Our family’s 5 favorite dessert bars for Fall

There is something about the cool weather that late October and early November bring that makes me want to get into the kitchen and start baking (perhaps it’s the impending arrival of the holidays?) I am a firm believer that coffee, hot cider, and hot chocolate (maybe even a glass of red wine) always tastes better with a sweet treat. Everyone also loves the person who shows up at the football tailgates, holiday parties, work potlucks, and friend gatherings with something sweet to snack on. With all of that fun stuff going on……it can be hard to find time to make an elaborate dessert…..so why not make something that is easy to throw together? My favorite go to treat that is easy to throw together are bars. It’s as easy as mix, dump, and bake. My mom made tons of bar treats when I was growing up for all occasions, and she was always the hit of the party. My family’s top 5 favorites are…….

  1. Peanut Butter Jelly Bars
  2. Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
  3. Toll House© Chocolate Chip Bars
  4. Chocolate and Caramel Bars
  5. Brownie Bars

Peanut Butter Jelly Bars

Thank you, Ina Garten, for these perfect multipurpose bars. We have used them as breakfast bars for a sweeter version of a PBJ. Mid afternoon sweet tooth cravings were conquered with this delicious treat (bc peanut butter is healthy and has protein in it right?). In high school my mom would make them for each swim meet for the dessert part of team dinner and everyone could never get enough of them.

2 sticks of butter

1 ½ cups of sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs

2 cups of creamy peanut butter 

3 cups of flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 ½ tsp salt

1 ½ cups of raspberry (or your favorite jam) (18oz)

2/3 cups salted peanuts coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease and flour a 9×13 pan. Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy and light. Add vanilla, eggs, peanut butter, until well combined. In a small bowl sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add the dry mixture to the wet mixture. Spread 2/3 of the dough in the prepared pan. Spread jam evenly over the dough. Drop small globs of remaining dough over the jam. Sprinkle the chopped nuts over the pan. Bake for 45 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow the pan to cool. Then cut into small squares.

Pumpkin Bars

It wouldn’t be a fall favorite list without something pumpkin! One batch of these bars can feed an army, so this is a great go to for parties and tailgates. One top of the love of pumpkin….who can resist cream cheese frosting!

2 cups pumpkin puree 

1 2/3 cups sugar 

4 eggs

2 cups of flour

2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt 

3/4 cup canola oil

Combine all ingredients together. Bake in a greased or non-stick 12×18 pan. Bake at 350° for 30 min. Test with a toothpick to make sure the middle is baked all the way through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. The next step is to make the frosting.

cream cheese frosting

1 8oz cream cheese 

3 cups powder sugar

3/4 stick of butter melted

1 TBSP milk

1 tsp vanilla

Spread over the cooled pumpkin bars. Cut and serve.

Toll House© Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Oh yeah-the original and the best! This is my favorite quick bake method. It cuts the time in half from when you are baking the dough as cookies. Plus each square is like an extra-large chocolate chip cookie 😍🍪

2 1/4 cups flour 

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 sticks butter softened 

3/4 cup sugar 

3/4 cup of brown sugar, lightly packed

1 tsp vanilla

2 eggs 

2 cups Nestle© Chocolate Chip Cookies

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9×13 pan. Spread cookie dough into the pan evenly.Bake for 20-25 minutes. Check the middle with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from the oven and allow the pan to cool. Cut into squares and serve.

Chocolate-Caramel Bars

This recipe has been in my Mom’s recipe box for over 35 years! These guys are extremely delicious and addictive.

1 bag of Kraft© caramels

1 cup evaporated milk (split into two halves for the caramel mixture and the cake mixture)

1 box German chocolate cake mix

1/2 cup melted butter

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

1 cup chocolate chips

In a saucepan combine caramels and 1/2 cup evaporated milk. Cook over low heat until melted.

In a bowl combine cake mix, butter, 1/2 cup evaporated milk. Spread 1/2 of the mixture in a greased and floured 9×13 pan. Bake at 350° for 8 minutes. Sprinkle chocolate chips and caramel mixture over the baked crust. Drop the rest of the cake mix on top and use a toothpick to add swirls. Bake again for 18-20min. Cut into squares and refrigerate.


Ok, ok, brownies are technically not bars…….buuuuttt they are baked in a pan and cut into squares….so we will count it 😋. This is my Grandma’s recipe. Over 65 years of love are put into making these super fudgy brownies.

2 cups of sugar

1 cup of butter 

2 cups of flour (sifted)

4 squares of unsweetened baking chocolate

1/2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp vanilla

4 eggs

Melt butter and chocolate squares together in a saucepan over low heat. Remove from the heat and immediately add sugar, vanilla, and eggs. Stir well until blended. It helps to have everything ready to go before you start melting the chocolate. Stir in flour and baking powder. Pour into a greased and floured 9×13 baking pan. Bake at 250° for 40-60 minutes. Take out and dust with powder sugar.

We hope you enjoy these recipes as much as my family has!


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