Where are my pumpkin spice, fleece-wearing, cool morning lovers?! It’s definitely that time again – the time when it becomes acceptable to consume all things pumpkin and spice and everything nice.
And by consuming all things pumpkin, I am specifically referring to making – and enjoying – these pumpkin dessert bars on repeat. Because you can. And because they’re going to rock your world. And the world of everyone you share them with because they’re THAT GOOD.
Of course, as a pumpkin lover you might want to sprinkle in some variety when it comes to making canned pumpkin puree recipes. You won’t want to miss this super easy no-bake pumpkin mousse for dessert. And why not make it an all-day thing starting off the morning with these bite-sized mini pumpkin muffins, and for a midday snack? Indulge in pumpkin sugar cookies before your slice of cake? Who says you can’t?!
But it will all come back to this magnificence. These bars have been in my family for as long as I can remember, and are annually requested by friends and family thanks to the moist, light, fluffy, pumpkin-cinnamony perfection. And that’s just the sheet cake part.
They really go over the top when that melt-in-your-mouth cake base is topped with a thick layer of creamy, indulgent, rich cream cheese frosting. It’s a match made in glorious fall heaven and one you are going to fall head over heels for.
Table of Contents
- Ingredient Spotlight
- The Equipment You’ll Need
- How to Make The Best Pumpkin Bars
- Serving Pumpkin Dessert Bars
- How to Store Pumpkin Bars
- Can I freeze Pumpkin Bars?
- Other Common Questions
Ok, so this easy pumpkin dessert recipe has basic ingredients not so different from what you’d find in a traditional sheet cake. They are essentially sheet cake pumpkin bars, after all!
- The basic baking ingredients you’ll need include all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and fine salt.
- It wouldn’t be a pumpkin recipe without ground cinnamon. Make sure to have a fresh jar on hand for the most flavor.
- To give each slice the super moist crumb, you’ll use vegetable oil.
- Eggs are the emulsifiers and give the sheet cake structure.
- And last but not least, canned pumpkin puree! Be sure you’re using 100% pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie filling. If you’re making one dessert with pumpkin puree this season, let it be this!
When it comes time for the cream cheese frosting, you’ll need a brick of cream cheese that’s softened to room temperature so it mixes smoothly into a frosting, as well as butter, vanilla extract, heavy cream (or another dairy liquid), and powdered sugar.
Find all the ingredient amounts and full instructions in the recipe card below.
The Equipment You’ll Need
The one piece of equipment you’ll need, that you potentially don’t have, is a jelly roll pan or half-sheet pan.
If you’re not familiar with this term, a jelly roll pan was originally created to make jelly rolls which are thin cakes, topped with jelly, and then rolled into a spiral cake.
There are quite a lot of sheet pans that vary in size yet are called jelly roll pans. A true jelly roll pan is actually around 10×15 inches, but as you see, the one I use is also labeled a ‘jelly roll pan’ but measures 12×17 inches, which is more similar to the size of a half-sheet pan, 12×18 inches.
You will want to use a rimmed sheet pan that is in the range of 12×17 or 12×18 to ensure the batter cooks properly. If your pan is smaller, say for example in a 9×13 pan, the bars will be too thick and often results in overcooked edges and uncooked centers. In this case, I recommend halving the recipe.
A jelly roll pan is a large sheet pan. It has edges to hold in baked goods, like these Pumpkin Bars, and is also great for roasting vegetables!
Other Baking Sheet Options
If you don’t have a half sheet pan, I highly recommend investing in one. Not only because you’ll be making these bars all the time, but the pan is also so handy to have around for roasting veggies.
Ok, but we’re not here to roast vegetables and you’re saying “but Becca, I don’t have that sized pan and I really need to make these bars ASAP because I can’t wait any longer!”
I hear you, friend. Here are a few other options:
- Halve the recipe and use a quarter sheet pan or a 9×13 pan.
- Use the full recipe and divide the batter between two quarter sheet pans. This is also great for freezing a batch and enjoying one immediately.
How to Make The Best Pumpkin Bars
Not only will you love the light, fluffy pumpkin cake paired with a rich, indulgent frosting, but you’re also going to love how incredibly easy these pumpkin dessert bars are to make! Using just a stand or hand mixer, the batter is ready in minutes!
First, sift together the dry ingredients in a standard mixing bowl. I have definitely not sifted them together before, but I do recommend at least mixing them together so they have a little air added to them, and to ensure that each dry ingredient is fully incorporated into the wet batter.
Next, it’s time to turn to the bowl of your stand mixer, or a second large mixing bowl if using a hand mixer. Add the wet ingredients (eggs, oil, and pumpkin puree) along with sugar to the bowl.
Beat the wet ingredients together for around 1 minute on medium speed until they’re fully combined and you notice the texture is light and fluffy.
Once they’re combined and you have that gorgeous orange pumpkin color, pour the combined dry ingredients into the mixing bowl. Again, mix on medium to medium-low speed until the dry ingredients are just fully combined.
Be sure to not over mix the batter or you’ll have tough bars.
It’s time to bake the bars!
The batter is now ready, it’s time to bake. You do not need to grease the sheet pan, but if you’d like, you can line it with parchment paper. This is helpful if you want to remove the bars from the pan. If you’ll be serving them directly from the pan with a spatula, it’s fine to use it bare.
Spread the batter evenly in the sheet pan. I like to use an offset spatula to make sure it’s as even as possible.
Just like a cake, bake until it is set and the edges are just becoming golden brown. When a toothpick is poked into the center of the cake, it should come out clean. You can also use a thermometer to check the internal temperature, which should be around 190°F.
Remove from the oven and place the entire sheet pan on a cooling rack, or simply on trivets to cool. Once the cake has completely cooled, it’s time to add the *creme de la creme*…
Top with Cream Cheese Frosting
This cream cheese frosting takes the cake (ha!). No, but really, it’s indulgent and sweet and rich and oh-so dreamy. And (if you couldn’t tell) we’re huge fans of cream cheese frosting over here at FITK, and this recipe is no exception.
It’s for the frosting lovers, as the result is a thick layer on top of the bars so each bite is filled with *basically* equal amounts of both. If you’re not a huge frosting fan, you might want to halve it!
You’ll use either a stand mixer or a hand mixer again. Similar to buttercream frosting, this cream cheese frosting begins by beating together cream cheese and butter.
Make sure the cream cheese and butter are at room temperature. Take them out of the fridge when you make the bars, and they should be ready by the time the bars are cool!
Once the cream cheese and butter are whipped together, add vanilla extract and begin pouring in powdered sugar one to two cups at a time. The recipe calls for a whopping 6 cups of powdered sugar to make even more frosting, but you can use as few as 4 or 5 depending on your desired cream cheese tang to sweetness level.
Be sure to mix together until the frosting is smooth, without lumps. The result is a luxurious frosting. Let the bars cool completely, then spread the frosting across the top. Now, prepare yourself to devour your frosted pumpkin bars.
Serving Pumpkin Dessert Bars
We typically just use a butter knife or a serrated knife to gently cut slices directly from the pan, and use the quintessential Midwestern dessert bar server to get each slice out. Be careful to not scratch your pan.
This way, each person can create the size they’d like. By not cutting the entire pan at once, you’ll also ensure that the edges of each bar will stay moist because there will be no room to dry out.
The serving size of this recipe all depends on how you cut them, but be forewarned, it does make a lot! It can be sliced into 24 large bars (more like cake slices), 36 medium bars, or 48 small bars for serving a larger crowd.
This is the perfect recipe to take to potlucks, treat your coworkers to a fall-themed treat, or enjoy on football Sundays with friends. Or, you know, enjoy yourself with coffee each morning and dessert each night.
How to Store Pumpkin Bars
For the first day the bars are made, I store them at room temperature still in the sheet pan, covered with foil. It keeps the bars moist and the frosting soft.
Now, if for some reason they last longer than a day, cover the pan and store them in the fridge. I would recommend keeping the cake whole – or uncut – while storing in the fridge so it remains moist. Otherwise, it will dry out faster.
If you have stored the bars in the fridge, I recommend bringing them to room temperature before serving to be sure the cake is as soft and tender as it can be! If your thing is a cold cake though, be my guest!
Can I freeze Pumpkin Bars?
Yes, you can freeze the bars. There are several ways to do so, and the first I recommend is freezing the cake part without frosting. Wrap it tightly with plastic wrap and then with foil for a double layer of protection. Once you’re ready to frost and enjoy the bars, let it thaw at room temperature or in the fridge.
If you’d like to freeze the frosting, too, do so separately for the best results. Cream cheese frosting can be frozen alone because the other ingredients help to stabilize the dairy. Store it in an airtight container to prevent any other food smells from sneaking in, and press plastic wrap flush with the top to prevent any additional freezer burn. Cover with a lid and freeze.
Keep the cream cheese frosting in the freezer for up to 3 months. To thaw, place in the fridge overnight. When you’re ready to use the frosting, you will likely want to give it a little refresh and whip it with a mixer before frosting the bars.
I have heard others have success freezing frosted cookies and cupcakes, similar to this sheet cake, but I haven’t tried it myself. You always could, please be sure to let us know how it turns out if you do!
Other Common Questions
I haven’t tried it myself, but others have commented that they have used 1:1 gluten-free flour with success. Please leave a comment below and let us know how it goes if you do!
Yes, you can. If you do halve it, I recommend baking it in a quarter sheet pan for the best results and similar thickness of the cake.
If you are more of a cake than a frosting fan, you can halve the frosting recipe. If you prefer it less sweet, reduce the sugar in the frosting and start with a smaller amount of cream before adding more, so it doesn’t become too runny.
Did you make this recipe? Please leave a star rating and review in the form below. I appreciate your feedback, and it helps others, too!
Get the Recipe Sheet Cake Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
Pumpkin Sheet Cake
- Pre-heat oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon fine salt
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, or a large mixing bowl using a hand mixer, beat together eggs, sugar, oil, and pumpkin puree for 1 minute until light and fluffy.4 eggs, 1 ⅔ cup granulated sugar, 1 cup vegetable oil, 1 15 oz can 100% pumpkin puree
- Add the dried ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix together until just fully combined.
- Spread batter in an ungreased or parchment-lined jelly roll pan (approx. 12×17 inches). Bake for 20-25 minutes (adjust if your pan is a different size; shorter for a larger half-sheet pan, or less time if it is a 10×15 pan). The edges will begin to turn slightly golden brown and a toothpick should come out clean. The internal temperature should be around 190°F. Cool completely before frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, cream together room temperature cream cheese and butter on medium speed. Add the vanilla, and cream (or milk) and mix to combine.8 ounces cream cheese, 12 Tablespoons unsalted butter, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
- Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing between each addition, until all cups are added and the frosting is smooth. If you prefer a less sweet frosting, only add 1 tablespoon of cream and try 4 cups of powdered sugar.6 cups powdered sugar
- Spread the frosting evenly on cooled pumpkin bars. Cut them directly from the pan as you would sheet cake for best results, using a serrated knife if possible. Remove using a small dessert bar spatula.
- Store the bars covered, at room temperature, for the first day, then transfer to the fridge for longer storage.
- Frosting: If you prefer a less sweet frosting, reduce the amount of powdered sugar to 4 cups, and start with only 1 TBSP of cream/milk.
- Ungreased Pan: The bars generally do not stick to the pans due to their moist nature from the oil. However, you can lightly grease the pan if needed or line it with parchment paper.
- Freezing: To freeze this recipe, wrap the unfrosted bars in plastic wrap and foil so they are sealed well to prevent freezer burn. Freeze the frosting separately in its own container for best results. To thaw, place the frosting in the fridge overnight; you may want to refresh it in a mixer when ready to use. Thaw the bars at room temperature or in the fridge, and frost when ready.
This recipe was originally published October 8, 2015; the photos were updated in September 2019, but no changes were made the original recipe.