These pumpkin bars are a hybrid between moist cake and chewy cookie bar! They’re soft but sturdy enough to be picked up and eaten by hand while still being decadent enough to be enjoyed served on a plate and eaten with a fork!
Top them off with my cream cheese frosting for irresistible pumpkin bars. Can you think of anything that would be more perfect for your Thanksgiving dessert table!? Recipe includes a brief how-to video at the bottom of the post.
I owe a big THANK YOU to the members of my Baker’s Club Facebook group for today’s Pumpkin Bar recipe!
In case you’re not already a member, the Sugar Spun Run – Baker’s Club is a free Facebook group where members are encouraged to share baking related questions and photos, and we’ve grown quite a bit recently!
When I set out to make today’s recipe, I couldn’t decide if pumpkin bars should be super soft and cakey (as I’d often had them in the past) or if they should be chewy and more like a cookie bar. So, I asked the group! The consensus was that Pumpkin Bars should be somewhat cakey, but more dense than a cake, chewier, and you should be able to pick them up and eat them with your hands.
And here we are today, with a buttery, pumpkin-y cookie/cake hybrid, one that can be enjoyed with or without a fork.
Evidently it takes a village to make a pumpkin bar 😉
Pumpkin and Cake-y Baked goods
Now here’s the thing about pumpkin.
Pumpkin is full of water, and all of that added moisture naturally lends itself to cakey baked goods. Since we wanted a less cakey, more dense cookie-like bar, some adjustments had to be made to the ingredient list…
Blot your pumpkin puree
For starters, I recommend blotting your pumpkin puree. I successfully used this technique with my pumpkin scones and we’re using it again here. This simply means you’re going to absorb as much of the water from your pumpkin puree as you can. To do this, I recommend measuring out your pumpkin and then placing it in a bowl or spreading it over a cookie sheet and using paper towels to absorb as much water as you reasonably can from the puree.
Skip the egg whites
Egg whites also contain a lot of water (while the yolks are mostly fat). Even though we are blotting our pumpkin, we’re not going to be able to fully eradicate all of the water in our puree (Pumpkins are 90% water, after all!).
So we’re going to compensate and avoid adding more additional water than we have to. For today’s pumpkin bars, that means leaving out the egg whites (you can always save them to make meringue cookies!).
Cornstarch Cornstarch Cornstarch!
By now many of you have caught on to the fact that cornstarch is one of my favorite ingredients to add to my baked goods, especially my cookies.
For one thing, using cornstarch allows us to cut back (though just a bit) on the amount of flour we would otherwise have to use. Too much flour could cause our pumpkin bars to come out tough or dry. However, cornstarch instead lends itself to a tender finished product. This also helps us get that cookie-bar-like crumb that we were originally looking for.
I love using cornstarch in my baking!
One more thing worth noting!
If you’re looking for a truly cakey pumpkin bar, one that’s more like a sheet cake, I do still have an option for you! You can bake my pumpkin cake into a jelly roll pan for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few crumbs.
- 1 cup unsalted butter melted (226g)
- 1 cup sugar (200g)
- ¾ cup brown sugar tightly packed (150g)
- 1 cup pumpkin puree blotted*(see notes for instructions on blotting) 240g
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose (plain) flour (285g)
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 Tablespoon pumpkin spice
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- Preheat your oven to 350F (175C) and line a 13x9 baking pan** with parchment paper (or grease and flour the sides and bottom of the pan).
- Combine butter, sugar, and brown in a large bowl and use an electric mixer to beat until creamy and well-combined.
- Add blotted pumpkin puree and stir well.
- Add egg yolks and vanilla extract and stir until batter is smooth and all ingredients are well-combined.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, pumpkin spice, cornstarch, and salt.
- Gradually add dry ingredients to set, stirring until all ingredients are combined.
- Spread pumpkin bar batter into prepared baking pan and bake on 350F (175C) for 23-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs.
- Allow to cool completely before covering with cream cheese frosting
- Combine butter and cream cheese in a large bowl and use an electric mixer to beat until creamy. Add vanilla extract and salt and stir well.
- With mixer on low-speed, gradually add powdered sugar until completely combined. Add corn starch and stir until combined.
- Once pumpkin bars have cooled completely, spread frosting evenly overtop.
- Slice and enjoy! Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.