Nostalgic for Thanksgiving? Cranberry Shortbread Bars

I need to catch up on some desserts I’ve made this past year. Here’s one from not too long ago that I made for Thanksgiving – Cranberry Shortbread Bars. The best part about these bars is that they are made with real cranberries that have been boiled down with sugar to a slightly thicker cranberry sauce. I got this recipe from Joy of Baking, one of my favorite sites for classic baking recipes.


Here is the recipe:

Cranberry Shortbread Bars

Yield:  32 bars in 9×13 inch pan


 Cranberry Filling

  • 16 ounces (4 ½ cups)  fresh cranberries
  • 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 Tbsp water

Shortbread Bars

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and place the wire oven rack in the center of the oven. Butter (or spray with a non stick cooking spray) a9 x 13 inch pan.
  2. Cranberry Filling – In a medium sized saucepan, place all the ingredients. Then, over medium-high heat, cook the ingredients until boiling. The cranberries will start to pop out of their skin as they heat up. Continue to boil the filling until it becomes thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool while you make the shortbread.
  3. Shortbread – In a separate bowl whisk the flour, cornstarch, and salt. In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), cream the butter until smooth (about 1 minute). Add the sugar and beat until smooth (about 2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract. Gently stir in the flour mixture just until incorporated.
  4. Evenly press two-thirds of the shortbread into the bottom of the prepared pan. Then evenly spread the cranberry filling over the shortbread base.
  5. With the remaining shortbread dough, using your fingers, crumble it over the top of the cranberry filling. Then lightly press the dough into the filling.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for about30 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Remove from oven, place on a wire rack, and while still hot, cut into 32 squares. Allow to cool completely in pan.

Here are the cranberries mixed with the sugar and water. The cranberries haven’t began popping yet. Isn’t the red just beautiful?


Now the cranberries start popping and this is when it starts forming a sauce.


It tastes a little more tart than cranberry sauce. My husband likes it more tart so I didn’t add as much sugar, the shortbread portion is plenty sweet, we didn’t miss it at all. I used about 3/4 cup instead of 1 cup sugar. After mixing the shortbread ingredients together, I pressed 2/3 of it into a 9×13 inch pan.

DSC_1550_webYou can still see my finger marks. Then I spread the layer of the sauce. Joy of Baking says to leave a 1/4 inch around the border, but I didn’t read that so I didn’t. I think it’s fine either way, but I like symmetry so I will probably never leave a border.


DSC_1553_webThen crumble the rest of the dough on top.


and press it down slightly with your fingers so it doesn’t look like jagged brambles and rocks.

DSC_1558_webThen after it bakes, it will look nice and golden brown.


Eat it after Thanksgiving dinner, as a breakfast item (since it has a nice tartness, not incredibly sweet), or anytime you want! It’s really a beautiful looking dessert because of the bright red from the cranberries.


The best part about bar desserts is that depending on how many people you have to feed you have control over the size square to cut. I doubled the recipe from Joy of Baking, which is above.


Remember to always leave a little room for dessert!


4 thoughts on “Nostalgic for Thanksgiving? Cranberry Shortbread Bars

  1. Pingback: Vanilla Crusted Plum Tart | Cupcake Artist

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