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.

These mini pumpkin cupcakes were served alongside an exotic mushroom pâtégougères, and walnut cookies.

mini pumpkin cupcakes
pumpkin bars made in mini cupcake pan

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!


pumpkin bars

21 thoughts on “Pumpkin Bars

  1. Thanks! I really was not too happy with the chocolate chips ones but fortunately the cupcake and frosting taste so good that it really was a minor issue. But still, I thought I should try to come up with something different while I still had extra cupcakes and before my husband ate them all! Thanks again!

    1. Hi Josephine, Thanks for your question. The technique I used is definitely not a chef’s secret. It’s actually quite easy and can quickly make a dessert look fancy.

      I took a little of the cream cheese frosting and added orange food coloring paste. I would NOT recommend liquid food coloring as the extra liquid would just make the frosting more runny. Cream cheese frosting is already naturally very soft.

      So, with a piping bag and circle tip, I piped 2-3 orange circles–one small circle in the center, then another larger one around it and so forth–on top of the cupcake. Then, with a toothpick I ran a line down from the small circle in the center to the outer edge of the cupcake top (the radius of the cupcake), then right next to it I did the reverse – I ran a line with the toothpick from the outer edge to the center. I kept alternating directions (center to edge vs edge to center) of the line until I made it around the circle.

      I hope that helps. If my explanation is not clear, please do not hesitate to let me know. I’ll try to further clarify and perhaps do it again and take pictures from beginning to end. Thanks again for your question. Let me know if you have others!

  2. One of the best desserts I’ve ever had, so glad you have shared this recipe. 🙂
    I will definitely be making these this season. The frosted ones are cute!

    1. Thanks! Yep, they are just that yummy! I’m glad to now have the opportunity (this site) to share this recipe online and reach a wider audience. More people can enjoy baking, frosting and sharing pumpkin bars as much as I have over the years!

  3. Hi, Martine. Lovely combination of cream cheese with the pumpkin bars/cupcakes. A bit of nutmeg and ginger to the mix – and you have an alternative to pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. I will definitely make these soon; they sound delicious and the photos are enticing and mouth-watering. Take good care! – Shanna

    1. Hi Shanna, Thanks. The cream cheese is a hit and really completes this dessert. My husband cannot get enough of them. 🙂 I’ve tried adding a bit of nutmeg, ginger and/or all spice, but I’m not sure the taste alters too much. The pumpkin and cinnamon dominate. I’m sure with your cooking and baking skills you can take this to another level. Please let me know if you come up with other variations, I’d love to know and try!

      1. Hi, Martine – Yes, it looks lovely! I have bookmarked it for the holiday! I have most of the ingredients on hand. I cannot wait to make this. I, too, love cream cheese frosting; it is my favorite all time topping for any cake. Be well, Shanna

  4. Good Lord! Cuteness and beauty all over! I seriously, truly want to make those orange frosted mini bars…like right now!
    How incredibly welcoming and warm they look!
    Stunning, winner recipe 🙂

    1. Thank you! This is such an easy go to dessert for Fall. I’ve loved making and sharing it with friends and family every year for YEARS!!! If I could I’d bake some for you right now. I’m so glad they caught your eye. Enjoy and thanks for your nice note! 🙂

        1. Thanks so much! I’ll try to make them again this week and explain. It’s a super easy technique that quickly jazzes up frosted baked goods. Cream cheese frosting is super soft so its perfect for this. Really, I’m so happy and grateful you like them!

    2. Hi Nusrat, I’m not sure if I ever answered your question about making this frosting design. If not, so sorry and please let me know. I’d be happy to provide more explanation than what I had updated in the post.

Leave a Reply to The Novice Gardener Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s