These Pumpkin Bars are a soft, yet sturdy cake/cookie bar hybrid. My recipe is quick and easy to make, with just 20 minutes of prep before baking! Recipe includes a how-to video!
Perfect Pumpkin Bars
If you’ve ever baked with pumpkin before, then you know it contains a lot of water (pumpkins are 90% water!). Introducing water in baked goods tends tends to make them thicker and cakier, and while this isn’t so much an issue when making something like pumpkin cupcakes, it can become tricky when making pumpkin cookies or these pumpkin bars.
Don’t get me wrong, pumpkin bars should be somewhat cakey, but they should really be more dense than a cake, chewy, and handheld…essentially a cookie/cake hybrid! I’m so pleased to share my buttery, pumpkin-y recipe that’s perfectly cakey but that can be enjoyed with or without a fork. This recipe was developed after lots of testing, tweaking, and some help from my Facebook baking club.
What you’ll love about my recipe:
- Carefully designed to be chewy and perfectly cakey!
- Takes less than an hour from start to finish.
- Feeds a crowd with 24 servings!
- Can be enjoyed by hand or with a fork.
What You Need
Since we want a less cakey, more dense, cookie-like bar, we’ll be using carefully selected ingredients:
- Melted butter. Creaming together butter and sugar creates air bubbles that create a lighter, fluffier (and, I’ve found, sometimes dryer) crumb. For a more moist pumpkin bar, we will instead melt our butter rather than cream it with our sugar.
- Pumpkin puree. I recommend blotting your pumpkin puree with paper towels to absorb as much of the water as you can (if you’ve made my pumpkin scones, you’ve done this before!). this keeps the bars from being so cakey that they’d fall apart if you tried to eat them by hand.
- Egg yolks. Even though we are blotting our pumpkin, we’re not going to be able to fully eradicate all of the water in our puree. To avoid adding any additional water, we’ll leave out the egg whites (you can always save them to make meringue cookies!) and just use the yolks for beautifully tender bars.
- Pumpkin pie spice. If you have a batch of homemade pumpkin spice, now is the time to use it!
- Cornstarch. Cornstarch is one of my favorite ingredients to add to baked goods, especially my cookies. Not only does it allow us to cut back on the amount of flour (too much flour could cause our pumpkin bars to come out tough or dry!), it also contributes to tenderness.
- Cream cheese. Nothing pairs with pumpkin quite like classic cream cheese frosting. Use brick-style cream cheese as shown in the photo above, not the spreadable kind often sold in tubs.
SAM’S TIP: Don’t add your sugars while your butter is still hot! Let the melted butter cool until its cool to the touch before proceeding, otherwise you’ll melt your sugars.
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Pumpkin Bars
- Combine melted (but cooled) butter and sugars, then stir in your blotted pumpkin puree.
- Add the eggs and vanilla and stir well.
- Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then gradually add them to your wet ingredients.
- Spread the batter into a parchment lined pan and bake for 23-25 minutes.
- Let the pumpkin bars cool completely before frosting.
SAM’S TIP: While you can grease and flour your pan, I actually prefer to just line mine with parchment paper. Not only does it make clean-up easier, but it also makes removing the bars from the pan a breeze–simply lift up the paper and slice!
Frequently Asked Questions
Sure! My brown butter frosting, ermine frosting, or buttercream frosting would all be great options for this recipe.
I typically leave mine out of the fridge in an airtight container (for at most 2-3 days), but if you feel more comfortable refrigerating them, feel free to. Just make sure you definitely store them in an airtight container, since the fridge dries out baked goods.
I keep mine at room temperature for 2-3 days, but you can make yours last longer (I’d guess up to 5 days) if you store them in the fridge.
If you’re looking for a truly cakey pumpkin bar (one that’s more like a sheet cake!), you can simply bake my pumpkin cake in a jelly roll pan. It will take about 25 minutes this way 😊
Let’s bake together! I’ll be walking you through all the steps in my written recipe and video below! If you try this recipe, be sure to tag me on Instagram, and you can also find me on YouTube and Facebook
- 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
- 6 oz cream cheese softened (170g)
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter softened (57g)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups powdered sugar (250g)
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
- Preheat your oven to 350F (175C) and line a 13×9 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.
How to Blot PumpkinTo blot your pumpkin, place it in a medium sized bowl or spread it over a cookie sheet and use paper towels to “blot” the pumpkin and absorb as much liquid as you can. Measure your pumpkin puree before blotting. See video for a visual guide to blotting.
Baking Pan NoteI use a metal pan. A glass dish will work instead but keep in mind that your pumpkin bars may take longer to bake.
StoringStore in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 days or in the refrigerator in an airtight container up to 5 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.
Can you add chocolate chips and skip the frosting. Will this make them pumpkin chocolate chip cookie bars?
Hi Christine! You could do that, but this has more a cake consistency than a cookie consistency. You could bake my pumpkin chocolate chip cookies in a pan instead. 🙂
I made these before Halloween because I was craving some pumpkin flavors…I ended up eating most of these by myself. I liked that I could eat it like a cake but also with my hands if I needed to. 🙂
🤣 Eating the whole thing yourself is the best compliment you can give. 🙂
Debra C Franklin
I love all things pumpkin and these look wonderful!! I would like to take them to my family’s Thanksgiving meal, but I have to drive about 2 hours. Are these okay sitting out a while since they have cream cheese in them or should I use a different frosting? Thanks so much.
Hi Debra! Personally I would be comfortable letting them sit out for that amount of time. Adding more sugar to the frosting would make it sweeter but would help preserve the cream cheese in the icing even more if you are still worried, or you could always try one of my other frosting recipes. I hope that helps!
Just made these and quite tasty. Made your pumpkin spice first, just a little light on the measuring because we like milder flavors The bars went together quickly and used a vanilla buttercream frosting since cream cheese is not our cup of tea. Passed them around to neighbors so we two seniors wouldn’t be eating them for a week!
I enjoy your videos even tho’ I’ve been baking for 50+ years. As a senior I find the recipe easier to put together when I’ve watched you first!
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Thanks for letting us know how you liked them, Cheryl! We love hearing that you enjoy the videos too–we’ll keep ’em coming!
I made these yesterday. I used fresh pumpkin, drained through cheese cloth overnight and fresh ginger. I thought the texture of the bar was great. I didn’t get a huge pumpkin flavor and I would probable add a little more pumpkin spice next time.
I made the frosting with 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar and found it to be overly sweet. I ended up adding more cream cheese and stayed with the reduced sugar and it tasted great.
So amazing! I used arrowroot powder instead of cornstarch, but I made no other changes and they came out exactly how you described them. Our family of 4 ate them in one day!
I plan to make these for Thanksgiving dinner, but need to adapt it for a gluten-free eater. Any suggestions on how to make it gluten-free?
Also, I’d like to try adding chocolate chips and will let you know how those turn out.
Sugar Spun Run
I am so happy to hear that you enjoyed them, Melissa! Unfortunately, I am not familiar with baing gluten-free. Others have used the gluten-free flour (1:1) with success in several of my other recipes, hopefully, you have the same luck with this one. If you try it, I’d love to know how it turns out for you. 🙂
What about a 9×9 baking pan (glass) how would you adjust the recipe?
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Hi Amanda! Halving the recipe should work for that pan size, although we aren’t sure on what the new bake time will be. Keep an eye on it and let us know how it turns out for you!
Do you make your own pumpking puree? Or should we buy it canned for this recipe?
Hi Jenna! I always buy the stuff from the store. Making your own takes a little while and you need to make sure to do it properly. 🙂
I made the pumpkin bars today and yum, yum, yummy!!!! Thanks again for a great recipe!!!
Hi Margie! I am so glad you enjoyed them! 😊
Can an alternative to cream cheese frosting be used? My family doesn’t like cream cheese with their desserts, but would a buttercream be too sweet? What would you recommend?
A buttercream will be sweeter but it probably wouldn’t be bad with these bars and you don’t need to put a ton on. I think I’d recommend the vanilla buttercream frosting that I used for my Sugar Cookie Bars (they’re also made in a 13×9 pan so the amount would be correct), here is the recipe:
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature 170g
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar 200g
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
colored sprinkles for decorating (optional)
Place butter in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until cream.
Gradually add sugar until completely combined.
Stir in vanilla extract and salt, stir until well-combined.
Spread over completely cooled pumpkin bars. Enjoy!
Yay! Thanks for the suggestion. Can’t wait to try!