Pumpkin Spice Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting (Low Carb and Gluten Free)


You know that children’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? I had one of those days just last week. I had a baby who had to get four, count ’em, four shots at the doctor and who spent the rest of the day in a state of extreme crankiness. She refused to sleep, refused to eat and wanted to spend the entire day in my arms. I had a kindergartener who was in full on pester mode, seemingly incapable of playing by himself for even five minutes. I had lovely intentions for dinner, but realized too late that I had forgotten to defrost a key ingredient in time. And the best part? Oh, the best part was when, in my frazzled state, I backed the car into the garage door before it had fully opened. The car was fine. The garage door, not so much.

Despite all of this chaos, or perhaps because of it, I was also trying to create a new low carb treat for myself. I had seen a great-looking recipe for pumpkin squares and thought I could work a little low carb magic on them. The instructions for this recipe were quite poorly written, missing a step altogether and with no indication of what sized pan was needed besides it being “square”. It seemed like too much batter for an 8×8 square pan, so I did a google search and found a very similar recipe and used both of them as a guide. I replaced the flour with my go-to combo of almond meal and flax seed meal, and the sugar with erythritol and stevia. The rest I kept pretty much as it was. They smelled heavenly when they were in the oven and they seemed to bake quite nicely. I was looking forward to having these for dessert as a balm on the wounds from the rest of my day.

The Results: I would love to tell you that the results were so good, they raised my spirits and made up for the damage to my garage door. Alas, this is not the case. They are good, I will say, but they need some tweaking. They taste just as I imagined they would, but they seem undercooked. The resulting bars hold together just fine, but they seem overly moist . Had I been thorough enough to read the reviews on one of the original recipes, I would have seen that others found the same thing, so I don’t believe it’s a result of my low carb changes. Reviewers suggested baking it in a jelly roll pan and/or increasing the baking time by at least 5 minutes, and I do think that might have solved the problem with mine as well. The cream cheese frosting, however, was spot on and goes so very well with the pumpkin spice flavour.

Strangely, both my kids loved them just as they were, and up until now they haven’t been a fan of things with cream cheese frosting. I definitely think it’s a recipe worth keeping, with some of these modifications. So I will write up the recipe here with instructions for a larger pan and a longer bake time. If you try them and they work out (or don’t), let me know! I do plan to try them again myself sometime, but not necessarily in the near future.

Pumpkin Spice Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

1 1/2 cups almond meal
1/2 cups flax seed meal
1/4 cup granulated erythritol
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
4 eggs
6 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1 15oz can pumpkin puree
16 drops stevia extract
1 cup carrots, finely grated

1/2 cup whipping cream
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup powdered erythritol
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
12 drops stevia extract

For the bars, preheat oven to 350F and line a 10×16 inch jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Grease paper and sides of pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together almond meal, flax meal, erythritol, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt and spices.

In a larger bowl, combine eggs, butter, pumpkin and stevia and stir vigorously until smooth. Stir in carrots.

Add dry ingredients to wet and stir until thoroughly combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until center springs back when prodded gently with a finger. Cool in pan.

For the frosting, whip cream until it forms soft peaks. Set aside.

Beat together cream cheese, powdered erythritol, stevia and vanilla until combined. Fold in whipped cream gently until smooth. Spread on cooled bars.

Makes 24 bars. Each bar has a total of 8.3g of carbs, but only 4.3g if you subtract erythritol.

I sent these in to TorviewToronto’s Orange Food Palette Series. Head on over there and check out all the entries made with something orange. Such a fun event!

orange foodpalette

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  1. Sugar Free Low Carb says

    I love the addition of carrots since carrot cake is one of my all time favorites. I do agree that the jellyroll pan is the way to go. I used it for my pumpkin cake and although it was moist, it was cooked just right. Funny that we were both baking different versions this week.

  2. Sommer J says

    Amazed again! These look so delicious! Sorry you had one of those days. As a fellow mother of 3, I can definitely understand! I am sure those gorgeous bars help you forget the craziness of the day for a little bit!

  3. gringarl says

    I don't think I ever had pumpkin cake but the idea sounds.
    I admire you and all other women out there that have 2 or more kids, I only have one and sometimes I feel overwhelmed, can't and don't want to imagine what would I be doing having more kids

  4. Sprinkled with Flour says

    These look and sound delightful! Definitely something worth tweaking to make perfect:) I can relate to your hectic day, and I've actually backed into my garage door…TWICE! We had to replace the panel both times at $400 a pop! Ooops:)

  5. junebu8 says

    These look really good. I'm enjoying reading your low carb desserts. As a diabetic, I usually just skip the sweets altogether, and I've always just made regular, sugar laden desserts for my kids. But now it looks like my youngest may have an allergy to cane sugar, and my older two are looking to eat more healthfully, so I'm starting to experiment more with low carb treats. Thanks so much for the inspiration!

  6. Kim - Liv Life says

    My MIL did that to her garage door! However she didn't open it at all, just started the car and backed up. We've had weeks like that too. Glad the kiddos liked the bars, the little one needed it after the shots. Geez… 4! I can't imagine!

  7. Nova Walsh - says

    These look great – I will definitely try them when I have an oven again. Sorry about your bad day too – I know exactly how that is. Where did you find the granulated erythritol?

  8. Marly says

    These look delicious and thanks for sharing your honesty about ways to make them even better. Pumpkin is definitely what makes fall so special!

  9. Culinarian says

    These look really delicious. I wonder if you cut out an egg or 2 or squeezed out the liquid from the carrots you might have had better luck? They definitely seem worth tweaking:)

  10. Lauren Zabaneh says

    oh, girl. I feel your pain. Sommer J knows it too. Us mommies with little ones have so much on our plates at times, especially shot days, and crap driving days…sorry, I did laugh pretty hard over the garage door thing. It was the way you worded it that just tickled me.

    Now, on to the pumpkin bars- that pic rocks and they sound really, really good. I have never made a low-carb/gluten free anything before, but I would be totally willing to try these. Now, the only allergy I am aware of any of my kids having is that my youngest is allergic to eggs. I see it calls for 4 eggs. Usually I subsitute flax seed meal and hot water for eggs in a recipe. But seeing how it already has the flax seed in it, do you think it would still work using the above said? just curious. I don't have to make them egg free, but I do like having him join in with all the little treats that everyone else gets to eat.

    thanks for coming by Foodie House. I don't know why I do that stuff to myself. sheesh. but it really was worth it in the end. Hugs, girl. hang in there!

  11. sweetpeaskitchen.com says

    This looks amazing!! I made pumpkin bars a few days ago too! Mine are not low carb though. My mom is a diabetic and could not try my recipe, I will have to give her this one! Thanks for sharing! :) Looks super yummy!

  12. briarrose says

    Looks wonderful. I've been trying to decide what my first pumpkin recipe of the season was going to be…I think this decided me. 😉

  13. Karen says

    Well they look fantastic even if they are extra moist!! And you can never go wrong with cream cheese frosting. Yum!

  14. Carolyn says

    Good to know so many other people have hit their garage doors too!

    Nova – I buy my erythritol online because it's cheaper, but it is sold at Whole Foods under ZSweet and Wholesome Sweeteners.

    Culinarian, I did wonder about reducing the eggs, but with almond flour recipes, they often don't rise well if you don't have enough eggs. But Lauren's question about using flax seed in place of the eggs got me thinking that maybe reducing eggs would have been okay in this case.

    Lauren, I've never really done egg-free baked goods. I *think* it might work. You could up the amount of almond flour to 2 cups, and then replace all the eggs with flax and water.

  15. The Mom Chef says

    Great job with the bars. They may be a bit too moist, but they look perfect from here, especially with the cream cheese frosting!

  16. CinnamonQuill/GlutenFreeFeed.com says

    Oh man, what a day! But stunningly gorgeous photo…I am definitely (finally) in the pumpkin mode…all things pumpkin! At least for the next couple of weeks. Thank you for submitting to GFF, as always :)

  17. Lauren says

    I just tried making these bars, and they're quite tasty! I did run into the problem of them being a little moist, though. I want to make them again, but I'm trying to decide between reducing the eggs, adding some coconut flour, or adding some protein powder. I will probably dry the carrots and pumpkin a little better either way. Any suggestions?

    I love your blog btw! Your cinnamon roll scones came out perfect and I loved the icing!

    • Carolyn says

      Hi Carla – yes, anything I make that is gluten-free is also wheat free. Since wheat contains gluten, I avoid it. Thanks!

  18. Maureen says

    Hi Carolyn,
    I was looking for a cream cheese frosting recipe and found this. I am going to put it on the chocolate zucchini bundt cake recipe that I put in a regular cake pan. I mostly use Swerve now. Would you change the amount of stevia if using Swerve? Thinking that Swerve is already a combo of two sweeteners.
    Thanks!!! Always love your recipes.

    • Carolyn says

      I’d probably keep it the same, actually. But if you want to test it before you add the stevia, give it a little taste. If it’s sweet enough, don’t add the stevia. I am big into taste-testing as I go!

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