This classic and easy recipe for pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting are perfectly soft, moist, spiced just right and are absolutely irresistible! They're perfect for celebrating fall and make the perfect little dessert for Thanksgiving and for Halloween. Oh, and don't get me started on the frosting… It’s so good!
I hope you enjoy this recipe! ❤️ If you give it a try, please let me know how it turned out for you in the comments section at the bottom of the page or share a pic of your om noms on Instagram and tag @dishesanddustbunnies! ❤️
*This post has been updated from an earlier version to include new photos and a few tweaks to the original recipe to make it even more scrumptious!*
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How to make Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting – Overview
Making homemade pumpkin bars from scratch is easy peasy! At the bottom of this post, you'll find the complete instructions and ingredient amounts, but before we get started, here's a little overview of how to make them. 😋
You'll begin by combining the wet ingredients – cream together the butter with the sugar, then beat in the eggs and mix in the pure pumpkin puree.
Next, in a separate bowl, using a whisk, combine the dry ingredients – pumpkin spice, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Combine the wet and dry ingredients, then scrape the batter into a greased (and parchment-lined) 9″x13″ metal baking pan. Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center.
While your pumpkin bars are cooling, mix up a delicious cream cheese frosting in your electric mixer using softened butter, icing sugar, softened cream cheese (not the light kind!) and a little vanilla. Spread the prepared cream cheese frosting evenly over the pumpkin bars.
Chill in the fridge for a few hours, then using a sharp knife, cut the pumpkin bars into 18 pieces and serve!
What's the difference between Pumpkin Bars and Pumpkin Cake?
Although pumpkin bars and pumpkin cake are very similar in their ingredients, such as pumpkin spice, pureed pumpkin and cream cheese frosting, one difference is that pumpkin bars have a more dense body.
Pumpkin cake is typically fluffy and has more of that typical “bready” texture most cakes tend to have. Pumpkin bars have a richer, more dense texture similar to pumpkin pie but leaning more towards the cakey side… so somewhere in a super yummy in between!
Homemade pumpkin puree vs store bought:
Which is best for my pumpkin bars?
You can use either homemade pumpkin puree or the store-bought canned kind (like Libby's) for this recipe. Both will work; however, I'd highly recommend using store-bought as the pumpkin flavour will be richer and more pronounced.
If you do choose to use homemade pumpkin puree for this recipe, you'll need to make sure it's been drained of most of its liquid, concentrated and thick enough to pack enough flavour to make the pumpkin bars their yummiest.
I find that sometimes when using homemade puree, the pumpkin flavour we're looking for just isn't as intense as the canned version… and that's ok! The store-bought kind is super concentrated and contains less water, so that's why it works so well!
Get the Recipe at the bottom of the page!
A few possible recipe variations:
Sprinkles: Depending on the occasion, Halloween, Thanksgiving, etc., you could top your pumpkin bars with some appropriately themed sprinkles! For Halloween, you could try orange, black sprinkles or even cute little bat shapes!
Different Frosting: For this recipe, I decided to use the traditional and classic plain cream cheese frosting to top these pumpkin bars, and it works very well! If, however, you'd like to experiment with a different frosting flavour, definitely give it a try!
I'm working on a few different frosting recipes that I know will complement the flavour of these pumpkin bars very well – maple cream cheese frosting, for example! Once I've perfected it, I'll link to it here! 😋
Nuts: You could try adding some nuts to the batter to give the pumpkin bars! Walnuts, pecans and pralines would work very well! You could also try sprinkling chopped nuts on top of the cream cheese frosting for garnish and for yumminess!
Chocolate chips: Sometimes, I like to throw a handful of mini chocolate chips into the batter! Sooooo yummy!
More pumpkin recipes you'll enjoy:
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup white sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar, packed
- 2 large eggs
- 14 oz. canned (1+3/4 cups) pure pumpkin purée like Libby's or E.D. Smith brands.
(you can also use your own pumpkin purée for this recipe, but I highly recommend using canned – see my notes)
- 2 tsps pumpkin pie spice
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
- 12 oz. (1 1/2 cups / 1 1/2 blocks) of plain cream cheese, softened (don’t use the light kind for this recipe)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 cups icing sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Cream the butter and sugar together.
- Beat in the brown sugar and then eggs one at a time.
- Slowly combine the pumpkin.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients so that they are well combined.
- Combine the wet and dry ingredients.
- Scrape the batter into a greased and parchment paper lined 9 x 13” metal baking pan.
- Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the centre.
- Once the pumpkin bars have finished baking, allow them to cool on a metal cooling rack until they reach room temperature (while still in the pan!).
- Once cooled, spread the cream cheese frosting evenly over the surface of the bars. Chill in the fridge for at least four hours. Once chilled, cut into about 18 bars and serve.
- Using an electric mixer or stand mixer, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla until smooth.
- To this, beat in about ¼ cup of the icing sugar at a time and mix until smooth.
- Spread evenly over the pumpkin bars.
For this recipe, you can use either homemade pumpkin puree or the canned store bought kind (like Libby's). Both will work however I'd highly recommend using store bought as the pumpkin flavour will be more rich and pronounced. I find that sometimes when using homemade puree, the pumpkin flavour we're looking for just isn't as intense as the canned version… and that's ok! The store bought kind has is super concentrated, thicker and contains less water, so that's why it works so well!
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Baking
Keywords: pumpkin, halloween, fall dessert