Baking Recipes,  Brownies & Bars,  Christmas & holidays

{Countdown to Christmas} Cranberry Bliss Bars for the sweet tooth

If you’re the type to frequent Starbucks not just for its coffee but also for its snacks, then you’re in luck with today’s post. I don’t go to Starbucks at all but I’ve been told they serve up something like this around the holiday season: a spiced bar dotted with white chocolate chips; filled with the aroma and tang of orange zest; topped with cream cheese icing and a sprinkling of the colours of Christmas, all thanks to the green of pistachios, the red of dried cranberries, and shaved white chocolate. Now how does that sound?

In truth, it’s really the festive appearance of these bars that captured my attention. These have been on my radar for quite some time, but I’ve never actually made them because I knew they were going to be on the sweet side. I do not have much of a sweet tooth, so I don’t normally make things that might be a bit too sweet for me to enjoy. But because it’s Christmas-time, I thought, what the hey! I mean, it must be called Bliss Bars for a reason!

I’m guessing it’s named as such because it’s sure to give you a sugar high after you finish a piece. I really liked its fragrant and orangey cake base, however, taken as a whole, it was just too sweet for me. It’s rather lovely, true, but after getting a taste of these bars, just thinking about them makes my teeth hurt a little. The base was sweet enough on its own, which I suppose was the doing of the white chocolate chips, but coupled with the thick topping, I thought it was just too much of a sweetness overdose– and this even though I cut out 1 cup of sugar from the original topping recipe already.

I didn’t like that you could no longer taste the flavour of the cream cheese, which is what I’m always after when I use this kind of frosting. I truly wanted to like these bars, but it was simply way too sugary for me. On the other hand, I have a brother who does have a sweet tooth, and he enjoyed these bars a lot. Just not in large quantities at a time.

Just so you know:

  • When is the best time to make this recipe? This particular one looks great for Christmas, but yYou can switch up the toppings depending on the festivities. A little sprinkle of sunflower seeds and chopped apricots with dark chocolate shavings for a fall get-together perhaps?
  • Anything special we should know about before attempting this recipe? Get your sweet tooth ready.
  • Would I change anything from this recipe? I believe some adjustments to the original recipe are necessary to scale back on the sweetness and make it a bit more for everyone. Here is the original recipe, but I’ve written down below how I would have modified the recipe to fit my taste.

Cranberry Bliss Bars

Servings 16


For the cake

  • 1 cup 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup minced dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips

For the frosting

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened (low-fat is fine)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup confectioner's sugar*
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Zest of one orange

For the garnish

  • dried cranberries
  • chopped pistachios
  • white chocolate shavings


Make the cake

  • 1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a 9×13-inch pan with parchment paper, making sure there is an overhang so you can lift up the cake easily later on. Spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  • 2. Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy; about 3 minutes. Add eggs, orange zest and vanilla; beating until well combined.
  • 3. Sift together the dry ingredients and then add to the butter-sugar mixture, beating well. Fold in the cranberries and white chocolate.
  • 4. Spread thick batter in pan and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan.

Once the cake is cooled, make the frosting

  • 5. Mix all frosting ingredients together and spread evenly over the cake. It will be less messy if done inside the pan where the cake was baked.
  • 6. Garnish with dried cranberries, pistachios and white chocolate shavings, as desired.
  • 7. Remove the cake from the pan with the help of the parchment paper, then cut into rectangular or triangular bars.


* You can adjust this according to taste, or how thick you want your frosting. Add more sugar for a thicker frosting. If you find it too thick, add half a teaspoon of milk at a time to thin it out.
Adapted from My Baking Addiction blog
Just so we’re clear, I really liked the cake base so I didn’t touch that at all, but honestly, the frosting was what made these look like a Christmas treat so I had to put it on. You can try the original recipe or my modified recipe, but either way, share below how you like either one. 🙂

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