Pumpkin Cake Bars w/Cream Cheese Frosting… reduced-fat

Exactly a year ago today my brother-in-law passed away.  It was an untimely death.pumpkin cake bars reduced-fat 068
We are all told things happen for a reason, but in the past year no one has been able to figure out what that reason is, especially when there are two little kids involved who no longer have their father.  Makes you wonder.  Why?  pumpkin cake bars reduced-fat 076
I used to think bad things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people, but now I have learned that bad things happen to good people, sometimes sooner than later, even when they least deserve it.  Some shrug it off and say, “that’s life.”  That's true, and perhaps you just have to best play the cards you're dealt.pumpkin cake bars reduced-fat 079
I’ve learned that after any life changing event, the only constant in life is family, and a couple friends if you are really lucky.pumpkin cake bars reduced-fat 085
I’ve learned that life is a series of ups and downs, that nothing good lasts forever, but neither does the pain.  pumpkin cake bars reduced-fat 095
I’ve learned to enjoy life, even when things may seem rough, they really aren’t.  There is always a reason to smile if you search within yourself.pumpkin cake bars reduced-fat 103
I’ve learned to be grateful for the little things.  Health.  Family.  Friends.  Life.  Fresh Air.  Having a Job.  Driving.  Strolling.  Hot Tea.  Dessert.  Even Rain, because nothing bad lasts forever.  At some point the pain will subside and the sun will shine.  pumpkin cake bars reduced-fat 105
On this somber October 1st, I’m thinking of my late brother-in-law.  A guy who truly appreciated my homemade desserts, especially when I reduced the fat, he’d find an excuse to eat not 1 but 2 servings.  If he was sitting amongst us today, I would have asked him at 10 PM, “Atul, do you want some chai?”  Those words were music to his ears.  He would have then nodded his head and said, “that would be wonderful, Honey.  Thank you.”  We would then have chai and Pumpkin Cake Bars along with the rest of the “Chai Addicts” in our family.  pumpkin cake bars reduced-fat 108
I miss him.  We all miss him.  He’s not physically with us, but I know he’s with us in spirit because the one thing that does last forever is L-O-V-E 
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NUTRITION: Pumpkin is rich in Vitamin A, Fiber, and Antioxidants.  Whole Wheat Flour adds some Fiber and Protein to these Pumpkin Cake Bars. 
* These bars are not terribly bad for you given that each bar has 3 grams of protein and 1.5 grams of fiber with only 178 calories, you can at least enjoy 1 or 2.

  • Calories: 178 cals
  • Fat: 9.3 g
  • Saturated Fat: 3 g
  • Carbs: 22 g
  • Protein: 3 g
  • Fiber: 1.5 g

(recipe reduced in fat, modified heavily, & adapted from Paula Dean Pumpkin Bars)
~ yields 24 bars @ 350 degrees using a 9”x13” tray

for the cake:

  • Organic Eggs – 3
  • Sugar – 1 1/2 cups
  • Organic Canola Oil – 1/2 cup
  • Unsweetened Applesauce – 3/4 cup
  • Libby’s Pumpkin – 1 (15 oz.) can
  • Whole Wheat Pastry Flour – 1 cup
  • All-Purpose White Flour – 1 cup
  • Baking Powder – 2 tsp
  • Baking Soda – 1 tsp
  • Ground Cinnamon – 2 tsp
  • Nutmeg – 1/4 tsp
  • Ginger Powder – 1/4 tsp
  • Salt – 1 tsp
for the frosting:
  • Neufchatel Cream Cheese – 1 (8 oz.) package
  • Unsalted Butter – 1/4 cup  (or 4 tbsp)
  • Confectioners Sugar – 1 1/2 cups
  • Pure Vanilla Extract – 1 tsp
for garnish:
  • Pecans – add a pecan to each bar

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.preheat
2. Grease a baking tray with unsalted butter.
3. In a mixing bowl, add the oil, applesauce, sugar, and canned pumpkin. 
4. Once mixed, add 1 egg at a time, total 3.  Mix until well combined.
5. Eventually you’ll have this.
6. Add the dry ingredients to the batter… wheat & white flours, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger powder, and salt. 
7. Gently swirl the dry ingredients until combined.
8. Mix on low speed and then work your way up until the dry and wet ingredients combine.  Do NOT over mix.
9. Your batter is ready.
10. Spread the batter on the baking tray.
11. Into the oven for 40-50 minutes.  Since I used applesauce, I baked my pumpkin bars a bit longer for a total of 45 minutes.  Oven temperatures may vary so you may want to start checking the bars after 30 minutes. 
12. Done.  Let the cake cool.
13. Combine the cream cheese and butter until whipped and creamy. 
14. Add the vanilla and powdered sugar.
15. Mix until everything is smooth and silky.
16. Once cooled, frost the cake bars and slice into 24 bars. 

Initially I thought these bars were too sweet, but they are perfect.  I cut down on the sugar very slightly since unsweetened applesauce contains a little sugar anyway.  These bars were enjoyed by my husband, friends, and co-workers, and every single person loved them, I mean, unless they lied to me.  People at work even came back for seconds which is telling these bars are really good.  Additionally, I used 1/2 a cup of oil where the recipe called for 1 cup of oil, this in my opinion would make the bars way too greasy and all that fat is truly unnecessary.  I substituted applesauce for the 1/2 cup of oil I skipped and you can’t taste the applesauce whatsoever, but the applesauce does keep the Pumpkin Bars very moist.  These Pumpkin Cake Bars made with applesauce, less egg, and some whole wheat flour is a real winner.  I'd appreciate your feedback if you make these. 

TELL ME: I find that people either love or hate pumpkin?  Do you like Pumpkin?  What’s your favorite Pumpkin dessert?


  1. Sending you hugs, chica! Days like this are always hard. But treats like these bars make them just a bit easier.

    1. Thanks Joanne. Desserts always lessen the pain a little, at least for that moment.

  2. Beautiful post, Nisha! I absolutely know that Atul is smiling down on you and your family today. :) Sending lots of hugs your way!

  3. The bars look beautiful and perfect.

  4. Good post Honey. I know he would have loved to have chai and dessert. So would I...wish that was reality. Love you! MIni

    1. Yup, he would have indulged. Wish it was reality too, but I believe there will be better.

  5. I am very sure that Atul is right here with you guys - from your previous posts, I could tell what an amazing person he was..keeping you and your family in my thoughts dear. XOXO

    1. Thanks Dixya, that means a lot. He was an amazing person.

  6. This is such a beautiful and heartfelt message. His beautiful memories and vibrant soul will live forever. These pumpkin bars look so delectable . I wish I was there to try them out. I definitely have to make this beautiful recipe , which has so much significance. JC

    1. Thanks JC.. your words are so thoughtful. I'll make this recipe for you, soon, someday!

  7. I was one of the lucky people who got to taste these and they were soo good. I'm sure Atul is smiling down on you and your family today. It may never make sense but things are happening as they should, no matter how difficult it can be to live through it. Hopefully we find out the answers to these kinds of questions once we get to heaven.

    1. Thanks Mari, glad you were able to try them, and liked them. I believe things happen for a reason too, it doesn't make sense, but I am starting to believe it.

  8. So nice of you to share these pumpkin bars with us...after reading this post we appreciate them that much more. They were truly delicious.

    And your BIL was lucky to have you in his life, just as you were lucky to have him in yours.

    1. Thanks Ameena, so glad you liked them. Yeah, I was lucky to have him in mine, he was lucky to have me cause I made him laugh. :-)

  9. This is such a heart-warming tribute to Atul, Nisha! Thinking of you today and sending hugs your way. Although his time was limited, I am sure he's smiling down on you as you continue to let his life on through the memories :)!

    1. Thanks Khushboo.. his time was limited, but he did everything he ever wanted to do... hope I can live my life the same way.

  10. Such a beautiful tribute to your brother in law, I'm certain he would have loved these bars.

  11. A beautiful and heartfelt post! And whoaaaa - these bars look amazing ;) xo

    1. Thanks Ashley... really appreciate it.

  12. in a way it was hard for me to read about your BIL Atul. I can't bring myself to imagine kids who have lost a parent. And to think this is your sister facing a situation like this makes it very real. You do have a wonderful way of looking at it through your fond memories. Atul sounds like a wonderful wonderful man! Your sister must miss him so much. And you sound like you truly enjoyed baking goodies for him.

    1. Yup... it is perhaps the most unfair to the kids... to lose a parent at such a young age. We all miss him, but he lives on in memories, daily conversation, and moments. :-)

  13. A very heartfelt tribute to your late BIL, Nisha. Sending you tons of hugs!! xo

  14. tres joli il est vraiment réussi

    1. Thanks... I understand joli - pretty in French. :-)

  15. That was a beautiful tribute to your brother in law.

    Lots of hugs

  16. I love pumpkin everything - dessert or savory. In terms of dessert, I like having it in pumpkin turnovers. My first tasting was at this Afghani restaurant in NYC and since then I was in love; even made them at home and came out great. I also like pumpkin pie and pumpkin spice bread.

    I love that you added nutrition details for this one. When I first saw it, I was already thinking about the calories. I think Im going to scroll back up just to see it again slowly so I can take it all in...every last piece of cake. How yum!.

    1. Yup the fat was cut down in half, it's pretty significant. Hope you try these.. they are amazing.


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