These soft pumpkin bars are well spiced and topped with a rich cream cheese frosting. Quick, easy, and perfect for fall!
This post is sponsored by Danish Creamery. As always, all opinions are mine.
These pumpkin bars are just oozing with fall flavors. A generous amount of ground cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice flavor the bars, and light brown sugar adds both sweetness and a caramel undertone.
Once topped with tangy cream cheese frosting and a sprinkle of cinnamon, these bars are impossible to resist!
I love how quick and easy they are to make — and that the recipe makes enough to feed a crowd. The hardest step in the recipe is letting the bars cool completely before frosting them. Otherwise, these pumpkin bars are a cinch to make!
Pumpkin Cake vs. Pumpkin Bars
Some people consider pumpkin cake to be the same thing as pumpkin bars. While these bars are on the cakey side, they’re not quite the same as my pumpkin cake recipe. I’ve made several adjustments to make these bars denser and let me tell you, they’re absolutely perfect!
Let’s discuss a few changes that I made:
- Reduced the baking soda & baking powder: In order to make these bars a little denser, we’re scaling back on the baking soda and baking powder. One teaspoon of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda are plenty to leaven 2 cups of flour.
- Used butter instead of oil: The butter adds more flavor to these bars! I highly recommend using Danish Creamery European-style unsalted butter because it has a higher percentage of butterfat (85% compared to the 82 to 83% that most European-style butters contain!). A higher percentage of butterfat also means it contains less water than traditional butter. This results in cake layers that rise higher, crispier cookies, and flakier pie crusts!
- Reduced the number of eggs: My pumpkin cake recipe uses a total of 4 large eggs, but we’re scaling it down to 2 large eggs for this recipe. It’s the perfect amount to bind everything together and provide a little lift, without being too cakey.
- Adjusted the pan size: To make these bars a little thinner, they’re baked in a 10×15-inch jelly roll pan instead of a 9×13-inch pan. This gives you the perfect ratio of pumpkin bar to cream cheese frosting.
Key Ingredients in This Recipe
These pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting require basic ingredients you likely have on hand already. Here’s a look at some of the key ingredients needed for this recipe:
- Pumpkin pie spice: You can make your own pumpkin pie spice if you ran out or can’t find any where you live.
- Danish Creamery European Style Unsalted Butter: My favorite brand of butter for baking! Slow-churned in small batches, Danish Creamery’s European Style Butter has a velvety texture and rich flavor that I adore. You can also use their salted butter for this recipe, just reduce the salt to 1/8 teaspoon.
- Pumpkin puree: Make sure to buy pure pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie filling, which is already sweetened and spiced.
- Cream cheese: To make the cream cheese frosting for the pumpkin bars, you’ll need to use brick-style cream cheese. Don’t buy the cream cheese that comes in a tub, which is whipped and often lower in fat.
How to Make Pumpkin Bars
This is a very straightforward recipe with minimal prep work. Let’s quickly go over the baking process!
- Prep your pan: Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spray a 10×15-inch jelly roll pan with non-stick spray and line with parchment paper. This will make it much easier to remove the bars from the pan and slice them.
- Combine the dry ingredients: Whisk together the flour, spices, baking powder and baking soda.
- Combine the wet ingredients: In another bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, eggs, sugars, melted butter, and vanilla extract.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet: Mix until just combined, but no further. You may see a few small lumps, that’s okay!
- Bake the bars: Turn the batter into the prepared baking dish, then bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Let the bars cool completely: This will take at least one to two hours. If needed, you can make the bars the day before and frost them the next day.
- Make the cream cheese frosting: Once the bars have cooled completely, start on the frosting. First, beat the softened cream cheese and butter until smooth. I prefer to use my stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment to do this. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract to the butter mixture and mix until smooth.
- Frost the bars: I like using an offset spatula to smooth the frosting over the bars, but the back of a spoon works just fine too!
Can the Bars Be Made in Advance?
Absolutely! You can fully assemble the bars and refrigerate until you’re ready to slice and serve them, or you can store the unfrosted bars at room temperature for up to 48 hours before frosting and serving.
Is it Okay to Use Homemade Pumpkin Puree?
Most likely, although I’ve only made this recipe using canned pumpkin puree. If using homemade puree, make sure to wring out any excess moisture if the puree seems too moist (the one downside of baking with homemade pumpkin puree!).
Because these bars are topped with cream cheese frosting, they’ll need to be stored in the fridge. Transfer them to an airtight container or wrap them tightly with plastic wrap to keep them moist. They’ll stay fresh for up to five days.
The bars can also be frozen for up to three months, with or without the frosting. If freezing the bars after they’ve been frosted, I recommend freezing them first on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Once the bars have hardened (after an hour or so), transfer them to a zip-top bag. This way, the frosting won’t get squished!
- After you’ve melted the butter, wait a few minutes before stirring it into the wet ingredients. You don’t want to scramble the eggs by mistake!
- Make sure to only mix in the dry ingredients until just combined. Over mixing the batter can result in denser, gummy pumpkin bars and we want to avoid that here.
- I highly recommend lining your pan with parchment paper. Although you don’t have to, it makes cleanup so much easier.
More Pumpkin Desserts to Make!
- 2 cups all-purpose flour spooned & leveled (250 grams)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup Danish Creamery unsalted butter melted and slightly cooled (230 grams)
- 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree (424 grams)
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar (200 grams)
- ½ cup granulated sugar (100 grams)
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 (8-ounce) package brick-style cream cheese softened (226 grams)
- ½ cup Danish Creamery unsalted butter softened (115 grams)
- 2 cups powdered sugar (240 grams)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- To make the pumpkin bars: Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Spray a 10x15-inch jelly roll pan with nonstick cooking spray, line with parchment paper (this is optional, but makes it easier to remove the bars from the pan), and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, ground cinnamon, and salt until well combined. Set aside.
- In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the melted butter, pumpkin puree, brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract until fully combined.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined, making sure not to over mix the batter.
- Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and spread it around into one even layer. I like to use an offset spatula for this step.
- Bake for 17 to 23 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely.
- To make the cream cheese frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large mixing bowl using a handheld mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth.
- Add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract and mix on medium speed until fully combined and smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- To assemble the bars: Scoop the cream cheese frosting onto the cooled pumpkin bars and use an offset spatula (or the back of a spoon) to smooth it out into one even layer.
- Slice into bars and serve or refrigerate until ready to serve.