Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ever since I took my first bite of pumpkin pie as a child, I have had an affinity for anything pumpkin. Pumpkin lattes, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin scones, pumpkin beer and pumpkin-scented anything. Hell, I even bought pumpkin-flavored ice cream once and, ever since I worked at Dairy Queen, I’ve absolutely despised ice cream. So, naturally, I have a few things in my culinary repertoire that represent my love of all things pumpkin. This one is definitely one of my favorites.

1 - 14-oz. can pumpkin
3/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 cups sugar
1 - 4-oz. container applesauce
1/2 cup oil
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped pecans

1 - 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, beat the pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, sugar, applesauce, oil, eggs and vanilla together with an electric mixer. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gradually add to the pumpkin mixture; mix until well-blended. Stir in the pecans. Pour into greased 15-by-10-by-1-inch baking pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the bars pass the toothpick test. Cool completely. To make the frosting, beat the butter and cream cheese together with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Continue beating until creamy. Evenly spread the frosting over the bars. Cut into squares and serve.


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