Bars + Brownies Holidays Icing + Frosting

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

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. 

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.

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

How to Store Pumpkin Bars

Storing pumpkin bars properly is essential to keep them fresh and delicious for an extended period. Here are some steps on how to store pumpkin bars:

  1. Cool Completely: Allow your pumpkin bars to cool completely in the baking dish or on a wire rack. Don’t attempt to store them while they’re still warm, as this can create condensation and make them soggy.
  2. Cut into Portions: If you haven’t already, cut the pumpkin bars into individual serving-sized portions. This makes it easier to take out and enjoy later without having to cut through the entire batch.
  3. Wrap or Cover: Use plastic wrap, aluminum foil, or an airtight container to cover the pumpkin bars. Make sure the covering is snug to prevent air from getting in, which can cause them to dry out or become stale.
  4. Refrigerate: If you plan to consume the bars within a few days (typically up to 3-4 days), you can store them in the refrigerator. Place the wrapped or covered bars in the fridge. If the bars have cream cheese or dairy-based frosting, refrigeration is essential to prevent spoilage.


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 Gluten-Free 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
4.71 from 27 votes
Print Pin Rate


Pumpkin Bars

  • 2 cups (284 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine 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
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups (480 g) confectioners’ sugar


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. 
  • With mixer on low, add vanilla, mix until combined. Then 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. 


** 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
    Thursday, December 7, 2023 at 10:15 am

    5 stars
    To All,

    I ADORE this recipe and immediately after tasting the final bake I thought it was “ Pure Pumpkin Perfection.” It was everything I wanted, the delicate flour and the seasoning is spot on. Quick question: what book of Sarah’s has this recipe?

  • Reply
    Sunday, October 29, 2023 at 8:14 am

    5 stars
    Wonderful pumpkin bars!! So moist and delicious! I made them for a fall open house and guests couldn’t get enough! This recipe feeds a crowd!

    I made them exactly as directed. It required an additional 5 minutes in the oven for the toothpick to come out clean. I was confused when making the frosting though. The directions don’t say when to add the vanilla. I added it in with the powdered sugar and had a slight issue with butter clumps.

    When should the vanilla be added to the frosting?

    • Reply
      Sarah Kieffer
      Monday, October 30, 2023 at 7:52 am

      Thank you for catching that, updated the recipe! So glad you liked the bars.

  • Reply
    Kerry L
    Wednesday, October 25, 2023 at 2:12 pm

    How big is a half sheet pan? (Inches)

  • Reply
    Wednesday, October 18, 2023 at 3:26 pm

    These are insanely delicious. Made a big pan to share with a family that has a new baby. The bars were fully baked in under 20 mins in my Nordic Ware half-sheet pan. They will be a fall staple at our house!

    • Reply
      Sarah Kieffer
      Wednesday, October 18, 2023 at 3:38 pm

      Wonderful, thanks for making the recipe!

  • Reply
    Sunday, October 30, 2022 at 8:22 am

    5 stars
    These were absolutely perfect! Everyone LOVED them! Definitely making them again!

  • Reply
    Baker Mama from CA
    Saturday, October 22, 2022 at 7:05 pm

    4 stars
    Just wanted to echo others here! My oven required 10 minutes more than directed. I’ve made a version of your cream cheese frosting before so I actually did half the sugar just bc I wanted a less sweet treat. Wonderful cake ??

  • Reply
    Jillian Teter
    Thursday, September 29, 2022 at 10:48 am

    5 stars
    These are INCREDIBLE. I first made them fall of 2021, but they were instantly a hit with my family. So much so, they requested them as soon as September hit this year. They are easy to make and insanely delicious. I add chopped, toasted pecans on top of mine for a little added texture 🙂

  • Reply
    Wednesday, August 24, 2022 at 7:40 am

    5 stars
    I make these bars all the time. They are so easy and reliable! Just made them again yesterday. Great recipe!

  • Reply
    Saturday, November 13, 2021 at 1:55 pm

    5 stars
    These were amazing. So moist, not too sweet, easy to make, an all around winner.

  • Reply
    Saturday, November 6, 2021 at 5:27 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
    Saturday, October 23, 2021 at 7:45 am

    I was nervous about making these because of the trouble some of the commenters had, so I followed the directions super exactly and they turned out perfect. I weighed my flour, I used a sheet pan, I made no subs. No convection oven, just our regular old crappy oven that I have a good sense of (runs hot). Love them!

  • Reply
    Allison Nunnikhoven
    Sunday, October 10, 2021 at 10:09 am

    5 stars
    These were incredible! Light and fluffy and beautiful flavor! Thank you!

  • Reply
    Saturday, October 9, 2021 at 4:19 pm

    4 stars
    I think the confusion is that the article mentions a 9 x 13 but the recipe says a half sheet pan which is 12×15 (jelly roll pan) and traditionally how pumpkin bars are made. I just made this error myself unfortunately for not reading it through well enough.

    • Reply
      Tuesday, October 24, 2023 at 9:36 pm

      A half sheet pan is 18 x 13, which is different than a jelly roll pan.

  • Reply
    Griffen Herrera
    Friday, October 8, 2021 at 12:23 pm

    5 stars
    Made these with my 11 year old. Good recipe for kids to help with. They are delicious! We’ll definitely make these again before the season ends and will keep it in our recipe box for next Fall.

  • Reply
    Wednesday, October 6, 2021 at 8:49 pm

    3 stars
    I did find the timing off for the bake, even after 20 minutes, the center was raw still. Baking the full sheet pan longer, only dried out the outer sections too much, so I had to dump those. I really wanted these to work, but either the recipe needs less moisture somewhere.

    • Reply
      Sarah Kieffer
      Thursday, October 7, 2021 at 5:33 pm

      Hi Leslie – s it possible your oven temperature is off – most ovens are off somewhat, especially if they are older, and having an oven thermometer inside to regulate the temperature can be a big help (that could be cause the center of the center taking so long to bake). Also, if your baking pan is darker in color that can also cause the sides to cook faster. Did you use a half sheet pan as directed? You mentioned a full sheet pan, so I just wanted to double check.

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

    Outstanding work! Enjoyed your writing!!

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

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

  • Reply
    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
      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?

      • Reply
        Sunday, October 3, 2021 at 1:51 pm

        1 star
        No response from the author or publisher and it’s been almost a year?!

4.71 from 27 votes (15 ratings without comment)

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