BYOBrownies: Pumpkin Spice Bars with Caramel Frosting

Time to celebrate fall at Chip Chip Hooray! I finally broke out the pumpkin, and oh my gosh, did my kitchen smell good. I’ve been waiting to make these pumpkin spice bars since October of last year, when a lovely friend of mine (hi, Manhattan!) brought them to homecoming at my alma mater. With the advent of autumn, they were the first treat on my must-bake list. And I had an even better reason to feature them today…

A couple of weeks ago, Erin, Katrina, Christina, and I decided: You can bring your own booze. Why the heck can’t we bring our own brownies?! I don’t know about you guys, but as a girl who doesn’t get her drink on all that often, the idea of a baked goods celebration is endlessly more appealing to me. But that may just be the sugar talking (nope, not at all).

Okay, you caught me. My “brownies” of choice are technically “bars”…but it still fits the BYOB theme! And once you taste these, I guarantee you will no longer care about the specificity of the dessert. These are unanimously considered (by me and Charlie) one of the top three things I have ever made. I’ll let that fact speak for itself. 😉

Now, I’m not going to pretend these little guys are health food (if you count the sticks of butter in the recipe below, you’ll see what I mean). But life is all about balance, right? Balance = one bar in each hand. The base of these treats is full of fall spice flavor: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and, of course, pumpkin, which makes them moist and dense–and super rich. And then to balance out the cake layer, they’re topped with this caramel frosting that hardens into almost a glaze. I cannot say enough about this frosting. Be prepared to lick your whisk, people. It’s completely and totally irresistible. And if only half of the batch makes it onto your bars…I won’t tell anybody.

Pumpkin Spice Bars with Caramel Frosting
Source: Bethlehem Farms, WV, and my friend Manhattan!

For the cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups self-rising flour*
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup skim milk
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

*I made my own self-rising flour using this recipe–I don’t use it enough to buy a whole bag!

For the frosting:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup skim milk, hot
  • about 3 1/2 cups confectioner’s (powdered) sugar, sifted

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease an 8 x 8 square pan (I used Pyrex).**
2. In a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl (basically, whatever will fit in your microwave), melt 1 1/2 cups butter. Stir granulated sugar into melted butter. Whisk in your eggs one at a time, then set bowl aside.
3. In a separate large bowl, sift together flour, salt, and spices. Also set aside. (I promise, the final product is worth all these dirty bowls!)
4. In a third medium-sized bowl, combine milk, pumpkin puree, and baking soda–whisk together until smooth(ish).
5. Add the contents of the first bowl (butter, sugar, and eggs) to the third bowl (milk, pumpkin, baking soda) and stir until very well mixed. Add these wet ingredients to the second bowl of dry ingredients. Stir to combine.
6. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out nearly clean (it’ll finish cooking in the pan).

7. Meanwhile, while bars are baking, melt 1/2 cup butter in a saucepan over medium heat and add brown sugar. Heat, stirring continuously, until boiling.
8. Cook at a boil and continue to stir for about one minute, or until the mixture is slightly thickened.
9. Let cool for 15 minutes, then beat in the milk until the mixture is smooth.
10. Stir in confectioner’s sugar until frosting reaches a spreadable consistency. Spread on cooled bars with an offset spatula.

**If you like your bars tall and thick, use an 8×8 pan as I did. You can also certainly split the batter between two smaller pans, or pour it into a 9×13–your bars will just be thinner. You may have to adjust the baking time slightly to account for this.

Don’t forget to check out what the other BYOBrownies bakers whipped up for you! And feel free to link up your favorite bar/brownie recipes below. 🙂

15 thoughts on “BYOBrownies: Pumpkin Spice Bars with Caramel Frosting

  1. Pingback: Apple Toffee Blondies | Dessert For Two

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