Pumpkin Bars with Brown Sugar Frosting - Handle the Heat
Filed Under: Bar Dessert | Dessert | Fall | Halloween

Pumpkin Bars with Brown Sugar Frosting

By Tessa Arias
September 25th, 2015
4.96 from 46 votes
4.96 from 46 votes

Pumpkin Bars with Brown Sugar Frosting are the perfect fall crowd pleasing treat! Spiced thick & soft pumpkin bars and a thick layer of brown sugar frosting will have everyone begging for seconds.

Yield: 9 large or 16 small bars

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook: 40 minutes

Tessa's Recipe Rundown...

Taste: Spiced sweetness that isn’t cloying or overwhelming.
Texture: The bars are thick and soft without being overly cakey. The frosting is luscious and creamy with a slight crunch from the brown sugar. It’s kind of like cookie dough!
Ease: Super easy, just dirties a few dishes.
Appearance: Beautiful!
Pros: Easy and crowd pleasing fall treat.
Cons: None.
Would I make this again? Absolutely!

SO GOOD. Pumpkin Bars with Brown Sugar Frosting is the perfect fall crowd pleasing treat! Spiced thick & soft pumpkin bars and a thick layer of brown sugar frosting.

In staring at the screen trying to decide what I want to say about these incredible Pumpkin Bars with Brown Sugar Frosting I got lost down a black hole.

I totally just fell into the internet trap. Suddenly I found myself drowning in a 10 minute Facebook abyss. Please tell me this happens to you too. I swear time stops when I find these distractions! I can be staring at the screen trying to work on something for a few minutes and it feels like an eternity passed. Then what feels like a few minutes on Facebook, Pinterest, or any celebrity gossip rag and an hour can pass like NOTHING. It’s actually kind of alarming.

Luckily I caught myself this time and forced my computer mouse to close out of all extra tabs. Well, except maybe one or two. I had to get back to this pumpkin recipe because I just gotta tell you how bad you need to make these. Firstly, they make your house smell like autumn on crack. Secondly, they are a total crowd pleaser. So much so that I can pretty much guarantee everyone will want seconds. You may need to double the recipe!

SO GOOD. Pumpkin Bars with Brown Sugar Frosting is the perfect fall crowd pleasing treat! Spiced thick & soft pumpkin bars and a thick layer of brown sugar frosting.

SO GOOD. Pumpkin Bars with Brown Sugar Frosting is the perfect fall crowd pleasing treat! Spiced thick & soft pumpkin bars and a thick layer of brown sugar frosting.

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4.96 from 46 votes

How to make
Pumpkin Bars with Brown Sugar Frosting

Yield: 9 large or 16 small bars
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Pumpkin Bars with Brown Sugar Frosting are the perfect fall crowd pleasing treat! Spiced thick & soft pumpkin bars and a thick layer of brown sugar frosting will have everyone begging for seconds.


For the bars:

  • 1 1/2 cups (6.75 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (7.5 ounces) pumpkin puree

For the frosting:

  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon milk, plus more if needed


To make the bars:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 8 by 8-inch baking pan with foil or parchment paper, leaving an overhang.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking soda and salt.

  3. In another medium bowl, whisk together the butter, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, and pumpkin. Add the butter mixture to the flour mixture, stirring until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

  4. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Be careful not to overbake. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting:

  1. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light, fluffy, and smooth. Add in the cinnamon and salt. On low speed, gradually add in the powdered sugar until incorporated. Add in the vanilla and milk and increase the speed to medium-high. Beat until very light and fluffy. If the frosting becomes too runny, add more powdered sugar. If the frosting is too thick, add more milk. Spread the frosting evenly all over the pumpkin bars.

  2. Cut into squares before serving. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day or in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Recipe Notes

This recipe is easily doubled for a crowd in a 9x13 pan!
Course : Dessert
Cuisine : American
Tessa Arias
Author: Tessa Arias

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

Tessa Arias

About Tessa...

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

Find Tessa on  

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Recipe Rating

  1. #
    Mary — November 24, 2022 at 2:37 pm

    I made these for Thanksgiving. They were a huge hit! The only thing I changed was in the frosting, I used pumpkin pie spice.

  2. #
    Molly — November 22, 2022 at 6:54 am

    These are amazing what is so special is even though they look thick and heavy, they are light and fluffy and delicious!!

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — November 22, 2022 at 7:54 am

      So glad you enjoyed these, Molly!! 🙂

  3. #
    Jess — November 7, 2022 at 2:48 pm

    Hands down our family’s fave fall treat! We make it once a week from October through December! And a few times in between when we’re missing fall too much! Thank you!!

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — November 8, 2022 at 9:34 am

      Yay! So glad to hear that, Jess!

  4. #
    Nina — November 2, 2022 at 12:08 pm

    This recipe was a hit in our house! Thanks so much. Already can’t wait to make it again. Easy and fun to make for fall season, moist, and everyone loved it! My frosting had a sugary grit to it from the brown sugar even after beating it, is that how it’s supposed to be? Might even try a cream cheese frosting next time I make it! Thanks again!!

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — November 2, 2022 at 1:43 pm

      Yay! So glad these bars were a hit, Nina!!

  5. #
    Samantha H — October 30, 2022 at 7:09 pm

    OMG Tessa! These are amazing! The spice flavours are perfect, the bars are dense and moist and THAT ICING!! I see this is one of your older recipes but it’s definitely a keeper and will be on repeat in my kitchen. Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe!

  6. #
    Amy — October 16, 2022 at 2:03 pm

    These are awesome! I added 1/2 teaspoon of cloves too!

  7. #
    Mimi — October 15, 2022 at 2:09 pm

    Is it common that these did not pour out of the bowl but rather I had to spread them?

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — October 17, 2022 at 1:00 pm

      Hi Mimi! Yes, this is a pretty thick batter – but I hope you found it as delicious as we do!! Let us know what you thought of these bars 🙂

  8. #
    Heidi — September 29, 2022 at 5:46 am

    Planning on making these and am wondering do you use any cooking spray over the foil or parchment paper? Can’t wait to update on the recipe itself!

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — September 29, 2022 at 7:54 am

      Hi Heidi! Feel free to spay your parchment, but we haven’t had any trouble with these bars sticking to un-sprayed parchment 🙂 Let us know what you think once you’ve given this recipe a try!! Happy baking 🙂

  9. #
    Elaine — September 25, 2022 at 6:05 pm

    These were AMAZING! The frosting consistency was perfect, the best I’ve ever made. Printing this one off to put in the family cookbook. Thank you!

  10. #
    Melissa — September 16, 2022 at 11:58 am

    Can you add chocolate chips to this recipe? I want to try and make without the frosting so was wondering if semi-sweet chips could do the trick similar to the choc chip pumpkin blondies! Thank you!

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — September 19, 2022 at 9:31 am

      Hi Melissa! We haven’t tried that, but it should work okay! I’d try one to two cups of chocolate chips to start and see how that goes 🙂

  11. #
    Debi — September 8, 2022 at 12:22 pm

    These were wonderful! I doubled the recipe, they were moist and the brown sugar in the frosting made them super special!

  12. #
    Kelli — September 4, 2022 at 6:09 pm

    Awesome! Pinned and added to my baking collection. Easy to make, moist, wonderful flavor, and really fun frosting!

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — September 6, 2022 at 9:56 am

      Hi Kelli! So excited to hear that!! Thanks so much for the comment 🙂

  13. #
    Donna Schillinger — February 21, 2022 at 9:02 am

    I used fresh pumpkin pureee and it turned out well and had a brighter orange color.

  14. #
    K Wood — December 22, 2021 at 9:13 pm

    Perfection! This is a great twist on a pumpkin bread! A little more dense, very moist, FULL of fresh flavor! The Brown Sugar frosting is DIVINE and it’s the first time I’ve successfully made a frosting – my tip? Do not rush it! Let your butter sit out (I let mine out for an hour) so it can be soft enough to make your end result light and fluffy! I whipped my butter/brown sugar for 6 or 7 minutes, took my time adding the powdered sugar, and then let it get really extra whippy at the end. It was more frosting than we like so I didn’t use it all but for those who like extra frosting, this recipe provides for that. ENJOY! (We devoured it before any pics could be taken for evidence!)

    • #
      Emily — December 23, 2021 at 9:13 am

      So happy you loved this recipe!

  15. #
    Megan Carter — November 14, 2021 at 7:10 pm

    Wow! This was amazingly good. Dense and delicious. That frosting… Yummmy!

  16. #
    Karin — November 14, 2021 at 9:19 am

    Hi there!
    What adjustments would need to be made to bake these in a 9×13 cake pan? Or a 1/2 sheet pan?

    Thank you!

    • #
      Emily — November 15, 2021 at 2:27 pm

      Hi Karin! You would double the recipe completely to bake in a 9×13 pan and add a few minutes onto the baking time 🙂 We haven’t tried a 1/2 sheet pan with this recipe, but the common rule is to make 1.5x the amount. Doubling will result in an overflowed pan! Here’s a great article by King Arthur Baking that may help you in the future! CLICK HERE

  17. #
    Stephanie — November 12, 2021 at 12:14 pm

    I doubled the recipe and I’m glad I did because these are awesome!!! I found them to be easy to make. The frosting is SO GOOD!! Everybody loved them! Another perfect recipe. Thank you!!

  18. #
    Amanda — November 10, 2021 at 8:59 pm

    Loved this recipe!! The bars were perfectly moist and spiced and the icing was so fluffy and the perfect sweetness to complement the bars 🙂 Definitely recommend as this was also so easy to make!

    • #
      Emily — November 11, 2021 at 12:00 pm

      Yay! So glad you loved this recipe, thanks so much for letting us know!

  19. #
    Sil — October 31, 2021 at 5:22 am

    Everyone loved these bars but, when I made the brown sugar frosting it was crunchy. I looked online for suggestions about how to fix it and none of them worked, so I re-made the frosting but sifted the brown sugar before combining it with the butter, and made sure not to under beat it because of what happened the first time I made it. (I keep the brown sugar in a canning jar canister with a tightly sealed lid, so it wasn’t hard or dried out) Even after sifting there was still a little crunch to it, so I threw it out again and just made a buttercream. But I really would like to make that brown sugar frosting, what did I do wrong? Ultimately the bars were a HUGE hit, but I was disappointed about the whole frosting thing. (And, call me crazy but, I’m going to try buying a fresh box of brown sugar and remaking it a third time because I REALLY want to make that frosting work! Haha!) Thanks for the recipe and any tips you may be able to send my way.

    • #
      Emily — November 1, 2021 at 4:36 pm

      Hi Sil! This brown sugar frosting is just not as smooth by its nature as a powdered sugar frosting. We think of it as being a bit like cookie dough! You could try using a different brand of sugar or even a different buttercream if you don’t care for the texture of brown sugar. Here’s a link to our Best Ever Buttercream recipe — vanilla, cinnamon, or even maple buttercream would be absolutely delicious with these bars. I hope that helps!

    • #
      Wendy S Gray — November 12, 2021 at 10:32 am

      If the brown sugar is too gritty for your likes, I would just make a cream cheese frosting instead!

  20. #
    Caroline — October 30, 2021 at 8:33 pm

    Delicious, made for neighbors party and everyone loved them

  21. #
    Linda Jackson — October 22, 2021 at 10:56 am

    Can these bars be made with almond flour vs all purpose flour. The sound and look awesome

    • #
      Haley Wehner — October 25, 2021 at 9:58 am

      Hi Linda! We haven’t tried that, we don’t use almond flour in our recipes. Good luck!

  22. #
    Mary — October 17, 2021 at 3:21 pm

    Hi Emily! Thank you for a wonderful recipe! It was just the right spicy mix and the lighter frosting really complemented the moist pumpkin bars. Everyone loved it!!!

    • #
      Emily — October 18, 2021 at 3:03 pm

      Aw yay!! So happy to hear that, thanks so much for sharing! 🙂

  23. #
    Aspen — October 16, 2021 at 12:27 pm

    Amazing recipe! The pumpkin bars are a hit with my family. Easy recipe to whip up for everyone to enjoy. HTH knocked this one out of the park.

    • #
      Emily — October 18, 2021 at 2:49 pm

      Hooray!! So happy to hear they were such a hit!! Thanks so much for sharing! 🙂

  24. #
    Ann — October 15, 2021 at 10:22 pm

    Hi, I have been dying to make these bars! I have a fresh jar of McCormick pumpkin spice. How can I substitute that for the spices you have listed? Thank you so much!

    • #
      Emily — October 18, 2021 at 2:48 pm

      We haven’t tried that, so I can’t say for sure! Your best bet is to substitute in an equal amount of pumpkin spice for the individual spices, then add more to taste. Keep in mind that the end result won’t taste quite the same though as pumpkin pie spice is only about half cinnamon. Please let us know how it goes if you give it a try!

  25. #
    Eve — October 14, 2021 at 9:07 am

    Hi- my friend made these bars and gave me the recipe so can’t wait to bake them this weekend – they were heavenly!
    One question – for the frosting – do I sift the powdered sugar before measuring? Or just sift it after measuring?
    thanks –

    • #
      Emily — October 14, 2021 at 10:01 am

      Hi Eve! Excited for you to enjoy them! You will measure the powdered sugar, then sift. Just for future reference, anything listed after a comma for an ingredient will be done after measuring the ingredient. So if the ingredient is listed instead as “1 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar”, then you would sift prior to measuring. I hope that makes sense!

  26. #
    Abigail — October 12, 2021 at 2:52 pm

    THESE BARS ARE AMAZING! I ran out of milk for the frosting so I used an extra 1/2 tsp of vanilla. I also added 1/4th of pumpkin pie spice to the dry ingredient mixture. What an amazing dessert I’m in heaven ! My husband doesn’t like pumpkin anything and is licking his fingers from these! Thank you so much such a great recipe !

    • #
      Emily — October 13, 2021 at 11:13 am

      So great to hear, Abigail! Happy to hear it was such a hit with your husband, thanks so much for sharing!

  27. #
    Jeannine Carr — October 9, 2021 at 9:29 am

    The frosting was amazing. The bars were dry and very dense. I baked them for less time than suggested too. I would make this frosting again in a minute, but not the bars.

    • #
      Emily — October 11, 2021 at 9:57 am

      I’m so sorry to hear you had issues with this recipe, Jeannine! It sounds like too much flour may have been added to the recipe, do you use a digital scale to measure your ingredients?

  28. #
    Bev — October 6, 2021 at 6:13 am

    Very rarely do I find a recipe on Pinterest that I’d never make again but this is one of them. The taste of the bars is bland with not enough spice or pumpkin flavor. The icing was grainy and my brown sugar was fresh and mixed in well. A friend who tasted one asked, “Are these pumpkin?” That pretty much says it all.

  29. #
    Mary — October 5, 2021 at 10:10 am

    This was delicious and easy. A big hit with my office crowd when I forced myself to share!

    • #
      Emily — October 5, 2021 at 11:14 am

      haha love it! So happy they were enjoyed, hopefully you saved a few for yourself at home! 😉

  30. #
    Jenny Crew — September 26, 2021 at 9:08 pm

    Excellent bars. My family loved them with two members stating, “These are one of the best things you’ve ever made!” My very picky 15 year old that has some health issues and definite struggles with appetite, loved them. It was a unique and wonderful experience to have him actually eat and like something. This recipe is a keeper!

    • #
      Emily — September 27, 2021 at 11:45 am

      So happy to hear that, wonderful!! I’ll be sure to pass this along to Tessa, glad everyone loved them 🙂

  31. #
    Jennifer — September 23, 2021 at 8:48 pm

    OMG!!! This was such a HUGE HIT with my family and friends. It was the first pumpkin recipe I made of the season…bringing in that Fall weather! And man, it totally didn’t disappoint; nor did it last long! I doubled the pumpkin bar recipe, but not the frosting; and it was still a perfect balance of all the flavors. I ate these both at room temperature after baking, as well as cold after being stored in the fridge. They are yummy both ways, but I believe they are their BEST at room temperature!

    • #
      Emily — September 24, 2021 at 9:37 am

      Wonderful to hear!! So happy you loved this recipe, Jennifer, and that it was a hit with your family and friends! Thanks for the rave review 🙂

  32. #
    Rachel Rumschlag — September 22, 2021 at 9:33 am

    These bars are delicious pumpkin-y heaven. The frosting is really good, though I didn’t have good luck with the frosting. Probably user error.

    I ended up using just half a can of pumpkin and it worked just fine. So one can of pumpkin can make these twice – and you’ll want to make it twice so that works well.

    • #
      Emily — September 23, 2021 at 2:24 pm

      This is such a wonderful recipe for fall, I’m so glad you enjoyed it! What happened with your frosting? Hopefully I can help perfect it for the next time you make this recipe 🙂

  33. #
    Suzanne Holup — September 18, 2021 at 9:09 am

    This recipe is delicious! Cake was super moist yet also just dense enough to stay together like a bar. Delicious pumpkin flavor and not too spicy. My only issue was that my brown sugar frosting had a crunchy texture most especially on the first day of making it. It was very evident on the first bite. But by the second day the crunchy texture wasn’t immediately evident and the “crunchiness” seemed to have settled a bit but was still there. Is this normal for brown sugar frosting? Or could it mean I needed to mix the brown sugar and butter longer?

    • #
      Emily — September 20, 2021 at 4:25 pm

      Hi Suzanne! It sounds like you needed to mix the brown sugar and butter longer, especially since you said as the cake sat, the crunchiness started to “disappear”. Was your brown sugar dried out at all? That could also have been the issue. How long did you beat the butter and brown sugar for?

  34. #
    Joleen — September 18, 2021 at 9:06 am

    These came out perfect and super easy! Really good recipe!

    • #
      Emily — September 20, 2021 at 4:12 pm

      So happy you loved them, thanks for letting us know!

  35. #
    Carol Whitaker — September 16, 2021 at 2:06 pm

    Tessa, can this be doubled in a 9×13 pan?

    • #
      Emily — September 16, 2021 at 2:42 pm

      Hi Carol! Yes, it can! Enjoy your pumpkin bars 🙂

  36. #
    Vanessa — September 13, 2021 at 11:49 am

    Thanks for sharing! Does it keep long?

    • #
      Emily — September 13, 2021 at 1:53 pm

      Hi Vanessa! In the directions of this recipe, it states how to store these bars as well as how long they last 🙂 Hope that helps!

  37. #
    Suzanne — September 13, 2021 at 11:48 am

    This looks so good! Do you use this frosting in any other recipes?

    • #
      Emily — September 14, 2021 at 10:42 am

      Hi Suzanne, thank you! We don’t currently use this frosting with other recipes, but you can easily do so! This may have to be a recipe we revisit in the future-that frosting is divine! Excited for you to try it 🙂

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