Bars + Brownies Holidays Icing + Frosting

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Thursday, October 22, 2020
Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

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. 

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

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

*I made some cookies for The Bake From Scratch Holiday Cookies issue! I have seven new recipes in the issue (including these Chocolate Orange Sables). 

My friend Amanda Paa over at Heartbeet Kitchen made several of my recipes gluten-free. You can find a gf Pan-Banging Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe over on her site. 

*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 Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Servings: 24 bars
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Soft and plush pumpkin bars with a classic cream cheese frosting. A great recipe for fall baking.
Sarah Kieffer
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate

Ingredients

Pumpkin Bars

  • 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

Instructions

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.

To assemble:

  • 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. 

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. 
  • Reply
    Asha
    Wednesday, September 15, 2021 at 8:54 pm

    Hi Sarah, these look delicious! If I want to cut the recipe in half and bake one 9×13 pan, how many minutes should I bake it for and can I divide the ingredient measurements in half or would that not be the correct amount? Thank you?

  • Reply
    nha kinh mini
    Wednesday, December 30, 2020 at 7:23 pm

    This was divine! Baked up perfectly after 20 min and the flavor/ texture is amazing! Exceeded my expectations. My 3 kids cant stop “evening them off.” Thanks for posting!

  • Reply
    agreso
    Friday, December 25, 2020 at 7:35 pm

    These pumpkin bars were amazing! Perfect amount of spice and they kept well in the fridge for several days.

  • Reply
    Jessica C.
    Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 2:04 pm

    This was divine! Baked up perfectly after 20 min and the flavor/ texture is amazing! Exceeded my expectations. My 3 kids cant stop “evening them off.” Thanks for posting!

  • Reply
    Gigi Pravda
    Friday, December 4, 2020 at 9:10 am

    Omg! Thank you for using weights, esp grams. I was trained that way and am fed up with having to translate everything when wanting to try something new or troubleshooting others’ problems in baking. And to have a recipe I can do in a sheet pan! Excellent.

  • Reply
    Amanda
    Wednesday, November 4, 2020 at 10:10 pm

    These pumpkin bars were amazing! Perfect amount of spice and they kept well in the fridge for several days.

  • Reply
    Cherylin
    Sunday, November 1, 2020 at 9:06 pm

    I just made these for a Fall festival and they got rave reviews! My Uncle even begged to take a few home to enjoy with his coffee the next morning ?
    Absolutely delicious!

  • Reply
    Giftbasketworldwide
    Wednesday, October 28, 2020 at 8:13 am

    Outstanding work! Enjoyed your writing!!

  • Reply
    Yvonne
    Thursday, October 22, 2020 at 11:06 pm

    I love that your recipes are in weight measurements!
    Thanks for sharing the recipe

  • Reply
    Michelle
    Thursday, October 22, 2020 at 3:49 pm

    These look really good and I might consider making them for TG as well, HOWEVER I have “100 Cookies” and the Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake Bars are TOO GOOD, so they might take precedence! One question about those bars Miss Sarah – I baked them for an hour and they still didn’t set in the middle. I posted that I loved them on the Food52 Baking Club FB group, and someone else said hers didn’t set either. Do you know what could have gone wrong-have you had that happen to you during testing? Were you using a Convection oven?

    • Reply
      Charlotte
      Wednesday, October 28, 2020 at 12:57 pm

      I had the same issue– middle wouldn’t set so I overbaked (with foil on top) but they still are a bit overdone on the edges and gooey in the middle. Perhaps a result of the maple syrup-sugar substitution and fixed with a bit more flour in the batter?

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