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If you’ve ever had the Cranberry Bliss Bars from Starbucks and wondered if you can make them at home, you’re going to love this homemade version! I actually think these cranberry bliss bars taste better than the Starbucks version, and you’ll be surprised how easy they are to make!
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Cranberry bliss bars are a seasonal treat at Starbucks—but when you make them at home, it’s bliss bar season all year long!
If you’re looking for the perfect easy homemade treat to make for your office holiday potluck or gifting to friends and family, you’ve found it. With this bliss bar recipe, there’s no fussing with cookie cutters or decorating, and everyone will love the chewy, buttery blondie base and tart cranberries. Not to mention the cream cheese frosting!
Recipe At a Glance
Cuisine Inspiration: American
Primary Cooking Method: Oven
Dietary Info: Vegetarian
Key Flavor: Sweet and tangy
Skill Level: Easy
- Starbucks Copycat: You can enjoy these bliss bars at home for a fraction of the cost (make a whole pain for less than 1 bar costs…)! These really do taste just like the Starbucks version—although I think they’re even better.
- Easy to Make: These are basically frosted blondies; if you can make brownies, you’ll have no problems with this recipe. So many holiday treats take a lot of time and effort, but this is not one of them!
- Customizable: You can tweak this recipe to your own tastes, adding or subtracting ingredients to make them your own. I share some ideas below too!
- A Fun Holiday Treat: These bliss bars are a great treat for giving to friends and family or adding to your holiday dessert spread. Everyone will love them!
Ingredients to Make Cranberry Bliss Bars
For the Blondie Brownie Base
- Light brown sugar: Light brown sugar is milder than dark brown, which has a stronger molasses flavor.
- Orange zest: I like to use a microplane zester, which creates small shreds of zest that distribute more evenly into the batter.
- Unsalted butter: Unsalted butter is always the go-to for baking, as it gives you more control over the flavor of the finished product.
- Eggs: Let these come to room temperature.
- Vanilla extract: I recommend pure vanilla extract, not imitation.
- Flour: An everyday all-purpose flour is all you need here—nothing fancy!
- Ground ginger: Ginger pairs well with both cranberries and orange; it’s a cozy spice perfect for holiday baking.
- Baking soda: This helps the bars rise.
- Cinnamon: Another warm spice we love for the holidays! Be sure the cinnamon is fragrant when you open the jar. Cinnamon doesn’t spoil, but it will lose its flavor and aroma over time.
- Salt: To balance and enhance the overall flavor of the recipe.
- Dried sweetened cranberries: AKA Craisins.
For the Cream Cheese Frosting
- Cream cheese: Use the kind that comes in bars, not a tub.
- Unsalted butter: For some extra richness in the frosting.
- Confectioner’s sugar: Sift this first to make sure your frosting is smooth.
- Vanilla extract: The perfect finishing touch for our frosting.
For Your Cranberry Topping
- Dried sweetened cranberries: You’ll scatter these over the tops of the bars.
- Orange zest: An optional topping for some extra orange flavor.
Popular Substitutions & Additions
- Skip the White Chocolate. White chocolate can be too sweet for many. If you are not a fan, skip it altogether, or swap in 1 cup of chopped roasted nuts instead.
- Add Nuts. Speaking of nuts! They’re an excellent addition to cranberry bliss bars. Substitute roasted walnuts, pistachios, or pecans for part of the cranberries or white chocolate chips to add another layer of flavor to the mix. You could also skip the cranberries and orange zest on top and add chopped nuts instead.
- Opt for a Drizzle Instead of Frosting. To lighten these up, you can skip the frosting and drizzle the tops with melted dark or white chocolate instead. If you do this, you’ll also be able to store your bliss bars at room temperature.
- Mix-In Some Candied Ginger. Replace ⅓ cup of the cranberries with chopped candied ginger to add some extra holiday flavor to the blondie base.
How to Make Cranberry Bliss Bars
When planning your baking, be sure to factor in the cooling time. During that 20 minutes, I like to clean up after making the first half of the recipe, then I gather the ingredients for the frosting and make that so it’s ready to go.
Make the Blondie Batter
- Use your hands to massage the orange zest into the brown sugar until it’s fragrant.
- Whisk the melted butter into the brown sugar, followed by the eggs.
- Add the vanilla to the brown sugar mixture; whisk that in too.
- Whisk all of the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then fold this mixture into the wet ingredients.
- Add the white chocolate chips and dried cranberries to the batter.
- Fold them in so they’re evenly distributed.
Bake Your Cranberry Bars
- Scrape the batter into a parchment-lined baking pan.
- Bake until the edges are brown and a tester inserted into the center of the blondies comes out clean.
Make the Cream Cheese Frosting
- Add the cream cheese and butter to the bowl of a stand mixer and cream until they’re fluffy.
- Add the powdered sugar and vanilla, then beat until smooth.
- Spread the frosting over the cranberry bliss bars.
- Add the dried cranberries and orange zest.
Tips for Making the Best Starbucks Copycat Cranberry Bliss Bars
- Cool the Blondies Properly. I know it may be tempting to add the frosting right away, but it’s important that the bars have cooled down all the way. Otherwise, the frosting will not set up.
- Don’t Skip Rubbing the Orange Zest With the Sugar. This is a technique used by pastry chefs, and it really works! By rubbing the zest with the sugar, you infuse all of the sugar with the oils from the orange, which means your cranberry bliss bars will have orange flavor throughout.
- Soften the Cream Cheese and Butter. I take them out of the fridge and put them on the counter as soon as I place the bars in the oven. This will help them mix smoothly into a creamy frosting.
- Make Clean Cuts. For perfect cranberry bliss bars, use a sharp chef’s knife to cut them and wipe the knife clean between each cut.
How to Store Cranberry Bliss Bars
Because these bars have cream cheese frosting, they need to be refrigerated. Store them wrapped in the pan or in an airtight container for up to 5 days!
Can I Freeze Cranberry Bliss Bars?
Yes, you can the bars without the cream cheese. Place in an airtight container or freezer bag with wax paper between the layers; they’ll keep up to 3 months. Let them thaw in the refrigerator before serving.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can substitute low-fat cream cheese, but don’t substitute fat-free. The frosting won’t be quite as rich, but it will still be delicious!
Substitute the flour with a measure-for-measure gluten-free all-purpose flour blend to make these cranberry bliss bars gluten-free.
Cranberry bliss bars can be cut into squares like a traditional blondie, or you can do it like Starbucks does and cut them into triangles. To do this, cut the bars width-wise so you have long “strips,” then cut each strip into triangles.
With this recipe, you can make homemade cranberry bliss bars your holiday tradition. Or make them whenever the craving strikes!
More Dessert recipes:
- Peanut Brittle
- Fudgy Date Brownies
- Biscotti – 4 Ways
- Gingerbread Cookies
- Edible Cookie Dough
- Easy Pumpkin Bars
- No Bake Cookie Dough Bars
- Almond Joy Bars
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Cranberry Bliss Bars
For Blondie Base:
- 8 ounces cream cheese softened
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 cups confectioner’s sugar sifted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup chopped dried sweetened cranberries
- orange zest if desired
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a little excess on all four sides to easily remove the blondies once baked.
- To make the blondies, add brown sugar to a large bowl. Add orange zest and massage the zest into the sugar with your fingers until it is very fragrant. Whisk in melted butter until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, then whisk in vanilla extract.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Use a rubber spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until no streaks of flour remain. Fold in the dried cranberries and white chocolate, then scrape batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the edges are slightly brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Set aside to cool for about 20 minutes, then carefully remove from the pan and set on a wire rack to cool completely.
- Once the blondies have cooled completely, make the frosting. Add cream cheese and butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together at medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes or until fluffy. Add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes more.
- Spread the frosting all over the cooled blondies in an even layer. Add chopped cranberries on top and orange zest, if desired. Set in the fridge to cool for about 1 hour, then cut into 24 even triangles and serve
Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.