A Pumpkin Square Tradition

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The autumn season means many things.  It’s a time to dress warmer, rake leaves, go pumpkin picking, prepare for Halloween and the Holidays, carve pumpkins, and so on.  Every year about a week before Halloween, I buy some canned pumpkin and cream cheese and prepare my first batch of homemade Pumpkin Squares for my family, loved ones, and co-workers.  It’s been a tradition since 2008 when I came across the recipe as I was compiling ideas for my Thanksgiving contributions.  Ever since, it’s been a hit and has come to be infamously associated with the Holiday season.

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The original printout that I refer to year after year.  I’ve photocopied it for dozens of people already.

It’s a very simple recipe (originally by Paula Dean), and it comes out SO perfectly delicious and moist every time.  Note: The icing recipe creates a lot, so you’ll be able to use it for your Pumpkin Square batches the whole season.  I even used the icing on some butternut squash treats that I made recently, but I’ll save that for another post.

Pumpkin Squares*

*The recipe calls them ‘bars,’ but that makes it sound like they’re hard or crunchy, so I just call them ‘squares.’

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Ingredients:

2 cups flour, sifted (I use gluten free all purpose flour)
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar (I use evaporated cane sugar)
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, room temperature
15-ounce canned pumpkin

For the icing:
8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 13″x10″ baking pan.

In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients and whisk together.  Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together oil and sugar using an electric mixer.  Add eggs and pumpkin.  Mix until light and fluffy.  Gradually fold in dry ingredients with a rubber spatula, remembering to scrape the sides of the bowl down.  Batter should be smooth.  Spread onto your greased baking pan.  Bake for 30 minutes or until you can poke the center with a toothpick, and it comes out cleanly.  Cut into squares, then transfer to a cooling rack.  Allow the squares to cool completely before applying the icing.  Otherwise, the icing will melt into the squares making it messy to work with!

For the icing:

Slice softened butter and cream cheese and transfer to a medium bowl.  Whisk them together with an electric mixer until smooth.  Add vanilla extract and mix.  Gradually add confectioners sugar and mix until very fluffy — about 2-3 minutes.  To apply icing, use two tea spoons.  Take a small dollop of icing in one spoon and scrape it off onto the top of a pumpkin square with the other spoon.  Use the bottom of one of the spoons to flatten out the icing.  Then, move the bottom of the spoon in small circular motions until icing looks neat and spread out.  (I’ll be sure to post pictures of this technique the next time I make pumpkin squares.)  Top with sprinkles, if desired.

Although this recipe doesn’t involve actually working with pumpkins, I thought I’d include this year’s pumpkin carving to join in the spirit of this post…

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Finn from Adventure Time — also my boyfriend’s choice costume for this year. 🙂

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