lower sugar cranberry bliss bars

lower sugar cranberry bliss bars

‘Tis the season for Starbuck’s copycat [lower sugar] cranberry bliss bars. A ginger and orange zest infused blondie cake studded with white chocolate chips and dried cranberries. Topped with a lightly sweetened cream cheese icing, these bars look festive and taste great! My lower sugar cranberry bliss bars are more balanced and less cloying than the original Starbucks treat. They even call for a fraction of the sugar used in other internet recipes. If you love desserts that are nuanced and not overly sweet, you’ll love this recipe!

lower sugar cranberry bliss bars

My mom and sister [Jaz] and are best friends. The three of us never tire of spending time together and we have an eerily strong bond. Even my bachelorette party consisted of the three of us spending a week together in New York City. Related or not, I don’t have any friends I would rather spend time with than my mom and sister (sorry bridesmaids, I still love you guys!).

My mom went back to school around the same time I was finishing tenth grade. Mom, Jaz, and I would study at Starbucks several nights each week. We loved to find a cozy corner and sprawl out with our books, papers, and pens; ready for a productive night of homework. With coffee and snacks galore, we’d spend more time gossiping and laughing than we did studying. I loved those nights and I still think of them when I venture into any Starbucks.

The holidays at Starbucks are especially nostalgic for me because our favorite study snacks return in full force. My favorite treat was the super thick Chantico chocolate drink (R.I.P.). It was sadly pulled from their menu several years ago due to low demand. However, my mom’s favorite item [the cranberry bliss bar] still graces the Starbucks pastry window come November (or is it out as early as October now?).

lower sugar cranberry bliss bars

Several years ago I started making these bars from scratch and irrevocably ruined the store-bought version for my mom. She hasn’t been able to enjoy the store bought version since, but she always begs me to bake this recipe for the holidays.

This recipe is dedicated to my amazing mom; for whom I’ll gladly bake any day of the year!

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lower sugar cranberry bliss bars

lower sugar cranberry bliss bars

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  • Author: Sepideh Esmaili Campos



Blondie Layer 

  • 1 ½ Cups all purpose flour 
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger 
  • 12 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature 
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup white granulated sugar
  • Zest of 1 large orange 
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ Cup white chocolate chips
  • ¾ Cup dried cranberries (left whole) 


  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature 
  • ½ cup powdered sugar 
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • Pinch of kosher salt 

White chocolate and cranberry topping  

  • ⅓ cup white chocolate 
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil 
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries chopped 


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Line a 13X9 baking dish with aluminum foil, creating a sling so you can easily remove the bars later. 
  3. Spray the foil with cooking spray, set aside. 
  4. Mix flour, salt, baking powder, and ground ginger together. Set aside, 
  5. Place butter, brown sugar, white sugar, orange zest and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer. 
  6. With the paddle attachment in place, cream the ingredients together on medium high speed until fully combined, about 5 minutes. Periodically crape down the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to combine everything. 
  7. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the eggs to the butter, one at a time, mixing for 30 seconds between each addition. 
  8. Stop the mixer, dump the dry ingredients into the bowl and mix on low until just combined.
  9. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the white chocolate chips and cranberries, making sure the batter is thoroughly mixed. 
  10. Use an offset spatula to evenly spread the batter out in your prepared baking dish. Note: the batter will be very thick (almost like peanut butter). 
  11. Bake the bars on the center rack of the oven until the top is glossy and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20-30 minutes.  
  12. Remove the bars from the oven and let them cool completely at room temperature, 1 hour. 
  13. While the bars are cooling, prepare the frosting: 
  14. Put the cream cheese in the bowl of a standing mixer. 
  15. Sift the powdered sugar over the cream cheese and add the vanilla extract. 
  16. With the whisk attachment in place, whip the cream cheese and sugar together on medium high speed until fully combined and light, 3 minutes. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl a few times with a rubber spatula. 
  17. Use the aluminum foil sling to transfer the cooled bars to a large cutting board. 
  18. Using an offset spatula, spread the cream cheese frosting evenly over the bars. Place the frosted bars in the refrigerator while you prepare the white chocolate glaze. 
  19. Combine the white chocolate chips and coconut oil in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on 50% power until the white chocolate and coconut oil are melted, about 2-3 minutes. Stop the microwave and stir the chocolate every 30 seconds so you don’t overheat the chocolate. 
  20. Once the chocolate and coconut oil are melted and fully combined, remove the frosted bars from the refrigerator.
  21. Use a spoon to drizzle the white chocolate over the bars. Sprinkle the chopped cranberries over the white chocolate and refrigerate until the chocolate sets, 30 minutes. 
  22. Cut the bars into iconic triangular shapes.
  23. Serve at room temperature. 
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