Easy to make and perfect for fall, moist pumpkin bars topped with a luscious pumpkin spice frosting – great for Thanksgiving and fall family events!
Are you ready to make the most amazing pumpkin bars ever? This easy pumpkin dessert is like a bite of fall with each piece, soft and full of sweet pumpkin flavor, topped with a smooth cream cheese frosting that has a little bit of spice, just like a pumpkin pie. These bars are perfect for sharing with friends, an after-school autumn treat, at a holiday party, or even as a special treat for Thanksgiving dinner. Plus, they’re really fun and easy to bake!
- Unsalted Butter – using unsalted butter will allow you to control the amount of salt in the recipe which can be quite a benefit.
- Eggs – if possible, pull your eggs out of the fridge about 30 minutes before making the batter. Room temperature eggs will emulsify better, creating a uniform batter.
- All-Purpose Flour
- Baking Soda
- Salt – if using sea salt, you’ll want to add a bit extra as sea salt doesn’t taste as ‘salty’ as iodized salt.
- Pumpkin Puree – ensure you use 100% pure pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie filling which contains spices and sugar and will alter the flavor of the pumpkin bars.
- Pumpkin Spice & Cinnamon – if you find yourself in a pinch for some pumpkin spice and want to save a trip to the store, I have a comprehensive recipe on how to make your own pumpkin spice at home.
- Cream Cheese – full-fat cream cheese works best for frosting and will add that classic richness and tang. Make sure the cream cheese is pulled out of the fridge 30 to 60 minutes before making the frosting to allow the butter and cheese to blend smoothly. If the cream cheese is too cold it will cause lumps to form in the frosting.
- Vanilla Extract – not all vanilla extracts are made equal. Make sure to use a pure high quality vanilla extract. This will give a deep, complex flavor to the frosting. You can also use vanilla bean paste or vanilla bean pods.
- Powdered Sugar – Sift before hand to avoid lumps.
How To Make Pumpkin Bars
Step-by-step instructions with process shots on how to make perfect pumpkin bars at home. Be a confident baker in your kitchen as you bring fall flavors into your home.
Creaming & Mixing
- Start with Creaming: Blend butter and sugar until lighter in color and appears fluffy. If ingredients are at room temperatures this process should take about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add Eggs Gradually: Ensure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next for a smooth batter. The batter should look light and fluffy when finished.
Dry Ingredients & Pumpkin
- Sift and Whisk: Sift flour, then whisk in baking soda, salt, and spices for an even rise and distribution of ingredients.
- Combine Wet and Dry Ingredients: Add 1/2 the dry ingredients along with the pumpkin puree into the creamed mixture. I tend to do this last part via hand mixing with a spatula to avoid overmixing. Once the pumpkin and dry ingredients are mostly incorporated, add the remaining dry ingredients and mix only until there is no more visible dry ingredients in the pumpkin cake batter.
Baking & Cooling
- Bake to Perfection: Spread the batter on a prepared sheet and bake until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. This should take about 30 minutes in an oven set to 350°F.
- Cool Completely: This is crucial before frosting to prevent a melty mess. Allow the cake cool until it is cool to the touch.
Frosting & Garnishing
This simple cream cheese frosting is the perfect creamy tang to this pumpkin cake. It only requires 5 ingredients and takes about 5 minutes to make.
- Make the Frosting: Beat the frosting ingredients until smooth and creamy for a luxurious layer on your bars. Evenly spread across the bars.
- Garnish for Flair: A sprinkle of spice (pumpkin spice or cinnamon) adds a lovely finish to your delicious pumpkin bars.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions you might ask while preparing to make your own pumpkin bars.
What’s the difference between pumpkin pie filling and pumpkin puree?
Pumpkin pie filling has additives and a different texture than 100% pumpkin puree. For this pumpkin bars recipe we don’t want to add any additional sugar or spices so stick with pure pumpkin puree. It will be located in the baking isle of most grocery store.
Can I use fresh pumpkin?
Yes, as long as it’s cooked and pureed to match the consistency of the canned version. Although carving pumpkins are perfectly fine to eat I would highly recommend using a sugar pumpkin as they have better flavor and sweetness which is perfect for this pumpkin recipe. If you’re looking to make your own pumpkin puree here’s a helpful guide on how to make your own pumpkin puree.
What can I substitute in place of pumpkin spice?
If you find yourself in a pinch for some pumpkin spice, have no fear. I’ve got you covered. You can make your own pumpkin spice blend at home with a few simple spices. I shared my pumpkin spice recipe just a few weeks ago. You can learn how to make your own HERE.
Can I halve this recipe?
Absolutely! Halving the recipe is simple, just use a smaller 9×13 pan and half of each ingredient. This will mean you only need about 14 ounces of pumpkin puree so skip the super large can and go with a soup can size of pumpkin.
Can I prepare these pumpkin bars in advance?
Make your pumpkin bars ahead of time or freeze them just as you would banana bread. However, while the unfrosted pumpkin cake can sit at room temperature for up to 3 days, you must refrigerate the frosting since it contains uncooked cream cheese. If you’ve already frosted the bars, prepare to refrigerate them until you’re ready to serve. They’re perfect for prepping a day in advance.
Storage and Leftovers
Store these pumpkin bars at room temperature for no more than 3 hours then keep them chilled in the refrigerator; consume within 3 days for the best taste, though they can last up to 5 days if kept cold. The cream cheese frosting necessitates this to prevent bacteria. For longer storage, freeze the bars in a sealed container and thaw at room temperature when you’re ready to indulge. They’ll keep well in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Looking For More Fall Recipes?
Ready to Bake?
Embrace pumpkin season with these irresistible pumpkin bars that promise to be the highlight of your fall festivities. They’re a must for your Thanksgiving spread or any fall time get-together. Don’t wait; grab the recipe card below and start baking a treat that everyone will enjoy!
- 1 cup butter, unsalted and softened
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 eggs
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt (1 1/2 teaspoons if using sea salt)
- 29 oz can 100% Pumpkin puree
- 1 Tablespoon pumpkin spice
- 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 8 oz cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Prepare a cookie sheet with nonstick pan spray or line with a sheet of parchment paper.
- In a stand mixer or using a hand electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until lighter in color and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, pumpkin spice and cinnamon together.
- Add the pumpkin puree and 1/2 the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Mix only until mostly blended. Add remaining flour mixture. Blend only until dry ingredients are no longer visible. Do not over mix.
- Carefully pour batter onto prepared cookie sheet. The mixture will be thick but spreadable. Using a spatula, evenly spread the batter on the cookie sheet.
- Bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean with minimal crumbs.
- Let the cake cool completely before frosting.
- In a stand mixer or using a hand electric mixer, beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth.
- Add vanilla, powdered sugar and pumpkin spice. Beat until fully combined. Scrape sides of mixing bowl to ensure even mixing.
- Spread a thin layer of frosting over cooled cake.
- Sprinkle cinnamon or pumpkin spice over frosting as a garnish if desired.
Pumpkin Spice Frosting:
This recipe will make 35 servings. Cut bars in a 5 by 7 grid.
Storage: These pumpkin bars can be left at room tempurature for up to 3 hours. Store frosted bars in the fridge for up to 5 days, best if enjoyed within 3 days. Freeze for up to 3 months.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 35 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 244Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 49mgSodium: 184mgCarbohydrates: 34gFiber: 1gSugar: 22gProtein: 3g