Blonde Bars

Blonde BarsCount on me to un-simplify something. On my trip to Missouri, my friend Courtney whipped up, before I even got out of bed, a treat that turned out to be a major problem for me. By that I mean, it was amazing and rich and sweet, and I couldn’t keep my hands off of it. Every time I walked by the kitchen I would cut off a tiny sliver of it.

And, it is a perfect complement to coffee. Exceptional, actually.

As it was presented, it was what I call a “throw-down” recipe. To wit, the base was a box cake mix with a few add-ins that formed a cookie crust base for a gooey cream cheese mixture which was then baked. Oh, my goodness. Don’t kick me for retro-fitting it to the non-box recipe. I’ll make a note of how to do it the box way at the bottom. But, whereas some folks find boxes convenient, I never have them on hand. But I always have flour and sugar on hand. And in this case I had powdered milk on hand too, because I actually use it here and there (like in my Hot Chocolate Mix).

So, I had all the makings of the non-box version in my pantry and I played around a bit and found a parallel version for the non-boxers. There is a time and a place for both. I will keep both versions handy.

Blonde CrustThings to consider: I used weight measures and volume measures here. Truly, weight measures are easier and will lead you to an outcome that is more like mine. A cup of flour is very different in weight depending on who is doing the scooping. But the 250 grams of flour is always 250 grams, no matter how tightly you pack it into a measure. It is the pound of feathers vs. a pound of rocks thing. They weigh the same. So, if you are a person who says “I can’t bake!” one issue may be that you are a heavy scooper and you are adding 20% more flour to your recipes than everyone else and that can make a significant difference. My pipe dream is to go back and convert all of my baking recipes to weight measures…don’t hold your breath, though. This will take a while. On the same note, box cake companies tend to monkey with the net weight of the cake box mixes. The brand and type of box mix that worked in a recipe 5 years ago might have 3 ounces less in it now…enough to affect the outcome of doctored mix recipes like this one. Beware.

Don’t even get me started, actually…I’m on a thinking journey about flour and protein contents between brands of All Purpose Flour.  What professional bakers know and what they rarely tell we (even avid) non-professionals is that flour protein content between brands of the same type of flour can vary enough to change results between bakers. If I use King Arthur APF, which I usually do, and you use Gold Medal, our cookies or cakes could turn out differently even though we follow the same recipe to a T. I will be consulting with several really great bakers in town (yes, I’m talking about you Meaders, Jan, and Lori) to get to the bottom of this mini-cookie-crisis. I’ll get back to you folks on it. These things just must make sense. I need them to make sense. Because baking is about a lot of LOVE, but it is also science plus an irreplaceable ingredient…your time. Recipes need to work. And we all need to be on the same page.

Blonde Bars in Pan

Blonde Bars
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12
A great sweet treat to prepare ahead of time. Travels like a dream and tastes wonderful for several days...if it lasts that long...which it probably will not.
Cookie Base
  • 250 grams (2 cups) all purpose flour
  • 150 grams (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 165 grams (3/4 cup) brown sugar
  • 70 grams (1/2 cup) non-fat powdered milk
  • 14 grams (1 tablespoon) baking powder
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk, lightly whisked
  • 142 grams (10 tablespoons) butter, melted
  • 226 grams (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 500 grams (4 cups) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9 x 13 baking pan by spraying it with non-stick spray. You can also line the pan with parchment if you need to be able to lift out the dessert to cut it for a crowd.
  2. Place the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, powdered milk, baking powder in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix briefly to combine the dry ingredients. Add the eggs and melted butter and mix until it is fully combined and of a crumbly consistency. Stop the mixer to scrape the bottom of the bowl and mix again briefly before proceeding.
  3. Pour the dough into the baking pan and press it into the bottom of the pan, distributing it evenly around the pan. Set aside.
  4. Clean out the mixing bowl and dry it thoroughly. Add the cream cheese to the bowl and cream it for 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and add the confectioners’ sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. Mix slowly (to avoid the white cloud) until it comes together and then increase the speed of the mixer to medium. Mix until smooth and silky, about one minute more. Stop the mixer to scrape the bottom of the bowl and mix again briefly before proceeding.
  5. Pour the cream cheese mixture on top of the cookie base, spreading with a spatula so that it covers the cookie base evenly.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes. If the bars are not yet golden and crackly on top, you may bake for up to an additional 5 minutes. But, be sure that the edges do not become overly browned. Remove the bar from the oven and allow them to cool and rest for at least an hour before serving.

blonde bars hot out of ovenNotes: These are even better on day 2, so if you are traveling or planning, consider making these a day ahead. They are still amazing on day 3. The cookie base puffs up around the side of the dish making this a hit for those who love brownie edges!


Blonde Bars: Throw Down Version
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12
If you have boxes of cake mix on hand, try this. It is pretty spectacular.
  • 1 box golden cake mix (18.25 oz.)
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix the cake mix, butter, 1 egg and pecans in a bowl.
  3. Press into the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking pan.
  4. Mix cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, 2 eggs and vanilla in a small bowl. Pour evenly over crust.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes.

This version is from “Blonde Brownies” which appears in the Gourmet Our Way Cookbook, a community cookbook of Cascia Hall Preparatory School in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A really great cookbook.


  1. Pamela says

    I’m with you 100% on using a scale as opposed to cup measurements. I live in Japan and had to learn how to do that here. I think Americans need to join the 21st century! This is scoop and level method that you see on some of the cooking shows from the US just makes me laugh. But until America goes digital we won’t be seeing any scales in US kitchens. I follow a lot of UK cooking sites and I really love them because they all call call for grams & milliliters. So much easier to do the recipe.

  2. says

    I had a friend from Montana give me a recipe pretty similar to this. It has been a long long time since I made them, but they were delicious! I can’t wait to try your recipe.

  3. Kelly says

    Sandi, let me know what you think. I hope you find them to be as troublesomely delicious as I did.

  4. Liz says

    My friend Neeti from India served these to me and my kids in Silicon Valley, CA, last week. Oh Kelly, they are magnificent! And I love the no-box recipe; I can’t digest the chemicals they put in most boxed mixes. They are our new favorite. Thank you, Kelly!

  5. Kelly says

    Liz…thank you so much for stopping by. I’m so glad you liked them. Wow…from Missouri, to Texas, to India, to California. What a trip this recipe has had. I love it.

  6. Liz says

    Hi again! I believe Neeti got it online while she was living in CA, but it still counts :o)
    We are making it tonight! I can’t wait!

  7. Liz says

    For the box-version, it says to bake for 45 minutes. For the no-box version, it doesn’t say how long to bake it. Is it also 45 minutes?

  8. says

    I just discovered your lovely web site. The photography’s superb.

    I take it your version bakes for 45 mins, like the throw-down version.

    Best wishes for continued great eating. And your son is very cute, too.

  9. Kelly says

    Fran, thank you! When I updated my site I had to re-input each and every recipe and in the chaos I lost number six: “Bake for 40 minutes. If the bars are not yet golden and crackly on top, you may bake for up to an additional 5 minutes. But, be sure that the edges do not become overly browned. Remove the bar from the oven and allow them to cool and rest for at least an hour before serving.” Number six is now back where it belongs thanks to you!


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