Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Icing

by Sara on November 13, 2010

pumpkin bars

A few years back, my mom and I were home alone the day after Thanksgiving. We’re not the Black Friday shopping type, so we settled in for a morning of watching cooking shows while still in our pajamas.

It was heaven.

dry ingredients whisked wet ingredients
ready for the oven baked bars

It was also our introduction to Paula Deen. I’d heard of her at that point, but I’d never watched the show. The episode airing featured Thanksgiving leftovers, including a recipe on what to do with leftover canned pumpkin. She used a recipe submitted by a viewer and made pumpkin bars.

My mom and I looked at each other…and she told me that she had canned pumpkin and cream cheese. We were hooked. After all, once or twice a year my mom makes the best zucchini cake around, with a decadent cream cheese icing; pumpkin bars seemed like the perfect cool-weather variation.

cream cheese icing

The following recipe came about when I misread directions a couple of years ago, and missed a paragraph when making the bars. As a result, I changed the order of the steps in the recipe. I was happy with the outcome, however, as the original recipe produced a dense bar that seemed to take forever to fully bake. My new accidental method, on the other hand, produced a lighter bar that I paired with a fluffier cream cheese icing.

pumpkin bar

This is not a fancy recipe, but it’s one everyone seems to enjoy. It’s a dessert you can make with your kids, even the little ones – just give them a spoon and let them stir. And because it’s in the form of bars, it travels well.

serving pumpkin bars

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Icing

for the bars:
4 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
15 ounces pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup canola oil
2 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt

for the icing:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 ½ cups sifted powdered sugar*
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon sea salt

for the bars:
Preheat oven to 350. Spray 13×9 inch pan with cooking spray.

In medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and ginger.

In a large bowl, whisk the sugars and eggs until mixed. Whisk in the oil and pumpkin puree. Stir in the vanilla.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the pumpkin; stir with a spatula until no traces of flour remain.

Spread batter into pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely.

for the icing:
Using the paddle attachment, mix cream cheese and butter on medium-low until smooth. Reduce speed to low, add powdered sugar ½ cup at a time, scraping the bowl as necessary. Add vanilla and salt, mix on low to combine. Spread frosting over cooled bars and cut.

Store covered in the refrigerator.

*For this icing recipe, I sifted the confectioners’ sugar before I measured out 2 1/2 cups.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle November 13, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Sounds heavenly.

Sara November 15, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Thanks, Michelle.

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