Dessert from what's handy: Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars


Sometimes, when you want to make a dessert, you work with what you have in the pantry.

The other day, I had a hankering for something with pumpkin. Yes, I know it's summer. I can't restrict my pumpkin love to a few short months in autumn.

Feeling too lazy to mix up pie dough — not to mention too impatient to wait for the dough to chill and the pie to bake and cool — I turned to Google for an easier pumpkin fix.

First, I stumbled across Maple Pumpkin Pie Bars from Kraft. Sounds delicious! But I didn't have a yellow cake mix handy. Luckily, I found a blogger in the same situation who'd turned to chocolate — but she made it from scratch. See: Laziness, re: me, above.

But my pantry did have a devil's food cake mix. Now we're in business!

If you don't have pumpkin spice cream cheese, you could use plain cream cheese and a pumpkin spice pudding mix. If you don't have pumpkin-flavored cream cheese or pudding mix, you could go with plain and vanilla or chocolate, respectively, and add a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice. My house always has something pumpkin in it, because that's just how we roll. Pumpkin roll. (Yes, I promise to leave the jokes to the comedians next time.)

Despite having two components — the chocolate layer and the pumpkin layer — this recipe comes together quickly and can be made in one bowl if you wash between mixing batches or scrape it out with the spatula and don't mind a little chocolate in your pumpkin layer.

Whipped topping is optional; I found these bars taste just as good in a bowl with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Chocolate layer

16.5-ounce box devil's food cake mix

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted

1 egg

Pumpkin layer

15-ounce can pure pack pumpkin

8-ounce container of pumpkin spice flavored cream cheese

1-ounce box white chocolate pudding mix

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

3 eggs

Optional topping

1 8-ounce tub whipped topping

Vanilla ice cream

Heat the oven to 350 F.

Line a 13-by-9-inch pan with parchment paper that overlaps the sides by about an inch (this is for easy removal of the bars later). Spritz with cooking spray.

In a mixing bowl, combine the cake mix and egg. With the mixer on low, pour in the melted butter. Mix until you have a thick, shiny, dough-like batter.

Press the chocolate mixture evenly into the pan and set aside.

Clean the mixing bowl (or get a second mixing bowl), and add the pumpkin, cream cheese, pudding mix, brown sugar and eggs. Mix on low until well combined. Pour the batter over the chocolate base in the pan.

Bake 40 minutes or until edges are set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack (the center will be soft, so don't try to remove the bars right away). Cool completely before lifting out, cutting and serving.

Store covered in the refrigerator.

— Reach Mel Barber at