Filed Under: Bar Dessert | Dessert | Fall | Halloween

Pumpkin Bars with Brown Sugar Frosting

Recipe By Tessa Arias
September 25th, 2015
5 from 22 votes
5 from 22 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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5 from 22 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 powered sugar until incorporated. Add in the vanilla and milk and increase the speed to medium-high. Beat until very light and fluffy. If too runny, add more powered sugar, If too thick, add more milk. Spread 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

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!)

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Recipe Rating

  1. #
    Kristina — September 25, 2015 at 4:27 am

    That frosting looks so fluffy. And I am already dreaming about it’s taste. The bars sound delicious!

  2. #
    Rachel Cooks — September 25, 2015 at 4:35 am

    I need to make these, like, yesterday. They look so amazing! Also – a 10 minute FB suck is nothing! Ugh – it’s so bad! I’ll go on FB to look something up and 20 minutes later I don’t know what I came there for anymore!

  3. #
    Erin @ The Spiffy Cookie — September 25, 2015 at 6:32 am

    That brown sugar frosting is to die for, especially paired with the pumpkin! As for FB thankfully I tend to resist getting sucked in too often but Instagram is slowly taking over my life.

  4. #
    Kate — September 25, 2015 at 7:43 am

    Have you tried to make the bar base with browned butter instead of melted butter? I’m wondering, with all the autumnal spices, if you can still taste the difference from browning the butter instead? Either way, these bars will be happening in my kitchen tonight!

  5. #
    Eve @ Baking the Day — September 25, 2015 at 8:11 am

    These bars look so good! I love the use of brown sugar in the frosting, it must add such a nice flavour especially paired with the pumpkin in the bars.

  6. #
    Kristen @ The Endless Meal — September 25, 2015 at 8:21 am

    For some reason I’ve always liked dessert best at breakfast. It’s breakfast time now and I’m totally craving these! That frosting!!

  7. #
    Annie — September 25, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    Tessa – What size pan would you use for a doubled recipe to keep the same thickness? I want to bring these to work and KNOW they will be inhaled instantly, as I work in a hospital unit. “Autumn on crack”, too funny! Love your site!

  8. #
    Gaby Dalkin — September 25, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    haha autumn on crack! perfect description for these warm spices starting to fill our houses! these look delicious!

  9. #
    Erin M. — September 26, 2015 at 5:02 am

    These look absolutely delicious! And yes, I am a sucker for a good, trashy gossip magazine….it’s a vice.

  10. #
    Deb — September 27, 2015 at 6:52 am

    Will this pumpkin bar recipe work in cupcakes.?

    And is it possible to make brown sugar frosting in Swiss buttercream style?
    Cant wait to try the fall recipes….thanks.

  11. #
    dynnamae — September 27, 2015 at 11:34 am

    I made these for church today. Had a request for the recipe and there were no leftovers! Definitely a keeper recipe. Thank you for sharing this.

    • #
      Tessa — September 28, 2015 at 3:24 pm

      Love to hear that! Thanks for your wonderful comment.

  12. #
    Katrin — September 28, 2015 at 8:59 am

    Ah, wonderful! I just finished baking and my colleagues will be very happy. Husband is not so happy, because geht gets nothing. Poor husband.

    • #
      Tessa — September 28, 2015 at 3:28 pm


  13. #
    Sue — September 28, 2015 at 5:14 pm

    I made these on Sunday and my hubby LOVES them. My only challenge was the frosting was a bit crunchy. Did I not beat the brown sugar and butter long enough? I will be making these again!!!!!

  14. #
    Patty K — September 29, 2015 at 9:39 pm

    That frosting will be a must this season! And yes, I’ll tell myself I’ll just be on fb for a few seconds, but then I get sucked in and half an hour has passed!

  15. #
    Erica — October 3, 2015 at 5:04 pm

    I don’t know if you didn’t list an ingredient or I did something wrong, but these didn’t turn out for me at all. They are dense and more like a pancake texture. Trying a new recipe – sad face 🙁

  16. #
    Denise — September 14, 2016 at 4:40 pm

    Can recipe be doubled to use a 9 x 13 pan?

  17. #
    Kayla — October 20, 2016 at 9:15 am

    Do you think I could omit the 1 egg? Or should I maybe try replacing it with apple sauce? My son is allergic to egg & ive been looking for a pumpkin bar recipe. Most of them contain 3/4 eggs.

  18. #
    TessaC — October 23, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    I made these and the texture of the cake was amazing! I didn’t make the frosting. The cake didn’t have enough spice for me, I think I will add more next time… Maybe it’s the brand I’m using. Also the cake cooked lumpy on top, I would have to smooth it out perfectly to make sure it was even and smooth. Other than that, great and easy recipe that I will make again.

    • #
      Tessa — October 25, 2016 at 4:42 pm

      I’m glad to hear that! Sometimes spices lose their intensity over time, so if they were a little older that could explain it. Or, it’s just a matter of preference 🙂

  19. #
    Mary Ann — November 6, 2016 at 7:14 am

    It looks delicious. What size pan would you use to double it? 9 × 13? Thanks!

    • #
      Tessa — November 6, 2016 at 9:45 am


  20. #
    Julie — November 11, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    Has anybody doubled this recipe successfully? 🙂 I read in another comment that you can use a 9 x13 but I’m wondering if a half sheet would work ir if that would make them too thin. Also, do you bake for the same amount of time if you double it? Help! Thank you.

  21. #
    Liz — November 12, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    I just made this today and I double the recipe with no problems! I baked it on a 9×13 for 27 minutes and it turned out great!!

    • #
      Tessa — November 14, 2016 at 11:29 am

      Happy to hear that, Liz!

  22. #
    Mrs.Marsh — November 22, 2016 at 5:53 am

    I just made these yesterday. I accidentally broke it in half before icing, so the portion that didn’t become bars were mixed with the icing and dipped in chocolate. My husband went crazy over it! So far, Tessa, every recipe I’ve tried from you has been golden!

    • #
      Tessa — November 22, 2016 at 11:05 am

      What a happy mistake!! I’m so happy to hear you’ve been enjoying the recipes 🙂

  23. # — December 10, 2016 at 11:05 am

    Can you double the recipe for a 9by13 or a jelly roll pan?

  24. #
    Andrea — December 18, 2016 at 12:07 am

    I made these today. The flavor is perfect and the frosting is great. However, the cake needs to bake for much longer than 25 minutes. I baked it for almost 30 and the toothpick was still coming out pretty wet, but because of the warning I decided to take it out anyway – big mistake. The only edible part was the outside edges. Disappointing after all of that effort.

  25. #
    Linda — May 4, 2017 at 5:19 am

    Excellent and great icing!

  26. #
    Lee-Anne — September 30, 2018 at 8:41 pm

    Can you bake the bars ahead and freeze them (sans icing of course)? I have a cup of puree to use up but just made 5.5 dozen pumpkin muffins so don’t need the bars ATM. But reallllly want to try them!! Lol

  27. #
    Michelle — October 8, 2018 at 8:48 am

    Super tasty and easy to make! The cake is not too sweet, so the frosting really balances out the flavor. Will definitely make it again!

  28. #
    Lolita — October 14, 2018 at 3:41 pm

    OMG – what a great recipe! We grow our own pumpkins in our garden so I make my own puree and freeze them and take them out when I’m ready to use them. Since our new crop is almost ready, I decided to give this recipe a try with the puree still left in my freezer! WOW! What a great surprise! The texture of the bars are perfect and the frosting is to die for! I will surely keep this recipe for future use! Thank you so much! Absolutely yum!

  29. #
    Jessica — October 21, 2018 at 9:46 am

    Looks yummy! A good alternative to pumpkin pie…actually, pies in general, and cream cheese frosting (and all things cream cheese, which seems to be on almost everything). I’m probably the only person who dislikes both. And yes, I too get caught in the internet trap. I’ll get up, get on the computer, and then look at the clock wonder where all that time went! 😉

  30. #
    Lita — October 24, 2018 at 5:28 pm

    I don’t have some of the spices but I do have a fresh pumpkin pie spice. If I were to swap that out, how much do you suppose I should put in? Tablespoon maybe?

    • #
      Kim — September 20, 2020 at 2:11 pm

      Hello, can this recipe be made in a 9 inch round pan?

  31. #
    Janelle — November 10, 2018 at 8:08 am

    There is an ingredient missing from this recipe; the batter was absolutely not “pourable”. Most disappointing is the lack of attention to the site and comments from professional Tessa.

  32. #
    Sam — December 25, 2018 at 4:01 pm

    Made this for Christmas Eve. It is very dense. The frosting is good, but overall this is not something I’ll make again

  33. #
    Kayla — January 12, 2019 at 12:04 pm

    Very delicious! I didn’t have any nutmeg so I added 1/8 tsp. clove to the cake batter and i added more powdered sugar and milk to increase the volume of frosting. That’s the only changes I made and my hubby really liked it (and he’s picky)! Thanks for the great recipe, I will make this again!

  34. #
    Kelley — September 4, 2019 at 1:00 pm

    What is pumpkin puree? Is it the same as canned pumpkin?

    • #
      Tessa — September 5, 2019 at 9:30 am


      • #
        Kelley — September 5, 2019 at 9:36 am

        Thank you so much for responding so quickly. I look forward to making these very soon since I have all the ingredients.

  35. #
    Cinthia — September 20, 2019 at 3:58 pm

    Would you please convert this recipe into cupcake form for me?

  36. #
    JP — September 29, 2019 at 11:23 am

    Uh oh! My house smells like autumn on crack now!

  37. #
    Cookie — September 30, 2019 at 4:42 pm

    Do you think the frosting would be ok if frozen? I would like to make and Frost the bars and then freeze them. Thanks

    • #
      Tessa — October 1, 2019 at 11:34 am

      I would advise freezing the frosting separately so you can defrost and re-whip with an electric mixer. Otherwise it’ll curdle upon defrosting on the bars. Hope that helps!

  38. #
    April — October 11, 2019 at 11:26 am

    Everyone at the event went crazy for these and just had to have the recipe. Someone even said for Thanksgiving they will only make these and forget about the pumpkin pie. Great recipe!

  39. #
    Francesca Evers0 — October 13, 2019 at 8:18 pm

    Can this recipe be doubled and baked on a large cookie sheet/ jelly roll pan?

  40. #
    Nicole Brown — October 16, 2019 at 1:26 pm

    Can I make these the night before or is it best the day of? I’m worried that they’ll dry out overnight.

    • #
      Nicole Brown — October 22, 2019 at 2:40 pm

      These were so delicious (the frosting was amazing)!! What a great recipe! I made the bars and put them in the fridge over night then made the frosting the next day and they turned out great! I’ll definitely be making these again!

  41. #
    Maddy — October 20, 2019 at 6:33 pm

    These are amazing! The icing is to die for! I am going to use the icing for macarons the next time I make it. Thank you!

  42. #
    Kelly P — October 21, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    Amazing! I’m not a pumpkin person at all; so I made these grudgingly for the rest of the fam back in 2018. The frosting is to die for but the pumpkin bar itself is perfectly spiced and not too pumpkin-y. Just really yummy, moist and not too sweet – – in spite of the brown sugar title!
    Making these again for our adults-only Halloween party. Enjoy!

  43. #
    Shannon — October 26, 2019 at 1:10 pm

    I hate anything pumpkin but these are the best things ive ever tasted! That frosting is amazing seriously

  44. #
    Carole — October 28, 2019 at 4:31 pm

    I am giving this recipe an overall 2 but that is actually 4 for the frosting and 0 for the bar. It is basically tasteless and after making, suggested to hubby I could rework it, adding more spices for flavor. He basically said there was no sense to wasting time trying to tweak this into being good. Will save the frosting recipe to use on maybe carrot or spice cake-we’ll see.

  45. #
    Kennedy Smith — November 6, 2019 at 9:19 pm

    how would you make this at high altitude? i live in colorado so things don’t ever bake the same.

  46. #
    Daria Pack — December 8, 2019 at 3:18 pm

    This recipe worked out great! I substituted margarine for the cake portion and it turned out fine. I made this for a church social and my husband was kind enough to save me the last piece.

    Will gladly use this recipe again to finish off any leftover canned pumpkin in the future. :)Thanks for sharing.

  47. #
    Peggy — September 11, 2020 at 1:18 pm

    These are so good! The house smells divine while they’re baking. It’s hard not to keep from cutting into them while warm, but wait until you add the frosting. I’ll definitely make these again!

  48. #
    Shirley Fuller — September 17, 2020 at 9:45 am

    The Brown Sugar Frosting was terrible… I had already frosted the bars and had to scrape off the frosting. It was so grainy that it felt gritty when when I took a bite. What you call slightly crunchy does not fully describe the gritty texture. I had to refrost with another recipe.

    • #
      Tessa — September 17, 2020 at 10:53 am

      Hi Shirley — I’m sorry to hear that however the frosting needs to be beaten with an electric mixer until smooth as per the directions. If you brown sugar is dried out that can cause a problem. If you try it again, give the frosting a taste to ensure it’s smooth before applying to the bars 🙂

  49. #
    Luka Wiens — September 30, 2020 at 6:17 am

    Hi there,

    can you use dark brown sugar for the icing instead of the light brown sugar? Thanks!

  50. #
    Ariel — October 7, 2020 at 1:05 pm

    These are yummy! My frosting wasn’t fluffy, it was quite solid even with adding milk. Maybe I did something wrong, but it is still delicious! Can it be frozen once baked and frosted? I made a double batch and have family coming in 5 days and want it to still taste fresh.

  51. #
    Wayne — October 8, 2020 at 2:00 pm

    Do you scoop/measure the powdered sugar, then sift it, or do you sift it into the measuring cup?

  52. #
    DebbieO — October 10, 2020 at 12:07 am

    Had fresh pumpkin puree I wanted to use, and found this recipe there’s only two of us, so it’s perfect that it’s an 8×8 pan worth, and these are freaking awesome!!!
    just make them yum yum

  53. #
    Laura — October 21, 2020 at 6:20 pm

    Best way to bake this if the recipe is doubled?
    Thank you

  54. #
    Stacy — October 22, 2020 at 1:20 pm

    If I double this recipe and use a 9X13 pan, would the cooking time and baking temperature stay the same?

  55. #
    Maggie — October 23, 2020 at 11:43 am

    Fantastic treat! These were super easy to make too. Thanks Tessa!

  56. #
    Laura — October 25, 2020 at 8:30 am

    That frosting!!!I love pumpkin bars and cookies but hate cream cheese frosting, which people always seem use with pumpkin. So happy to have found what is now my favorite frosting ever! Thank you for this wonderful alternative!

  57. #
    Teresa — November 15, 2020 at 4:04 pm

    The bars taste great – but turned out flat and thick. I didn’t overmix, measure carefully and only cooked 23 minutes. Thoughts? The frosting is divine. I added a splash of bourbon. Saw another comment on the thread about brown butter and may try that. Thanks for the recipe. I’m def going to try my hand at it again! (Note – I do live in low altitude).

  58. #
    Jennifer — November 19, 2020 at 9:15 am

    Delicious! And easy to make. I cut them into squares and piped a bit of frosting onto each one. My family asked me to make them again for Thanksgiving.

    • #
      Tessa — November 19, 2020 at 12:18 pm

      So glad you enjoyed this recipe! I hope these bars are a hit on Thanksgiving as well!

  59. #
    Stephanie Smitley — November 19, 2020 at 11:37 am

    These are the bomb! I made them twice and both times ate almost the whole pan myself! The frosting is perfect with the pumpkin.

    • #
      Tessa — November 19, 2020 at 12:14 pm

      This makes me so happy! I’m so glad you loved these bars.

  60. #
    susan rechel — February 18, 2021 at 6:20 pm

    so delicious, especially the frosting!!

    • #
      Tessa — February 19, 2021 at 11:55 am

      Glad you enjoyed!

  61. #
    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 🙂

  62. #
    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!

  63. #
    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 🙂

  64. #
    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!

  65. #
    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?

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