Salted Caramel Swirled-Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

And the rest of the title is, with a Brown Sugar-Graham Cracker Crust.

They’re a happy accident that came to be after a recipe fail.

Salted Caramel Swirled-Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with a Brown Sugar-Graham Cracker Crust - Easy recipe at averiecooks.com

I was goofing around with some crescent roll dough and I don’t know how anyone can mess up dough-in-a-tube, but I did. I over-stuffed it and it was 3am. I used to still be out drinking at 3am on Friday nights, now I’m baking. Life sure changes.

I usually bake in the wee hours so that when daylight breaks, my goodies are cooled and camera-ready. Normally I have a bucket list a mile long of things I want to make, but with moving last weekend, my daughter starting her first week back at school this week, I was drawing a blank.

Salted Caramel Swirled-Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with a Brown Sugar-Graham Cracker Crust - Easy recipe at averiecooks.com

I saw a container of light cream cheese from a recent Trader Joe’s trip and bam, cheesecake bars, with pumpkin came to me.

And a half-used jar of  Salted Caramel Sauce from Trader Joe’s caught my eye for swirls. Perfect.

Salted Caramel Swirled-Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with a Brown Sugar-Graham Cracker Crust - Easy recipe at averiecooks.com

The bars are modeled after the Peanut Butter-Swirled Cheesecake Bars with Brown Sugar-Graham Cracker Crust

I added pumpkin and plenty of pumpkin pie spice to the cream cheese, so they have a nice pop of comforting pumpkin flavor.

Salted Caramel Swirled-Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with a Brown Sugar-Graham Cracker Crust - Easy recipe at averiecooks.com

Normally I pick around crust and am not into crust, but this crust recipe is my new go-to for graham cracker-based crusts. The brown sugar and butter caramelize, and add so much more flavor than typical graham cracker crusts.

I add a tablespoon of cornstarch to prevent the crust from getting overly brittle. It’s definitely got some snap, but it’s not so rigid it cracks or crumbles.

Salted Caramel Swirled-Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with a Brown Sugar-Graham Cracker Crust - Easy recipe at averiecooks.com

The tanginess from the cream cheese, coupled with the pumpkin and spices, balance some of the sweetness from the crust and caramel sauce.

About the only thing that could top peanut butter swirls are swirls of gooey, creamy, rich caramel. The caramel sauce really brings out the caramel tones that develop in the crust while it bakes.

Salted Caramel Swirled-Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with a Brown Sugar-Graham Cracker Crust - Easy recipe at averiecooks.com

The slight saltiness from the caramel mitigates some sweetness, and adds a bit of the salty-and-sweet element that people seem to love.

Don’t use ice cream sundae sauce that’s runny, thin, and the first ingredient is corn syrup. It will get lost in the bars. Make sure the brand you use is nice and thick.

Use this salted caramel recipe if you want to make your own. It’s easy, but I had a half used jar and enjoy pantry cleanout recipes.

Salted Caramel Swirled-Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with a Brown Sugar-Graham Cracker Crust - Easy recipe at averiecooks.com

The bars are rich, satisfying, and there’s so many layers of flavor, from cream cheese, pumpkin and spices, to brown sugar and caramel.

And they’re also a texture lover’s  dream. A crisp crust, with a soft yet dense and firm middle, coupled with rivers of caramel flowing over the surface.

The best part is that they’re fast and easy to make, and way less intense than trying to make a whole cheesecake. Plus, I don’t want or need a whole cheesecake. This little 8×8-inch pan was plenty.

Salted Caramel Swirled-Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with a Brown Sugar-Graham Cracker Crust - Easy recipe at averiecooks.com

Every now and then I don’t mind a recipe fail because what’s created instead trumps the original plan.

The bars turned out infinitely better than anything with dough-in-a-tube could have.

Salted Caramel Swirled-Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with a Brown Sugar-Graham Cracker Crust - Easy recipe at averiecooks.com

Salted Caramel Swirled-Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with Brown Sugar-Graham Cracker Crust

These bars are a texture lover’s dream with a crisp brown sugar-graham cracker crust, a soft yet dense pumpkin cheesecake layer, and gooey soft salted caramel swirls the run like a river over the surface. They’re tangy and the pumpkin is pleasantly spiced with a nice pop of fall flavor. The buttery, brown sugar-graham crust caramelizes while baking, and complements the caramel sauce that’s swirled in. The bars are impressive enough to serve at holiday parties, but are so much faster and easier to make than traditional cheesecake – and I prefer them.

Did you make this recipe?

Ingredients:

Crust
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon cornstarch
pinch salt, optional and to taste

Filling
1 large egg
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature and very soft (light is okay, micro for 10-15 seconds if you forgot to set it out to soften)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
heaping 1/3 cup pumpin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (if you don’t have it, add pinches of cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg and cloves)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
heaping 1/3 cup salted caramel sauce (don’t ise ice cream sauce that’s made with corn syrup as the first ingredient because it’s too thin; thicker is better or make homemade salted caramel

Directions:

  1. Preheat over to 350F. Line an 8×8-inch pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside.
  2. For the Crust – In a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter, about 1 minute on high power.
  3. Add all remaining crust ingredients and mix with a fork to combine.
  4. Turn loose crumbs out into prepared pan and using a spatula, pack mixture firmly into pan in an even, smooth, flat layer; set pan aside.
  5. For the Filling – In the same mixing bowl (no need to wash it), combine egg, cream cheese, sugar, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, and whisk until smooth and combined, or beat with an electric mixer. The softer the cream cheese is, the easier the mixture comes together.
  6. Add the flour and mix to just incorporate; don’t overmix.
  7. Pour filling over crust.
  8. Drizzle salted caramel sauce over batter to create swirls. To create the marbled pattern shown, drizzle caramel over batter in 5 wide, evenly spaced, parallel lines, each spanning the length of the pan. Like 5 rows of long train tracks. Rotate pan 90-degrees. With a toothpick, starting at the top of the pan, “draw” 5 evenly spaced lines through the caramel. You’re dragging the toothpick perpendicularly through the first set of lines to create the marbling.
  9. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until center is set with very little jiggle; some looseness and a very slight jiggle is okay, but there should not be sloshing in the center. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out mostly clean, or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter. Allow bars to cool in pan for about 1 hour before lifting out with foil overhang and slicing. I prefer to serve these bars chilled. Cover the pan with foil to prevent fridge smells, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight, or until chilled before slicing and serving. Bars will keep airtight in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Only Eats

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Thanks for the entries in the Deluxe GIR Kitchen Spatulas Giveaway

What’s your favorite type of cheesecake? Or recipe using pumpkin or caramel?

 

108 comments on “Salted Caramel Swirled-Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars”

  1. Oh those swirls….I’m loving this. And the texture lovers dream bit? YES!!

    • And I know you’re not even the biggest pumpkin fan and YES it is still so early in the season – but everyone else is jumping off bridges so I figure I’d jump right along with them and post this :)

  2. Okay I *think* I can forgive your comment about crust, lol, because you made these fabulous bars. To die for – caramel and pumpkin and cheesecake. OMG!

  3. These look incredible, Averie! What a way to kick off the pumpkin season!

  4. I love turning recipe fails into triumphs. :) Pumpkin and salted caramel and cheesecake – oh my! What a brilliant combination of flavors. All my favorites, too. And I’m pretty sure you had me in mind as these were baking right?! I love all of your swirled goodies. Because you are just so good at swirling! It looks like a piece of art.

    And I know what you mean about late nights in the kitchen, not the bar. How life changes! I have had no life lately at all.

    • Thank you for the piece of art compliment – you are so sweet, Sally! I always think the same thing when I see your muffins or cookies. You have a way with them!

      And here’s to getting our lives back – SOON! :)

  5. Pumpkin and caramel seem to be a very natural pairing. I remember many years ago when I was in college making a pumpkin latte at home and then drizzling caramel sauce over the top. It was so delicious! These bars look delicious. Simeon loves cream cheese in his desserts. You know that standard Thanksgiving dessert, cherry cream cheese pie? One of his favorites because of how creamy and tart it is. I know he would love these bars. I could literally lick the screen right now I am so hungry! :-P Two weeks down…only ONE LEFT!!!

    • If he’s into creamy desserts, and likes pumpkin, he’d love this. And yes, caramel and pumpkin are such a natural pairing! Love them together. Cannot believe it’s been 14 DAYS. I was just telling Scott on a walk tonight about you. Mind-blowing :) Stay strong!
      xoxoxo

  6. I am on a pumpkin kick right now and these bars fit perfectly with my cravings. As I sit here a drool over your pumpkin cheesecake bars, I’m eating yogurt with a heaping helping of pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice with whip cream. I don’t know what it is about this season, but man I am loving pumpkin. Love your bars, going to bookmark for making later!!

  7. Oh swoon, Averie – I’ve got to get my hands on some of that caramel sauce~

  8. These look heavenly. Absolutely perfect for afternoon tea and a good book.

  9. Oh my, these look so good! I’m loving that pumpkin is starting to be used in baking again..so exciting. Definitely need to try these soon.

  10. I used to be out at 3AM but honestly, I like to be in bed by 10PM!

    Now this crust – man oh man, I think I’ll start eating the crust first on these!

  11. This is gorgeous! And you made it in the wee hours of the morning. Impressive! This is a must try!

  12. looks amazingly delicious, beautiful photos
    I invite to my site, you get to watch

  13. You had me at salted caramel, and pumpkin,,,, and cheesecake… I heart this post!

  14. These look so good and they are so pretty! Love the design you made on top! Pumpkin cheesecake is the best and salted caramel makes it even better!

  15. What a great combination of flavors! And they look so pretty and delicious!

  16. I love that you’re up baking at 3 am! That is dedication, lady! And these bars… speechless!!!

  17. I’ve been slaaaaaayed by the swirl.

  18. I’m sure you know this already – but I LOVE this crust. And the topping, of course. Great idea, as always, Averie. So festive!

  19. These are amazing! And gorgeous! I’ve been on a huge pumpkin kick this weekend. Will have to make these as well!

  20. This is so gorgeous! Everything about it makes me want to grab a fork and dive right in. :) And I’m always a fan of anything that has “rivers of caramel”. Yum!

  21. I pinned these last night and then went to bed shortly after… Not joking I woke up craving pumpkin/cheesecake and caramel. They look fabulous Averie!

  22. Oh, gosh, do these look like a dream, Averie! You do your gorgeous swirl tops like no other on bars, and it’s interesting: I’ve noted that some of my more successful bars lately have been on the thinner side. Yours look lusciously thin (I’m guessing this is due to little to no flour and leavening) and I personally think it allows the bars to set like they should, while retaining a slight crisp at the edges and total creaminess in the center. Anyway, your bars are making me hungry, which is making me talk a lot – can you tell?!? Lovely!!! ;)

    • Well these are cheesecake and I didnt want a super thick bar because, well, no one ‘needs’ a thick slab of it :) Between the crust, filling, and caramel, on the thinner side is plenty. I love bars that don’t use leanveners (i.e. none of my blondie bars do – and I use that base for so many other things, 1/2 cup melted butter, 1 c brown sugar, 1 egg, 1 tbsp vanilla, 1 cup flour – baked in an 8×8 for 20 mins. Stir in ANY kind of add in under the sun from chopped oreos to dried cherries to caramel corn. I have done it. It’s my miracle base.

  23. I’m generally not one for crust, either, but there’s just something about a good graham cracker crust that gets me every time. These bars look like an amazing addition to my fall baking bucket list. Plus it’s a good excuse to go to Trader Joe’s. Again. I bet an apple butter swirl would be lovely too!

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