Cranberry Bliss Bars: An Annotated Recipe
By Mikayla Mann
Designed by Isabel Godoy
Hello, my dearest dessert devotees and baking buffs! If you’ve flipped to this article looking for a recipe to satisfy your sweet tooth, you’ve definitely come to the right place. In this guide, I’ll be explaining how to bake Cranberry Bliss Bars. These triangle-shaped goodies showcase a delectable mix of sweet and tangy flavors thanks to some fresh orange zest sprinkled on top of sugary buttercream frosting. Cranberry Bliss Bars originated as a Starbucks menu item in 2004, but they ended up being so popular that people started concocting copycat recipes and making them at home — and they taste just as good! (Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever tried the original Starbucks version, but I’d like to think that homemade sweets are always better.)
Homemade Cranberry Bliss Bars have been a staple in my family for many years. My mom used to make them for our family and friends, but I took over in her stead a few years ago. I’ve found these bars to be a hit during the holiday season, and they’re also super popular as gifts for friends!
Note: I’ve based this procedure on Food.com’s “Cranberry Bliss Bars (Starbucks Copycat)” recipe, which you can find here: https://www.food.com/recipe/cranberry-bliss-bars-starbucks-copycat-203229
General Baking Tips
- Be mindful that it takes a while to go through all the steps of this recipe! I’d recommend budgeting 3-5 hours if you’re a slow baker, or if it’s your first time baking this recipe. Do keep in mind, though, that you can split up the different components of the recipe. For example, you can bake the bar base, refrigerate it, then come back and make the frosting at a later time. Just make sure to budget your time accordingly!
- I highly recommend using an electric mixer for both the bar batter and the buttercream frosting. Since the batter is very viscous, it’s hard to mix by hand — plus, you’ll have to whip the buttercream — so an electric mixer is ideal unless you want hand cramps.
- You may have heard this before, but don’t overbeat your eggs when mixing the bar batter! This will make your end product very heavy and dense, which isn’t ideal. You should stop mixing when the batter becomes all one consistency.
- As for toppings, zest from fresh oranges is the best! I love taking a break to pick oranges from the orange tree in my backyard and zesting them right after. When zesting, make sure to only scrape off the top skin. You should stop when you get to the white flesh underneath.
First, you’ll need to gather your ingredients. I’ve separated the ingredients out into different lists for (1) the bar base, (2) the frosting, and (3) the topping.
1 cup butter (2 sticks, very soft)
1 cup brown sugar (some cooks reduce this to 2/3 cup)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons orange extract (or vanilla extract)
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup craisins (dried cranberries)
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter, softened
3 cups confectioners’ sugar (a.k.a. powdered sugar)
1 teaspoon orange extract (or Grand Marnier, which adds that nice citrus kick!)
Optional: 1 tsp milk for easier mixing
1/3 cup craisins, chopped
1-2 tablespoons grated orange rind
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon canola oil
Now for the recipe!
- Preheat the oven to 350 °F. If you’re using a glass or dark pan, preheat to 325 °F instead.
- Line a 10×15 (or 9×13) baking pan with parchment paper, which helps the bars separate the best.
- Soften the butter (I like to use a microwave to warm up the butter until you can easily indent it with a fork) and beat it together with the sugars for about 3-5 minutes. You should see the batter change consistency to become lighter as the butter is whipped.
- Gently blend in the eggs and orange/vanilla extract.
- Add in the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, and ginger. Beat briefly, and make sure to gradually increase the mixing speed so your flour doesn’t fly everywhere!
- Stir in the cranberries and chips, just until they’re incorporated (evenly distributed throughout the mixture).
- Spread the batter into the pan you prepared (it will be thick, which is normal!).
- Bake at 350 °F for 20-24 minutes until only the edges are light brown, and a skewer comes out clean. If you’re using a 9×13 pan, the bars will be taller, so bake them for 26-28 minutes (when I’ve baked in this size pan, it’s taken closer to 30-35 minutes). Make sure not to overbake, or you’ll have dry bars!
- Let the bars cool completely, or refrigerate them until the frosting is finished.
- Blend cream cheese and butter until the mixture feels light and fluffy.
- Add in the orange extract and confectioners’ sugar and beat until frosting is fluffy and spreadable. I usually add the milk here to make mixing easier.
Bite Break #1: If you’re craving sugar, this is a great place to stop and taste your frosting — I promise it’ll be delicious!
- Once your bars have completely cooled, spread the frosting over the bars. (I’ve found an icing spatula to be ideal for this job.)
- To make the garnish, use a zester to remove the rind from an orange and sprinkle it over the frosting. (Zest tends to stick to itself, so make sure to separate the clumps into small pieces.)
- Coarsely chop the 1/3 cup of craisins and sprinkle those over the bars as well.
- For the drizzle, mix the white chocolate and oil in a glass measuring cup. Microwave for 1 minute, stirring in increments of 15 seconds until the mixture has just barely melted fully. (Make sure not to microwave all in one go, or your white chocolate chips might turn to dust before they can melt…) Once your white chocolate mixture has reached a “stringy” consistency (meaning it lengthens into strands when you scoop it up with a fork), you’re ready to drizzle!
Bite Break #2: A spoonful (or two) of melted white chocolate makes for a deliciously sweet snack!
- Use a fork to drizzle the white chocolate diagonally over the bars. This step is time sensitive, so make sure to finish drizzling before your chocolate hardens.
- Wait one hour for the drizzle to set before you cut the bars. Here’s how you can make the classic Starbucks triangles:
- Cut into 20 squares by doing 5 cuts by 4 cuts.
- Cut each square diagonally in half, and you have your triangles!
Bite Break #3: Celebrate the fruits of your labor by chomping into a piece of the masterpiece you just concocted!
Don’t forget to share your treats with others, and let me know how they turned out!