Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting are the perfect fall dessert! They are lightly spiced, super moist, and topped with a sweet and tangy cream cheese frosting.
There’s something so magical about the onset of fall. I love the cooler weather, changing leaves, and fragrant smells of freshly baked goods.
One of my favorite flavor combinations is pumpkin spice. It’s especially delicious for baking at this time of year, especially in these classic Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting.
The pumpkin bars start with a spiced pumpkin cake that is very moist and tender. The soft and flavorful crumb is what pumpkin spice dreams are made of.
Then, the bars are topped with a tangy cream cheese frosting that flawlessly complements the sweetness of the cake. It’s an autumn taste experience you won’t soon forget!
If you’re like me, you can’t get enough desserts paired with cream cheese frosting. I hope you enjoy some of my other cream cheese frosted recipes like Strawberry Crunch Cake, Old Fashioned Banana Cake, Homemade Hawaiian Cake, and my Old Fashioned Orange Cake.
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What makes these the best pumpkin spice bars
The basic pumpkin bar recipe has been around for decades. In 1934, McCormick introduced its now famous pumpkin pie spice blend. Shortly after its debut, pumpkin cake and pumpkin bar recipes started appearing and have remained a classic dessert ever since.
I love this spiced pumpkin bar recipe because of how moist and tender the cake crumb is.
I did some research to compare “original” versions of the recipe and found that most called for three ounces of cream cheese and two tablespoons of butter for the frosting.
This makes a pretty thin layer of frosting, and cream cheese isn’t sold in three-ounce blocks anymore!
So I tweaked the proportions to use a whole eight-ounce block of cream cheese, and I think I found perfection.
A more generous layer of luscious cream cheese frosting perfectly balances out the sweetness of the pumpkin bars.
For the pumpkin bars
- Whole eggs are used to bind the cake ingredients together.
- These pumpkin bars are sweetened with granulated sugar.
- You’ll need a single can (15 oz) of pumpkin purée for pumpkin flavor and moistness. Do not substitute pumpkin pie filling for the purée—the bars will be too sweet.
- These bars use unsalted butter, both for the cake and the frosting.
- I recommend using all-purpose flour to make the pumpkin spice bars. Make sure to measure accurately. Adding too much flour will make the bars overly dense or dry.
- The recipe calls for baking powder and baking soda as leaveners. The combination of both leavening agents helps to keep the pumpkin bars light and airy with a cake-y texture.
- Lastly, you’ll need a little salt and pumpkin pie spice to bring out all the aromatic flavors in the pumpkin bars. If you don’t have pumpkin pie spice blend on hand, you can make your own pumpkin pie spice: use 1½ teaspoons cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, a pinch of allspice, and a pinch of cloves.
For the cream cheese frosting
- When making frosting, it’s recommended to use softened cream cheese and unsalted butter. If these ingredients are cold, you’ll end up with lumps in the frosting.
- Vanilla extract helps to balance the tangy flavor of the cream cheese. Use a high quality brand for the best flavor.
- You’ll also need powdered sugar for sweetness and thickening. Powdered sugar contains cornstarch which will make the frosting smooth and thick.
How to make Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease a 15×10-inch jelly roll pan (affiliate link) with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, pumpkin purée, and melted butter.
In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice.
Fold the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture just until combined.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for 28–30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bars comes out clean.
Place the softened cream cheese and softened butter in a large bowl. Mix with a handheld mixer until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and powdered sugar. Mix until a smooth frosting forms.
Spread the frosting over the cooled cake. Refrigerate for 1 hour before slicing (for the cleanest cuts), or until you’re ready to serve it.
Tips for making the best Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
- This recipe is made in a jelly roll pan (10×15 inches). If you don’t have one, you can halve the recipe and use a 9x13inch pan.
- Make sure to use softened unsalted butter and cream cheese in the the frosting or it will turn out lumpy. You’ll know your ingredients are soft enough to use when you can press gently and leave a slight indent.
- Store the bars in the fridge, but serve at room temperature for the best taste and texture. It’s worth it to bring the bars to room temperature before serving because the cream cheese frosting will soften and melt in your mouth!
Can I make pumpkin bars ahead of time?
Yes! These can be made and refrigerated up to 24 hours in advance of serving. They will last up to a week in the fridge, but are best within a day of making them.
- Serve at room temperature for the best taste and texture. Trust me, it’s worth it!
- You can decorate the top if you like: sprinkle cinnamon on top (I use a tea ball for an even dusting) or top with mellowcreme pumpkins or another fall candy on each slice.
- It also tastes delicious with chopped walnuts or chopped pecans on top of the frosting.
- Serve the bars à la mode! They taste great with vanilla, pralines and cream, or cinnamon ice cream.
Pumpkin bars can be frozen for up to 3 months. Cover them tightly with a layer of plastic wrap and then an additional layer of foil.
It is easiest to freeze the cake before it is frosted. Allow it to thaw overnight the day before you plan to serve it. Then, prepare the frosting, and spread it on the cake just before you need it.
You can also freeze individual bars in an airtight container.
More Fall Desserts
I love fall and it’s abundance of delicious produce like apples, pears, and pumpkins. I hope you enjoy the season with lots of yummy baked goods. Here are a few more of my favorite fall recipes!
- Pumpkin Apple Bread
- Pear Crumble
- Easy Pumpkin Bundt Cake
- Pear Bread with Candied Ginger
- Apple Oatmeal Muffins
- Old Fashioned Pecan Pie
Have you tried this recipe? Please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and/or comment below!
Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
For the pumpkin bars:
- 4 large eggs
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 15 oz canned pumpkin purée (1 can)
- ¾ cup unsalted butter (1½ sticks), melted
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
For the cream cheese frosting:
- 8 oz cream cheese softened
- ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups powdered sugar
For the pumpkin bars:
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease a 15×10 inch jelly roll pan with cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, pumpkin purée, and melted butter.
- In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice.
- Fold the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture just until combined.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for 28–30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bars comes out clean.
- Let cool completely.
For the frosting:
- Place the softened cream cheese and softened butter in a large bowl. Mix with a handheld mixer until light and fluffy.
- Add the vanilla and powdered sugar. Mix until a smooth frosting forms.
- Spread the frosting over the cooled cake.
- Refrigerate for 1 hour before slicing (for the cleanest cuts), or until you’re ready to serve it.