Prize-Winning Pumpkin Bars

Posted on Sep 28, 2017
14 Comments

Prize-winning pumpkin bars recipe for homemade pumpkin sheet cake topped with cream cheese frosting.  A fall favorite that feeds a crowd!

Pumpkin bar on blue plate with forkful of cake.

It’s October and that means birthdays, Halloween and pumpkin bars in my house.  I have shared two of my pumpkin recipes so far, but I think I saved the best for last.  These really are prize-winning, they won a blue ribbon at the Minnesota State Fair.  Not by me, by Lori Beach.  

I had just moved to St. Paul, with two girls under age five and pregnant with my third. The paper that summer of 1996 had profiled Lori Beach, the State Fair winner and her recipe.  These are the only pumpkin bars I’ve ever made, many, many times over the past 23 years.  They are the best pumpkin bars and a fall favorite!

Pumpkin bars on blue serving plates topped with pecans.

We loved going to the Minnesota State Fair every year.  The fairgrounds were literally just down the street from us.  Roasted sweet corn, fried cheese curds, weird things on a stick, butter sculpting, livestock barns, rides and so much more.  One of the first things the girls always wanted to do was go down the big magic carpet slide, then get back in line and do it again.  

The State Fair also had an infamous haunted house and my husband took my daughter who was probably five or six through it.  Well, not quite.  I waited outside with the other two girls.  Next thing we knew, Meathead comes running out of the house with our hysterical little girl screaming and crying her head off.  A bit too scary, and we had been warned, but he insisted it would be okay.  I think it kind of scarred the poor girl for life.

Sheet pan of pumkin cake topped with cream cheese frosting.

So back to these pumpkin bars.  As soon as the weather feels like fall and Halloween is fast approaching, the girls ask me to make pumpkin bars.  Then they started requesting them for their birthday cakes.  I have also brought them to school functions, mainly for the theatre kids’ rehearsals.  One of Always Hungry’s friends went nuts over them, told her mom, the principal, and the next thing I knew I was emailing them the recipe.  They are that good.

Overhead photo of three blue serving plates of pumpkin bars topped with a pecan.

The recipe makes a big sheet pan of pumpkin cake that are cut into bars.  They are moist, have just the right amount of spice, and are topped with cream cheese frosting.  Can’t go wrong with cream cheese and butter icing.

My sheet pan has a lid, and when they are all done and in the refrigerator, it’s not long before I hear it open and close, the pan and lid hitting the counter, and the clanking of drawers and plates.  Someone is always eating one, for breakfast, a snack, dessert, and then calling the last piece.

Pumkin bars on plates with frosted sheet cake pan in background.

We have three October birthdays, three days apart.  Picky Eater is two hours away at college and Always Hungry is in New York.  We drove down to celebrate Picky Eater’s birthday and brought the dog who has the same birthday.  He turned 15.  And I brought pumpkin bars.  She was so happy, pumpkin bars and her beloved Buddy.  Her other sister is also at the same college and they divvied up the pan.  The Vegetarian (sort of) said all her roommates and boyfriend loved these pumpkin bars.

Pumkin bars on serving pans with sheet pan in background.

Thanks Lori Beach, for sharing your prize-winning recipe with us so many years ago.  They are a tradition and a favorite in our house.  Here’s the recipe girls, you can make them yourselves now.   And smile and think of all the great times we had in Minnesota.  Enjoy, Kelly

Close up of pumpkin bars with pecan on top on blue serving plate.

You might also like this Pumpkin Praline Bread, another fall favorite, and Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins.

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Pumpkin bar on plate with fork.

Prize-Winning Pumpkin Bars

The best homemade pumpkin bars topped with cream cheese frosting.  A fall favorite that feeds a crowd!
 
5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert Bars
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 24 Bars
Calories: 330kcal
Author: Kelly ~ the hungry bluebird

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 15-oz can pumpkin
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups all purpose, unbleached flour
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, room temp
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted (original recipe calls for 4 cups, too much for me)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350º.  Grease and flour a 12 x 18 jelly roll pan (baking sheet with a rim).
  • In a mixer, combine sugar and oil and mix well.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well.  Next, beat in the pumpkin.
  • Combine the baking powder, baking soda, salt, spices and flour in a bowl with a whisk.  Gradually add the dry ingredients to the mixer, blending well after each addition, until all is mixed well and and batter is smooth.
  • Spread batter evenly into prepared pan.  Drop pan on the counter a few times to release air bubbles.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until evenly golden, but not dry.  Let cool for at least 1½ hours.
  • Make frosting by beating together cream cheese, butter, milk and vanilla until smooth.  Gradually beat in the powdered sugar.  Spread the frosting over the completely cooled bars.
  • Chill or freeze before cutting into bars of desired size.  Keep refrigerated.

Notes

  • Top with pecans, whole or chopped, or toasted pumpkin seeds, if desired.
  • Adapted from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, August, 1996.  Lori Beach's Prize-winning Pumpkin Bars.
Keyword: pumpkin bars, best pumpkin bars recipe, pumpkin sheet cake with cream cheese frosting
Did you make this recipe? Rate it below and share on Instagram so I can see!Mention @thehungrybluebird or tag #thehungrybluebird !

 

 

14 thoughts

  1. Avatar

    Always Hungry

    October 23, 2015

    This made me tear up a bit at the end, I love you mom. Thanks for always feeding us the best food and putting up with our constant requests for more. I’m going to make these for my housewarming. But I have to buy a baking sheet first…

    Reply

    1. Avatar

      OMG, I’m making them tonight, all I need to do is get a baking sheet too. Lol 😉

      Reply

  2. Avatar

    “…smile and think of all the great times we had in Minnesota.” Yes, we sure did. And I remember eating these delicious pumpkin bars just two doors down. Now I’m about to get misty-eyed like Always Hungry did.

    Reply

  3. Kelly

    I’m glad you all like these pumpkin bars, and all the great memories. Let me know how your pumpkin bars turn out girls.

    Reply

  4. Avatar

    Pumpkins and Bars… these are two of my favorite things.

    Reply

    1. Avatar

      ditto

      Reply

  5. Avatar

    I made them and shared them with like 10+ people and they were all OBSESSED. Best cake they’d had all year, tasted like Jesus made it, etc

    Reply

    1. Kelly

      Tasted like Jesus made it?? Seriously?? Too funny. Glad they all liked them.

      Reply

  6. Avatar

    5 stars
    Beautiful photos, great story, and Blue-Ribbon pumpkin bars… what’s not to like?

    Reply

  7. Avatar

    5 stars
    TAYLOR AND I HAVE TO MAKE THESE

    Reply

  8. Avatar

    OMG. You are responsible for that I’m drooling all over my keyboard. 😉 Will make this soon.

    Reply

  9. Avatar

    5 stars
    I would love to try making these. Looks yummy. Just wanted to know what size pan did you use?

    Reply

    1. Kelly

      I usually use a 12″ X 18″ jelly roll pan.

      Reply

  10. Avatar

    Leah G Aleman

    March 31, 2019

    5 stars
    So sweet! Your daughters response. I made these and YES! They are our new favorite thank you for sharing this recipe.

    Reply

Reply