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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. It’s *THAT* good.
I’m so thrilled to be sharing my favorite, family-friendly pumpkin bars recipe with you today! Man oh man how much do I love Pumpkin Bars? Um, a lot. Never before have I met a pumpkin bar I didn’t like, but if push comes to shove THESE are my ultimate be-all-end-all-forevermore favorite. I love pumpkin chocolate chip bread and pumpkin cobbler as much as the next person, but these pumpkin bars might just take the cake.
Pumpkin Bars, how I love thee
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 browned butter glaze situation 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.
Main Ingredients Needed
Odds are you have all these ingredients in your pantry. This is a truly *from scratch* recipe, but couldn’t be simpler. For specific increments and directions, be sure to scroll down to the printable recipe card below.
- Canola Oil– this adds moisture to the cake. Vegetable oil or another light tasting oil will also work.
- Sugar & Brown Sugar– I like using both obviously for sweetness, but the brown sugar adds color, depth of flavor and moisture because of the molasses.
- Eggs– our binders for the cake.
- Pumpkin– I use plain, unsweetened pumpkin puree (Libby’s is a great brand). Please don’t confuse this with pumpkin pie filling which comes sweetened.
- Vanilla– adds great flavor.
- Greek Yogurt– another extra ingredient to keep things moist. Low fat sour cream works well in a pinch as well.
- Baking Soda– our leavening agent.
- Salt– helps to bring out the sweetness and the spices in this cake.
- Cinnamon & Nutmeg– our spices that adds that classic warmth and flavor to the cake. If you have pumpkin pie spice, feel free to use that in place of these two individual spices.
- All Purpose Flour– brings structure to the cake! I use unbleached flour (personal preference), but bleached is perfectly fine to use too.
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. 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.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a large bowl, measure every single ingredient EXCEPT THE FLOUR and whisk until smooth. Oil, two kind of sugar, eggs, vanilla, greek yogurt (or sour cream), pumpkin puree, salt, spices and baking soda.
- Stir in the flour until *just* combined.
- Pour into a half sheet pan and smooth the top.
- Bake 15 minutes or until cooked completely.
- Brown butter in a medium sized pot or high sided skillet.
- Whisk in milk, powdered sugar, vanilla and spices.
- Pour hot glaze over warm cake.
- Cool before cutting into bars and serving.
Cream Cheese Frosting vs Brown Butter Glaze
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!
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.
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!
For the cake:
- 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.