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Pumpkin Pie Bars with Powdered-Sugar Leaf Stencils

Make elegant Pumpkin Pie Bars in under 20 minutes, including the fun of decorating them! I used maple leaves as a natural stencil but you can use real leaves of your choice or cut leaves from paper. This something-for-nothing recipe uses pumpkin puree made from my Halloween Jack o' Lantern, but you can use canned pumpkin puree.

Pumpkin Pie Bars with powdered sugar leaf stencil make an elegant vegan Thanksgiving dessert

Active time: 18 minutes. Total time: 55 minutes. Serves 6. Doubles well. Vegan.

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (180 grams)
2 tablespoons finely-ground flaxseed (14 grams)
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar (195 grams)
1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree (homemade or canned but not pumpkin-pie mix) (300 grams)
3/4 cup sunflower seed oil or other neutral vegetable oil (160 grams)
1/4 cup raisins (40 grams)
2 teaspoons powdered sugar for decoration (optional)

Recipe steps

  1. Heat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the center position. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.
  2. In a mixing bowl, use a fork to stir together flour, flaxseed, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. Add brown sugar and stir to combine. Add remaining ingredients and stir until smooth using a big spoon or an electric mixer. As you add the pumpkin puree, do a happy dance if you made your own (free pumpkin! less waste!) or if you didn't (all that time saved!).

    Cut up your Halloween pumpkin or Jack o' Lantern to steam for pumpkin puree

  3. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until top is firm and tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let Pumpkin Pie Bars cool for at least 10 minutes to firm up. Cover when cool. Keeps at room temperature for six hours and refrigerated for five days. They are delicious warm and firmer but also delicious chilled.
  4. Decorate bars just before serving if desired so the powdered sugar is dry and visible. Rinse leaves, pat dry, and arrange on top of cake. Next time, I'll keep the stems on the leaves.

    put clean maple leaves on baked Pumpkin Pie Bars for a natural stencil

  5. Put powdered sugar into a strainer and shake gently over the leaves.

    sprinkle powdered sugar over Pumpkin Pie Bars using a strainer

  6. Carefully remove leaves so any sugar on them doesn't fall back onto the cake. Cut Pumkin Pie Bars and serve.

    carefully remove leaves from Pumpkin Pie Bars so leave outline remains


  • Oil-free version update: I left out the oil with the hope that the pumpkin would provide enough moisture. Unfortunately, the result was so rubbery and bland that we did something very rare in the Cook for Good kitchen: we threw the cake out after my Taster and I each tried two bites each. (First bite: oh, it can't be this bad! Second bite: toss it!) You could probably get decent results by cutting the oil in half, but this is not the recipe to leave it out all together.
  • Gluten-free version update: I used King Arthur's "glutenfree multi-purpose flour" in place of white whole wheat flour. The result was good but somewhat grainy. One neighbor loved it and another declined to comment. It's probably better than most store-bought gluten-free desserts, but if you can eat gluten, then stick with the original recipe.
  • Decorate other dark cakes wit this thrifty and quick powdered-sugar trick. You'll get a beautiful cake with less fat and sugar than a frosted version will have.

Reader Comments (6)

I'm making these bars now. The batter is quite stiff -- I wouldn't call it "pouring the batter in." More like plopping the batter into the prepared pan and then pressing it in to fill the level out the pan. But I'm always happy to have a new pumpkin bar recipe.

Nov 7, 2014 | Registered Commentercitygirl

Yaay, Citygirl! Are you using canned pumpkin? Please let me know how they turn out. It's possible that my home-made puree has more liquid.

Nov 7, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Watson

How about a fat free version?

Nov 7, 2014 | Registered Commentersusannaball

@Susannaball - great idea about a fat-free version. I've still got plenty of pumpkin purée to play with. Please don't let my Taster know, but I also bought two cans of pumpkin purée so I can test making it that way. Stay tuned! Anyone who tries a variation, please post your results.

Nov 8, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Watson

My son needed a gluten-free diet, so I learned how to adjust the CfG recipes for him. I found the store-bought mixes, while convenient, give OK to mediocre results at best, in our opinions. Better, if you really plan to cook gluten-free, would be to gather a selection of the alternative flours and create your own mixes for the recipes. My staples include: fine rice flour; sourghum flour; and chickpea flour. The grainy-ness often comes from the rice flour - in our area, the asian markets carry the best textured (finest ground) rice flours. Brown rice flour, in our experience, is consistently grainier than white rice flour (as you might expect), so I often use a mix of half-and-half, if the texture is noticible, as in cakes and cookies.

A basic mix that I start with for most recipes is 1:1 rice flour and sorghum flour. If I want a boost of protien, I'll use 3:3:1 rice, sorghum and chickpea flours. For cakes, though, I usually use less sorghum and more rice, in a 2:1 mixture, with no chickpea flour and at least half white rice flour. Finally, to help these flours bind better, it's useful to add a 1/2 tsp of guar gum or xanthan gum (produced by trees and bacteria, respectively). Such a small amount, but it makes a real difference!

Nov 15, 2014 | Registered CommenterMatthew

Matthew, thank you so much for your detailed advice! I'm looking forward to tring it and to sharing it with others. Your son is lucky to have a dad who takes such care with cooking good, healthy food.

Nov 18, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Watson
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