Pumpkin Bars

Topped with candied pumpkin seeds, these sweet, spiced pumpkin bars are the indulgent handheld treat that's irresistibly easy to eat.

Pumpkin Bars
Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox
Prep Time:
22 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 35 mins
24 bars

Pumpkin bread is great, and pumpkin pie is a classic, but pumpkin bars might very well become your new favorite pumpkin treat.

They're an ideal fall dessert, full of the flavors that evoke the season. You've got pumpkin and pumpkin spice blend , plus cream cheese frosting for a creamy, rich finish. And the candied pumpkin seeds on top? Wow, those are a game-changer and make these pumpkin bars superior to all others.

The bars feed a crowd, too—making them a perfect option for a Halloween party, bake sale, tailgate, fall carnival, or any other gathering.

What Makes These Pumpkin Bars and Not Just Pumpkin Cake?

While the texture of these bars is very moist (like cake), they have a sturdier texture than traditional cake, which tends to be more delicate. You can hold one of these pumpkin bars aloft in one hand, run around outside with it (you never know…), and it will remain intact. That's not to say that it's dense; it's not. It's just sturdy enough to eat without a fork. We like to cut them into rectangular pieces, too—you know, bar-shaped!

Pumpkin Bars Ingredients

The cake part of this recipe comes together with mostly pantry ingredients: all-purpose flour, baking powder and soda, salt, pumpkin pie spice, oil, brown and granulated sugar, vanilla extract, and eggs. You probably have all of those ingredients on hand.

If you don't have pumpkin pie spice, you can use this blend instead: 2 teaspoons cinnamon, ½ teaspoon each ground ginger and nutmeg, and ¼ teaspoon ground cloves.

The only other ingredient you might not keep in your pantry is canned pumpkin puree; be sure to choose pure pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling.

Pumpkin Bars ingredients
Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

For the candied pumpkin seeds, you'll need granulated sugar, unsalted butter, a little pumpkin pie spice (or substitute cinnamon), and roasted salted pepitas. Pepitas are shelled pumpkin seeds; you'll often find them with the specialty nuts near the produce section.

Finally, for the cream cheese frosting, you'll need cream cheese, unsalted butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and salt.

How to Make Pumpkin Bars

The batter is a simple whisk-together mixture. Start by stirring the dry ingredients together: flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

dry ingredients for pumpkin bars
Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

In a separate bowl, you'll whisk together oil, brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla, eggs, and canned pumpkin puree.

wet ingredients pumpkin bars
Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Then simply add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and whisk until combined. Pour into a parchment-lined pan.

batter for pumpkin bars
Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Bake, then cool on a wire rack.

While the cake layer bakes, you'll make the candied pumpkin seeds—a process that couldn't be easier. Sure, you could choose to omit this part, but we promise you won't regret the few minutes of easy prep required to make them. (They're very, very good!)

You'll simply combine pepitas, granulated sugar, and butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, and stir frequently until the sugar melts. At that point, you'll stir constantly until the melted sugar becomes amber-colored.

making pepitas
Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

After removing the pan from the heat, you'll stir in a little pumpkin pie spice and turn the mixture out onto a parchment-lined pan or platter. When the seeds cool, they become super-crunchy, with a lightly spiced candy shell. Delicious!

candied pumpkin seeds
Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

The final step is to make a simple cream cheese frosting. It starts by combining a block of cream cheese and a couple tablespoons of butter—not enough butter to dilute the tangy cream cheese flavor but just enough to keep the frosting creamy. You'll then beat in a little vanilla and salt, and gradually add powdered sugar until the frosting is thick and creamy.

cream cheese frosting
Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Tip: If your powdered sugar has some lumps in it, sift it through a sieve first; those lumps don't like to dissolve in frosting, so you're better off removing them on the front end.

frosting pumpkin bars
Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

After frosting the cake part, you'll sprinkle the candied pumpkin seeds on top and cut into bars.

What Kind of Pan Do I Need to Make These?

We call for a classic jelly-roll pan, the size that's typically used for cake rolls. It's a 15 x 10 x 1–inch pan, and it makes for bars with the ideal thickness and heft.

If you can't find a pan that size, you could also use a 13 x 9–inch pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes; this will give you a thicker dessert that's more of a snack cake than bars, but it will still taste great.

How to Store Pumpkin Bars

You'll want to store the bars in a single layer so that the frosting and candied pumpkin seeds don't get squished. You can store them in the pan they are baked in, lightly covered with foil, in the refrigerator for up to one week. The candied pumpkin seeds will stay crunchy for at least 5 days and might soften just a bit after that.

If you'd like to make the bars well ahead of time and freeze them, we recommend freezing unfrosted bars (the frosting's texture suffers when it thaws). Whip up the frosting after thawing the cake layer and spread it on top.

You can make the candied pumpkin seeds a week or two in advance and store them in an airtight container at room temperature; make sure that no moisture can get in—that will cause them to become sticky.

uncut pumpkin bars
Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox



  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (9 oz.)

  • 1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice

  • 1 tsp. baking powder

  • 1 tsp. baking soda

  • ¾ tsp. table salt

  • 1 cup canola oil

  • ¾ cup granulated sugar

  • ¾ cup packed light brown sugar

  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

  • 3 large eggs

  • 1 (15-oz.) can pumpkin puree

Candied Pumpkin Seeds

  • 1 cup roasted salted pepitas

  • ¼ cup granulated sugar

  • 1 ½ Tbsp. unsalted butter

  • ½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice


  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened

  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

  • ¼ tsp. table salt

  • 3 cups powdered sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 15 x 10 x 1–inch jelly-roll pan with parchment paper, allowing excess paper to overhang the edges.

  2. To prepare cake, whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk together oil, sugars, vanilla, eggs, and pumpkin in a medium bowl. Add oil mixture to flour mixture; whisk until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pan, smoothing into an even layer. Bake at 350°F until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool cake in pan for 5 minutes; lift cake (using parchment paper) out of pan and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

  3. While cake bakes, prepare candied pumpkin seeds. Line a sheet pan or platter with parchment paper. Combine pepitas, sugar, and butter in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until sugar melts, about 5 minutes. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until melted sugar becomes amber colored, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in pumpkin pie spice. Immediately pour mixture onto prepared sheet pan or platter, separating into small clusters. Cool completely; break any large clusters into small ones.

  4. When cake is cool, prepare frosting. Place softened butter and cream cheese in a large bowl; beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until well blended, about 1 minute. Beat in vanilla and salt until well combined. Beating at low speed, gradually add powdered sugar until thick, creamy, and smooth. Spread frosting over cooled cake. Sprinkle candied pumpkin seeds on top. Cut cake lengthwise into 3 rows; cut crosswise into 8 rows to yield 24 bars.

Related Articles