Like countless others, I’m a lover of “Pumpkin Spice Everything”, but long before pumpkin spice became the flavor craze it is today, my Nan and my mom were baking these delicious Pumpkin Bars. McCormick’s created their original Pumpkin Spice Blend in 1934, but the Pumpkin Spice Frenzy really took off around 2003 when Starbucks introduced the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Looking at grocery isles today, you see everything from Pumpkin Spice yogurt, cereal, and whip cream to baked goods, cookies, and candy. So if your craving something pumpkin, bake up this super moist, bold-with-spice, not-too-sweet Pumpkin Bars!
Bakers tips for Classic Pumpkin Bars:
Pick your pumpkin:
Libby’s, like most bakers is my favorite brand of pumpkin puree. You can always roast your own pumpkin though to give even more natural pumpkin flavor. To roast a pumpkin: simply half the pie pumpkin (2-3 lbs.), scoop out the seeds, brush with oil, place flesh down on baking sheet and bake at 450 degrees for 45 minutes. Puree in a Vitamix or high-speed blender.
Use the proper baking sheet:
I always use an aluminum 18×13 half-sheet pan since they conduct even heat, however, if you only have a quarter baking sheet or 9×13 pan that will work too, your bars will just turn out thicker, and more like a slice of cake.
The magic is in the spice blend:
Many recipes call for Pumpkin Pie Spice which you can purchase, however, I make my own Pumpkin Spice Blend, which is a bold version with higher proportion of classic spices (ginger, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice) to a cinnamon base.
Butter for flavor, oil for texture:
I’ve modified the original recipe by using half butter to provide additional flavor along with using oil to make for a tender, moist crumb. Remember when baking, to always use a mild oil such as canola or ‘extra light’ extra virgin olive oil so that it doesn’t overpower your baked good.
Adjusting egg amounts:
I’ve added fewer whole eggs (the traditional recipe calls for 4 eggs) to make it more “bar-like” instead of “cake-like,” yet maintained the number of yolks to still provide richness.
Tips for making the best cream cheese frosting:
Frost with my homemade cream cheese frosting or simply dust with confectioners sugar. For the best all natural taste and texture, use full fat cream cheese sold in the brick. Do not use cream cheese in the tub which is acutually a spread and has additives. You can decorate each square with natural fall sprinkles or pipe a rounded pumpkin in the center of each bar. Cream cheese frosting tends to be thin, so if you are going to pipe the frosting, add 1-2 tsp. of unflavored gelatin or cornstarch to the confectioners sugar. Although just adding additional confectioners sugar would also make it thicken up, it makes the frosting too sweet.
Classic Pumpkin Bars
- 2 c. unbleached flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 T. Pumpkin Spice Blend
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 c. sugar
- 2/3 c. brown sugar
- 1/2 c. oil
- 1/2 c. unsalted butter room temp
- 2 eggs + 2 yolks
- 2 c. pumpkin puree
- 1 tsp. vanilla
Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 8 oz. cream cheese
- 1/2 c. unsalted butter room temp
- 3 c. confectioners sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- pinch salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease half sheet pan (18" x 13") with canola spray.
- Whisk together dry ingredients in bowl and set aside.
- Combine wet ingredients in the mixer or bowl. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and blend until just combined.
- Pour batter into greased pan and bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick placed in center comes out clean. Allow to cool before icing, then cut into squares.
To make frosting:
- In a mixer, beat together cream cheese, butter and confectioners sugar until light and fluffy. Then add vanilla and pinch of salt.
- NOTE: If you are going to pipe any decorations such as an orange pumpkin in the center of each pumpkin bar, you can stabilize the frosting by adding 1-2 tsp. of cornstarch or powdered unflavored gelatin to the confectioners sugar before it is mixed with the cream cheese and butter.