Pumpkin Dessert Bars

Pumpkin Dessert Bars

Time for a quick poll.

Pumpkin Pie: yes or no?

Full Pan of Pumpkin Dessert Bars

For me?

Pumpkin: Yes.

Pie: No.

But it feels like pumpkin pie is the right thing to do at Thanksgiving, so I usually take a piece and just eat the pumpkin filling, because hi, I’m 8 years old and I pick my food apart. And then even though I don’t love pie in general, I like the apple pie better than the pumpkin pie, which gets confusing because then which piece should I take? And then Grandma sometimes takes us all for a ride by bringing a chocolate French silk pie, which is so overwhelming and wonderful that usually I just end up with multiple slices of pie and the significance of pumpkin pie is lost somewhere between the caramel apple pie filling and the whipped cream with chocolate shavings.

I am totally in love with the idea of pumpkin pie, but I am not totally in love with pumpkin pie.

But this.

Pumpkin Dessert Bars with one on the plate

This golden brown buttery pan of glory is a staple at our house during Thanksgiving, and no, it’s not a pumpkin pie. It’s a soft, sweet pumpkin-pie-esque base (see the bottom?) topped with a dense buttery yellow cake topping that’s part crumbly, part cakey, part buttery. Oh, wait. Did I say buttery already?

Side note: this weekend I had a phone call with my best friend back home and at least three minutes of our long-distance conversation was spent talking about BUTTER. I.am.not.kidding. This is my life.

But the pumpkin dessert. It satisfies every pumpkin-loving bone in my body, and also every butter and cake craving I’ve ever had in my life. It takes Thanksgiving nostalgia to new heights.


Pumpkin Dessert Bars with silverware

If you’re going to make this, you have to be ready to not have any leftovers. In theory that would be a good thing, but for this, not so much. My Filipino neighbors, who are usually the recipients of my baked goods, are only moderately excited about the taste and texture of pumpkin. That means there’s a lot of individual pumpkin dessert bar hoarding happening right now, right here, in this very apartment.

Even with the palm trees and the hot sun staring me down from the window, I knew it was fall as soon as I had a bite of this in my mouth.

This year I’m thankful for desserts that are easy and insanely good.

Pumpkin Dessert Bars

4.5 from 6 reviews
Pumpkin Dessert Bars
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 20
  • 1 can pumpkin (15 oz)
  • 1 can evaporated milk (12 oz)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 4 beaten eggs
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ginger
  • ½ tsp. cloves
  • 1 15-ounce box yellow cake mix with pudding
  • 2 sticks butter, melted
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix the pumpkin, evaporated milk, white sugar, brown sugar, eggs, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and cloves in a large mixing bowl. Pour mixture into a 9 X 13 pan.
  2. Sprinkle dry cake mix over top and pour melted butter evenly over the top.
  3. Bake for about 1½ hours or until the middle is set.
If you notice the top is browning more than you want during baking, just cover the pan with foil, making a tent shape so that the foil doesn't touch the topping.This time, I just used a regular cake mix (not one with pudding) and it was still delicious!


One thing I forgot to acknowledge: the aluminum cake pan that I’ve been using (for this AND the chocolate cake) since I’m too cheap to buy a real cake pan that I would only use for 6 more months before we move back home.

So, there’s that.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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  1. Wow, these look amazing, Lindsay. :) I happen to be a big fan of pumpkin pie, but I think I might like these even more.

  2. That dense buttery yellow cake topping is where it’s at for me! Looks fabulous! I will always choose pumpkin bars of some sort over pie – more diverse and more going on, which I like!

  3. I’ll eat pumpkin anything. Well, as long as it’s dessert. I don’t get down with pumpkin in real food. That’s just wrong, man.

    But, this? This cake? Yes. I will eat every last piece.

  4. debbie @ Akingsbreakfast.com says:

    This looks yummy, I hope you have a wonderful thanksgiving. I know what it’s like not being around family during the holidays. Glad you are making delicious recipes that remind you of home. I’m not a pumpkin pie lover myself, actually I’m only used to having pumpkin in savory dishes but I am embracing the American pumpkin desserts and trying a variety of recipes. Thanks for the post and I’ll come back and let you know how it turns out.

  5. This dessert is definitely a YES!
    It reminds me of a Pumpkin ooey gooey butter cake! Yummy!

  6. Mmmmm this sounds so yummy!!

  7. this is one of my favorite thanksgiving recipes – we call it pumpkin crunch instead though. it’s also amazing with a little dollop of whipped cream too. yum!

  8. Anything with pumpkin and 2 sticks of butter is good in my book! I’ll have to make this for a large group or I would also eat the entire pan :)

  9. I have the exact same feelings towards pumpkin pie! Especially the whole “multiple slice” phenomenon it seems to cause on my plate.
    I love the idea of keeping pumpkin dessert (it IS Thanksgiving after all), but choosing your favorite pumpkiny treat. Who said it had to be pie? Pumpkin cheesecake is my pick this year!
    Great recipe and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

  10. I’m really loving this! Pumpkin pie is good, but I’m actually thinking this is better!! May have to change things up this year (which seems to be the trend for my fam this year)

  11. ooh man, the poll question. tough one. i love the IDEA of pumpkin pie, and i truly love pumpkins, but… i don’t know, i’ve never been crazy about pumpkin pie. maybe the portions are always overwhelming? these dessert bars are more appealing to me. though!

  12. I’m not much of a pumpkin pie fan but I can totally get on board with these cakey-bars! I’d eat every single last piece.

  13. Yummy Yes I believe I will be making this instead of pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving dessert!

  14. I am right with you; I love pumpkin but the pie just doesn’t do it for me. These bars sounds delicious.

  15. Um. Did you just make a brownish-orange dish in foil pan look phenomenal? You ARE good.

  16. These look wonderful. Any ideas for a vegan substitute for the evaporated milk?

  17. I will eat just about anything that has pumpkin in it! This looks so good and that crunchy top–yum!

  18. this sounds like one of my recipes.nice spending time with the family for Romao and seeing your pics. G’ma R .

  19. Yes, on the pumpkin pie, but only on Thanksgiving. :)

  20. This looks INSANELY delicious!!…sigh if only i liked pumpkin!!:/

  21. Looks amazing! I definitely agree on the pumpkin pie thing… big fan of pumpkin, but somehow pumpkin pie never does it for me. Maybe this year will be different?

  22. Jen @ Jen's Favorite Cookies says:

    I pretty much love anything made with pumpkin. What a great dessert!

  23. I am same way pumpkin – yes. Pie – no. This looks so good!
    I just don’t care for pie crust – it does nothing for me. I would pick cake or cupcakes or a pastry over pie any day.

  24. First time in your blog and you’ve got me hooked with this idea. I LOVE pumpkin pie and I might just have to try these out.

  25. this looks amazing!! I love your idea for crumbly on top of pumpkin!!

  26. You know, I thought I was the only one who picked apart their pumpkin pie at thanksgiving! Whew- not alone! These dessert bars are way more my style. Must make soon!

  27. i love the look of that topping!!!! bummer we aren’t neighbors I would totally take the leftovers!

  28. These bars look AMAZING!

  29. Have a great Thanksgiving. The pumpkin pie bars look delicious.

  30. The top looks like a cross between a snickerdoodle and French toast, in the best way!

    One year (not that long ago either) I ate 8 pieces of pie on Thanksgiving…Needless to say, I’m a fan!

  31. What if you forgot the recipe at home and bought pumpkin pie filling instead? Can you omit the spices (or augment to taste) and use it in place of the pumpkin?

  32. Pumpkin pie: YES! I’m not really a huge fan of pie crust (I always eat out the pie “innards”), so this looks awesome to me! :)

  33. These look great!!! What size can of evaporated milk??

  34. WHAT! Why am I just reading this post today, on the busiest grocery day of the year. MUST get cake mix so I can make this NOW.

  35. I love pumpkin pie but this looks so good too. It sounds so easy to make!

  36. I had an in depth conversation about olive oil today… so I completely understand the butter. and this same person? brought me a gift of a trader joes food item, just because she liked it and thought I needed one. foodie friends understand these things… :)

    like pie. or not pie. this looks perfect.

  37. I stole this recipe for Thanksgiving and it was a HUGE hit! Thank you! :)

  38. This tastes amazing but didn’t turn out a thing like the picture. It baked in less than hour and I don’t have the layers shown in the picture. I followed the recipe as written, any idea what could have happened?

    • What size pan did you use? Also, did you mix the cake mix into the batter? It should just be sprinkled on top. I’m surprised it baked that fast! Usually it takes forever to get the pumpkin layer to set up.

      • 9 x 13. I sprinkled the cake mix on top and poured the melted butter on top. I dont have as much of the layering effect (at first, I didnt think there was any but as I ate 8 million pieces I discovered the very middle of the pan looked more “normal”). Thinking about it, I used egg beaters instead of normal eggs but I’d never had any problems baking them before.

        It was a pleasant surpised to be done that fast! I went in the kitchen to look at it because the smell was getting to be overwhelmingly delicious.

  39. Elizabeth says:

    Have these in the oven right now. I made the kabocha squash lentil curry (delicious!) the other night so I had half the squash leftover. I did not feel like hacking up the other half of the squash so I roasted that sucker and used the kabocha’s flesh in place of the pumpkin! Its about halfway done. Can’t wait to taste it!

  40. I will have to make these soon. Sound so yummy! Thank you and have a great day!

  41. Thinking that baking them for 1 1/2 hours is a tad too long and 2 stick of butter is indeed too heavy. I ended up throwing my batch out as it was way too heavy, and my family also thought the same. Next time I will lessen the fat for sure but thank you for the recipe.

  42. I have used this recipe for years, an oldie but a goodie. Yours has a bit of a variation with the evaporated milk, and I could see that where that would adding richness but also calories. It is very good without the evaporated milk as well. Looks like it turned out very well, yummy!

  43. I have used this recipe for years, an oldie but a goodie. Yours has a bit of a variation with the evaporated milk, and I could see that where that would add richness but also calories. It is very good without the evaporated milk as well. Looks like it turned out very well, yummy!

  44. Hi Lindsay! When you say two sticks of butter, how much butter is that in cups?

  45. Diane Crooks says:

    Hi Lindsay!
    Thanks for sharing this recipe. It is one that I have used several times in the past. I lost the recipe and was glad to come across yours. I ended up doubling it thuogh as I only had a large can of pumpkin. I baked it for the 90 minutes that you recommended however I wish I had kept to my instincts and pulled it out at the 1 hour mark. Mine was a little over done (burnt at the edges) but still mostly eddible.
    To everyone else who is trying this out- start checking at the 60 minute mark.

  46. If you think this is good try adding some pecan pieces into the cake mix. This is my favorite pumpkin dessert – I used to love pumpkin pie until I had one from Costco that wasn’t cooked all the way through and it ruined me towards pumpkin pie :( but this desert is to die for!!!!!!

  47. Penni Eagan says:

    This looks wonderful!!! I just made it but I only had a regular yellow cake mix. So I’m hoping it will turn out alright. Thank You For Sharing!!

  48. Kind of disappointed. Thought this was an all natural dessert. Hate box cake.

    • Hey Amelia! I’ve made this before (and other cake mix recipes) where I’ve just googled “homemade box cake mix” and then used that mix of ingredients in place of the box cake mix.

  49. Pamela Graham says:

    I just made this and covered it with aluminum foil for the last thirty minutes and sprinkles with fall sugar leaves…came out perfect!! Yummy! Thanks so much for the awesome recipe. I did not have a yellow cake mix with pudding so I added a box of pudding mix, chopped up a mixture of walnuts of pecans and added to the cake mix. If I could post a photo, I would…it’s beautiful!

  50. Oh MY YUM!!!

  51. MBeckenhauer says:

    I have made this several times and it’s always a hit! I also adjust the baking time to about an hour. Way better than any pumpkin pie…and my hubby, who isn’t a pumpkin pie fan, loves this dessert! So yummy!

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