Looking for an outrageously rich pumpkin dessert to celebrate fall and all its warm, cozy flavors? Make these pumpkin cream cheese swirl bars, inspired by Sally’s Baking Addiction, and you’ll find yourself throwing a weekly harvest party just to eat dessert.
What makes these pumpkin cream cheese bars so special? Every tasty bar is a hand-sized piece of intensely spiced pumpkin cake lusciously joined with a cheesecake-like swirl and sprinkled with toasty cinnamon-dusted pepitas. This decadent treat is perfect for the holiday dessert table, a weekend treat for the family, or fall gatherings with friends.
Though pumpkin cream cheese swirl bars look impressively complicated, they are actually quite easy. It starts with a basic pumpkin cake recipe that boasts butter, vanilla, and a generous amount of cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice. About two-thirds of the batter is spread in a large parchment-lined baking dish. Spoonfuls of the sweetened vanilla cream cheese batter are then dropped on top. The remaining pumpkin batter goes on top of that, and the two batters are swirled with a spatula.
Pepitas please! Tossing pepitas in ground cinnamon and sprinkling them on the pumpkin cream cheese batter before baking is a delicious way to add a lovely pumpkin seed flavor and crunch. These tasty green-hued gems are pumpkin seeds without the familiar white shells you’re used to seeing inside Halloween pumpkins. You don’t have try to shell the pumpkin seeds though! You can find shucked pumpkin seeds — also known as pepitas — in the bulk section of the supermarket.
Mix the dry ingredients together
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. The generous quantity of spices give these pumpkin bars an enticing fall flavor.
Beat the wet ingredients together
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, Beat the butter until creamy. Add the brown sugar and cream the butter and sugar together. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Scoop pumpkin puree into the bowl and beat until the mixture is well combined.
Combine the wet and dry ingredients
With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture. Mix just until combined. Set aside.
Make the cream cheese mixture
Using a clean mixing bowl and paddle attachment, beat the softened cream cheese until smooth. Beat in the sugar, egg, and vanilla until well combined.
Prepare the baking dish
Spray the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Line the dish with a large sheet of parchment paper that covers the bottom and sides of the dish.
Swirl the pumpkin and cream cheese batters
Evenly spread 2/3 of the pumpkin batter in the prepared baking dish. Drop spoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture onto the pumpkin batter. Drop in spoonfuls of the remaining pumpkin batter. Use a spatula to gently swirl the pumpkin and cream cheese mixtures together.
Sprinkle with cinnamon pepitas
Toss pepitas with cinnamon and sprinkle on top of the swirled batter. These nutty gems add a lovely crunch to every bar.
Bake and cool
Bake at 350 F for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the bars to cool completely at room temperature. This dessert needs to be refrigerated before being cut. Refrigerate for 2 hours to cool completely. Use a sharp knife to cut it into 24 squares and serve.