Cranberry bars with streusel and almond icing are extra special holiday dessert. Recipe includes a gluten-free option.

Cranberry bars have a dense, coffee cake-like base with streusel and almond icing. With a gluten-free option.

After Thanksgiving, I’m always stuck with an odd amount of cranberries that didn’t make it into my favorite orange cranberry sauce, a pie, or a crisp. I usually just freeze them to use at Christmas but after making these bars, I now have the perfect use for leftover cranberries!

These cranberry bars aren’t your typical jam-filled fruit bars. They’re definitely a little different. And better! I found a recipe for crustless cranberry pie that I was excited to try and wanted to add a streusel topping to make it extra special. But no matter what topping I tried, it weighed down the batter too much for it to rise. It made sense as the recipe doesn’t have any leavener in it, but I actually loved the result, which is what I’m sharing with you today.

Cranberry bars are perfect for the holidays and  great with a cup of coffee. Recipe includes a gluten-free option.

The day that you make these, the cake base is like a dense coffee cake. It’s really delicious but on the second and third days? They’re even better! They get moister and even more irresistible, making them a perfect treat for Christmas, holiday parties, or basically – whenever! If you plan to let them sit overnight, I recommend icing the bars the day of serving, just to be on the safe side.

The cake and the icing have such a lovely almond flavor which goes incredibly well with the cranberries. If you’re not a big fan of almond extract, you can use vanilla extract in its place. Orange extract would also pair wonderfully with the cranberries!

The part that really throws these over the top for me is the icing. The bars are sweet enough without the icing, but almond flavored icing? That’s just destined to improve anything it touches! My husband is a bit of an odd duck and said he preferred these bars without the icing. I just don’t understand him sometimes.

Cranberry bars with streusel and almond icing are perfect for the holidays! Recipe includes a gluten-free option.

To make these cranberry bars gluten-free, I tried several different mixtures of gluten-free flours. Everything worked fine in the cake portion but what a mess the streusel was! So I turned to this 1-to-1 baking flour and it came out perfectly.

For more gluten-free Christmas treats, check out these cranberry orange muffins or these mint chocolate chip brownies. Really now – gluten-free baking doesn’t have to mean dry and crumbly!

Cranberry Bars

Ingredients:

For the streusel:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour or a gluten-free 1-to-1 baking flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  •  1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold

For the base:

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  •  1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour or gluten-free 1-to-1 baking flour
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries

For the glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4-10 teaspoons milk
  • 1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds, optional

Note: If you need these bars to be gluten-free, make sure all your ingredients are certified gluten-free.

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 °F and line an 8″x8″ pan with a piece of parchment paper.
  2.  Prepare the streusel. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Using a pastry blender or your hands, incorporate the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the melted butter, sugar, eggs, almond extract, vanilla extract and salt until well combined.
  4. Stir in the flour and then the cranberries until thoroughly combined.
  5. Spoon into the prepared pan and top with the streusel.
  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the topping no longer appears wet and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the bars comes out clean. Let cool completely.
  7. If serving the bars today, prepare the glaze. Otherwise, wait to ice the bars until the day of serving.
  8. In a small bowl, mix together the powdered sugar, almond extract (use 1/4 teaspoon if you don’t want a strong almond flavor), vanilla extract and 4 teaspoons of milk. Add more milk, if needed, so that the glaze is just pourable but not too thin. Drizzle over the bars. Top with toasted sliced almonds, if using.
  9.  Cover and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Base adapted from Crustless Cranberry Pie on Allrecipes.
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