Knockoff versions of Starbuck’s popular cranberry bliss bars are nothing new. In fact, because recipes are widely available on the internet, I hesitated sharing my adaptations but after eating about 46 of these because I.just.couldn’t.stop, I realized others of you may benefit from this recipe also. I’m all about sharing caloric bliss (see what I did there?) and joy in this holiday season of giving.
I changed up quite a few ingredients here and there to lighten these bars ever so slightly as well as adjust the flavor profile just a bit. I made them in early November to serve to a bunch of families/kids at a church event – they were requested by my 8-year old who loves dried cranberries more than his own mother – and I was surprised at how well they were received, especially since they were sitting next to decadent brownies and peanut butter and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. In my experience, desserts like this don’t stand a chance next to classic brownies, especially when faced with a bunch of youngsters. I’m pretty sure me, the other parents and my son enjoyed the vast majority of them which was clearly A-ok with the lot of us.
If you haven’t tasted one of these fabulous bars or aren’t familiar, the base is a chewy, blondie bar studded with dried cranberries and white chocolate and topped with a decadent cream cheese frosting, more dried cranberries and a drizzle of white chocolate. The flavors are so delicious and seasonal, kind of like Christmas-in-a-pan, and the bars themselves are absolute beauty. Not to mention that it just feels right to bring something this pretty and unique to an event when you already know there’s going to be a plethora of traditional cookies and sweets there. Wow factor combined with absolute yumminess is a winning combo.
Because I think fresh orange zest belongs in the world, I added it both to the blondie batter and to the frosting; it definitely adds a lovely depth of flavor and along with the tart cranberries helps to balance the sweetness. Plus, I love the pop of color it gives to the bars. Don’t you?
If you haven’t jumped on the cranberry bliss bar train, I’m thinking there’s no better time than the present!
One Year Ago: Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells with Sage Browned Butter
Two Years Ago: Cranberry-Jalapeno Cream Cheese Dip
Three Years Ago: Chocolate Orange Swirl Muffins
I use 1/3 less fat cream cheese for the frosting - it makes the frosting slightly (very slightly) more runny than if using full fat cream cheese but the taste is the same, in my opinion, with fewer calories. Also, I get this question a lot when I post recipes that call for melted white chocolate - white baking bars melt a lot better than white chocolate chips which are notoriously bad melters (they have a tendency to seize very easily if even slightly overheated).
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
- 1 1/3 cups packed light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
- 2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped (this helps distribute them more evenly throughout the batter)
- 4 ounces white baking chocolate, coarsely chopped or 1/2 - 2/3 cup white chocolate chips
- 1 package (8 ounces) light cream cheese, softened
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
- 4 ounces white baking chocolate, melted
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a 9X13-inch pan with cooking spray.
- In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter. Stir in the brown sugar until well-combined. Whisk in the eggs, vanilla extract and orange zest.
- Stir in the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon until well-combined then fold in the cranberries and white chocolate.
- Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with moist (not gooey) crumbs. Don't overbake. Let the bars cool completely in the pan.
- For the frosting, using an electric mixer (handheld or stand mixer), beat the softened cream cheese and powdered sugar together until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Mix in the vanilla and orange zest (alternately, you can save the orange zest and sprinkle it on the bars before drizzling the chocolate). Scoop in about half of the melted chocolate and mix until creamy and well-combined.
- Spread the frosting onto the cooled bars. Sprinkle with cranberries and drizzle the remaining white chocolate over the top. Refrigerate until the chocolate is set - these taste best chilled. Cut into triangles or squares to serve.
Recipe Source: adapted from Recipe Girl and The Girl Who Ate Everything (decreased butter, used light cream cheese in frosting, added orange zest to blondie batter and frosting, used slightly less sugar in the blondie batter, used less white chocolate in the batter and in the frosting, added vanilla to the frosting, etc.)