White Chocolate Cranberry Blondies

It’s the holiday season, right? We’ve eaten all the pumpkin and now the sidewalks are filled with Christmas trees and we have Red Cups. Thank goodness they are red and we know that they are for Christmas. Anyway, while I can do without the Pumpkin Spice Lattes {I know, I’m apparently the only one}, I LOVE the Cranberry Bliss Bars that they sell at Starbucks during the holidays. It’s weird because I actually usually don’t like white chocolate, but the combination of the dense blondie bottom and slightly tangy cream cheese and cranberries gets me every time.

I recently went to a holiday cookie party and got it in my head that I was going to find a recipe that replicated these cranberry bars. Surprisingly {or not} there are a lot of copycat recipes out there stemming from the fact that Starbucks changed the base to a more cake-like blondie at some point, which sent everyone into a tailspin. These are a more fudge-like blondie, which is how I like my brownies too. Given that this is a blondie plus white chocolate, these are definitely a sweet dessert. I dialed down the powdered sugar in the frosting to give it more of a tang, which helped balance out the sweetness.

I personally LOVED these. The flavors are awesome and I loved the texture of the blondie. They were pretty well received at the cookie swap party as well. I had a couple left over that I’ve stored in the fridge and I even like them cold. Basically these are perfect and amazing, so go and make them. GO!

White Chocolate Cranberry Blondies {or Cranberry Bliss Bars}
only slightly adapted from Averie Cooks

*Note: White chocolate gets a bad rap, but not all are made equal. Look at the ingredients and make sure there is cocoa butter listed as an ingredient. White chocolate chips that have it as an ingredient include the Whole Foods brand and Trader Joe’s brand. Ghirardelli is palm oil and other weird stuff FYI.

For the Bars:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (1 stick)
1 large egg
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried cranberries, loosely packed
1/2 teaspoon orange zest, optional {I didn’t add this, but it is in the original flavor profile of the SB bars}

For the Frosting:

1 cup white chocolate chips, melted and divided
4oz Cream Cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar {I used probably 1.5 cups}
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup dried cranberries, loosely packed

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8×8 pan with parchment paper so that it is hanging over the sides {I usually cut two long rectangles and then overlap them like a cross inside the pan}.

Put the butter in a microwave safe bowl and melt in the microwave. This took me about a minute, but just go slowly so that it doesn’t splatter. Let cool for a bit, then add the egg, brown sugar and vanilla. Whisk it all together so that it’s combined. Add the flour and salt, then mix only until just combined so as not to overmix. Fold in the white chocolate chips and cranberries.

Pour the batter into your prepared pan and spread it evenly to the corners using a rubber spatula.

Bake for 18 to 21 minutes or until the center is set and the edges are slightly browned and pulling away from the sides. For me, the center always looked a little gooey, but firmed up once they cooled. I pulled them out based on the edges.

While the blondies are cooling, make your frosting.

Put your white chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and melt using short 30 second bursts, so as not to scorch your chips.

Once they are melted, add about 3/4 of the melted chips to the cream cheese. Then add the powdered sugar, vanilla and a pinch of salt. I added about 1.5 cups of powdered sugar to start. Beat using a stand mixer or electric hand mixer for about 3 minutes until fluffy. At this point I tasted it and felt that it was sweet enough for me, but if you want it sweeter, or want the frosting to be more stiff, add more powdered sugar at this point.

Once your blondies are completely cool, spread the cream cheese frosting over the top evenly using a spatula. I used about 3/4 of the frosting, but you can use more or less to taste. Sprinkle the cranberries over the top {I ended up chopping mine a little because they were on the bigger side}. Finally, drizzle the remaining white chocolate over the top. You can pop it back into the microwave if it’s set up already.

Let the bars set for 30 minutes before cutting them up. You can cut into squares, or go for triangles like the Cranberry Bliss bars.

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