Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ahh, more pumpkin! I can’t get enough. I have to pack it all in before Thanksgiving because after that I’m all-in with Christmas – cookies, candy and homemade gifts. I can’t wait! But for now, a little more pumpkin 🙂 I realized that, surprisingly, I haven’t shared a classic pumpkin bar recipe with you yet. I made pumpkin pie bars last year, but those are more like a brownie/blondie than the traditional pumpkin bars. I still struggle with why this recipe is referred to as a pumpkin bar, when quite clearly this is a traditional one-layer pumpkin cake with a frosting, much like a Texas Sheet Cake or Tres Leches Cake. Semantics aside, these are awesome, awesome, awesome. Moist and fluffy pumpkin cake with a slathering of cream cheese frosting. And it couldn’t be simpler to make.

Fifteen minutes is all you need to get this cake in the oven, and just another five to whip up the frosting. A perfect recipe to keep stashed away for when you find out you’ll be getting last-minute guests during the autumn season. An added bonus is that the whole house will smell fabulous from this baking up in your oven! (There’s definitely a reason why “pumpkin pie spice” is a popular candle scent!)

Serving it with candy pumpkins is optional 🙂

Two years ago: Soft Cheese and Pepperoni Bread

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Yield: 18 bars

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes


For the Cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin
1-2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup canola oil
4 eggs

For the Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup (4 ounces) butter, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, sugar, oil and eggs until smooth and thoroughly combined. Pour the flour mixture over the pumpkin mixture and whisk or stir gently until incorporated and smooth.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish, smoothing out the top with a spatula.

5. Bake for 30 minutes or until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool completely before frosting.

6. To make the frosting, mix together the butter and cream cheese until smooth and creamy (you can do this by hand if they are both nice and soft, otherwise use a hand or stand mixer on medium speed). Add the powdered sugar, a cup at a time, and mix until completely combined and smooth. Mix in the vanilla extract.

7. Spread the frosting evenly over the cooled cake. Cut into squares and serve. Store leftovers covered, at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

(Recipe adapted from How To: Simplify)


48 Responses to “Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting”

  1. Ambel on November 9, 2011 at 12:41 am

    I am gunna make these soon, Thanks for the recipe!!!


  2. Choc Chip Uru on November 9, 2011 at 3:08 am

    I’m not so sure on pumpkin cos it isn’t eaten much in Aus but u make it seem delicious!


    • Kate Koger on November 9th, 2011 at 8:27 am

      Pumpkin isn’t eaten much in Australia?? Where you live/ shop may not stock it but I can hand on heart say that it is eaten by most families! Born, bred, married in Melbourne but now living in the UK! It is one thing that I miss the most about Australia being able to get pumpkin all year round and it having the most amazing taste not this butternut squash stuff I can only get here most of the time 🙁


  3. Kathryn on November 9, 2011 at 4:38 am

    I love how quick this recipe is to whip up! Perfect for when you have an urgent need for cake!


  4. Katrina on November 9, 2011 at 7:24 am

    Mmmm I could just eat that icing with a spoon!


    • Lauran Cinrad on October 6th, 2012 at 5:38 pm

      I know right ! but it could be a little fatning 😛


  5. Lauren at Keep It Sweet on November 9, 2011 at 7:32 am

    Please save me a giant slice!


  6. Jennifer@Peanut Butter and Peppers on November 9, 2011 at 7:34 am

    Dam Pumpkin! I love it! It’s so yummy! I want to make this cake now! It looks so good!!! I’m thinking tonight I will be baking this! I love Pumpkin!!!


  7. katie @KatieDid on November 9, 2011 at 8:09 am

    Mmmm I can’t believe it’s one of the only pumpkin recipes you’ve posted! Most bloggers have a different pumpkin recipe up every week lately lol! These look so moist and delicious.
    I was wondering if you knew how to add photos to the 30days of gratitiude flickr page? I’ve been following along these past few days since you began and blogging about it, but wanted to post them to the group too!


  8. Stephanie on November 9, 2011 at 8:13 am

    Can I just tell you how beautiful your plate is?! I absolutely love it. Thanks for the great pumpkin recipe!!


    • Michelle on November 10th, 2011 at 1:34 am

      Oh thank you! I actually found that randomly at Marshall’s one day browsing. I love it!


  9. Lindsay @ The Live-In Kitchen on November 9, 2011 at 9:46 am

    Thanks for this recipe! I just made my own pumpkin puree (no more canned pumpkin!) and am looking for ways to use it up. This will be perfect!


  10. amanda @ fake ginger on November 9, 2011 at 10:29 am

    This looks like the most perfect pumpkin cake ever! I wish I had a piece to go with my coffee!


  11. Lauren on November 9, 2011 at 10:54 am

    Yum! Send me a slice!


  12. Jen on November 9, 2011 at 10:57 am

    These look awesome!


  13. Jen of My Tiny Oven on November 9, 2011 at 11:08 am

    YES please!! These would make a fine breakfast, lunch and dinner!!


  14. Ashley @ Wishes & Dishes on November 9, 2011 at 11:27 am

    These look so good! Great pictures!!


  15. Missy on November 9, 2011 at 11:54 am

    These look great, and the recipe seems fairly simple! Thank you!


  16. Jen @ Chocotuile on November 9, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Mmmm looks very moist! Love the cream cheese frosting; then again, cream cheese frosting makes everything taste better, doesn’t it? I made orange cream cheese frosting and zucchini bread but it’s been too cold to eat it and all I crave right now is hot chocolate!


  17. Amanda Rae on November 9, 2011 at 2:57 pm


    Consider this a ‘carefrontation.’ Maybe it’s time you add a pumpkin category in your recipe archives.


    PS: I share your love of pumpkin and plan to make all of your pumpkin recipes.
    PPS: I freeze my leftover canned pumpkin and give it to my puppy as a treat. Idea for your dog?


  18. Viviane Bauquet Farre on November 9, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    Mmm so deliciously moist. The little pumpkin candies make for a very cute garnish. I also enjoy the novel frosting substitution (who says frosting needs to be in-your-face sweet?). Great dessert!


  19. Maggie @ A Bitchin' Kitchen on November 9, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    I’ve always wondered the same thing about similar recipes…definitely a cake, not a bar! Whatever it is, I want to eat it!


  20. Amalia on November 9, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    Wow 15 minutes, that’s quick! It looks like it took a lot longer and I know, I have to get all my pumpkin recipes done, cause Christmas is on my mind, I can’t wait!!


  21. Shawn @ I Wash...You Dry on November 9, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    I can’t think of anything better than pumpkin with cream cheese frosting. It’s a perfect combination! Sounds delicious!


  22. Heidi @ Crock-Pot Ladies on November 10, 2011 at 12:07 am

    Yum those look delicious. Anything is good with cream cheese frosting on it!


  23. Patty on November 14, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    Do you think it’ll affect the recipe if I change the oil to applesauce?


    • Michelle on November 15th, 2011 at 10:41 am

      Hi Patty, I haven’t tried it that way, but I know that’s a pretty popular substitution. I think it should work. Let me know how it turns out if you do it!


  24. Barbara on November 16, 2011 at 10:37 am

    Hi I tried these and they are very good…the only thing is I was expecting a bar not cake! Mine rose higher than the photo and is without a doubt pumpkin cake. I would suggest renaming it because I was looking for a sortof pumpkin brownie type bar. In any event the cake is great! Barbara


    • Michelle on November 16th, 2011 at 11:02 am

      Hi Barbara, I’m sorry you got something you weren’t expecting. I did write in the text of the post that this is, indeed, a single-layer pumpkin cake, however, just about all recipes for this type of one-layer pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting refers to them as “pumpkin bars”, which is why I kept the same name, so people familiar with that type of recipe could find what they were looking for. I think the pictures are also pretty indicative of the type of single-layer cake that the recipe results in. However, if you are looking for a pumpkin brownie of sorts, then I would recommend the Pumpkin Pie Bars: http://www.browneyedbaker.com/2010/10/14/pumpkin-pie-bars/. They are exactly what it sounds like you’re looking for.


  25. Emily on November 16, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Hi, made these for a work party and they were incredible!! Every recipe I make of yours turns out great. I have several more bookmarked to make for Thanksgiving and I cannot wait. Thanks!


  26. Marie on November 17, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    I just made these and they are DELICIOUSSSSSS – not only does my apartment smell like fall, but the hallway outside does too 🙂 i made a few modifications – instead of just cinnamon, i essentially made my own pumpkin pie spice – 1/2 tsp each of ginger, cloves, and nutmeg and 1 full tsp of cinnamon (just because i’m not a huge cinnamon person) and without allspice because i didnt have it – and it turned out amazingly! i also used the Maple Cream Cheese Frosting from the Pumpkin Whoopie Pie recipe instead.. and let me tell you it is fantastic!!! thanks!!


  27. Johanna Swartz on November 19, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    Yum, yum, yum! Made these but had to substitute, I only had 3 eggs, so I used 1/4 cup of chunky applesauce (had no plain 😉 ) for the 4th egg, and didn’t have any canola oil, so I melted a cup of butter (salted) and it was sooooooooo, SO, fantastic. Not going to change a thing, because it turned out wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing the recipe! It was devoured!


  28. Ellen on November 1, 2012 at 9:59 am

    At the end of Monday’s work day, we decided to have a potluck on Halloween. With little notice, I panicked and came to your website. Your lemon burst cookies are a crowd favorite at work any time I bring them in, but I wanted to do something new, so I made this cake. It is nerve-racking to bring in something new (especially since I didn’t have time to taste test!), but your recipes never fail me. Everyone loved this cake. Thank you for being so reliable. I have long thought that I couldn’t bake, but maybe it’s not me. Maybe I wasn’t on the right website with the right recipes!


    • Michelle on November 1st, 2012 at 1:57 pm

      Aw, I’m so glad you’re enjoying baking! Happy to hear these were a hit at the office!


  29. Candace T on November 1, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    Made these for the office Halloween party yesterday….I am the office hero! THANKS!!!


  30. Heather on November 4, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    I made this the other day & it was a big hit! Now i would like to know if the same recipe could be used to make cupcakes & if so do i just transfer batter to liners with no change to recipe?


    • Kaitlyn on November 15th, 2012 at 7:30 pm

      I made these into cupcakes and they were amazing! Just decrease the cook time a bit and keep an eye on them!


  31. Victoria on November 15, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    Hi there!

    I am so excited to see a post re: cream cheese frosting. Here is my dilemma – I am delivering carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting on Monday, 11/19 that will be eaten on Thursday, 11/22. I know that refrigerating cakes = death; however, I do not want to let the cream cheese go bad by leaving it out so long. The dates are not flexible. Do you have any suggestions?? Thanks in advance!


    • Michelle on November 16th, 2012 at 10:42 am

      Hi Victoria, Unfortunately you really only have those two options – refrigerate, or leave them out. I would not leave them out for that long, so you’d need to refrigerate them. Make sure they are in an airtight container in the refrigerator.


  32. PandaMamma on September 23, 2013 at 11:00 pm

    Hello! I just found your food blog a week ago and already I’m bookmarking all I want to try! i just made these bars last night and actually made two 8×5 pans, one for home and one for work. They came out great! Only problem I had was accidentally dropping a bit of regular sugar into my icing, it made it a bit crunchy but nothing anyone complained about LOL This is a great recipe and will be added to my collection!


  33. Alisha on October 7, 2013 at 11:03 pm

    Hi there! I am completely new to baking and I decided to give these a try. I found this site after doing a search for “cupcakes”, because I’m tired of store bought stale cupcakes with a list of ingredients a mile long. Your recipe index truly captivated me, and I wondered if it’s too late for a mid 30’s gal like myself to learn how to bake, considering I’ve never baked, not even from a pre-made mix. So I thought I’d try these pumpkin bars, because they look delicious and don’t require baking tools I don’t have. Just a wire whisk, which I found in a drawer. Well, I followed your recipe exactly and they came out just as pictured and tasted absolutely delicious! I had to stop my husband, pumpkin-addict that he is, from gobbling up all the bars. I can’t believe I actually made something so delicious. I have since made the dutch apple pie bars, which came out good too. Tomorrow I am tackling the Guinness Stew recipe with cheddar bay biscuits and hoping I didn’t take on too much.
    Crazy as this may sound, it makes me feel more connected to my mom and grandma to cook and bake from scratch. They passed away a few years ago. It’s been a tough few years. Learning how to bake something they would have loved really lifted my spirits.


    • Michelle on October 11th, 2013 at 3:16 pm

      Hi Alisha, Thank you so much for taking the time to drop a note. I’m so glad you enjoyed the pumpkin bars, and yes, anyone can learn to bake! I’m so sorry for your losses, but am happy that spending time in the kitchen can make you feel closer to them.


  34. Angela on October 20, 2013 at 11:01 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. My grandmother used to make these every year and I loved them! When I got married 20 years ago, we moved several states away and I never got her recipe. She passed away 11 years ago; funny how you long for the strangest things when your loved ones are gone. I’ve been searching for a recipe every fall for several years. I can’t wait to make these! They look exactly like hers! Thank you, thank you, thank you!


  35. angela on November 10, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    Yum!! I did 1/3 cup oil and 1/2 cup applesauce in place of 1 cup oil and it came out great! A little like carrot cake, but easier!!


  36. Marale Garabetian on August 25, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    I made this last night and brought it to work. Everyone loved it! It is so fluffy and moist. I put a thin layer of frosting as I know many people don’t like too much on there–becomes sweet. My husband was upset that I was taking it away from him. It is the perfect pumpkin dessert. I also tried the Twix tart a couple of months ago and it was yummy and fun to make! I love the recipes I have tried. I will put this on my blog too! Thanks for the sweet treats 🙂


  37. Ankita on October 26, 2015 at 11:02 pm

    Hi Michelle,
    I just wanted to say THANK YOU for this wonderful recipe! This has been my go-to pumpkin cake recipe for the past 2 years and it never fails me – all my friends and family who have had this cake love it, and I have never had to look for another one. It’s so hard to not eat more than I probably should, haha 😉 thanks again!


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