Maple Caramel Pumpkin Bars with Bacon

Bacon has a dedicated following. The smell of it cooking, the sound of sizzling, a lot of people love bacon.

But talk about putting it on a baked good? Bacon… sometimes it scares people.

But don’t be scared, I can show you the way.

More and more people these days seem to be discovering that bacon mixed with sweetness is a magical thing. Whether it’s by accident when their pancake syrup oozes over to the savory side of their plate, or rather intentionally, giving some bacon chocolate a try. However you approach it, sweetness combined with the salty smokiness of bacon isn’t just a novelty. It’s something I really love.

Of course, with Halloween right around the corner, A logical pairing would be pumpkin.

Pumpkin and bacon was a combination I had never tried before and I honestly wasn’t totally sure how it would go together. As a little insurance, I tried to think of a component that went well with both pumpkin and bacon. A “bridge” if you will.

Maple caramel frosting. Hmm… good bridge.

(I went half bacon/half pecan topped for the vegetarians on my team)

I have some friends who grew up with cuisine where cinnamon is purely used as a savory ingredient (kind of like the way we think of say… garlic powder). As a result, they can’t stand any cinnamon baked goods.  They just can’t get past that mental block of cinnamon = savory, whether I give them a cinnamon roll, cinnamon hearts or a particularly cinnamony slice of apple pie. Bacon has a similar barrier to cross. You could be missing out on the cinnamon rolls of the bacon world due to a mental block.

Speaking of “Cinnamon rolls of the bacon world”, I make a mean bacon cinnamon roll. But that’s another story for another time.

Today’s about pumpkin cake… maple caramel frosting… and candied bacon. Mmmhmm…

Maple Caramel Pumpkin Cake with Bacon

Heavily adapted from Noble Pig

Candied Maple Bacon

If you have vegetarians, replace half of bacon with 1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans, or all the bacon with 1/2 cup.

  • 8 strips of maple bacon
  • 4 tablespoons maple sugar

Pumpkin Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 14 oz. can  pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup chopped, toasted pecans

Maple Caramel Frosting

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup pure maple syrup
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, cut into 4 cubes

Optional

  • Fleur de sel

Directions

  1. Bacon: Preheat oven to 400°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place a metal rack on foil.
  2. Lay bacon slices on rack. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons maple sugar evenly over bacon.
  3. Bake until sugar is melted, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoon sugar over same side of bacon. Bake until bacon is deep brown and glazed, 12 to 14 minutes longer. Remove from oven.
  4. (My broiler is broken lately so I had to skip this step, but I wouldn’t advise it. A crunchier bacon than what I had would have been fabulous) Preheat broiler. Broil bacon until sugar bubbles, watching closely so that it won’t burn. Should only take 1-2 minutes. Let cool on rack and then dice.
  5. Cake: Preheat oven to 350°F.  Coat a 9 x 13 baking pan with nonstick spray.
  6. Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and table salt for the bars in a medium bowl; set aside.  Whisk together pumpkin puree, granulated sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, egg, melted butter and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended.  Stir in flour mixture and pecans.
  7. Spread pumpkin batter evenly into prepared pan; bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes.  Let cool completely before frosting.
  8. Frosting: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter. Add sugar and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until sugar is completely dissolved, then adjust heat to medium and boil 2 minutes longer. Add maple syrup and boil, swirling the pan occasionally, until sauce is thick, smooth, and coats a spoon, 2 to 4 minutes longer.
  9. Pour hot caramel into a clean stand mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat at medium-high speed, scraping down sides occasionally, until sides of bowl are no longer hot to the touch and closer to room temperature and caramel is thick.
  10. Add cream cheese, one cube at a time, until frosting is smooth.
  11. Assembly: Pour frosting over cooled cake and even out with an offset spatula. Sprinkle frosting with fleur de sel (optional, although if going the pecan topped route it’s even more important to do this to offset the strong sweetness of the maple). Top evenly with chopped candied bacon. Keep refrigerated if not serving within the day (it is topped with meat after all).

14 thoughts on “Maple Caramel Pumpkin Bars with Bacon

  1. Oh god yeah….I’m a HUGE fan of candied bacon on baked goods. I recently made a batch of chocolate chip cookies with candied bacon for my parents. They looked at me like I was absolutely insane…but they loved them. Now this cake is truly something else, so many flavours going on! It looks delicious!

  2. I was looking for a new pumpkin recipe to try a friend recommended your blog. This recipe is perfect! In fact, I am going to make it for Thanksgiving for my friends that are hosting the dinner. This will be fantastic. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Loved this recipe, but I made a few adjustment. I didn’t candy the bacon (I think there is plenty of sugar already!) and I used salted butter. The frosting was really runny, like caramel sauce. Not sure what I did wrong.

  4. I just made these for a thanksgiving dinner we hold every year for all of our friends before we share it with our families. Needless to say, they were a huge success with the boys, and even some of the ladies loved the sweet/smoky contrast. I think the only thing I’d change next time is to use less of the frosting. It’s delicious (and challenging to make) but if you don’t get a bite of bacon in every bit, it’s overpoweringly sweet!

    If your frosting was runny, Kris, you might not have let it cool enough before adding the cream cheese. It took mine about 15 minutes to thicken up before I finished the process.

  5. Love the cinnamon/bacon comparison, and your writing! Hilarious, made me laugh, but I got it. I will be trying these this fall.

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