Fall has arrived (well, everywhere but here) along with pumpkin season. If I remember correctly, Trader Joe’s and lots of other places probably have a pumpkin version of just about everything they sell (pumpkin cream cheese? pumpkin coffee?) on their shelves right now, both sweet and savory, or at least they did a few years ago. My favorite pumpkin item from Trader Joe’s was the pumpkin spice toaster pastries, which were a fun breakfast treat.
We are still big fans of pumpkin (although we gave the pumpkin cream cheese a pass and I may be the only one who doesn’t like pumpkin spice lattes). I have been known to stock up on organic canned pumpkin in the fall (when prices are low) so that I have it available year round, and back when we had a garden we grew our own pumpkins and then baked them and froze the puree. We love pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin coffee cake, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin nut bread and roasted pumpkin, but I think our whole family would agree that these pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting are at the top of our list of ways to enjoy this iconic fall squash.
This pumpkin bar recipe comes from a restaurant Brett and I used to regularly dine at, especially for special occasions: Ron Paul’s in NE Portland. The restaurant closed many years ago, long before we left Portland, but while it was open the wonderful Mr. Paul put out a regular newsletter which included this recipe. They’ve been a favorite since the first time I made them.
The bars are rich and moist, and the frosting adds just the right amount of sweetness without being overpowering. Mini chocolate chips can be substituted for the nuts if you want to take it to the next level, but we prefer pecans (or walnuts).
PUMPKIN BARS WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
For the bars:
- 2 cups flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 4 eggs
- 1 2/3 cups sugar
- 2 cups pumpkin puree
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (or mini chocolate chips)
For the frosting:
- 3 oz. softened cream cheese
- 1/4 cup softened butter
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 cups powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350°.
In a large bowl, blend together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, then add sugar, vegetable oil, and pumpkin stirring until well mixed. Add pecans (or walnuts or chips). Pour into a well-greased 10″ x 15″ x 1″ (jelly roll) pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly golden and set. Cool and frost.
To make the frosting: Beat cream cheese and butter together until fluffy; add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat on high speed until smooth. Frost when bars are completely cooled. Makes 32 bars.