The Best Cranberry Almond Cake Bars
The Best Cranberry Almond Cake Bars are one of my favorite sweet-ish treats. They can certainly be served as an after-dinner dessert, but I wouldn't consider them only a dessert. That's because their texture is somewhere between a cake, a bar and a brownie which makes them so much more than just a one-dimensional dessert. Whenever I make a dish of these cake bars, my family eats them as a breakfast bar, an afternoon pick-me-up and as a "midnight snack." We eat them any time of day, mostly because they are just so darn satisfying! These cake bars are desirably dense, but not heavy. Sweet, but not too sweet. Tangy, tart and fruity, but warm and comforting, too. While I struggle to find the perfect description, I can say this: they are delicious. Not just "yeah, these are really good," but "oh, my goodness, those are SO good!" I personally enjoy these bars with a cup of tea and a good book, but like my family I find myself also grabbing a square as a quick bite running out the door. I really prefer the quiet, indulgent part, but, hey, life. I encourage you to make these cake bars and see just how deliciously practical they are in your own baking routine.I love to share recipes from our former tearoom, but do you know these recipes are meant to be much more than just dainty bites for an afternoon tea party? At the heart of my recipes, the reason they exist, is a desire to feed family and friends and to feed them well. After years of planning afternoon tea menus and special high tea events, I’ve learned one thing: Versatility is a necessity in my kitchen! The recipes I use and create, must be flexible enough to manage the many different kinds of meal prep I do. I’m a lady who loves to entertain, but I’m first and foremost, a wife and mom with a family that gets hungry for real food! Now, I happily share with you all the recipes and tips that I use to fill our family dining table with good food.
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups sugar
- ¾ cup butter softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups cranberries roughly chopped
- 2 cups sliced almonds
- 1/4 cup additional raw or white sugar for sprinkling
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×13 baking dish with parchment paper, spray lightly with baker’s spray and set aside.
- With a mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar on medium-high speed until slightly thickened and light in color, about 5-7 minutes. Be sure to allow the mixture to almost double in volume and form a ribbon when the beater is lifted from the bowl. (This is called the ribbon stage. This technique causes the eggs to work as the leavening agent in the recipe, so don't skip this step. Be patient and give it time.)
- Add the softened butter, vanilla, almond extract and salt; mix two more minutes.
- Stir in the flour until just combined.
- With a rubber spatula, gently fold in the cranberries by hand to mix throughout the dough.
- Spread the batter evenly in the prepared baking dish.
- Cover surface with the sliced almonds and then generously sprinkle the raw or white sugar over the entire top.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until very lightly browned and a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Let cool completely before cutting into bars.
- Store loosely covered at room temperature for up to four days; or freeze tightly wrapped for up to two months. If frozen, allow to thaw at room temperature prior to serving.
What are The Best Cranberry Almond Cake Bars?These Cranberry Almond Cake Bars are one of my favorite treats. From my point of view of versatility, I can use this recipe in several different ways. 1. As a holiday or special occasion dessert it’s eye-catching and delicious. 2. Since it’s on the lighter side, they’re also a great snack cake and make-ahead breakfast to serve all year long. 3. For brunch, a plate of these cake bars will outshine a basket of boring muffins all day long (or all late morning/afternoon long if we’re being technical). 4. These Best Cranberry Almond Cake Bars are also the perfect accompaniment to a quiet cup of tea. As far as flavor, this combination is at the top of my list of favorites. Almond and cranberries are fabulous together, but it’s the texture of these cake bars, finished with a delicate layer of almonds and sugar, which makes this recipe an A+. Overall, they are perfectly moist and dense, like a blondie without the cloying sweetness. It’s hard to eat just one.
How to make The Best Cranberry Almond Cake Bars
How you make the batter matters!The batter for these cake bars is easy to bring together, but there is one important step that cannot be overlooked or ignored. The eggs must be taken to the ribbon stage of development. If you aren’t familiar with that term, it’s not at all as intimidating as it sounds. It just means you must beat the eggs with the granulated sugar until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture creates a flowing–but quickly disappearing–“ribbon” of batter as it falls from the lifted beater. Super easy, just requires a little time and patience. A test run is actually mesmerizing to watch. Because there are no traditional leavening agents in the batter, this ribbon technique serves as a unique substitute. If you were to skip this step or add baking soda or baking powder to help the cake rise, you would have a very different end product. It’s the texture of this cake that makes it so appealing; well, that and the flavor.
Creating the perfect biteCranberries and almonds are a great pair in these cake bars. To prevent any big bursts of sour, I like to give the whole, fresh cranberries a rough chop before adding them to the batter. Smaller bits of fresh cranberries are much more pleasant to the senses, in my opinion. Because I like to make these cake bars all year long, sometimes I must substitute dried cranberries for the fresh ones. Fresh cranberries are infamously seasonal and only available, at least in my market, October through January at the latest. Dried cranberries, or even dried cherries, make fine substitutes. As far as the almonds, I personally prefer to use sliced almonds, but slivered almonds would also work. If whole almonds are what you have on hand, then those work, too. Just try to crush them to bite-friendly bits as best you can. The top layer is what sets these cake bars apart from all others. After the batter is poured into the baking dish, the top is sprinkled with more sliced almonds and a generous amount of granulated or raw sugar. That combination of almond and sugar makes the most wonderful crispy layer that makes every bite a sheer delight. No glaze or drizzle needed here. This nutty, crystalized layer is the perfect topping to these Cranberry Almond Cake Bars.
Substitution ingredients for Cranberry Almond Cake Bars
Try these alternates for a twist
- If fresh cranberries are out of season, try dried cranberries or dried cherries. Or, to replace with another fresh fruit, try blueberries or diced strawberries. KISS TIP: For a patriotic, 4th of July treat, use dried cranberries and dried blueberries—red, white and blue has never been so tasty!
- Slivered almonds work in place of sliced almonds.
- For even more almond flavor, try replacing 1/2 cup all-purpose flour with 1/2 cup almond flour.
Serving Suggestions for The Best Cranberry Almond Cake Bars:
Bake these cake bars for now, for later and even for othersAny time I make these cranberry almond cake bars, they’re devoured in a day or two. I know I’m not the only one in my house who can’t walk past a plate without sneaking one. Bright red cranberry against the golden hue of cake with that sparkly layer of almond and sugar—it’s just so tempting! At first glance, you might think they’re too pretty to eat, but take that first bite and see what you think then. This recipe does make a large 9×13 dish. So, I like to serve half and freeze the other half to enjoy later. To me, it’s more efficient than reducing the recipe in half. You absolutely could, though, cut the recipe in half to make a smaller amount. However, I prefer to bake once and enjoy twice. I think we’ve established that, in my world, everything eventually comes down to work smarter, not harder. It’s very easy to freeze these Cranberry Almond Cake Bars. Simply, wrap the cut or uncut bars tightly–and gently–with plastic wrap and then insert into a freezer-safe storage bag or other air-tight container. To thaw, remove plastic wrap, cover loosely and allow to thaw at room temperature. These cake bars are an any time of day and any occasion delight. They are both a perfect finger food and elegant dessert. Make these cake bars for…
- a satisfying, sweet treat with tea or coffee
- a quick breakfast, if prepared the night before
- an afternoon or midnight snack
- holiday cookie exchanges
- an eye-catching addition to a dessert buffet
- an elegant dessert with a dollop of whipped cream
- a lovely handmade gift from your kitchen
How to gift The Best Cranberry Almond Cake Bars:These cake bars are so pretty and tasty, they make thoughtful gifts for the holidays, and thinking-of-you gifts for friends and neighbors. There are two ways to give these cake bars as gifts.
- Option #1
Bake this recipe in two separate 9” aluminum pie pans. Cool completely and wrap individually with cellophane basket wraps and tie with a pretty bow.
- Option #2
Bake in bars and stack 3-4 bars in a cello bag tied with red and white cotton string or jute.
A Final Thought:Many of the recipes I share were created or customized for our popular tearoom. They are all quite special to me and I encourage you to try them. I think you’ll find they are for much more than just teatime. It has always been important to me that my recipes are approachable and versatile in nature. All my recipes can be prepared to serve as part of an afternoon tea service and as heartier servings for a hungry family. I hope you try them all and share them with your family and friends. I also hope you get lots of “oohs and aahs” from your special people when you do. There are few things more satisfying to a home-chef than receiving wide-eyed enthusiasm from the ones we enjoy cooking for. Although our beloved tearoom is now closed, I invite you to visit our Tea Shop at sistersteacompany.com. Here we sell luxury loose-leaf teas and tisanes, plus useful—and beautiful—tea accessories. If you’re not familiar with the world of tea, check out our tea shop—you’ll be amazed at the selection of tea types and flavors. If you’re already a tea enthusiast, you will be thrilled, too!
Tea Recommendations:I’ve been recommending teas for many years now and I suggest the following to serve with these amazing Cranberry Almond Cake Bars, but these flavors are excellent for sipping any time of day and any time of year. Try one or all of these healthy black and green teas:
- Nutcracker Sweet Black Tea
- Exciting blend of orange peel, red apple bits, cherry, clove and fruity almond
- Paris in a Teacup Black Tea
- Our Signature Tea has smooth caramel and rich crème Brule flavor and is perfect with everything
- Blueberry Crumb Cake Black and Green Tea
- Fragrant blueberry and cinnamon in a smooth blend of black and green tea leaves
- Kentucky Lady Black Tea
- This fruity tea offers tangy pomegranate notes that pair well with the richness of these bars
- Mocha Latte Black Tea
- This bold, coffee-scented black tea blend has actual coffee beans as well as chocolate morsels and bits of real maple sugar
For naturally caffeine-free options, try one of these flavors:
- French Caramel Crème Brulé Rooibos
- A naturally caffeine-free version of our signature Paris in a Teacup Black Tea
- Berry Mélange Fruit & Herb Tisane
- Intensely fruity and full of sumptuous dark berry flavor, this whole fruit blend includes dried cranberry, elderberry, bilberry (European blueberries), raspberry, and blueberry
- Tchaikovsky’s Memory Rooibos
- Fruity almond and papaya give this rich rooibos full-bodied flavor