I have to say that these Cranberry Swirl Pumpkin Bars are just about as perfect a dessert as you can get for Thanksgiving without baking a pie. They’re certainly appropriate for fans of pumpkin, cranberries and cream cheese frosting on other occasions, as well, but they really encompass the spirit of Thanksgiving by using so many favorite foods from that holiday.
The pumpkin bars are made with a pumpkin puree and are loaded up with all the spices you might find in pumpkin pie and some toasted pecans for crunch. Before going into the oven, whole berry cranberry sauce is swirled through the batter. This is not only a great way to use up leftover cranberry sauce (homemade or otherwise), but it adds a nice fresh, tart flavor to the bars. The bars bake up to be incredibly moist and tender. They’re great on their own, but a thin layer of cream cheese frosting takes them over the top and makes them indulgent and addictive.
I like adding pecans or walnuts in this recipe for the crunchy texture that they add, but if you’re really craving cranberries, you can add in an additional half cup of dried cranberries or chopped whole cranberries (fresh or frozen) instead of the nuts to bring out the cranberry flavors even more. You could sprinkle some chopped nuts on top of the frosting, or even put a little lemon or orange zest in with the cream cheese for another layer of flavor. Just thinking about the possibilities makes me want to bake another batch – and I’m sure I’ll have no problem finding people to share it with me.