My dear friend Scott brought me a pumpkin cake last week – a thick 9 x 13 cake with a giant mound of cream cheese icing. After sneaking pieces of it for days, I finally asked him for the recipe, and he kindly emailed it over. After reading through it, I realized that I had the recipe – it was identical to the pumpkin bars I made at almost every bakery and coffeehouse I worked in previously. It had been years since I made them, but being inspired by the tasty cake I set to work and made them in bar form for my children (who were also huge fans of the cake). I spent an afternoon tinkering with the recipe *just* a bit – trading some granulated sugar for maple syrup and brown sugar, bumping up the spices, and adding a little more cream cheese and a little less powdered sugar to the frosting. We all appreciated the changes, and my mom even asked me to bring the bars (instead of pumpkin pie!) to Thanksgiving. I’m considering it.
A few things
*It’s been hard to find my book, 100 Cookies! I’m sorry if you are having trouble locating it. It has been reprinted again and there will be more copies available soon. It is now currently in stock online at Barnes and Noble and also locally at the Roseville, Edina, Eagan, City Place, Maple Grove, Mall of America (and many other Barnes and Nobles in the metro).
*There are so many amazing cookbooks coming out this Fall. I’ll be posting recipes from quite a few the next couple of months. Here are 4 that I’ve read cover to cover this week:
Snacking Cakes by Yossy Arefi: A lovely collection of simple cakes to snack on. (I tested a couple recipes for this book, and everything was amazing! I highly recommend any recipe by Yossy.)
The Flavor Equation by Nik Sharma: The science of great cooking explained through the study of flavor.
The Pastry Chef’s Guide by Ravneet Gill: A guide to successful baking, every time.
Xi’an Famous Foods by Jason Wang with Jessica K. Chou: The cuisine of Western China, from New York’s Favorite Noodle Shop (We’ve made the Pineapple Chicken so far and it was delicious. Next up are the famous Biang-Biang Noodles.)
Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
I made these bars at almost every bakery and coffeehouse I worked at. They are easy to assemble, serve a crowd, and are absolutely delicious. If you don’t have a half sheet pan, you can use two 9 x 13 inch pans, but the bars will bake up a little thicker. You can also make this into a thick pumpkin cake – pour the batter into one 9 x 13 inch pan. I prefer bar-form, however, because of the perfect bar to frosting ratio.
Notes It’s easier to frost the bars cold. I make them them the day before serving, then chill them overnight in the refrigerator before frosting. When frosting the bars, dollop the frosting in thirds across the surface of the bars, then use an offset spatula to spread the frosting. I like to eat these bars cold; probably because they were always kept in a refrigerated bake case. You can serve them chilled or at room temperature.
2 cups [284 g] all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
15 ounces [425 g] unsweetened pumpkin puree
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup [240 g] neutral oil (such as canola or grapeseed)
3/4 cup [150 g] granulated sugar
3/4 cup [150 g] brown sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces [226 g] cream cheese, at room temperature
8 tablespoons [1 stick | 113 g] unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups [480 g] confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the bars
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 F [180C]. Grease a half sheet pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.
In a large bowl whisk together the pumpkin, eggs, canola oil, sugars, maple syrup, and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients and stir until completely combined, making sure to check for any flour pockets in the batter. Whisk the batter to get rid of any lumps; about 30 seconds.
Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan, using an offset spatula to smooth the top. Bake the bars until they are set and and wooden skewer or toothpick comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes.
For the frosting
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the cream cheese, butter, and salt together on low speed until smooth, creamy, and combined, 2 to 3 minutes.
Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar and mix on low until combined, scraping down the sides as necessary.
Dollop the frosting over the bars and use an offset spatula to spread it evenly over the entire surface. Bars will slice best if chilled; place the pan in the refrigerator for 1 hour before slicing. Slice the bars and serve. Bars will keep for several days stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container.