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Gluten-free stollen bread partially sliced in several pieces, displayed on a board surrounded by berries, pine cones and oranges

Gluten-free pumpkin dessert bars consist of layers of sponge cake, pumpkin spiced puree and cream cheese frosting with candied roasted pecans.

If you are looking for a light and refreshing dessert this festive season that is bursting with warm spices and pumpkin sweetness, these layered fluffy pumpkin dessert bars will add a magic finale to your meal.

Now there is a bit of work to make this dessert, but I have made the recipe as easy to follow as possible by starting off with preparing the fresh pumpkin puree to the last step of frosting the dessert.

This recipe includes steps to make the sponge cake base, fresh pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, pumpkin filling, cream cheese frosting and candied roasted pecans.

About each layer:
GLUTEN-FREE CAKE BASE

This is a gluten-free sponge cake that is made with separated eggs, flour, sugar and vanilla. There is no butter in this cake base. The sponge is very similar to the base used in my Tres Leches Cake. It is incredibly light and absorbs some of the pumpkin filling effectively to seal the layers together.

PUMPKIN FILLING

Fresh Pumpkin

Fresh is best when it comes to choosing fresh pumpkin flesh versus tinned pumpkin puree. As it is pumpkin season during this time of the year, there shouldn’t be a problem finding pumpkins at the supermarket.

Eggs

The separated eggs give a fluffy texture to the filling and the festive spices come from the pumpkin spice blend consisting of mainly cinnamon and nutmeg.

Pumpkin Pie Spices

Making your own spice blend is straightforward with spices you probably already have in your cupboards, otherwise, there are plenty of store-bought spice blends available to choose from.

 

What is Evaporated Milk?

Evaporated milk is tinned, highly concentrated, long-life milk, known in some countries as “unsweetened condensed milk. Adding it to this dessert gives a unique flavour and consistency. If you have trouble finding evaporated milk, making your own is possible by slowly boiling down 600ml of either full-fat or low-fat regular milk until it is reduced by half to make 300ml.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

A classic cream cheese frosting completes the third layer in this dessert. Using plain cream cheese, the frosting has very little sugar to balance the rest of the sweetness in the other layers. Make sure to taste it before frosting and adjust the flavours according to your taste by either adding more sugar or sour cream.

CANDIED ROASTED PECANS

A word of warning about these pecans…they are addictive and so good!! Make a larger batch to eat on the side and most importantly to sprinkle on the dessert.

The recipe indicates to use either maple or rice syrup. After testing the pecans with both syrups, I couldn’t really notice the difference in taste. If you are looking for a lower sugar content syrup, choose the rice syrup which only has 54g per 100g compared to 84g for maple syrup.

 

Deep Baking Tin

Before starting to make this dessert, make sure you have a large enough and most importantly, deep enough baking tin as the dessert bars measure 5 to 6 cm in height. My tin also came with a fitted raised lid, super handy for storing in the fridge.

 

If you want perfectly cut bars, refrain from adding the pecan nuts until after cutting, so that the nuts are out of the way when slicing through the cake and frosting.

Gluten-Free PUMPKIN DESSERT BARS

by Sandra - Fun Without Gluten
There is some extra work involved compared to the packaged and tinned pumpkin version of this dessert, but believe me, it is worth the effort, plus it's 100% gluten-free and even butter-free!
This recipe includes steps to make the sponge cake base, fresh pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, pumpkin filling, cream cheese frosting and candied roasted pecans.
Despite the many ingredients used, this dessert is sensationally light and fluffy and once made, it keeps for several days chilled, ready for serving at a moment’s notice.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 40 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Chilling Time for perfectly cut bars 2 hrs
Total Time 3 hrs 25 mins
Course baking, Dessert, Festive, Kids' Snacks
Cuisine American, Canadian, Festive
Servings 10 Dessert Bars

Equipment

Ingredients
  

Pumpkin Filling

  • 380 g fresh pumpkin puree
  • 1 tbsp store-bought pumpkin pin spice or homemade pumpkin pie spice
  • ¾ tsp sea salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 75 g light or dark brown sugar
  • 3 egg whites
  • 300 ml tinned evaporated milk see intro notes re substitute

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend (measured for the filling & pecans)

  • 1 tbsp cinnamon powder
  • ¾ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp allspice
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 pinch of ground cardamom

Gluten-Free Cake Base

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 135 g white/caster sugar
  • 135 g store-bought or homemade gluten-free plain flour
  • tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 egg whites
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Melted butter to brush the cake tin base

Candied Roasted Pecans

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 300 g plain cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 70 g icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 2-4 tbsp sour cream

Instructions
 

PUMPKIN FILLING

    Preparing the fresh pumpkin puree beforehand:

    • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
    • Remove the rind and any seeds from the pumpkin and cut them into 5 cm chunks. Do not use any stringy flesh.
    • Add the pumpkin chunks to the weighing scale until it reaches the weight indicated in the ingredients list.
      Preparing the fresh pumpkin to make the puree
    • Transfer the pumpkin to the pot and simmer on medium heat for 20 mins or until easily pierced with a fork.
    • Drain the water from the pumpkin and mash to a smooth pulp either using a potato masher or handheld blender.
    • Allow to cool down while preparing the rest of the filling.

    Preparing the rest of the pumpkin filling:

    • Separate the eggs and place the egg whites in a deep glass bowl. Set aside.
    • Beat the egg yolks with the brown sugar until creamy and thick.
    • Add and combine the cooled pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice and salt.
    • While mixing add the evaporated milk until thoroughly incorporated.
    • Return to the egg whites and whisk until soft peaks form.
    • Fold the egg whites into the pumpkin mixture gently. Set aside while preparing the cake base.

    Gluten-Free CAKE BASE

    • Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
    • Line a deep baking tin with baking paper allowing the sides to hang over the edges.
    • Brush the base with some melted butter (not the sides). This gives a nice golden and crisp base to the slice, otherwise, it will appear soggy, although still edible!
    • In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks for 2 minutes.
    • Add the sugar and beat for 3 minutes or until it appears thick and resembles a pale lemon colour.
    •  Fold in the flour, a third at a time.
    • In another bowl, whisk the egg whites and salt at medium speed until soft peaks appear.
      The softly whisked egg whites for the pumpkin dessert bars
    • Add the vanilla extract and whisk in for a few seconds.
    • Fold only a third of the whites into the yolk mixture, before folding in the remaining whites.
      Combining the cake mixture together
    • Spread the batter into the prepared tin.
      The cake batter in the cake tin
    • Bake for 5 mins on the middle shelf and turn the oven temperature down to 160°C/320°F.

    Baking the Pumpkin Filling

    • Pour the prepared pumpkin filling over the cake base and bake for 40 mins. The cake base may rise slightly into the pumpkin mixture, but this is a good thing as it seals the two layers together while baking.
    • Wiggle the tin gently to check if the filling is set. Cook slightly longer and if needed, cover the tin with some foil.
    • Leave the oven on to roast the pecans.
    • Allow to cool down slightly before adding the cream cheese frosting and pecans.
      Baked pumpkin dessert bar in the cake tin

    CANDIED ROASTED PECANS

    • Line a baking tray with a sheet of baking paper.
      Salt and pumpkin pie spice next to the pecans before roasting them
    • Scatter the pecans on the tray and drizzle them with the syrup.
    • Using a fork, toss and turn the pecans in the syrup and sprinkle them at the same time with pumpkin pie spice and salt.
      Drizzling and seasoning the pecans before roasting them
    • Bake for 10 mins, turning them over halfway through baking.
    • Allow to cool before transferring to a bowl. Set aside to decorate the pumpkin slice later.
      The candied roasted pecans on a tray

    CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

    • Beat the room-temperature cream cheese with the sifted icing sugar until smooth.
    • Add the vanilla, salt and sour cream.
    • Taste and add more flavouring or salt if needed.
    • If the frosting appears too thin, add some extra icing sugar or if available, more cream cheese. Adding too much icing sugar will result in the pumpkin slice becoming too sweet, so if you prefer a less sweet slice, opt for the cream cheese as a thickener.
    • Spread the cream cheese frosting over the pumpkin slice.
    • Scatter the candied roasted pecan over the frosting, snapping some pecans in half if preferred. Or as mentioned in my quick tip, scatter the pecans over the frosting AFTER slicing them into bars for stress-free slicing.
      The assembled pumpkin dessert bar
    • Serve at room temperature or chill for 2 hours. Chilling the slice will result in perfectly cut bars.
    • When ready to serve, remove the pumpkin dessert from the baking tin by holding the baking paper on both sides when lifting and transferring it to a board to slice into bars.

    Notes

    Chill the dessert thoroughly before slicing it into bars. The bars will stay intact and look attractive when served.
    • Keeps for 3 days chilled
    • Not suitable to freeze
    Keyword gluten-free bars, gluten-free chilled dessert, gluten-free pumpkin dessert
    Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
    Please mention @fun_without_gluten or tag #funwithoutgluten!

     

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