Take Advantage of Pumpkin During the Holidays
And Make Yourself a Few Gluten-Free Treats
If you're looking for a nice, autumn gluten-free treat, you won't find a better dessert than a flavorful, gluten-free pumpkin cake. Autumn, Halloween, and Thanksgiving just go hand-in-hand with pumpkin, but don't limit yourself to the autumn holidays. Thanks to canned pumpkin, you can enjoy gluten-free pumpkin goodies throughout the year. However, growing and freezing your own pumpkins can add a special touch to your gluten-free meals.
Sugar Pumpkins Makes the Best Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cakes
When raising my sons, our summer garden always included pumpkins. As all winter squashes, the sweet pumpkins that are used for baking are extremely easy to grow. You just need a lot of space so the vines have somewhere to walk.
The giant pumpkins sold at the grocery store and traditionally carved into Jack ‘o Lanterns are not suitable for gluten-free baking. They're tasteless, watery, and stringy, so make sure you plant sugar pumpkins if you want great tasting gluten-free cakes, pies, breads, and cookies.
Baking pumpkins are smaller than the type you generally see at Halloween, so I always planted quite a few of them just to make sure I had enough mashed pumpkin to get me through the year. We carved and decorated these little cuties the same as larger pumpkins, but left most of them un-carved.
Once a pumpkin has been cut into, it only lasts for a couple of days before you have to cook it, or it will start to mold. For that reason, I left most of the pumpkins sitting on the back porch, so I could cook them and mash them at my own convenience.
Homemade mashed pumpkin can be easily frozen in recipe-sized freezer-storage bags. It's smoother and lighter in color than canned pumpkin, has a nice sweet flavor, and is easier to work with for some recipes because manufacturers blend up the skin along with the flesh.
Sugar pumpkins are also available at most grocery stores, if you don't want to go to all of the trouble of growing them. Although they cost more per pound than the giant pumpkins do, preparing them is easy as the following video shows.
How to Make Your Own Mashed Pumpkin
For Sensational Gluten-Free Pumpkin Desserts
Pumpkin is Nutritious and Gluten Free
It Can Be Used All Year Long
Most people only cook and bake with pumpkin during the Holiday season. I don’t understand why that is, especially since canned pumpkin is available all year round, and gluten-free pumpkin cake is so easy to make.
Pumpkin is also extremely nutritious. That's especially important for those who have recently been diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity because you need to eat nutrient-dense foods in order to speed up recovery. Most people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity are malnourished when first diagnosed because the body hasn't been absorbing nutrients properly. Pumpkin is an excellent way to recover many of these nutrients.
Pumpkin has a large amount of Vitamin A, and unlike most vegetables, is a good source of Vitamin C. It also contains Vitamin E, some B Vitamins such as Folate, Iron, and Magnesium. These are exactly the vitamins and minerals that many with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity are deficient in. Since pumpkin is low in carbohydrates, you can also use it as a substitute in most recipes that call for whipped sweet potatoes, including Thanksgiving sweet potato casseroles.
Pumpkin Pie Spice
Many pumpkin desserts use a ready-made pumpkin spice mixture that’s usually referred to as Pumpkin Pie Spice. It’s a blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and mace. Warm spices are important in gluten-free baking because many of the gluten-free flours and starches are rather bland when compared to wheat. Although rice flour gives a gluten-free cake structure, your cake will be dull if you don't spice it up with a heavy hand.
If you’re new to gluten-free baking and don’t have all of the spices on hand, it will be cheaper to buy Pumpkin Pie Spice already made. Pumpkin Pie Spice is sold in tiny bottles at all major grocery stores, but it's also available through Amazon or at membership stores in extra-large containers.
How to Make Your Own Pumpkin Spice
If you have the spices on hand and want to know what’s in pumpkin spice, here’s how to whip up your own. The mace isn’t optional. It’s what gives Pumpkin Pie Spice its unique flavor.
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon ginger
- 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
Measure the spices into a small bowl and stir well until combined. You can store this spice mix in a tightly covered container, and then use it as needed.
Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cake
- 1-1/4 cups gluten-free flour mix
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
- 1/3 cup butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon maple flavoring or vanilla extract
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- 1 cup mashed or canned pumpkin
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan with shortening or nonstick spray, and set aside. Do not use “baking” spray because it is not gluten free.
- In a small bowl, combine the flour mix, baking powder, baking soda, salt, xanthan gum, and spices. Set the bowl aside.
- In a larger bowl with an electric hand mixer, cream together butter, brown sugar, and maple or vanilla extract until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat thoroughly.
- Gradually stir in the flour mixture alternately with the mashed pumpkin. Beat only until ingredients are well mixed.
- Carefully spread the batter in the prepared baking pan.
- Bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Be extremely careful not to over bake or the cake will turn out dry. It’s better to slightly under bake a gluten-free cake than it is to over bake it.
- Cool the cake completely on a wire rack before frosting.
Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Pumpkin Cake: To make this recipe dairy free, use dairy-free margarine or vegetable shortening instead of the butter called for in the recipe. That’s the only change that needs to be made.
Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cupcakes: To make this recipe into cupcakes, line a muffin tin with paper liners. Fill the liner with cake batter up to about two-third’s full, and then bake the cupcakes for 15 to 20 minutes. When the cupcakes are cool enough to handle, remove them to a wire rack. Cool completely before frosting.
Gluten-Free Layer Cake: This recipe also makes a great gluten-free layer cake. Simply grease or spray two round-layer cake pans. Carefully spread the cake batter into the prepared pans and smooth the top as evenly as you can. Bake the layers for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Be careful not to over bake. Cool inside the layer pans for about 15 to 20 minutes, and then turn the layers out onto a baking rack. Cool completely before frosting.
Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
- 4 ounces softened cream cheese
- 1/4 cup soft butter
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
- 1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring or vanilla
- 2 to 4 tablespoons of mashed or canned pumpkin
- 2 to 4 tablespoons pure maple syrup, or more
- With an electric mixer, whip the softened cream cheese until it’s nice and creamy. Add soft butter and continue beating until the two fats are thoroughly mixed and fluffy. You could also do this in a stand-mixer.
- Stir in powdered sugar, pumpkin spice, maple flavoring, mashed pumpkin, and about 2 tablespoons of maple syrup. The more mashed pumpkin you use, the stronger the pumpkin flavor will be and the less maple syrup you’ll need overall.
- Continue beating for several minutes, adding more maple syrup, if needed, until frosting is smooth and reaches a spreading consistency. Frosting needs to be stiff enough to set up nicely on the cake, but not so thin that it will drip once the gluten-free cake is sliced.
*The pumpkin in the frosting is for flavor, not color. I don’t use food colorings, but you could tint this orange if you like. The recipe makes enough frosting for a 8- or 9-inch square pan. Depending on how much frosting you use, you might need to double the recipe for a layer cake.
Dairy-Free Maple Icing: To make this frosting dairy free, use dairy-free margarine instead of the butter and substitute 1/4-cup of plain vegetable shortening for the cream cheese. You could also use a dairy-free cream cheese, if available. Dairy-free cream cheese is softer than traditional cream cheese, so make sure that you don’t add too much maple syrup until you see how thick the frosting is going to be.
*Once frosted, if you keep the cake or cupcakes tightly covered, they can sit on the counter for up to 3 days without drying out.