wonderful feedback!
I love your recipes, I wasn’t sure about the apple cider vinegar but people loved it.
Thanks for sharing your creations
Hi Angelica. You are welcome! I’m thrilled the cake bars were a hit! Thank you for your great feedback – and for using my recipes!
Made it gluten free and as cupcakes and it came out fantastic! Used bobs 1 to 1 gluten free blend and baked 20 minutes
So glad it worked out for you, Lisa! Thank you for your wonderful feedback and review!
How many eggs would this use in not doing a substitute?
Hi Ko. The substitute would be 2 eggs. I do not bake with eggs, so have not tested this, however, I believe eggs should work. Happy baking!