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.
Making the Best Pumpkin Bars Is Easy!
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.
A few things
*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.)
More Pumpkin Recipes:
- Pumpkin Bread with Cream Cheese Icing
- Pumpkin and Cream Cheese Muffins with Streusel
- (Baked) Pumpkin Donuts
Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
- 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
- Pinch cloves
- 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
- Pinch salt
- 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.