Pumpkin Bars ♥
A Simple Cake to Celebrate October

Pumpkin Bars
Quick and easy Pumpkin Bars (or Pumpkin Tea Cakes, as pictured), moist and filled with fall spices. The icing isn't really necessary although a little drizzle adds a sweet counterpoint that many people like. Celebrate the glory that is October!

~ first published 2007, recipe & photo updated 2011, republished 2013 ~
~more recently updated recipes~

2007 ORIGINAL POST The Daring Bakers, they're killing me. Last week, I was mining my favorite baking cookbook, the much-beloved Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan and I swear, without thinking, found myself in the index checking the Ds for Daring. You see, the Daring Bakers are a group of passionate blogging bakers from across the world who each month, from their own kitchens, cream and caramelize and create the same spectacular somethings. These guys really love to bake and it shows.

Me, I love-love-love to bake too, though lean to 'simple', my own definition of spectacular – especially cakes and cookies and bars and desserts baked on a whim with pantry ingredients. Enter these extra-simple but somehow-perfect Pumpkin Bars. (1) Yes, there really is a 'vegetable' in there so the recipe does qualify for a food blog full of vegetable recipes. (2) Yes, you can really put vegetables into desserts.

As Pumpkin Bars, these stand about an inch tall, with just the right cake-iness, just the right sweetness, just the right mix of fall spices. Then douse them in a sickly sweet icing – no wait! don't do that! I sure wish I hadn't. A mere drizzle of icing would have been nice, just a bit of sweet to contrast with the spices. But all that frosting heaviness? Yuck. It got scraped off every single piece.

2011 UPDATE How does a baking pan just disappear? I couldn't find my 9x9 pan so instead of making bars, I baked the batter in the six cups of a giant-size muffin tin – that yielded six small cakes, not muffins, real cakes, what I like to call "tea cakes" – that looked pretty and tasted oh-so-good. This is a great recipe!

2013 Happy Canadian Thanksgiving! Today's Pumpkin Bars are dedicated to my Canadian family and all my many Canadian readers (how much I appreciate seeing so many subscribers and visitors from my mom's home country!) who will soon celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving and are already beginning to search for Thanksgiving vegetable recipes and other favorite Thanksgiving recipes, including, the best part of Thanksgiving, eating up the leftovers! Don't miss out on the World's Best Green Bean Casserole!.

"These are soooo good." ~ Rachael
"... these bars were GREAT." ~ Cordelia
"... soooo yummy! " ~ Randi
"...they are to DIE for." ~ Anonymous
"... they were delicious." ~ Gayarithi


Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Time to table: 2 hours
Makes 12 bars or 6 tea cakes

1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (120g) brown sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup (80g) canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup 100% whole wheat or all-purpose flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring or 63g
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

(quantities are for the THICK icing, make less if you prefer to drizzle, as is recommended)
1/4 cup butter, melted (for drizzling, I suggest 1 tablespoon)
1 teaspoon vanilla (try 1/4 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon milk (try a scant teaspoon)
About 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (try 1/3 cup)

BARS Preheat oven to 350F. Spray an 8x8 or 9x9 pan with baking spray. If making tea cakes in a giant-size six-cup muffin tin, spray extra well.

Cream the butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer til soft. Add the egg and beat for 1 minute. Add the pumpkin and vanilla and beat until well mixed.

Stir together the remaining ingredients and mix into the wet mixture just until barely mixed. Pour into a prepared baking pan and bake for about 15 minutes (25 for 6 tea cakes). Remove from oven, let cool.

ICING Mix the butter, vanilla milk. Stir in the powdered sugar until icing reaches desired consistency. Drizzle with icing, cut into pieces and serve.

  • 2007 The inspiring recipe called for a 9x13 pan. For a 9x9, I halved all the ingredients except the vanilla and spices. This is a great technique - cut a 9x13 recipe in half to cut down the number of portions. But don't cut the vanilla and spices and other flavorings in half, this really bumps up the flavor.
  • 2007 The inspiring recipe called for browning the butter for the icing. The browned-butter flavor taste was hardly noticeable even with a LOT of icing, so I'd recommend skipping this step, especially if you go with the 'drizzle' idea.
  • 2011 I used not canned pumpkin but roasted kabocha squash, see How to Roast a Whole Pumpkin. By accident, I used a full half cup of pumpkin, it was not too much. I have the idea this is quite a forgiving recipe.
  • 2011 I also switched from all-purpose flour to all whole wheat flour, this time the very finely ground flour from Bob's Red Mill. It worked great, no telling the difference.
  • 2011 I threw in some black walnuts and also thought about adding dried currants or some dried cranberries. This recipe is begging for your own inspiration, let it fly freely!
  • 2011 The tea cakes were so tender and delicate, they were slightly fussy to remove from the muffin cups. Be sure to grease them really well and let the tea cakes cool completely before removing. Even then, use a gentle touch, slipping a knife down the sides to loosen, then gently lifting out of the muffin cup.

A Veggie Venture - Printer Friendly Recipe Graphic

~ How to Roast a Whole Pumpkin ~
~ Stuffed Pumpkin with Apple & Cranberry ~
~ Honey Pumpkin Pie ~
~ more pumpkin recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture

~ Autumn Pumpkin Bread ~
~ Perfect Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins ~
~ Fall Stew Baked in a Whole Pumpkin ~
~ more pumpkin recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column

A Veggie Venture is home of pumpkin lover and 'veggie evangelist' Alanna Kellogg and the
famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.
© Copyright Kitchen Parade 2007, 2011 & 2013

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. I made pumpkin blinis (alas yeasty pancakes) at my cookery course tonight, and obviously I chose a recipe using a vegetable that's hip at the moment - given that the Queen of Vegetables has been posting about pumpkin as well:)
    I love your garden shots, Alanna!

  2. What, no sweet tooth? My kids love the icing so I always scrape mine off for them. The bars look great!

  3. Those sound delicious! I'd love to have one right now, what a nice fall food.

  4. I've always used canned pumpking for baking, instead of fresh pumpkin. If you were to use fresh in this recipe, would the quantity be the same? And what about the moisture content? I've always wondered...

  5. Great question, Lydia - and one I don't (yet!) know the answer to. Last year I roasted a pie pumpkin and it was wishy-washy enough in flavor I don't even remember what happened to it, soup, maybe? But I have a pumpkin on the counter that can be the next guinea pig ...

  6. Yay! Reasonable amounts of butter, sugar and even flour. Where's that can of pumpkin? (Can I use sweet potato? That always seems so much more manageable.)

  7. Susan G ~ Sweet potato? Yes, for sure. But there will be a consistency difference (maybe a good one!) from canned pumpkin which is very fine and moist and canned sweet potato which is dense if still moist but sweetened (I think, I've never bought canned sweet potatoes) or cooked sweet potatoes, still dense. If I were you, I'd steam the sweet potatoes for moisture, then mash or purée them.

  8. These are soooo good. I made them this morning and did the drizzle version of the icing. I used whole wheat pastry flour and added some chopped candied ginger. There are fabulous!!! My boyfriend is a huge pumpkin fan and gobbled up several already :-)

  9. Rachael ~ That was quick!! (Perhaps we have the same definition of spectacular -- "baked on a whim with pantry ingredients"? So glad they worked for you too -- and love your idea of candied ginger. Thanks so much for taking the time to let me know!

  10. Hi Alanna,
    Thanks for the reply -- I just love your site and am passing it along to others. It's so refreshing to have someone list calories, etc. - very, very helpful. And so good to provide a yummy venue that encourages eating more veggies :-)

  11. I really love pumpkin baked goods, so these sound pretty great to me. Being a total sucker for browned butter, I can't quite give up that idea either. What I'm hoping is that someday we can get golden icing sugar (an unrefined, golden-colored version of confectioners' sugar) in this country. I've never seen it yet, but the reason I want it is that Nigella Lawson's been using it as an ingredient for years, especially to enhance brown-butter frosting. I have a hunch that it would make the difference...

  12. Alanna, I have to tell you your photographs are getting amazingly good. This one with the bars in the foreground, and the autumnal scene in the background (your yard, right?) is right out of a magazine! I saw cans of pumpkin displayed prominently yesterday, and had to buy some!!

  13. i think that pumpkins are technically fruit and not vegetables. does that matter? not to me. i'm going to try the recipe out tomorrow!

  14. Alanna, these bars were GREAT. I used whole wheat pastry flour, and am thinking about making another batch today, and trying to sub applesauce for the butter. My friend just emailed me demanding your link, since I gave her some to try. Such a simple recipe - thanks for posting it!

  15. Hi Cordelia ~ Thanks so much for taking a minute to let me know how they turned out for you, I'm so glad you liked them too! Please let me know how the applesauce substitutes for the butter. I think I wasn't cooking that much during the 80s when that practice was de rigeur so have little/no experience. I'd love to learn from you!

  16. soooo yummy! we had your roasted fennel with our meal and these yummy bars for dessert (eek i used can frosting! just a dollop)
    i'll make a full meal on all your recipes one day.

  17. AnonymousJuly 04, 2008

    Today is July 4 and instead of the same apple pie routine I made these...they are to DIE for. Two of us ate the whole square pan in minutes! So, I've gotta run and make more for the company. It really doesn't need any icing but I did the drizzle. Here's the only thing I did different:

    Instead of butter (100 cal/TBSP), I used 1 TBSP Brummel & Brown yogurt spread (45 cal/TBSP); 1/4 cup powdered sugar instead of 1/3 cup; vanilla soy milk instead of milk; and after drizzling the mixture over the bars I sprinkled natural oats over the top.

    THANK YOU ALANNA...so yummy!

  18. Hi Alanna,

    I got here from One Hot Stove. This is an amazing blog! I started browsing randomly and have bookmarked a few recipes. Also, loved the way you seem start with some stories... I tried the Pumpkin Bars last night and they were delicious:) Plan to try a version with WW Flour/Applesauce etc as suggested by other readers the next time around... Thanks for the recipe and the lovely blog!

  19. Ginger GriffinOctober 01, 2013

    These look wonderful! Hope to be making them soon.

  20. I have never thought to use pumpkin for a cake! I always associate it with savoury foods - not sweet. I can't wait to try these myself!

  21. Hi, I recently started a diet and for breakfast I have an English muffin everyday, I think I am just going to switch over to these delicious pumpkin cakes! Thanks for sharing these!

  22. There's no better way to welcome the fall than with pumpkin cakes!

  23. I have 2 pink banana squash that I need to do something with. I might try this recipe!!! Looks delish :)


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna