Years ago, when I was a little girl, my Momma had this cookbook. Every time we asked for cookies, she whipped that sucker out, slapped it on the counter and whipped up a batch of "Sybil's Chocolate Chip Cookies". It was a recipe of Velda Peterson's from our church congregation's "Sesquicentennial Cookbook". I remember ruining that cookbook by coloring ALL over that open section with a purple crayon. I didn't KNOW I was ruining it, because there was a picture on the bottom of that page. It wasn't already in color, but at 5...I thought that was my job, to color the world. Seemed legit at the time....
Over time that cookbook got shot to hell. Not sure exactly what did it to the book, but...it kinda ended up with pages ripped and stuck together from cookie and cake batter n such. Poor book. Now that I am an adult and obsessed with cooking, I mourned that book. So I did what I thought was what I owed my Momma. Even though the cookbook was DEFINITELY out of print, I found someone that had a copy in pristine condition and I took it to a company and made 10 copies. Not sure how I settled on the number 10 but...that's just what happened. That Christmas Momma, my big bro, my little sister, my dad & step Momma and my in laws all got a copy of that cookbook. Everyone was pretty happy to get it. There were a TON of recipes in there from my own Grandma, some of which I clearly remember having. There were other notable recipes in that book; two of my personal favorites are Jill Milbridge's sugar cookies (which I featured on my blog 3 years ago in my Christmas series) and Marcia Smith's Pumpkin Bars.
Hard to believe, but I hated Pumpkin with a PASSION when I was a child. "Give me chocolate or give me death!" That was pretty much my unspoken mantra, even when I was a child. My Momma whipped out pumpkin recipes left and right starting in October though. That's when life got boring for me...back then. NOW, well...now I am A-O-K with pumpkin anything. Pumpkin cookies, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bars, pumpkin bread... Yepper. One of the things she made multiple times without fail was Marcia Smith's Pumpkin Bars because they were my step father's favorite. Ultra moist pumpkin bottom with a perfect cake texture and a rich, velvety cream cheese frosting on top. What's not to love? Right...nothing. I promise this will be the only pumpkin bar recipe you'll ever want to use again after you try it. Let's get to it!
Marcia Smith's Pumpkin Bars
4 organic free range brown eggs, at room temperature
1 c. salad oil (meaning Miracle Whip, etc) or vegetable oil
2 c. organic cane sugar
1-15 oz. can of organic pureed pumpkin
2 c. all purpose flour (I use King Arthur)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
8 oz. organic cream cheese
1 stick of unsalted organic butter
3 1/2 c. organic powdered cane sugar
1 tsp. vanilla paste or vanilla extract (I use Nielsen Massey)
Grease a jelly roll pan (large cookie sheet pan) with lard or butter and line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease the WHOLE pan, even under the parchment paper. Then preheat your oven to 350 F.
In your stand mixer blend together your eggs and sugar and let it go on the 2 or 3 setting, allowing some air to get into the mixture and give it some good volume. While that is whipping in a separate bowl sift together your flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices and give it a short mix with a whisk and set it aside. Then, by large spoonfuls, begin adding your pumpkin to the egg and sugar mixture.
After the pumpkin has been well incorporated add in the oil component. Whether it is miracle whip sort of "salad oil" or vegetable oil, add it in at a slow drizzle so the batter emulsifies it well and doesn't lose its volume. When the batter has all of the wet together, start adding in the flour mixture in small spurts while the stand mixer mixes at the same time.
After batter is complete, spread into the jelly roll pan, making sure that you do it as evenly as possible and get it into the corners well so they don't burn during baking. Put in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes.
While bars are baking make the frosting and set aside. It needs to remain close to room temperature to be spreadable later. Cream together the cream cheese and butter, then add in the vanilla paste or vanilla extract. After that is smooth and velvety, add in the sugar all at once, mixing on the very lowest setting on your mixer. Let it go for at least 5 minutes and check it for possible lumps. If there are any sugar lumps in there (there weren't in mine, but it can happen...) keep mixing until you are left with a smooth, voluminous frosting. Set aside and cover. Don't refrigerate as it will be TOO hard to spread on bars.
Check the bars at 30 minutes with a toothpick, when the toothpick comes out clean remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack. When the bars are completely cooled portion the frosting out on top of the bars in 6 large globs for even coverage.
Spread with a butter knife over the bars, trying to keep the coverage as even as you can. The bar to frosting ratio in each bite is truly key to these tasting wonderful.
Cut the bars into whatever size you wish...I mean look at that pan! Lol...there are plenty of bars, no matter how you slice it. My family tend to cut themselves rather large portion sized bars when they eat these. Three inches by 3 inches is not unheard of in our house.
One thing I know for sure is that these taste fabulous and most of the time when I eat them...I can't eat just one. The cream cheese frosting really sets off the pumpkin flavor which also gets a nice boost from the spices. I can't even think of anything more to say other than...you've just got to try this recipe at least one time. I feel like it is the best recipe for pumpkin bars I've ever come across. Her recipe DOES say to sprinkle the top with nuts...I've never done that but if I DID...I would put on some pecans. I would possibly make candied pecans but, the frosting is so sweet, it wouldn't bet truly necessary. The only necessity to this recipe is that you do your best not to eat the whole pan. It'll be a struggle. Moist, flavorful, and perfectly balanced conglomeration of pumpkin and frosting. Mmmm...enjoy!