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Pumpkin Bars

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These Pumpkin Bars are the ultimate Fall dessert! A simple and tender pumpkin spice cake, topped with warm brown butter icing that you pour over the top of the warm cake once it comes out of the oven! It’s addicting and will become your new obsession. I love pumpkin chocolate chip bread and pumpkin cobbler as much as the next person, but these pumpkin bars might just take the cake. It’s *THAT* good.

pumpkin bars with fork

Why My Pumpkin Bars Reign Supreme

There are so many reasons these pumpkin bars reign supreme over other similar recipes! This recipe is made in one bowl with super simple ingredients. It stays moist because I use oil and greek yogurt. It bakes in no time at all because I use a sheet pan. The final texture is soft with a moist crumb. I love the warmth of the cinnamon and the nutmeg.

But the best part is the warm browned butter icing that you make on the stove and pour overtop of the hot cake. That is what makes this taste so darn good and helps keep the cake so so moist and soft. In the dessert world, this is like the hotter, more popular cousin of a Texas Sheet Cake. That is what this is.

wet ingredients pumpkin bars recipe

Pumpkin Bar Basics

While this recipe for Pumpkin Bars is probably pretty similar to others on the internet, using lots of pantry ingredients, there is a rhyme and reason why I use what I use. Here’s a quick run down:

  • Canola Oil, Pumpkin and Greek Yogurt keep the cake moist. To get that delicious, soft and tender cake, I like using a light colored oil (canola or vegetable oil) instead of butter. While butter is great for flavor, I prefer the oil. Also 100% canned pumpkin, like Libby’s, plus the addition of plain greek yogurt helps keep that tender crumb.
  • Use Both Granulated and Brown Sugars. I like using both obviously for sweetness, but the brown sugar adds color, depth of flavor and moisture because of the molasses.
  • Cinnamon and Nutmeg are my favorite spices to use in this pumpkin bar recipe. Of course you can use pumpkin pie spice if that’s what you have or that is what you prefer. I just love this combo without ginger.
  • The Brown Butter Icing is delicious. Don’t skip it! While cream cheese frosting is the traditional topping, I just much prefer the flavor of the toasted milk solids in the browned butter stirred together with the powdered sugar, vanilla and milk. Yum! See notes below on using Cream Cheese Frosting.
mixed batter

How to Make Pumpkin Bars

Here’s a quick run down on how to make this pumpkin bar recipe. It’s easier to make than you think! Scroll to the bottom for more detailed directions and increments.

Prepare Your Pan and Preheat Oven

Preheat oven. Spray a lightly colored half sheet pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

{If you’re making this for a potluck or larger gathering, I would recommend lining your half sheet pan with parchment paper for easy serving. Not necessary, but still helpful.}

Make the Batter

In a large bowl, combine every single ingredient EXCEPT THE FLOUR and whisk until smooth. Oil, two kinds of sugar, eggs, vanilla, greek yogurt (or sour cream), pumpkin puree, salt, spices and baking soda. Stir in the flour until *just* combined.

Bake the Pumpkin Bars

Pour into a half sheet pan and smooth the top. Bake until cooked completely + a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

brown butter glaze

Make the Brown Butter Icing

After cake has come out of the oven, make the glaze/icing: melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. As it continues to cook, it should start to foam, smell nutty and you should see little brown specks appear. Remove from heat. Whisk in milk, powdered sugar, vanilla and spices.

Top Pumpkin Bars with Icing

Pour hot glaze over warm cake and spread to smooth over the top of the cake. Use a butter knife or the back of a spoon to ensure the glaze gets across the entire cake. There should be plenty. This icing will help keep the cake moist for days.

Cool, Cut + Serve

Cool to room temperature or at least 30 minutes to mostly set the icing before cutting into bars and serving. I have definitely enjoyed these really warm, right after I poured over the icing and didn’t hate it (actually, it was fabulous) but the icing did run off the side of the cake where I pulled my piece out. I do suggest letting the icing set up at least for a few minutes before serving. You’ll know when it’s ready when it starts to crinkle as you cut the pumpkin bars into slices. See photo below.

Cream Cheese Frosting vs Brown Butter Icing

Classic Pumpkin Bars call for Cream Cheese Frosting as a topping, and while I love cream cheese frosting, I feel like the pumpkin flavor and warmth of the cinnamon and nutmeg are brought out more if you pour over a brown butter icing. The toasted milk solids in the butter (the speckles that turn brown when you toast it) taste almost like a sweet buttery maple syrup when whisked together with powdered sugar, vanilla and milk. Plus, pouring over the warm glaze locks in moisture.

Obviously, if you prefer cream cheese frosting, use this recipe and frost your Pumpkin Bars with that. Honestly, its a fabulous sweet and tangy flavor that pairs well, too. It’s just my personal preference to use the warm glaze. To each her own!

Pumpkin Bars recipe

Storing Pumpkin Bars

I find the easiest way to keep these fresh is cooling completely with glaze over top and covering well with plastic wrap on the counter. Cut into bars when you are ready to serve. As long as the bars are covered, they should last 3 days on the counter. No need to refrigerate.

If you frosted with this cream cheese frosting recipe, cover well with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 4 days.

pumpkin bars

Love Pumpkin Bars? Try These Other Pumpkin Recipes:

Whether you are making pumpkin bars for a crowd or just want a sweet treat this Fall, this recipe will hit the spot. Be sure to pin/print/bookmark/save this recipe so you don’t lose it. She’s a good one you will want to make again and again.

Have a great day, friends!

pumpkin bars

5 from 12 votes

Homemade Pumpkin Bars

These Pumpkin Bars are the ultimate Fall dessert! A simple and tender pumpkin spice cake, topped with warm brown butter icing that you pour over the top of the warm cake once it comes out of the oven! It’s addicting and will become your new obsession. It’s *THAT* good.

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a lightly colored half sheet pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

  • In a large bowl, whisk together oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, pumpkin, yogurt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and vanilla until mostly smooth. A few small lumps of brown sugar is fine.

  • Pour in flour and stir until just combined. Pour into prepared baking sheet and smooth the top as best as you can. Bake 15-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean after being inserted.

  • After cake has come out of the oven, make the glaze/icing: melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. As it continues to cook, it should start to foam, smell nutty and you should see little brown specks appear. Remove from heat.

  • Whisk in milk, powdered sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and nuts if desired. Pour hot icing over warm cake and spread to smooth the top.

  • Let cake come to room temperature or cool at least 30 minutes before cutting and serving. I mean, you can totally eat this hot, but I prefer it lukewarm or at room temp.

Nutrition

Calories: 323kcal | Carbohydrates: 55g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 31mg | Sodium: 167mg | Potassium: 91mg | Sugar: 44g | Vitamin A: 670IU | Vitamin C: 0.6mg | Calcium: 32mg | Iron: 1mg

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: pumpkin bars, pumpkin cake, pumpkin dessert

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