Perfect pumpkin bars with that perfect cream cheese frosting we all crave! It’s the easy pumpkin sheet cake dessert you’ll bake all. fall.
why do I call these perfect pumpkin bars?
I realize perfect is a relative term, so I’ll just speak for myself ~ these bars are super moist (think pumpkin blondies or brownies rather than cake) which feeds into my love for all desserts soft, tender, and fudgy. The pumpkin spice lingers on the palate but the real kicker is the silky cream cheese frosting. It’s what gives these pumpkin bars their I’ll-have-one-no-two-no-three quality.
Pumpkin bars, like pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, and pumpkin cake, are what bring fall alive for me. Yes chill in the air, pretty leaves, football, yadayadayada. But I come for the pumpkin. It literally gives me joy to break out the can opener and crank open a can of pumpkin for these bars. It’s the kind of recipe that gets the back of my mouth watering just thinking about it. And the nice thing about sheet pan pumpkin bars? You can share them with lots (and lots!) of friends.
pumpkin bar ingredients
- canned pumpkin
- I admit it, I hoard the stuff. Libby’s is the brand I usually buy, it’s consistently good quality. You’ve heard this a million times…but don’t confuse it with canned pumpkin pie filling!
- large eggs
- vegetable oil
- true story: I was out of my regular canola oil that I usually use for baking, but my craving for pumpkin bars was not to be denied, so I used olive oil. It was amazing, no olive oil flavor whatsoever. So the moral of this story is: use what you have.
- brown and white sugar
- sour cream
- all purpose flour
- cornstarch mixed with all purpose flour = cake flour, which makes these bars extra tender.
- pumpkin pie spice
- fresh grated nutmeg
cream cheese frosting ingredients
- brick style cream cheese
- powdered sugar
how to make easy pumpkin bars, step by step
- Whisk together the wet ingredients in a large bowl.
- Whisk together the dry ingredients and fold into the wet.
- Turn into a prepared sheet pan and spread out evenly.
- Bake for about 20 minutes. Do the toothpick test.
- Let the cake cool while you whip together the frosting.
- Frost the cooled cake.
the right pan
For these pumpkin bars and other sheet cakes you’ll need a half sheet pan. You probably already have one in your collection: it’s 13x18x1 inches. These are the ones I use, and I like to keep one half sheet aside just for cakes.
pumpkin bars tips and faqs
What’s the best way to store these bars?
- Because there’s cream cheese in the frosting these bars will need to be stored in the refrigerator. Cream cheese and other dairy products shouldn’t be left at room temperature for more than a couple of hours. They’ll keep for several days refrigerated.
Can I bake these pumpkin bars in a 9×13 pan?
- Yes, bake until a toothpick comes out without wet batter on it.
What can I substitute for sour cream?
- You might use yogurt, either dairy or non dairy.
Would this recipe work with gluten free flour?
- Yes, I’d use a good quality all purpose 1:1 gluten free baking mix in place of wheat flour.
Can you freeze these pumpkin bars?
- Everybody and their brother wants to tell you you can freeze any recipe, but I’m afraid I don’t recommend it for these very slim frosted bars. Luckily they’re super easy to throw together!
What do you think about adding chocolate chips, or nuts?
- You can add either, I think it’s a fine idea. Maybe one cup of either.
Be sure to measure your ingredients carefully!
- Pumpkin bars are small and thin, so any discrepancy in measuring can have a disproportionate effect on the outcome.
Perfect Pumpkin Bars
- half sheet pan, 13"x 18" buy mine here.
- Preheat oven to 350F. Spray and flour your half sheet pan.
- In a large bowl whisk together the wet ingredients. Make sure to work out any large lumps of brown sugar.
- Whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Fold the dry into the wet, mixing just until there is no dry flour left. Don't overbeat your batter.
- Turn the batter into your prepared pan, spreading out evenly from corner to corner.
- Bake for about 20 minutes, just until done through and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out without wet batter on it. Note: this is a very thin cake so it will bake quickly. Being confident of your oven's temperature is important. I recommend using an oven thermometor to be sure.
- Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack. You'll want it to be pretty much completely cooled before you frost it.
- To make the frosting you can use electric beaters or a stand mixer, but I prefer to use my food processor! I load everything into the bowl and process until silky smooth. This method is great because you can use cold cream cheese. If you use another method you'll want to soften your cream cheese at room temperature first.
- Frost the bars and enjoy! Store leftovers in the refrigerator (because of the cream cheese in the frosting.) The bars will stay delicious for several days.
more pumpkin desserts to make this fall
- The Best Pumpkin Crumb Cake
- Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Loaf
- Maple Bourbon Pumpkin Creme Brulee
- Pumpkin Layer Cake with Caramel Frosting
- Pumpkin Fudge
- Libby’s Pumpkin Pie Recipe