Cranberry Oatmeal Bliss Bars

I look forward to the holiday season — it is a good excuse to indulge a little by baking cookies and other scrumptious desserts. I especially like to try new recipes — last year I stumbled upon Starbuck’s Cranberry Bliss Bars. Here’s my own version of the recipe —  using an old-fashioned oatmeal blondie brownie recipe along with dried cranberries, orange zest, white chocolate chips and a cream cheese icing. Yum. This festive dessert is pretty good!

“Cranberry Oatmeal Bliss Bars” makes a colorful bar cookie for the holiday season. And, I’ve found another recipe using cranberries! I like the tart flavor of dried cranberries (Craisins) and citrus along with the sweet white chocolate chips. The cream cheese icing makes a nice topping for this rich dessert — I reduced the sugar listed in many of the internet recipes in the icing — it is still very sweet! Since the recipe uses dried cranberries, you can make this recipe any time of the year.

My recipe is a simplified version of many of the “copycat” recipes for the Starbucks’ bar shown on the internet. I included oatmeal in my blondie brownies which adds to the flavor and also the nutritional value. Rather than the ginger in the Starbucks’ recipe, I substituted orange zest — I tried using ginger but it didn’t impress me.

For the blondie brownies, I adapted a favorite old family recipe found in the cookbook, “Granddaughter’s Inglenook Cookbook”,  for “Toll House Oatmeal Cookies.” This cookbook was the mainstay of both my grandmothers — it is fun to reminisce over all their handwritten notes and comments in the margins of the pages. This recipe has “good” marked by it  

The original “Granddaughter’s Inglenook Cookbook” was written in 1901 — there have been a number of revised editions — and features favorite recipes mainly of farm women. The press for the book states. “It comes from a people who believe that living should be simple, that we are wiser when we come together, and that hospitality is holy. When we are gathered at the table, both body and soul are fed.”  The description certainly fit both my grandmothers and that style of living still is applicable today. It is something to think about during the holidays.

Here are the ingredients (except for vanilla extract) for my oatmeal blondie brownie bars. 

Mix as directed and bake the bars in an oiled 9″ x 13″ baking pan. Don’t over-bake the bars; the center should just be set but still soft on top. You will need to check the oven frequently — it doesn’t take much to over-bake these bars. Then they will be very dry.

For the icing, I mixed cream cheese, confectioner’s sugar, vanilla and orange extracts and beat with a mixer until creamy and smooth.

My icing version also includes melted white chocolate chips. I used a microwave to melt the chocolate — it takes only about 30 seconds for the chips just begin start to soften and melt. The chips don’t have to melt completely. If needed, turn the bowl and melt about 15 seconds longer. If the chips become too hot, they will “seize” and turn into a glob.

Add the melted white chocolate chips to the icing and mix in. Lastly, stir in the fresh orange zest — spread on the blondie bars and sprinkle with chopped cranberries. Then chill so the icing becomes firm. The cream cheese icing makes a thin layer — don’t worry — you really don’t need too much.

The Starbuck’s version shows the bars cut into triangles, so I tried this, too. 

Good enough. For the holidays, this recipe fits right in. I love the flavor of the oatmeal which is included in the recipe and also the cream cheese-white chocolate chip icing. The orange zest — folded in at the end — adds to the festive flavor and color. It is quite different from other bar recipes — I’m glad I discovered these “Starbucks’ bars.” Enjoy the blondie brownies during the holidays — and really — any time of the year.

Cranberry Oatmeal Bliss Bars

  • Servings: 24
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup margarine (or butter for a richer version)
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp hot water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips, divided
  • 2 cup dried cranberries, divided (Craisins)
  • 4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp orange extract
  • 1 Tbsp course zest of fresh orange peel

Method and Steps:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 9″ x 13″ baking pan.
  2. For the blondie bars, sift flour, soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. Next, cream margarine (or butter) and sugars on medium-speed of electric mixer.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
  5. Add hot water, then flour mixture.
  6. Add vanilla extract and mix in.
  7. Add oatmeal and mix thoroughly.
  8. Stir in 3/4 cup white chocolate chips and 1 cup cranberries.
  9. Spread evenly in oiled baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 18 minutes. Check closely and bake an additional minute or two if needed. The bars should be set in the center, but still puffy and soft on top.
  10. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature. The bars will collapse slightly when cool.
  11. For icing, add the cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and orange extract to medium-size bowl of electric mixer. Blend on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes until the icing is creamy and smooth, occasionally stirring sides down.
  12. Melt remaining 1/4 cup of white chocolate chips in microwave for about 30 seconds until they begin to soften. Turn bowl and melt additional 15 seconds if needed. The white chocolate does not have to entirely melt. If it becomes too not, it will “seize” and turn into a lump.
  13. Add to the icing and mix with electric beater until incorporated.
  14. Lastly, fold in orange zest by hand.
  15. Spread evenly on cooled blondie bar in pan.
  16. Chop coarsely remaining 1 cup of dried cranberries. Sprinkle on top.
  17. Chill in refrigerator until icing is set.
  18. To cut bars, run knife around edge of pan to loosen. Cut in squares, 4 across by 6 lengthwise. Remove pieces from pan and cut on diagonal to make a triangle.


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