It's the frosting on these bars that puts them over-the-top. Whole wheat flour and reduced fat makes them less naughty than traditional pumpkin bar recipes. Great for an autumn dessert or following a Mexican meal.
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or 1 cup regular whole wheat flour plus 1 cup white flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs, whisked
1-2/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup applesauce, unsweetened
15-ounce can pureed pumpkin
3 tablespoons Kahlua liqueur
1-1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder of coffee granules
12 oz. cream cheese (1-1/2 8-oz. blocks), room temperature
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
ground cinnamon for dusting top
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat one 13x18 baking sheet or two 13x9 baking sheets with cooking spray. Set aside.
TO MAKE BARS: In medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Set aside. In separate large bowl, combine eggs, sugar, oil, applesauce, and pumpkin; use electric mixer at medium speed to mix until well combined and light (approx. 3 minutes). Using mixer at low speed, add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture until batter is well combined and smooth (approx. 1 minute). Spread batter evenly in pan(s). (There should be approx. 6 cups of batter; 3 cups in each pan if using 2 pans.) Bake for 20-25 minutes until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.
TO MAKE FROSTING: Put Kahlua in small microwave-safe bowl; microwave on high just until it boils (approx. 30 seconds). Add instant espresso or coffee granules and stir until dissolved. Set aside to cool to room temp. In separate medium bowl, combine cream cheese and butter with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. At low speed, add powered sugar and mix until combined and smooth. Add Kahlua mixture and mix again. Makes 3 cups of frosting. Spread on cooled pumpkin bars. Dust top of frosting lightly with cinnamon by shaking cinnamon through fine metal strainer.
Cover frosted bars with domed lid and keep in refrigerator for up to four days. Frosted bars also may be covered and frozen. Remove lid as they thaw to prevent condensation from forming and making the frosting soggy.
FOR PLAIN CREAM CHEESE FROSTING: omit Kahlua and instant espresso/coffee; add 1-1/2 teaspoons cream cheese.