Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
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Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting — These super soft and moist pumpkin bars are the perfect EASY fall dessert!! Tangy cream cheese frosting is a wonderful complement to these perfectly pumpkin-spiced bars!!
Easy Pumpkin Bars Recipe
These traditional pumpkin bars are always a fall favorite. They’re full of robust fall-inspired flavor thanks to a full can of pumpkin puree, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and molasses used in the pumpkin bars.
What I really appreciate about these pumpkin bars is that it’s a one bowl, no mixer recipe to mix up the batter. It literally comes together in a couple minutes.
Although they’re called ‘bars’, they do have a pumpkin cake-like texture, just not quite as fluffy and they’re thinner than your average slice of pumpkin cake.
If these look good to you, be sure to check out my Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting as well as a chocolate version, Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake, because today’s recipe borrows elements from each.
Ingredients in Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
To make these homemade pumpkin spice bars, you’ll need:
- Vegetable or canola oil
- Granulated sugar
- Light brown sugar
- Pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
- Vanilla extract
- Pumpkin pie spice
- All-purpose flour
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Cream cheese
- Confectioners’ sugar
- Sprinkles, optional
How to Make Pumpkin Bars
The batter for the pumpkin bars recipe comes together as an easy one bowl, no-mixer recipe. Simply whisk together the first nine ingredients all at once, through pumpkin pie spice, before gently stirring in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
I bake the pumpkin bars in a 10×15-inch jelly roll pan. This is a bit larger than a 9×13-inch pan and therefore allows that pumpkin bars to remain slightly thinner than if you were to bake them in a 9×13-inch pan.
How to Make Cream Cheese Frosting
For those times that you are in a hurry or don’t feel like making your own frosting, there’s no shame in using a tub of store bought cream cheese frosting found in the baking aisle of your grocery store.
But if you’re feeling like going homemade all the way, add the cream cheese and butter to a mixing bowl, beat to smooth and combine them, then add confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and a pinch of salt to help offset the sweetness of the frosting.
Spread it on your bars and for fun, I like to garnish the bars with festive fall-inspired sprinkles. The sprinkles I had on hand were from Target from a few seasons back, but use what you can find in the fall-colored family. Orange and black Halloween-colored sprinkles are also an option.
Can I Bake These Bars in a 9×13-inch Pan?
If you don’t have a jelly roll pan, then a 9×13-inch is your next best option. You will need to bake them for slightly longer, I would say 5 to 10 minutes, but I haven’t tested this personally so am just throwing out an educated guess.
How to Store Frosted Pumpkin Bars
Because of the frosting, I recommend storing the bars airtight in the fridge for up to 1 week. Unfrosted bars may be stored at room temp for up to 5 days at room temp or in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Tips for Making The Best Pumpkin Bars
If you don’t have molasses on hand, it’s not absolutely essential to this recipe. I personally love the flavor of it so wouldn’t skip it, and it’s also a staple in many other pumpkin desserts, but can be omitted here and the recipe will still work out.
I’m a big fan of richly and boldly spiced pumpkin desserts so I use two teaspoons of cinnamon and two teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice, which tends to be a mixture of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves. If you’re not a fan of cinnamon, or prefer more mildly spiced recipes, dial back the quantity of spices and add them to your tastes.
Generally speaking, I don’t sift my confectioners’ sugar for homemade cream cheese frosting. However, that being said, it will be harder for your mixer to smooth out the little lumps that confectioners’ sugar tends to have inherently, and so if you want perfectly smooth frosting, sift your confectioners’ sugar before adding it.
If you want thicker frosting, add an extra 1/4 to 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar.
- 1 cup vegetable or canola oil
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar, packed
- one-15 ounce can pumpkin puree
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, or to taste* (See Notes)
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, or to taste* (See Notes)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
Cream Cheese Frosting* (See Notes)
- 8 ounces full-fat block-style cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, or as needed; sifted if yours is particularly lumpy
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- sprinkles as desired for garnishing, optional
Make the Bars:
- Preheat oven to 350F and spray a nonstick 10x15-inch jelly roll pan with cooking spray; set aside. Note - You could make this recipe in a 9x13-inch pan noting that the bars will be thicker and take a bit longer to bake.
- To a large bowl, add the oil, eggs, sugars, pumpkin, vanilla, molasses (technically can be omitted but I love the flavor and recommend it), cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and whisk well to combine until smooth.
- Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and stir until just combined; don't overmix.
- Turn batter out into prepared pan and bake approximately 30 minutes, or until bars are set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs but no batter. Start checking on your bars by 22-25 minutes since all ovens vary.
- Allow bars to cool in the pan for 1 hour, or until cool to the touch, before frosting them. Don't add frosting to warm bars or it will melt.
- While bars are cooling, make the frosting.
Make the Frosting:
- To the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large mixing bowl and handheld electric mixer, add the cream cheese, butter, and beat for about 2 minutes, or until well combined and smooth. Tip - Make sure the both are well softened to room temp otherwise it will be much harder to mix them.
- Add 3 cups confectioners' sugar, vanilla, salt (helps balance the sweetness of the frosting), and beat first on low speed, and then on high for about 2 minutes, or until combined and fluffy. Tips - I don't sift my confectioners' sugar generally speaking but that being said, it will be harder for your mixer to smooth out the little lumps and so if you want perfectly smooth frosting, sift your sugar before adding it. If you want thicker frosting, add an extra 1/4 to 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar.
- Evenly spread the frosting over the bars, using a knife or spatula to smooth it.
- Optionally, garnish with sprinkles to taste (I used some I found in my box of sprinkles that I bought years ago from Target) and serve.
* I prefer richly and boldly spiced pumpkin desserts so I use two teaspoons of cinnamon and two teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice, which tends to be a mixture of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves. If you're not a fan of cinnamon, or prefer more mildly spiced recipes, dial back the quantity of spices and add them to your tastes.
*Frosting: To save time, buy a tub of shelf-stable cream cheese frosting found in the baking aisle of your grocery store.
To store: Because of the frosting, I recommend storing the bars airtight in the fridge for up to 1 week. Unfrosted bars may be stored at room temp for up to 5 days at room temp or in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 299Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 61mgSodium: 293mgCarbohydrates: 51gFiber: 1gSugar: 38gProtein: 4g
More Pumpkin Dessert Recipes:
My FAVORITE PUMPKIN RECIPES on my blog!
My cookbook, Cooking With Pumpkin: Recipes That Go Beyond the Pie is my second cookbook and there are over 50 pumpkin recipes including sweets, savory, drinks, and a photo for nearly every recipe. I’d be super grateful if you headed over to Amazon to check it out!
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