Big Love Baking: Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Last night was not only the season premiere of The Sopranos, it was the series premiere of “Big Love”–a new show starring Bill Pullman Bill Paxton Bill Pullman Bill Paxton (which one is it? Help!) about a man with three wives. I found this show deeply compelling because, like the main character, I too, have three wives. Here they are with pumpkin bars that they kindly baked for me the other night, as good wives do:


That’s Lisa, Diana and Annette or, as I like to call them: Wife #1, Wife #3 and Wife #2. They say too many cooks spoil the soup, but too many wives? They don’t spoil the pumpkin bars.

The wives chose a recipe from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook (“More From Magnolia”) which they found empowering because of the line they refused to stand on the other day outside the store (see two posts down). This recipe for Pumpkin Bars excited the wives because we already had pumpkin on hand and none of the ingredients were exotic. You and your wives can make it too. Here’s what you need.

For the bars:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsps baking powder

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin puree

1 1/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup vegetable oil (preferably Canola)

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans (see note)


1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened and cut into small pieces

3 Tbs unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces

3/4 tsps vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups sifted confectioners sugar


1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans (see Note)

NOTE: To toast the pecans, place on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes or until lightly browned and fragrant.

Got all that?

Now to begin:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Grease and lightly flour a 13 X 9 inch baking pan.

3. To make the bars: in a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.

The wives, however, feel that this spice mixture is not enough. Here they are deciding what more to add:

Once they’ve decided, they add their additional spices:

4. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat together the pumpkin, sugar, oil and eggs until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Wife #2 has a strong feeling about her contribution:

Add the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Stir in the pecans. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the pan comes out clean.

5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

6. Make icing:

In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat well. Gradually add the sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating continuously until smooth and creamy. Cover and refrigerate icing 2 to 3 hours, but no longer, to thicken before using.

7. Ice the top of the cooled cake with the cream cheese icing. Garnish with pecans and desired.

Cut up and share with your wives, except wife #3 because she’s punished:


Ahhh, isn’t polygamy great? Maybe I’ll get a fourth wife who can make me pancakes. I wonder if Aunt Jemima is single?

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