Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting have a moist, light, and fluffy pumpkin sheet cake base topped with a rich, decadent cream cheese frosting for an exquisite, heavenly result. They’re the perfect fall dessert – easy to make, and completely irresistible!
Where are my pumpkin spice, flannel, and fleece wearing, cool morning lovers at?! It’s definitely that time again – the time when it becomes acceptable to consume all things pumpkin.
And by consuming all things pumpkin, I am specifically referring to making – and enjoying – these pumpkin 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.
They are truly the most magnificent pumpkin bars. They’re moist, light, fluffy, pumpkin-cinnamony perfection. And that’s just the sheet cake part. Then that most delicious 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.
My Mom’s Pumpkin Bar Legacy
They are famously my mother’s – the woman who taught me everything I know in the kitchen and gave me the curiosity and independence to veer off of recipes and follow my instinct (well, that goes for life in general, too).
If you’ve had the pleasure of having my mom make you these perfect pumpkin bars, then you know what I’m talkin’ about. If not, then believe me when I say that people ask for these, beg for these. And now they’re HERE for YOU to try.
The melt-in-your-mouth, heavenly, luscious, perfect bars will soon be your favorite too. While I could continue to write thousands of words about how there are no words to describe them…let’s just get to baking, shall we?
How to Make The Best Pumpkin Bars
I said it. I went there. Between the light, fluffy pumpkin cake and the rich, indulgent frosting, these are the best pumpkin bars around. Taste and texture aside, they’re also super easy to make using a stand or hand mixer. You can’t argue with an easy fall dessert that is guaranteed to impress!
First, sift together the dry ingredients. Have I taken the easy route before and not sifted them together, and instead just thrown them all into the mixing bowl after I combine the wet ingredients? Well, yes I will admit to you that I have. But I do recommend at least mixing them together so they have a little air added to them, and can fully incorporate when added to the rest of the ingredients.
Overall, it really helps make sure the bars are light and fluffy.
So here are the dry ingredients you’ll be mixing together first:
- All-Purpose Flour – please make sure you are sifting, then scooping your flour when measuring, or that you weigh the flour for precise measurements. This helps make sure you have the best bars possible!
- Baking Powder
- Baking Soda
- Cinnamon – my favorite fall spice, it adds the perfect warmth to these bars. Readers have also added pumpkin pie spice, so feel free to do so if you want a little more spice to the bars.
Next, beat together the wet ingredients in a large bowl (ideally with an electric mixer). Here are the ingredients that get whisked up together:
- Granulated Sugar
- Vegetable Oil – instead of butter, the cake part of these bars uses oil instead. It results in a super moist crumb that is unlike any other!
- Eggs – try to make sure they’re room temperature so they incorporate best when combining with the other wet ingredients.
- Pumpkin Puree (not pumpkin pie filling) – make sure it’s pure pumpkin!
What You’ll Need (The Equipment)
You don’t need anything too special for these bars, but you will need a jelly roll pan to bake these bars. This recipe has a lot of batter and makes quite a lot of bars (for sharing with friends!).
What is a jelly roll pan? Well, 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. Similar to these bars, which are essentially a large sheet cake turned into a bar (because why not eat it with your hands and call it a bar?).
A few things to note: There are quite a lot of sheet pans that vary in size yet are called named jelly roll pans or half sheet 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’. Some pans labeled jelly roll pans measure 12×18, which is more of a ‘half-sheet pan’ size, and some are truly 10×15, or anywhere between the two.
You don’t need to use exactly a 12×17 inch jelly roll pan for this recipe, but you do want to use a pan that is in the range, give or take an inch or so, with raised edges as such. Whether it’s labeled jelly roll pan or half sheet pan, you should be in business.
On the flip side, using a smaller baking pan or dish, like a 9×13 casserole dish, makes the bars too thick and results in overcooked edges and uncooked centers.
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!
If you don’t have a jelly roll 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.
If you don’t have a baking sheet around the size of a jelly roll pan (or half sheet pan), or you want to make a smaller batch (gasp!.. just kidding…) you can halve the recipe and use a quarter sheet pan.
Now, not to make things more complicated, but you could also use two quarter sheet pans for the full recipe.
Have we sorted through all the details regarding the pan size? I sure hope so! As always, if you have any questions please leave a comment or email me!
Now, spread the batter in your pan, of course, making sure it’s even.
Just like a cake, bake until it is set and the edges are just becoming golden brown. When a toothpick is entered, it should come out clean. You can also use a thermometer to check the internal temperature, which should be around 190F.
Once the cake has completely cooked, we really take it over the top.
Time for 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 frosting over here at FITK, and this recipe is no exception.
The frosting is thick. As in, it’s a thick layer on top of the pumpkin bar and it’s supposed to be that way!
Easily make the frosting in the bowl of your stand mixer, or use a hand mixer. 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 they’re creamed, add vanilla extract and begin adding powdered sugar. I like to add the full 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.
Add each batch of powdered sugar and mix in between, until the frosting is smooth and creamy.
The result is a luxurious frosting. Let the bars cool completely, then spread the frosting across the top. Then get ready to devour your frosted pumpkin bars.
How to Store Pumpkin Bars
If they last long enough to store, that is. For the first day, I store them on the counter, covered with foil. It keeps the bars moist and the frosting soft. They don’t last much longer than a day, so I never need to worry.
However, if they’ll be around any longer, or if you prefer from the start, store them, covered, in the fridge.
I do recommend letting the bars come to room temperature before serving, though, to be sure the bar/cake part is as soft and tender as it can be! If your thing is a cold cake though, be my guest!
I also prefer to store the uncut so the edges of the bars don’t dry out. Plus, then you can cut ‘just one bar’ in whatever size you want. I’m all about helping you live your best life around here.
Can I freeze Pumpkin Bars?
This is a multi-part answer. Yes, you can freeze the bars. The cake part. Freeze away. Be sure you 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.
I do not recommend freezing the bars with the frosting, however. 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.
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.
It all depends on how you cut them. This recipe makes a lot of the sheet cake base (and frosting!). It can be sliced into 24 large bars, 36 medium bars, or 48 small bars for serving.
More Pumpkin Recipes to Love
Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon fine salt
- 4 eggs room temperature
- 1 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 15 oz can 100% pumpkin puree not pie filling!
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
- 8 ounces cream cheese room temperature
- 12 Tablespoons unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 Tablespoons heavy cream half-and-half, or milk
- 6 cups powdered sugar
- Pre-heat oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
- 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. Add the bowl of the dried ingredients into the pumpkin mixture and mix together until 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 brown slightly 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. Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing between each addition, until all cups are added and frosting is smooth.
- Spread evenly on cooled pumpkin bars. Store at room temperature, covered, for the first day or so, then transfer to the fridge for longer storage.
This recipe was originally published October 8, 2015; the photos were updated in September 2019, but no changes were made the original recipe.