Moist and soft, pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting
are a great way to welcome the fall.
One of my all time favorite pumpkin recipes is pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting. For nearly 15 years, every fall I have been making pumpkin bars to rave reviews. As the official start of fall begins tomorrow, I thought it appropriate to serve these little bites of pleasure at a play date I recently hosted. I am not sure why they are called pumpkin bars in the original recipe as they look more like pumpkin cake before you cut them into squares, but if you like, you can do what I did recently and make them into cupcakes instead.
For the Pumpkin Bars
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
4 beaten eggs
1 15oz can pumpkin (or pumpkin purée)
1 cup cooking oil
For the Cream Cheese Frosting
8-ounce package cream cheese or mascarpone, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325F.
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, soda, salt and cloves. Stir in eggs, pumpkin and cooking oil until thoroughly combined. Spread batter into an ungreased 15x10x1 inch baking pan or cupcake pans. Bake at 325 for 20-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to cool. Frost with cream cheese frosting. Cut into squares and serve. If using cupcake pans, reduce baking time to 10-15 minutes.
For the cream cheese frosting, combine cream cheese and butter in a mixer, then carefully add powdered sugar until smooth. Then add vanilla extract. I’ve often just made cream cheese frosting with only cream cheese, omitting the butter, and that works fine too—just add a little more cream cheese or less powdered sugar.
Martine’s notes: This recipe is really fast and easy. Cream cheese frosting is a must!
I often add a little more cinnamon, all spice, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla to the batter for more flavor. Over the years I have tried several variations to this recipe, including the use of pecan pumpkin butter or fresh pumpkin instead of canned pumpkin. I have also substituted the pumpkin filling for other fruits. For example, I’ve used applesauce, or mango puree, or apricot puree instead of pumpkin and have adjusted the spices accordingly. When I’ve made the bars with applesauce, I frosted the bars with whip cream frosting and berries. I also have added chocolate chips to the pumpkin batter. When I add chocolate, I serve this variation without frosting.
The first time you bake these, the best thing to do would be to watch them like a hawk because they can burn, rather, over cook in one skinny minute, leaving you with very dry pumpkin bars. For the mini cupcakes, baking time was reduced to about 10-15 minutes.
I wasn’t satisfied with the look of the cupcakes I first frosted (pictured below). I topped the frosting with a few mini chocolate chips. The following day I frosted others with the orange piping you see pictured above.
To make the design, pipe 2-3 orange circles in rings on top of the cupcake. Then run a toothpick in an up and down motion, towards the center from the edge (the radius) and vice versa, through the frosting. Happy fall, enjoy!