Nov 1, 2010

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Tired of always serving pumpkin pie – opt for pumpkin bars instead. Pumpkin bars are a wonderful dessert for any fall meal, including your Thanksgiving dinner.  This recipe is one that has been passed down from a family friend and continues to be a crowd pleaser each year. The cream cheese frosting really makes this cakey bar stand out – the frosting has just the right amount of sweetness and the cream cheese adds a tad of decadence, however, it is light enough to enjoy. You may have to resist the temptation of licking the frosting bowl – yes, it is that good! Pumpkin is a classic fall flavor, and once you bake these bars for yourself, it will surely remain a fall tradition for you, too.

Caitlin: This is one of the most moist dessert breads I’ve ever had, not to mention it’s incredibly easy to make. It would make a great brunch menu item in addition to a great dessert. I opted to add fresh cranberries and walnuts to mine which only enhanced the flavor and texture – it was great. The cream cheese frosting went wonderfully with the bread – I sprinkled some dried cranberries and crushed walnuts on top for decoration.

Monica: I absolutely love this dessert. It is rather easy to make and the cake is perfectly moist.  It can be made a day ahead if you choose to serve it for your Thanksgiving meal, and it is a satisfying substitute for pumpkin pie.  I am extremely picky about frosting and I tend not to like many buttercreams or other frosting that is too sweet, but let me tell you something, this cream cheese frosting is divine! I also chose to use pumpkin pie spice in order to enhance the pumpkin flavor. I kept my bar simple, but added cute festive decorations, including an iced pumpkin decoration for the top of each bar.  If you visit your local cake decorating supply store, you will be able to find many options to make your pumpkin bars look even more festive and beautiful. 

Ingredient List
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
1 cup oil
4 eggs
1 small can of pumpkin
3 ¾ cups powdered sugar
3/4 stick butter
1 8oz pkg cream cheese
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or flour a 9 x 13 rectangular baking pan or 12 x 17 cookie sheet with higher edges.  You can choose to use the cookie sheet, if you want your bars to be less thick.

Sift together sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda.  Add cinnamon (or pumpkin pie spice) and combine.  Add oil, eggs, and pumpkin – mix until smooth.

Pour batter into baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  You have the option to sprinkle with powdered sugar or frost with cream cheese frosting (see frosting recipe below).

To Make the Cream Cheese Frosting
Combine all ingredients and mix until smooth. Frost & enjoy!

Caitlin's Version
Monica's Version
If you have leftover frosting, it is great to serve as a dip for fresh berries.

Caitlin: I wanted something sweet, upbeat and fun to sing along with so we listened to She & Him.
Monica:  Baking always puts me in a certain musical mood and that almost always means Ella Fitzgerald is included in the mix. Most of these songs are absolute classics and they’re perfect to bake to: 
1)      “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” Ella Fitzgerald
2)      “Low Rising” The Swell Season
3)      “Skylark” Aretha Franklin
4)      “Wonderful World” Sam Cooke
5)      “There’s a Kind of Hush” Herman’s Hermits

Drink of Choice
Caitlin: I also enjoyed mine with a strong bold flavored coffee – it went great with the sweet and spiced cake.
Monica: I enjoyed my pumpkin bar with hazelnut flavored coffee – the nuttiness from the coffee was a perfect combination with the pumpkin spice flavored cake.

A Recipe to Remember?
This is a keeper and a great, easy dessert for the holiday season!

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