I first saw these Cranberry Bliss Bars at Starbucks (they are seasonal so if you haven't seen them lately, that's why). They immediately caught my attention. They were calling my name but alas... I have a hard time bringing myself to buy such over-priced baked goods. So, I asked around at work to see if anyone had tried them to see if they were worth trying to make on my own. One of my co-workers raved about them, so I knew I had to find a good copycat recipe. I found a few different recipes online but ultimately, this one sounded the best.
I made a few changes to the recipe. I used orange juice instead of lemon juice because orange and cranberry seem like a better combination to me than lemon and cranberry. I also added some candied ginger based on some reviews I read, indicating that the Starbucks version does have a stronger ginger flavor to it. Lastly, to try to make these as authentic as possible, I used a white chocolate drizzle on top (like Starbucks does) instead of the icing that is called for in the recipe. My co-worker said these looked exactly like the ones at Starbucks. She said that they do not taste exactly like the Starbucks version, but they taste better :) That's good enough for me!
I love these bars! I must admit that they are very sweet... but they are oh so delicious! You may want to consider cutting them into smaller pieces (since they're so sweet). The cranberry and white chocolate combination is so good (if you enjoy cranberry and white chocolate, try these cookies). The candied ginger was definitely a nice addition. It is subtle and you only notice it if you are looking for it. I love cranberries and believe they should be eaten year round, not just around the holidays. So I'm happy that I can make these year-round now :)
* Update (Dec. 2008): I finally got my hands on one of these at Starbucks and I have to say that while these look just like the Starbucks version, they don't taste a whole lot like them. That's not bad, though, because I definitely prefer this homemade version. It has a better flavor to it and I like the hint of ginger in it. Just wanted to let you know, though, in case you were looking for an exact copycat recipe - because this isn't it.
Cranberry Bliss Bars
1 cup butter , softened
1-1/4 cups light brown sugar , packed
1-1/2 tsp vanilla or orange extract
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1-1/2 cups All Purpose flour
3/4 cup diced dried cranberries
6 ounces white chocolate, cut into chunks
2 tbsp candied ginger, minced
4 ounces cream cheese, softened (I used 1/3 less fat Neufchatel cheese)
3 cups powdered sugar
4 tsp lemon juice or 2 tsp orange extract (I used 4 tsp orange juice)
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup diced dried cranberries
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp milk
2 tsp vegetable shortening
orange zest , garnish (optional)
(Instead of this icing, I used melted white chocolate instead - approximately 2 ounces of chocolate with 1/4 tsp shortening)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs, vanilla, ginger, and salt; beat well. Gradually mix in flour until smooth.
Mix 3/4 cup diced dried cranberries and white chocolate into the batter by hand. (If using the candied ginger, add it during this step.)
Pour batter into a well-greased 9x13-inch baking pan and spread evenly. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until cake is light brown on the edges. Let cool.
Frosting: Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, lemon juice and vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth.
When the cake has cooled, spread frosting over the top of cake. Sprinkle top with diced cranberries.
Icing: Whisk powdered sugar, milk, and shortening. Drizzle icing over cranberries in a sweeping motion or use a pastry bag with a fine tip.
(Alternatively, melt the white chocolate and shortening in a ziploc bag on low heat in the microwave. Cut a small hole in the corner of the ziploc bag and drizzle chocolate over the top of the cake.)
Allow cake to sit for several hours, then slice the cake lengthwise (the long way) through the middle. Slice the cake across the width three times making a total of eight rectangular slices. Slice each of those rectangles diagonally, creating 16 triangular slices.
Yield: 16 servings.