Home Cooking: Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

(photo credit: chocolatewithgrace.com)

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.

13 thoughts on “Home Cooking: Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

    1. It’s a great fall recipe. I’d love to make them but our current oven is too small for a sheet pan! I guess I could try making them in the half pans and see how that goes, but I’m also afraid if I make them I won’t be able to stop eating them!

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  1. So interesting. My mom always made Paul’s Pumpkin Bars, but I had no idea of the origin of the name. They are wonderful! I will have to make some when I get home. Thanks for the name tidbit!

    Apparently, canned pumpkin purée is unusual in the U.K. and only available seasonally if at all. My DD had one can left and we used it tonight for a recipe from the NYT: Coconut Curry Chickpeas with Pumpkin & Lime. It has become one of my favorites. I love pumpkin but have never gotten into the pumpkin spice thing unless it’s in pie or some other bakery item…I also love pumpkin bread, muffins, etc.

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    1. Wow – that’s interesting that your Mom has the recipe. Ron Paul’s was such a great place – it was our go-to restaurant for celebrations, and Ron Paul always came out to greet us and chat with us. Sadly, he had to close the restaurant but stayed active in Portland politics. He died about five years ago though.

      I never thought about finding canned pumpkin in England, but now that you mention it, I don’t remember seeing anything pumpkin flavored AT ALL, and we were there in the fall.

      I have already bookmarked the Coconut Curry Chickpea recipe – I know we’ll love it.

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  2. I am with you on the pumpkin lattes and pumpkin cheesecake. But, I love pumpkin bread and, most likely, these bars. I am salivating. I have also discovered that sweet potatoes are fine for any pumpkin recipe. Just substitute.

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    1. One of the weird pumpkin things I do like is pumpkin ice cream – go figure.

      I have substituted sweet potato before – it does work well as long as the potatoes are well-pureed.

      I hope you get a chance to make these – do you think Tommy would like them?

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  3. Thanks for sharing that recipe…it looks yummy! I love most all things pumpkin so this is my time of the year! However, this year, canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix, just plain pumpkin) seems to be at a premium. I have not been able to find any at any of the stores around us…. it’s always sold out. Apparently lots of people like all things pumpkin!

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    1. That is strange about the pumpkin – usually it always seemed to be overstocked. I’ve seen it on the shelves here, but then again pumpkin is not really a “thing” here on the island.

      I plan to post a pumpkin recipe each week in October. Most are baked goods but I’ve got a new main dish recipe to try and will post that if it’s good.

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