Move over Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bars, these Fresh Cranberry Orange Bars are everyone’s new favorite around here! Fresh ginger, fresh cranberries, and fresh orange zest take this bar cookie treat to the next level. I just saved you 10 minutes in line at the coffee shop this afternoon. You’re welcome. 😉
Today is also the Monthly Ingredient Challenge reveal day and Sydney over at Tastefully Frugal chose cranberries! This selection gets an exclamation point because I really like fresh cranberries. I also like dried cranberries, like in my curried chicken salad and breakfast cookies, but fresh cranberries are how I know the holiday season is almost upon us, and it is almost time for Thanksgiving leftovers and Christmas baking.
I had to make these bars because we’ve been all about the coffee in this house recently. And by “all about the coffee”, I mean “all about keeping the coffee away from the toddler who has decided she needs to walk around holding a latte-filled mug with two hands while pretending she’s wearing Uggs, leggings, and a vest.” I’m not 100% sure on the last part, but I feel like it must be somewhat accurate given the amount of effort she puts into attempting to acquire our mugs. Not. Happening.
Thankfully, I can distract her (for now) with small coffeehouse bakery case-worthy treats. Only mine aren’t as sweet, and I’m not changing the recipe on you to make them more cake than cookie. These are definitely more cookie and topped with a delicious orange cream cheese frosting. Naturally flavored, of course.
That’s what really makes these bars the best cranberry orange bars I’ve ever tried, the natural flavors. Dried spices and extracts are great for convenience, but there’s nothing like the lemon brightness of a fresh cranberry, the spicy zing of ginger, or the mellow brightness in orange zest. This is what makes it worthwhile to bake from scratch, you can’t get these flavors at a shop that has to bake in bulk.
And that smile you get from the lucky people you share with after they try the bars? It’s just the icing on the cranberry bar. 😉
Be sure to scroll past the recipe and check out the other amazing cranberry dishes this month!
- 2 sticks (16 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp fresh orange zest
- 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
- 2 cups flour
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- 1 cup fresh cranberries, halved
- ½ cup white chocolate chips
- 4 oz cream cheese, softened
- 2 tbsp salted butter, softened
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tsp fresh orange zest
- Optional: Extra orange zest for topping, white chocolate candy melts for drizzling
- Preheat your oven to 350 F. Butter a 9x13" pan and line with parchment paper or foil, leaving enough extra on either side to help you lift the bars out later. Set aside while you make the cookie batter.
- Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition.
- Add the vanilla extract, orange zest, and grated ginger.
- Stir in the flour and baking powder until just combined, then stir in the fresh cranberries and chocolate chips.
- Press the batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake 20-25 minutes until lightly golden brown at the edges and cooked through. Don't over-bake. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan.
- Once the bars are completely cool, make the frosting by creaming together the cream cheese and butter with the orange zest. Add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time. If your frosting is too thick to be spreadable, add a little milk to thin, 1 tsp at a time.
- Spread the frosting on the bars evenly, making sure you get the corners as well. Use the parchment paper liner to help you lift the bars out of the pan and onto a cutting board where you can cut them into squares or triangles. If you'd like to add additional topping, drizzle with melted white chocolate chips or candy melts and top with additional orange zest.