These pumpkin bars are a fall favorite. Moist and tender – these bars are generously spiced and topped with cream cheese frosting with a hint of cinnamon. The recipe makes a large batch, so it’s perfect for entertaining.
If you’re looking for a simple fall treat that serves a crowd – then these pumpkin bars are the recipe for you. They have a soft and tender texture that’s not quite as cakey as a pumpkin cake. Then they have the perfect pumpkin spice flavor thanks to warm spices, brown sugar, vanilla and pumpkin puree. We’re also adding in just a touch of orange zest – I find it really brightens the flavor and really brings out the pumpkin. They’re topped with tangy, velvety smooth cream cheese frosting with a hint of cinnamon.
Pumpkin Cake vs Bars???
If you’re wondering about how pumpkin bars differ from pumpkin cake, well, here goes. Essentially, these are slightly less cakey, a little more dense, and not as tall. I didn’t want these pumpkin bars to just be a pumpkin cake, sliced into squares. Which is why I’ve adapted my pumpkin cake recipe to make these bars the perfect texture.
How to Make Pumpkin Bars
This recipe is very simple – you can even make the bars without getting out your electric mixer. (You will need it for the frosting though).
- You’ll start by preheating the oven to 350F (180C) and preparing the pan. You can either lightly grease and flour the pan, or line the bottom with parchment paper and lightly grease the sides.
- In a large bowl, you’ll whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, ground cloves, baking soda, baking powder and salt. This step ensures that the spices are evenly distributed throughout the batter. Note that I’m using less baking soda and baking powder in this recipe than in my pumpkin cake, which is because I wanted these to not be quite as cakey.
- Then in a separate very large bowl you’ll whisk together the oil, brown sugar, whisked eggs, vanilla extract, orange zest and pumpkin puree. Using brown sugar adds so much flavor and the orange zest really takes these bars to the next level. In my pumpkin cake recipe, there’s a combo of oil and sour cream to give the necessary moisture. However, in this recipe we’re using a bit more oil and no sour cream to give the bars a slightly more bar-like consistency.
- Sift the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, and carefully whisk together. The batter will be thick, which is expected. I often do this about ½ at a time to avoid overmixing.
- Then you’ll pour the batter into your prepared pan and smooth the top.
- The bars will bake in your preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes, or until the top is set and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
The baked and cooled bars are then topped with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. You could omit the cinnamon if you really want, but I found the addition pairs perfectly with the pumpkin spice flavor of the bars. You want to ensure that the bars are fully cooled before frosting, otherwise your frosting will melt.
Baking Tips & Tricks for these Pumpkin Bars
- Measure the flour correctly! Too much flour and these bars can become dry. Always whisk the flour first, then spoon into a dry measuring cup and level off the top. Or use a kitchen scale and measure in grams.
- Use pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie filling. Pumpkin puree (typically labeled pure pumpkin) is not interchangeable with canned pumpkin pie filling. Be sure to shop carefully!
- Feel free to use pumpkin pie spice instead of the spices listed. Use 2 ½ teaspoons in total.
- Do not overmix the batter! Overmixing leads to tough baked goods with air tunnels. Only mix together the wet and dry ingredients until you no longer see streaks and clumps of flour.
- Use full-fat, brick-style cream cheese for the frosting – anything labeled light, spreadable or that comes in a tub isn’t the right consistency for making frosting.
- For other delicious variations, these can also be topped with caramel frosting or skip the frosting and serve with a scoop of ice cream and caramel or butterscotch sauce. I also love these with ¾ cup chocolate chips mixed in and frosted with chocolate buttercream.
A Note About Pan Sizes: This recipe is designed for a jelly roll pan that’s 10×15 inches (25×38 cm). It will also work in a 9×13 inch (23×33 cm) pan. It will be thicker and the bake time will be longer – I’d add on about 5 more minutes.
And for more delicious pumpkin treats, be sure to try:
Pumpkin Bars with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
- 10x15 inch (25x38 cm) jelly roll pan
- 2 cup all-purpose flour (250 grams)
- 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup vegetable oil (240 ml) or canola oil
- 1 cups brown sugar (210 grams)
- ½ cup granulated sugar (100 grams)
- 1 teaspoons orange zest sometimes I use up to 2 teaspoons
- 3 large eggs whisked
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 15 ounce pumpkin puree (about 450 ml)
Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
- ½ cup unsalted butter (112 grams) softened slightly
- 8 ounces full-fat cream cheese (226 grams) be sure to use brick style and not something from a tub
- 3 - 3 ½ cups powdered sugar (330 - 385 grams)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Lightly grease a 10x15 inch (24x38 cm) jelly roll pan, or line with parchment paper.
- Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, ground cloves, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- In a separate large bowl, whisk together the oil, sugars, eggs, vanilla extract, orange zest and pumpkin puree until there are no lumps of brown sugar or pieces of egg.
- Gently whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. The mixture will be thick. Be sure to stop whisking once you no longer see streaks or lumps of dry ingredients.
- Pour/spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth into an even layer.
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes, or until the top looks set and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
- In a large bowl, beat the butter until smooth.
- Then mix in the cream cheese. Stop mixing as soon as combined.
- Add in 2 ½ cups powdered sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Start with the mixer on a low speed and beat until the powdered sugar is incorporated.
- Beat in the rest of the powdered sugar about ½ cup at a time, until the desired sweetness is reached.
Frosting & Serving
- Ensure that the bars are completely cooled (the bars and the pan shouldn't feel warm to the touch).
- If you lined the pan with parchment, lift the bars out of the pan using the overhang of the parchment. If you simply greased the pan, leave the bars in the pan.
- Frost with a flat edge knife. Optionally, sift a little more cinnamon on top of the bars.
- Spices: Feel free to substitute all of the spices listed with 1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice.
- Pumpkin Puree: Be sure to use pure pumpkin and not canned pumpkin pie filling. These ingredients are not interchangeable.
- Cream Cheese: Use full-fat, brick-style cream cheese. Do not use anything labeled spreadable, low fat, low calorie or whipped.
- Storage: Store bars covered or in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 8 hours, or in the fridge for up to 4 days. Unfrosted bars can be wrapped tightly and frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw in the fridge.
- Nutrition: Details provided are an estimate only and based on 1 bar with frosting, assuming the recipe yields 24 uniform bars.