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.

3 vegan pumpkin cake bars stacked on top of each other.

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.
a pumpkin cake bar with cream cheese frosting on top with a bite taken out of it.

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.
  • Water
  • 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
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Salt
  • 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!

overhead view of vegan pumpkin cake bars with cream cheese frosting on top.

Pumpkin cupcakes

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.
a vegan pumpkin cake bar with cream cheese frosting on top.

Want more vegan pumpkin desserts?

3 vegan pumpkin cake bars stacked on top of each other.
4.95 stars (55 ratings)

Vegan Pumpkin Cake Bars

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.
Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 25 mins
Cooling time: 30 mins
Total: 1 hr 10 mins
Servings: 20 slices

Ingredients 
 

Pumpkin Cake

Frosting

  • 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

Instructions 

  • 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!

Notes

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 
  5. 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. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 236kcal | Carbohydrates: 45g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 189mg | Potassium: 123mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 33g | Vitamin A: 3309IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 38mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Nora Taylor
Did you make this recipe?Mention @nora_cooks_vegan_ or tag #noracooks!

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Comments

  1. Fantastic cake! You won’t be disappointed. I made chocolate icing and sprinkled coconut on top. Great combo of flavors.

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the pumpkin cake bars! Thank you for taking your time to share your great review and comments!

  2. After the success I had with your amazing apple fritters, I decided to try another one of your sweet recipes. I’m so glad I did because these are quick to put together and they taste DELICIOUS! I used half grape seed oil and half coconut oil, and I halved the recipe and used a 9×13 glass pan. They were ready in exactly 20 minutes. I also want to add that the ACV trick blew my mind! Every time I take a bite, I think- wow, that tastes just like cream cheese! You’re a vegan recipe master! ?

    1. Thank you for your kind words! I am thrilled that you loved the pumpkin cake bars! I appreciate you taking your time to share your wonderful review and comments!

  3. I was hesitant to try this as there was no acid (vinegar/buttermilk) to create the fluffiness characteristic of non-vegan cakes, but the batter rose very well and the bars have a great texture! I cut the sugar down by 1/3 c and swapped some of the oil for applesauce, all with great success. As with every Nora recipe, it’s magnificent!

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words and wonderful review! I’m thrilled that the pumpkin bars turned out great for you and that you love them!

  4. Best cake ever! I used canola oil and made it in a 9×13 pan with the full recipe just baked about 5-10 minutes longer. It came out so moist!! So flavorful and perfect for a fall treat. Frosting is amazing, what a great idea with the ACV for “cream cheese” flavor! Totally worked out 

    1. Thanks Katie! I’m glad you loved the pumpkin cake bars! I appreciate you taking your time to share your great review and comments!

  5. Amazing! I used a 13×18 but otherwise followed the instructions, using the canola oil option. Haven’t tried a bad Nora recipe yet lol

    1. Hi Sarah. I’m glad you loved the pumpkin cake bars! Thank you for using my recipes, and for taking your time to share!

  6. I learned of this recipe over the summer and made it twice in autumn! Literally my favourite autumn treat. Today I had some over ripe bananas, but didn’t want to risk making a dry banana bread… so I turned to this trusty recipe as a base! I swapped the pumpkin out for the bananas and added a cinnamon streusel on top instead of the buttercream. It came out perfectly!! Two big thumbs up for this recipe. Well done!

  7. Currently making this for the fifth time this holiday season. It is always a huge hit and no one ever guesses that it is vegan! I usually cut the frosting down a bit… it is delicious, but very sweet. 

    1. I haven’t tried it but I’m sure it would work. They would just need probably around 15-20 minutes to be done in cupcake form. Thanks!

  8. I’m a tough critic when it comes to recipes and I’m not a great baker BUT this is absolutely the best CAKE recipe period! Even the frosting is delicious! Between my roommate and I, we’ve eaten the whole thing within 2 days…you’ve been warned! 

  9. I made this as a pre Thanksgiving treat and it was absolutely delicious ! The frosting was right on! It is a new favorite in our family.
    Thank you!

  10. Made these bars for Thanksgiving exactly as written and they are ahhmazing. The cake is fantastic but it’s the frosting that blew me away. So good. Thank you!

  11. I did not put the frosting on. What a delicious pumpkin bar! I am the only vegan in my family. I did not tell them it was vegan and they all loved it!

  12. I just made a double batch of these with homegrown pumpkin and half coconut and half avocado oil. I also used half brown sugar bc I ran out of white. They came out amazing!!

  13. This recipe is amazing!  So so good.  I love the icing.  I substituted 1/4 cup applesauce for the 1/2 cup coconut oil and added a little pumpkin pie spice and a tad bit of brown sugar to the cake recipe.  I also used 2 eggs instead of the flax eggs.  I used loaf pans and made this into a layer cake with icing between layers.  It was amazing!  My kids won’t stop eating it.  Perfect pumpkin pie replacement for a GF family!!!!!!  Thanks for this recipe.  It’s a keeper!  

  14. These are the best! The frosting is a miracle, tastes like it has cream cheese in it. I made a half recipe in a 9×13 pan and they were perfect. Thank you! 

  15. Hello and thank you for all of your great recipes . My pumpkin cake bar came out way too moist…what do you think I did wrong or miscalculated? Thank you.

    1. You are welcome! Did you make any substitutions with flour, or use homemade pumpkin or anything like that? It’s hard to know without being there with you. But if you made any changes, I suggest making it exactly as written for best results. Thanks!

  16. The cake turned out really well. I used grape seeds oil because we also follow a buy local diet and coconuts don’t grow in Canada. The substitution did not work for the icing. Looking for a soy free plant base alternative made and grown in Eastern Canada or bordering states (New England)

  17. Everyone make this recipe! SOOOO good! Everyone at my birthday party was raving about how good it is and the frosting is the best ever! This recipe is definitely going in the recipe box! We made it into a cake by using two round cake pans, doubling the frosting recipe and creating a double layered round cake.

  18. Omg these are amazing. I’ve never made them before and don’t bake that often.  I tend to mess up baking for whatever reason. 

    I melted soy free earth balance – about 3/4 cup and then added unsweetened apple sauce until I hit about a cup. Was going to half the recipe because I wanted to make sure it would turn out but then I figured whatever I’ll just make the whole thing. Made in a 9×13 pan – at 20 minutes they were rising but very wet. By 30 minutes they were pulling away from the pan and the fork came out dry so I pulled them. Couldn’t resist trying a small piece. Wow. Don’t even need frosting but I’m making it anyway:-) so good and not gummy at all. Thank you. 

  19. These were seriously incredible. I had my doubts after some failed experiences with flax eggs, and the cake batter was a little suspiciously thick before baking, but this cake came out moist, flavorful, and the perfect level of sweetness and pumpkin flavor. I’ve tried a lot of vegan frostings and this one is the best one I’ve ever made- who knew using apple cider vinegar would be such a nice touch? Definitely will make again and will be using this icing as my go-to!

  20. Delicious! I halved the recipe, used 1 egg( no flax seeds in the fridge or other subs in the fridge) used about 2/3 cup of sugar, 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice; the remaining ingredients were halved. The only change (other than halving) to the frosting, was to add a dash of pumpkin pie spice to the mix…so good! Thanks for the recipe, the kids love it!

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