The past month has been a busy one in my kitchen. We hosted 3 big dinner parties, one a week for up to 30 people with the same Mexican buffet menu. (I cooked for 4 parties, but I got sick on the day of the last one and we had to cancel it. Bummer.) As soon as one party finished, I started cooking for the next one.
These pumpkin bars were one of the most requested recipes at our parties. I wanted something that was appropriate for the fall season along with the Mexican theme of our menu. So, I tweaked a traditional autumn pumpkin bar recipe by adding a hint of Kahlua to a cream cheese frosting--a nod to Mexico's most popular liqueur. It's one yummy frosting. Since I've made these four times in a month, I know this recipe well. Here's what I've come to like about these pumpkin bars:
Step-by-step photos for making
Pumpkin Bars with Kahlua & Cream Frosting
Step 1. Assemble the ingredients. Here's what you need to make the bars: whole wheat pastry flour, white flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice*, salt, eggs, sugar, vegetable oil, applesauce, pureed pumpkin
*You can purchase pumpkin pie spice, or make your own.
Click here for my recipe.
Here's what you need to make the frosting: Kahlua, instant espresso or coffee granules, cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, cinnamon
Step 2. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
Step 3. In a separate large bowl, mix the eggs just until blended.
Step 4. Add the sugar, oil, applesauce, and pumpkin. Mix until well combined and light--approx. 3 minutes.
Step 5. Add the dry ingredients. Mix until blended and smooth--approx. 1 minute.
Step 6. Spread evenly in one 13x18 baking sheet or two 13x9 baking sheets that have been coated with cooking spray. I used 2 of the smaller baking sheets. There is 6 cups of batter, so I put 3 cups in each pan.
Step 7. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Let the bars cool completely before frosting them.
While the bars cool, make the frosting.
Step 8. Put Kahlua in small micro-wave safe bowl and microwave just until it starts boiling--approx. 30 seconds. Stir in instant espresso/coffee granules until dissolved. Set aside to cool to room temp.
Step 9. In medium bowl, add butter and cream cheese that is cut into chunks. Blend with mixer until smooth.
Step 10. Add powdered sugar and mix until smooth.
Step 11. Add cooled Kahlua mixture and mix just until combined.
Step 12. Frost cooled bars. There is approx. 3 cups of frosting; so if you're using 2 pans, use 1-1/2 cups to frost each pan.
Step 13. For a finishing touch, dust the top of the frosting with ground cinnamon. Shake it through a wire mesh strainer for a finer dust, moving the strainer as you shake the cinnamon into it.
Make ahead, cover, and refrigerate or freeze until serving time. The finished, frosted bars hold up well to refrigerating and freezing. It's best to use pans with domed lids so the frosting doesn't get messed up. This also makes it easy to stack pans or stack other things on top of them in the fridge or freezer.
To serve, remove bars from the fridge or freezer, take off the lid (to keep frosting from sweating), and allow them to warm to room temperature before serving; 30 minutes for refrigerated bars, 60 minutes for frozen bars.
The frosting is what puts these pumpkin bars over the top. So good!
Don't like Kahlua? I love the hint of Kahlua in these. However, if you prefer a plainer cream cheese frosting, omit the Kahlua and instant coffee and add 1-1/2 teaspoons of vanilla.
Here's an idea for the upcoming season: Make these now, freeze them, and they'll be ready to enjoy at a moment's notice; you'll be so happy to have something ready and delicious to pull out of the freezer. These are always a crowd pleaser!
Make it a Yummy day!