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These pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting are soft, fluffy, and super duper moist – all the good things. Full of warm spices, and then covered in a sweet, tangy smooth cream cheese frosting. This is a such a wonderful recipe to make in the Fall!
When it comes to the pumpkin spice season, I find I always plan way too pumpkin recipes to make. Like. Way. Too. Many. Pumpkin pie. Pumpkin scones. Pumpkin donuts. Pumpkin bread. Pumpkin cake. You get the idea.
And now these pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting are getting added to the list of things to make each pumpkin season.
Come on you know you want to grab one right out of the screen.
And what I love about these bars is how simple they are to make and how they basically can feed your entire neighborhood. I mean that’s a dessert for the holidays.
Pumpkin pie is great don’t get me wrong. But when pumpkin is paired with cream cheese frosting it takes the cake in my book.
These easy pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting are made quickly with just a whisk and a spatula and then poured into a jelly roll pan to bake up bars for a crowd! My cream cheese frosting takes just a few minutes to make and then gets slathered on top. Everyone is going to want one of these bars!
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Why You Will Adore These Pumpkin Bars
- They are EASY to make. These bars use vegetable oil, so the batter whips up quickly.
- BIG on flavor. I mean hello – pumpkin puree, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. It’s like pumpkin heaven. Your kitchen is going to smell amazing.
- Feeds EVERYONE. And I mean everyone. I baked these in a large sheet pan, but you could also make these in a 9×13 pan (although some might say it’s more of a cake at this point, but they won’t mind!). Baking them in a sheet pan not only feeds everyone, but also gets more of that bar like feel.
Are Pumpkin Bars And Pumpkin Cake The Same Thing?
These moist pumpkin bars are baked in a sheet pan so they have more of a bar look but sort of also eat like a cake? So you get the best of both worlds! So you can eat these with your hands or grab a fork and plate!
What Do I Need To Make This Pumpkin Bar Recipe?
Pumpkin bar ingredients:
- All purpose flour – Be sure to measure your flour correctly so you don’t end up with dry or overly cakey bars.
- Baking powder and baking soda – These are leavening agents, and will help make your bars rise. Make sure they are fresh, and haven’t expired. Read more here about baking powder vs. baking soda.
- Salt – I prefer to use fine sea salt, but table or kosher salt will also work.
- Ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves – Check that your ground spices are fresh! Give them a sniff, if they smell like nothing then it’s time to buy a new container. You can also substitute these spices with pumpkin spice instead.
- Eggs – Use two room temperature eggs so they blend into the batter and help create a fluffy bar that rises well.
- Granulated White Sugar – I used granulated sugar but you could swap some of the white sugar for light brown sugar if you want.
- Vegetable Oil – I used vegetable oil but you can swap and use another neutral tasting oil like canola oil. Or you could try using melted butter (but your bars may be a bit drier) or try using melted coconut oil (but this could impart flavor if depending on brand). Or replace half of the oil with unsweetened applesauce.
- Sour Cream – This gives wonderful richness. You could try swapping for plain, full fat Greek yogurt.
- Canned pumpkin puree – Do not use canned pumpkin pie filling which has added ingredients.
Cream cheese frosting ingredients
- Cream cheese – Use full fat, brick style cream cheese (package cream cheese not tub style which tends to be whipped) for best texture. Make sure you use softened cream cheese so it makes for a smooth cream cheese icing.
- Butter – I like to use unsalted butter in my cream cheese frosting, but salted butter can also be used.
- Powdered Sugar – Or confectioners sugar. If you don’t have any powdered sugar, then make your own powdered sugar in your food processor!
- Vanilla extract – I like pure vanilla extract, but imitation vanilla extract can also work.
How To Make Pumpkin Bars
Preheat and prepare pan.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease with cooking spray or line the pan with parchment paper (for easiest removal) a 10×15 rimmed baking sheet (jelly roll pan).
You could bake in a 9×13 baking pan, but your bars will be a bit thicker and may need a few additional minutes of baking time.
Combine dry ingredients.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
Combine wet ingredients.
In a second mixing bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, oil sour cream, and pumpkin puree with until thoroughly combined.
Add dry ingredients.
Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until thoroughly combined.
Bake the bars.
Spread batter evenly into prepared pan.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in preheated oven until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool pan on a wire rack completely prepare the cream cheese frosting.
Make the cream cheese frosting
Once the bars have cooled, go ahead and frost these beautiful bars up. I slathered them in my cream cheese frosting recipe. I made a double batch, one didn’t seem to be quite enough! But you could also try and switch things up and try using a cinnamon cream cheese frosting. It would be divine.
Here is how to make the frosting:
Cream the butter until smooth.
Add in the cream cheese. Beat on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.
Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth.
Mix in the vanilla extract. Add in a pinch of salt.
Beat until smooth.
When bars have cooled, spread frosting evenly over the pumpkin bars.
- Measure Your Flour The Right Way. Whether you are beginner baker, or a pro in the kitchen I believe one of the biggest missteps in baking is incorrectly measured flour. For best accuracy, use a kitchen scale. But if you do use dry measuring cups then be sure to spoon and level the flour in your cup. Do NOT pack it down into the cup, which can result in too much flour. For a complete tutorial, check out this post on how to measure flour.
- Use Room Temperature Eggs. Always use room temperature eggs so they are easily incorporated into the other ingredients. I place my eggs in a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes before cracking them into the bowl.
- Be Sure To Use Pumpkin Puree. Pumpkin pie mix is NOT the same thing. It has added ingredients like spices, and sugar so you wouldn’t be able to swap one for the other.
- Allow These To Cool Completely Before Frosting. I know patience is NOT my thing either. But frost them too soon and you will regret it. Your frosting will just melt all over these bars. So let them cool completely at least a couple hours before frosting these.
- Use pumpkin pie spice instead – Instead of using all the ground spices, swap them out and add 1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice.
- Bake in a 9×13 pan. If you don’t have a 10×15 jelly roll pan, then use a 9×13 pan. Just add on a few more minutes of baking time.
- Make a spiced cream cheese frosting. Instead of regular cream cheese frosting, you can make a cinnamon cream cheese frosting by stirring in 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon. Or stir in 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice into the frosting.
- Add chocolate chips – You could stir in 1/2 cup chocolate chips into the batter.
- Make a brown sugar frosting. For lots of warm, Fall flavor you could use my brown sugar frosting that I frost my cookie dough cupcakes with.
- Add chopped pecans – This will add some great crunch. You can stir 1/2 cup toasted pecans that have been chopped into the batter, or just sprinkle some on top of the frosted bars before serving.
- Make gluten free – Swap out the regular flour and use gluten free flour instead. I haven’t tested with almond flour.
Pumpkin Bars FAQ’s
Absolutely you can! Make the pumpkin bars ahead of time and then store in an airtight container the fridge. I recommend making the bars the day before and then frost before serving. Game changer for the holidays right?
I haven’t made them this way, so it could affect the overall texture. And I always recommend starting with replacing half of the oil with applesauce.
Yes you can but the pumpkin bars will be thicker, and may take a few additional minutes of baking time.
Store leftover bars covered in the refrigerator because of the cream cheese icing. They should last about 4 days.
I would freeze pumpkin bars without the cream cheese frosting. Freeze in an airtight container for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge, then frost with cream cheese frosting.
More Pumpkin Recipes To Try
For the bars
- 2 cups (240 g) all purpose flour spooned and leveled
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs
- 1 ½ cups (300g) granulated white sugar
- 2/3 cup (160mL) vegetable oil
- 15 ounce can pumpkin puree
- 1/4 cup (60 g) sour cream
For the cream cheese frosting
- 16 ounces full fat cream cheese softened to room temperature
- 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter softened
- 6 cups (750 g) powdered sugar (confectioners,icing)
- 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
- pinch salt
For the bars
- Preheat and prepare pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 10×15 rimmed baking sheet (jelly roll pan) or line with parchment paper.
- Combine dry ingredients. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
- Combine wet ingredients. In a second mixing bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, oil, sour cream and pumpkin with until thoroughly combined.
- Add dry ingredients. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until thoroughly combined.
- Bake the bars. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in preheated oven until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool pan on a wire cooling rack completely and cut into squares.
For the frosting
- Cream the butter until smooth. Add in the cream cheese.
- Beat on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.
- Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth.
- Mix in the vanilla extract. Add in a pinch of salt.
- When bars have cooled, frost with the cream cheese frosting
- Storage: You can make these bars a day ahead of time, store at room temperature in an airtight container then frost before serving. Store any leftovers in the fridge covered for up to 4 days.
- Freeze: I recommend freezing bars unfrosted, then thaw overnight in the fridge and frost before serving. Freeze for up to 2 months.
- Pumpkin: Use pumpkin puree NOT pumpkin pie filling.
- Pan Size: You can bake in a 9×13 pan but they will be a bit thicker and may need a few more minutes of baking time.