Like a pumpkin bar with cream cheese frosting, only better. Seriously.
I craved a pumpkin bar with cream cheese frosting. It hit me like a ton of bricks and, ironically, this craving struck me right after a 5 mile run.
So I didn’t feel quite as guilty adding 2 sticks of butter to the mixing bowl.
I run for… butter.
Pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting, while ultimately delectable, seem a little overdone. Jumping around the kitchen on my runner’s high, I chose a different destiny for my post-run treat.
Enter the high and mighty CHEESECAKE SWIRL.
PS: Leave out the cream cheese swirl and frost the plain pumpkin bars with this cream cheese frosting and there ya go. We both win!
Let me chat for a min about these pumpkin bars.
I adapted a recipe from my girl Martha. I questioned the amount of butter, but I was quickly proven wrong when I (1) looked at how many bars this recipe yields* and (2) noticed how soft, tender, moist, and…uhh… buttery these pumpkin bars taste. The butter is KEY in the flavor and texture, so no skimping.
*24 bars! Make sure you have hungry friends to help gobble them up.
Martha uses granulated sugar, but I opt for brown sugar in the pumpkin bars. You know me. You know how I do. Brown sugar all the time, especially when Fall spices are involved. Why not use it to sweeten the pumpkin bars? I also reduced the sugar because I was feeling healthy. Wink wink. Muhahaha.
Obviously we’ll use pumpkin puree in the bars– along with fall spices and lovely ground cinnamon. The spice flavor is off the hook in these pumpkin bars and I promise to never use the term off the hook again.
Martha uses chocolate chips and while I’m always a huge supporter of chocolate’s addition, I was really going for the whole pumpkin + cream cheese combination. So I left the chocolate chips out. And I don’t think you’ll miss them especially when cheesecake swirls are involved.
Speaking of. Remember when I swirled cheesecake into red velvet bars? No? It’s ok, that was 2 and a half years ago. But you should really, really try those if you haven’t already. I took that same exact cheesecake filling and added it to these pumpkin bars. Though I did keep the egg white; the slightly extra volume produced a little more cream cheese swirl. (I did that because this is a larger pan of bars.)
For a little something extra, and because I like to decorate all my foods, I topped the batter with pepitas + cinnamon. The pepitas (pumpkin seeds) got a little toasty and added a little crunch on top. Total texture freak right here and you’re REALLY going to love their addition too.
The pumpkin bars are soft like cake, dense like a blondie, and flavored like Fall. I can’t stop flipping out over these! They’re like a pumpkin cupcake with cream cheese frosting and a cheesecake-filled pumpkin muffin all in one.
I kinda think Martha would be proud.
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Pumpkin Cream Cheese Swirl Bars
Soft pumpkin bars filled with a simple cream cheese swirl. My new favorite fall treat!
- 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 cup (200g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup (228g) pumpkin puree
- 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour, (spoon & leveled)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 and 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice1
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
Cream Cheese Swirl
- 8 ounces (224g) brick-style cream cheese, softened to room temperature2
- 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup (32g) pepitas tossed in a sprinkle of ground cinnamon
- Adjust the oven rack to the lower third position and preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease or line the bottom and sides of a 9x13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment, leaving an overhang on all sides. Set aside.
- In a large bowl using a hand-held or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter for 1 minute on medium speed until completely smooth and creamy. Add the brown sugar and beat on medium high speed until fluffy and light in color. Beat in egg and vanilla on high speed. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. On medium speed, beat in the pumpkin until combined. The mixture will look curdled; that's ok.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt together until combined. On low speed, slowly mix into the wet ingredients until combined. Do not overmix. The mixture will be thick. Spread 2/3 of the batter evenly into the prepared pan; it will be a relatively thin layer. The rest will be added in step 5.
- In a medium bowl using a hand-held or stand mixer filled with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese for 1 minute on medium speed until completely smooth and creamy. Add the sugar, egg, and vanilla. Beat on high speed until completely combined. Drop random spoonfuls on top of the pumpkin batter.
- Drop the remaining pumpkin batter on top of the spoonfuls of cream cheese. With a rubber spatula or knife, begin gently swirling the two together. Both mixtures are thick, so go slowly. Jiggle the pan back and forth to get the layers to settle into the pan. Don't worry if it looks messy; everything will come together in nice swirls as the bars bake. Sprinkle cinnamon-pepitas on top of the swirled batter.
- Bake the bars for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Allow the bars to cool completely at room temperature, then transfer to the refrigerator for about 2 hours before cutting into squares. Leftover bars can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. They're SO good on day 2!
- Make ahead tip: These bars can be made 3 days in advance and kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Bars freeze well, up to 3 months. Simply thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.
- You can make your own 2 and 1/2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice by blending 1/2 teaspoon each of ground ginger, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground cloves, and ground allspice.
- Don't use cream cheese spread; use brick-style cream cheese. Full-fat preferred, though low fat works too. Don't use fat free.
Adapted from Martha Stewart
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SHOP THE RECIPE
Here are some items I used to make today’s recipe.
Pumpkin cake and cheesecake, together. Do it.
See plenty more pumpkin recipes.
And how to make a 67 calorie pumpkin spice frappuccino.
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