Pumpkin Spice Bars with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
From THE NAPTIME CHEF by Kelsey Banfield
Running Press, 2012
Naptime Stopwatch: 15 minutes prep time, 30 minutes bake time
Makes 2 dozen squares
Butter as needed for the pan
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
12/3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 (14 ounce-can) pure organic pumpkin purée, or the equivalent amount of fresh pumpkin purée, drained in a fine-mesh sieve if particularly wet
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter a 13 x 9-inch baking dish and set aside.
To make the bars...
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and salt and set aside.
In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the eggs, sugar, oil, and pumpkin purée on medium speed until completely smooth and blended, about 2 minutes.
With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until they are fully combined. Stop the mixer once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the center is set and a cake tester comes out clean. Allow the bars to cool to room temperature in the pan before frosting.
To make the frosting...
In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on medium-high speed cream the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and maple syrup until completely smooth, about 5 minutes. The frosting will look curdled initially, but will gradually become creamy and uniform. Add the confectioners' sugar and blend well until frosting is thickened and there are no visible lumps, about 2 more minutes.
To frost the bars, dip a small offset spatula in warm water and dry it well. Gently spread some of the frosting over the cake in the pan, smoothing it quickly. Continue frosting, dipping the spatula in warm water as needed. Cut into squares and serve.
Make-Ahead Tips: These bars are moist enough to be made up to a day before you want to serve them. Once the pan has cooled, cover it tightly with plastic wrap to maintain freshness. Frost them and cut into 2-inch squares just before serving.
Serving Ideas: For Halloween, dot the frosting with candy corn or black and orange sprinkles. At Thanksgiving or Christmas, give them a light dusting of cinnamon for a more sophisticated look.