There are some classic recipes that need no tweaking – you bite into them and nothing is new, nothing has changed, and it is perfect. These Pumpkin Cake Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting are a classic for a reason – they are a reliable crowd favorite that strike that perfect balance of sweet pumpkin cake and tart cream cheese frosting that is just satisfying.
Sometimes I try to come up with crazy new recipes, or bring unique twists to old standards, but sometimes all you need is to whip up something familiar and comforting.
These pumpkin cake bars are one of those classic desserts that you expect to see at fall parties – or are happy to see your friend offer you a slice of when you stop by for a cup of coffee and a playdate.
The pumpkin cake is flavorful and dense, with a spongy texture from the pumpkin, with just the right amount of that tart-and-sweet cream cheese frosting. Typically, it’s just smeared on the cake with a spatula but I thought it would feel a bit more special with a swirly frosting effect. It’s just a couple minutes of extra effort and I think it makes all the difference.
Because of the cream cheese frosting, these cake bars should be stored in the fridge if you don’t eat them all the first day (not that I’ve done that…) which does change the texture slightly but they are still just as delicious as the first day you make them.
I like to add just cinnamon to my pumpkin bars but if you can’t get enough pumpkin spice, you can substitute half of the cinnamon with it. Or, if you’re not really into pumpkin (SHAAAAME!) you can swap in applesauce or yogurt. Both are delicious alternatives if you don’t feel like running out for a can of pumpkin or want to take this recipe from fall to summer.
No matter which of these tweaks you choose – or whether you decide to make the recipe as written, I guarantee these classic pumpkin bars are going to be absolutely delicious!
Ingredients for Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups pumpkin puree (1-15oz can)
- 1-2/3 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup olive oil
- 4 eggs
For the cream cheese frosting:
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- ½ cup (4 ounces) butter, softened
- 3-4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Tip: I’ve also made this recipe with melted butter but I found it denser and preferred olive or vegetable oil.
Tip #2: you can replace 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon with pumpkin spice, if desired.
Kitchen Tools You May Find Helpful
- 9″x13″ cake pan <– I love these Pyrex ones that come with a cover for easy transport or refrigeration
- Large mixing bowl
- Hand mixer or stand mixer
- Piping Bag
- 1M star tip
- Measuring cups and spoons
How to Make Fluffy Pumpkin Cake Bars
Preheat theoven to 350F. Grease and flour a cake pan and set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix the eggs, melted butter or oil, sugar, and pumpkin puree.
Add half of the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture, incorporate thoroughly, then add the remaining flour mixture and mix well.
Fold the cake batter into the greased cake pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Let the pumpkin bars cool completely as you prepare the cream cheese frosting.
Using your mixer, combine the butter and cream cheese for 2 minutes, then add the vanilla, then the powered sugar 1 cup at a time until you achieve your desired consistency.
Scoop the frosting into a piping bag fitted with a 1M tip.
Swirl the frosting onto the cooled pumpkin bars and then cut into squares.
Grab your free printable for our pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting recipe:
What classic fall desserts do you look forward to every year?