Special Guest Post: Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

What a week!! I had two big midterms last week and I am still recovering from all the studying and test-related stress!  Luckily, our friend Suzanne offered to prepare a post for us.  Suzanne is one of our good friends from UC Berkeley (where I got my masters—I guess I just love being a student!), and has written a guest post for us before.   I am a big fan of her previous recipe, and can’t wait to try out these yummy (and relatively healthy) fall treats below…!  


The return of fall always signals a return to the kitchen, and to so many warm, comforting recipes I’ve missed over the recent months. When rainy fall weather made its fashionably late appearance this week, baking with pumpkin couldn’t be far behind.

I found these pumpkin bars at Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.  Mel had made an admirable effort to nudge this Paula Deen recipe in the “healthy” direction by substituting half of the oil with applesauce.  I took it to the next level by further cutting the fat and sugar, and swapping in whole wheat pastry flour. Given the indulgence level of the original, my altered version is still decadent, but a whole lot healthier.

My son had begged for apple-banana applesauce – which he promptly rejected upon realizing it actually tasted like banana – so I used that for my applesauce here.  It had no added sugar, but was sweetened with extra fruit juice, making it very sweet.  I reduced the sugar from 1 2/3 cups to 1 cup; If you use a regular unsweetened applesauce, you might kick the sugar up another 1/4 cup. I was a bit concerned about the banana flavor, but it disappeared into the pumpkin and spices. The result was a moist, flavorful, and slightly sweet cake.

For the frosting, I used only 1/4 the butter and 3/8 the sugar, with low-fat Neufchatel instead of regular cream cheese.  This meant a slightly smaller batch of frosting, but still plenty for a nice thick layer, with a delightful tangy flavor that paired perfectly with the subtly spiced cake. The whole family loved it!

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Paula Deen via Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

Bars (more of a cake, in my opinion):

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 to 1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 15-ounce can pumpkin
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda


  • 8-ounce package Neufchatel cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sifted confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Milk if needed to thin frosting


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until light and fluffy. Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth. Spread the batter into a greased 13 by 10-inch baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting: Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined. If the frosting is too thick, add milk a teaspoon at a time. Stir in the vanilla and mix again. Spread on cooled cake and cut into bars.

Tasty Easy Healthy Green Recipe Ratings:

Recipe Report Card Notes About Recipe Ratings

Tasty Rating


Four Chefs (Delicious!)

Destined to become a fall classic.

Easy Rating


Four Easy Chairs (“ABC, Easy as 123…”)

The cake is simpler than most cakes I’ve made, and the frosting is pretty quick too.

Healthy Rating


Three Apples (Average Nutritional Quality)

It’s much healthier than the original version, but still plenty of sugar and calories.

Green Rating


Four Leaves (Mother Earth Approved)

Except for the butter, all of the ingredients were organic.
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7 comments to Special Guest Post: Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

  • I have been obsessed with pumpkins. Just can’t get enough of this creamy low-calorie root vegetable. Sad that the season is over. Can pumpkins ain’t available in our supermarkets.
    Your wholewheat pumpkin bars look perfectly moist and divine, Sally.
    All the best with your study!

  • Zoe

    Based on the report card of this recipe, these bars seem to a must bake for all mothers! Bookmarked this :D

  • Good for your son for moving you in the direction to produce this great recipe! With all of the wonderful pumpkins this year and the cheap prices, I’m looking for recipes like this one! Thanks for sharing!!! The bars look so moist and delicious, but I would definitely have to resist eating the topping before spreading it. :)

  • Great looking pumpkin bars…they are perfect for this time of the year…
    Hope you are having a wonderful week Sally :)

  • The other S & G

    Thanks for letting me contribute to your blog again! When finals are looming, you know who to call :)

    One comment on the pumpkin bars – they do not last all that long despite being refrigerated. By the third day they had lost quite a bit of their original charm. It makes a big batch, so plan accordingly!

  • Alison

    Those look delicious!!

  • Just perfect for the season! That’s what good friends are for!

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