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Pumpkin Bars

A gooey pumpkin with warm spice crusted inspired by my recent team lunch at 4Rivers Smokehouse, where I picked up their pumpkin bayou. They call it a pumpkin bayou, but it is basically a chess bar. Yet with some notable features. I split a bar and savored it over the course of a couple of days to dissect those flavors.

Knowing what I know about chess bars, they typically have a cake mix crust, usually yellow box cake mixes, but in this case, it tasted like spice cake. The top layer of a typical chess bar is fruit or puree mixture with cream cheese and a ton of sugar. I knew right away that I was not going to use a pound of sugar and these bars will only be inspired by and I do not aspire to make a copycat recipe. I noticed that the top had distinctive swirls of cream cheese in the pumpkin layer and they didn’t look homogenous like most chess bars.  

Either way it makes for an easy dessert that will get rave reviews. My sister doesn’t normally request dessert recipes and she requested these. I don’t have many notes because it’s so easy!

My notes:

  • Crust – As mentioned, the crust is made with spice cake mix, but you can use any cake mix you like. The 4R version was a spiced cake of some kind.
  • Topping – Use other fruit purees for different flavors. It reminds me of cherry cheesecake bars that I made one time with a blondie crust. Yum! But why did I spend the time making a blondie crust from scratch when I can use a cake mix? Hello!
  • If watching the bars bake, you’ll see the sides rise, then the center will rise, and the cream cheese may crack slightly. The bars will usually bake for only a few minutes more after that. Testing your bars with tester may be deceptive because the pumpkin and cream cheese top will obviously be gooey.

Pumpkin Bars

Time: 50 minutes

Serves: 24

1 (15.25 oz) box spice cake mix
1 stick unsalted butter (melted)
1 egg
½ cup chopped walnuts

Pumpkin mixture
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 ½ teaspoon pumpkin spice (1 tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp ginger, 1/8 tsp allspice, 1/8 tsp nutmeg)

Cream cheese mixture
1 (8oz) block cream cheese
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 egg

• Preheat oven to 350F.
• For the crust, in large bowl mix cake mix, melted butter and egg until well combined. Then fold in walnut. Spread in a parchment lined greased 9×13 pan.
• For pumpkin filling mix the pumpkin puree, sugar, egg and pumpkin spice together.
• For cream cheese filling, beat cream cheese with sugar until well blended. Add egg and blend until smooth.
• Spoon pumpkin mixture into random spots on the crust and then randomly dollop the cream cheese mixture. Use the tip of a knife to swirl the two mixtures together.
• Bake for 37-42 minutes. You’ll see the edges rise and then the middle rise.


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