Paleo Pumpkin Cake Bars with Cinnamon Icing
For more than 20 years sweet winter squashes have been one of my favorite foods (along with sweet potatoes, yams, and many others). Unbeknownst to most people, most canned pumpkin actually contains squash. The two can be used interchangeable although I usually replace pumpkin with squash, since squash, if well chosen, tends be sweeter, reducing the need for added sweeteners.
In early November, via a Real Food Media blog I stumbled upon a paleo diet friendly recipe for grain-free, dairy-free Pumpkin Cake Bars by former pastry chef Megan Keatley of Health Bent.
“I am a rebel,” says Megan. “I like to eat red meat. I think butter is good for me. I drink my milk raw. I avoid pre-packaged foods like the plague. I don’t believe the health claims on food labels. And, I like my food to be fresh, wholesome, and traditional.”
An avid CrossFitter, nutrition and wellness coach, and passionate promoter of Real Food, the works of Dr. Weston A. Price, Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, Michael Pollan, and agrarian poet Wendell Berry, Kelly wants to give people the tools and confidence they need to radically change their diets and to rebel against the dominant food culture and become “Food Renegades.”
I liked her mission and her recipe sounded delicious. I forwarded it Heather Wolcott, one of my best friends and also a nutrition and wellness coach. Heather made the recipe twice over the holidays and loved it. Finally, this month I did the same. The first time around I made them as muffins and left off the frosting. I liked the flavor yet found them very wet. Still my 8-year old neighbor, Abby, who likes to bake with me, loved them. For my birthday, I made the recipe a second time using mashed red garnet yam (technically a sweet potato) that I had on hand and used a 9-inch cake pan. This time I made the frosting, adding grated orange zest. Her frosting looks a lot prettier than mine and it covered more of the bars on her blog because she used a slightly smaller pan than I did!
Both times, the batter looked very wet going into the pan. Although it rose well, the center sunk when I removed it from the oven and I found it very wet (not inedible, not gross, just very soft). I liked the flavor, although the texture varied from the edges to the center witth the edges being my favorite.
Megan’s recipe called for an 8-inch square pan (smaller than what I used). I plan to make the recipe again but with either 1/4 cup less nut butter or 1/4 cup of arrowroot starch or both. I think that will produce a better texture and more structure so it doesn’t fall. When I modified a Paleo Pumpkin Muffin recipe made with almond flour a couple of years ago, the addition of arrowroot dramatically improved the results.
Heres the recipe along with my pictures. Photo credits: Rachel Albert© 2011
Pumpkin Cake Bars with Cinnamon Icing
Prep: 30 minutes Cooking: 30 minutes Yield: 9 bars
“They’re the perfect alternative to sickly holiday desserts, and you won’t even feel like you’re depriving yourself,” says Kristen Michaels of Food Renegade.
“This recipe for Pumpkin Cake Bars was shared by Megan Keatley of Health-Bent, a blog with paleo friendly recipes that don’t look or taste like dog food [her words, not mine!]. 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.”
For the Pumpkin Cake:
1 cup pumpkin puree (I used baked, mashed winter squash)
1 cup (roasted) almond butter
1/2 cup raw honey
2 eggs (preferably from pastured hens!)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
For the Cinnamon Icing:
1/4 cup coconut butter
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup raw honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
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 Megan suggests microwaving for 30-45 seconds; I would use a convection toaster oven. (I don’t have and have not used a microwave oven for 25 years and don’t miss it!)