Create your own Starbucks Bliss

Rick Nelson
Minneapolis Star Tribune

Peppermint white chocolate mochas and eggnog lattes are certainly top sellers this time of year at the 13,000-plus Starbucks outlets nationwide.

What lures many devotees into the nation’s largest coffee chain in December is Starbucks’ seasonal baked-good behemoth, the Cranberry Bliss Bar.

And why not? It’s brilliant, and irresistible: a moist, dense, blondie-like base enriched with white chocolate and crystallized ginger. A lavish cream cheese icing is tickled with citrus and finished with a decadent white chocolate drizzle. And there’s plenty of festive, seasonally appropriate dried cranberries. It has been making the season merry for years.

For those interested in re-creating baked “Bliss” at home, forget about getting the recipe from Starbucks; the company did not return requests for so much as a morsel of information regarding its über-popular holiday baked goodie.

Thankfully, the Oregonian, the daily newspaper in Portland, wasn’t nearly as reticent.

“I know the whole story of this particular recipe,” said food and entertainment writer Grant Butler.

Type “Cranberry Bliss Bar recipe” into Google, and page after page of facsimiles pop up. The one that bakers should rely upon originates with the Oregonian. Eleven years ago, Linda Faus, then the paper’s test kitchen director, was publishing a column re-creating restaurant dishes.

“She had numerous requests for Cranberry Bliss Bars, but she couldn’t get Starbucks to share the recipe,” said Butler. “That’s when she decided to crack the code herself.”

Aided by test kitchen assistant Nathan Hostler, Faus got to work. with colleagues providing feedback as they enjoyed each variation. The resulting recipe was a— and, as it turns out, enduring — hit. Still, Cranberry Ecstasy Bars isn’t the newspaper’s most-requested recipe; that honor belongs to a buttermilk biscuit formula (find it at

“But it’s in our Top Five, for sure,” said Butler. “It’s certainly better than the Cranberry Bliss Bar sold at Starbucks. Think about it. The Starbucks version was baked who knows how long ago in a factory, where it was frozen, and then later thawed at the store. Linda’s version is fresh. They’re insanely great.”

Cranberry Ecstasy Bars

Note: Starbucks currently uses orange zest rather than lemon zest in its Cream Cheese Frosting. Adapted from Linda Faus of the Oregonian.

Yield: 16 triangle-shaped bars.

For bar cookies

11/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for pan

11/4 cups firmly-packed light brown sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup minced dried cranberries

11/2 ounces white chocolate, chopped

1/4 cup minced crystallized ginger

For frosting

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sifted powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

Pinch of salt

1/3 cup minced dried


For Drizzle

1 ounce white chocolate

1/4 cup sifted powdered sugar

1 teaspoon milk

To prepare bar cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper and then butter the paper.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, ground ginger and salt, and reserve.

In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter until creamy, about 1 minute. Add light brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla extract, and beat until fully combined. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Fold in dried cranberries, white chocolate and crystallized ginger.

Spread batter in prepared baking pan and bake until golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove pan from oven, transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

To prepare frosting: In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-low speed, combine cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, lemon zest and salt, and mix until creamy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove cake from pan and trim off the edges. Using an offset spatula or the back of a large spoon, uniformly spread the frosting across the top of cake. Sprinkle minced dried cranberries on top of frosting. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

To prepare White Chocolate Drizzle: In a double boiler over gently simmering water (or in a bowl in a microwave oven), melt white chocolate. Remove from heat, add powdered sugar and milk and whisk until fully combined. Scrape White Chocolate Drizzle into a small, sturdy plastic bag; cut a tiny corner of the bag and squeeze to decorate. Decoratively drizzle the White Chocolate Drizzle over the top of the entire frosted cake. To serve, slice the cake lengthwise down the center, creating two long rectangles. Cut each rectangle into 4 equal portions; then slice each of these in half diagonally.