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These red velvet bars are made with white chocolate chips and a cream cheese frosting on top. They are like a soft sugar cookie bar made with a hint of cocoa powder perfect for Valentine’s Day, Christmas or whenever you need a pretty treat to eat.
So it’s February now, so that means diet season is over right and we can move into Red Velvet season right?
I was so excited to remember I had a couple bottles of red food coloring (sorry purists) that I had bought back during the Christmas baking season that I had never used. I’ve been trying to cut down my expenses lately and how much I spend on baking supplies was one of them. Believe me it’s hard. Really hard to do. Obviously I love to bake. And I tend to go way overboard at the grocery store.
So how pumped was I when I realized I had some red food coloring and also some cream cheese in the fridge. So these red velvet bars were destiny if you ask me. Please don’t tell me I’m being dramatic. I mean we’re talking red velvet friends.
Because let’s face it, red velvet desserts always need a thick layer of cream cheese frosting on top. Don’t you think so? I love a good bar recipe. So easy to make. Quick to throw together. You really can’t go wrong. These bars have the texture of a good vanilla sugar cookie, but with the hint of cocoa that a true red velvet recipe should have! And the frosting of course completes it.
Ingredients for these red velvet bars
Essentially these bars are a simple sugar cookie bar but made red velvet with a little cocoa powder. Here are the ingredients you will need for the bars.
- Flour – You will need all purpose flour for this recipe. Make sure you measure it correctly by either weighing your flour with a scale or by spooning it into a measuring cup and leveling it off (don’t pack it down.) You can read more here about How To Measure Flour
- Salt – Not all salt is created equally. I generally use table salt in my recipes. You can read more here about the The Role Of Salt In Baking
- Baking Powder – This is a leavening agent that will help your bread rise. Make sure it’s not expired by testing a spoonful in a bowl of hot water to see if it bubbles. You can read more here about Baking Powder vs. Baking Soda.
- Cocoa powder – You want to use unsweetened cocoa powder in this recipe, not dutch process as that would react differently. You can read more here about Natural Cocoa Vs Dutch Process Cocoa Powder
- Unsalted butter – You want to use unsalted butter for this. Not all brands use the same amount of salt in their salted butter so you could end up with a dessert that’s too salty. You can read more here about Unsalted Butter Vs. Salted Butter In Baking
- Sugar – I’ve started using organic cane sugar in my recipes! I love the hint of natural molasses flavor it imparts. The sugar will be creamed with the butter, which will help to aerate the butter. You can read more here about What Is The Creaming Method?
- Eggs – Make sure they are room temperature before using. Place them in a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes before using.
- Vanilla extract – Pure vanilla extract is always the best!
- Red food coloring – I love red velvet desserts but I’m not a big fan of the fake red dye stuff. Thank goodness they now have wonderful natural dye options. I used Watkins natural food coloring for these bars.
- White Chocolate Chips– These are optional, and you could always omit them. Or add chocolate chips, and I’ve even added Oreos before!
For the frosting:
- Cream cheese – I recommend using full-fat for the best flavor and richness. Make sure it’s softened so it can mix it easily with the butter.
- Unsalted butter – Make sure it’s softened so it can blend with the cream cheese.
- Powdered sugar – Of course to sweeten and blend in easily to make for a smooth frosting.
- Vanilla – For flavor! And pure is best since the frosting is not cooked and flavor will stand out.
How Do I Make Red Velvet Bars?
I was originally thinking red velvet cupcakes. But been there done that. And I love trying out a new recipe and also putting my twist on it. So when I came across this recipe from Epicurious I knew I needed to make them. But let’s add some Oreos to really put them over the top…
Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. And prepare your 9×13 baking pan. I like to line mine with parchment paper and spray it with cooking spray so that the bars easily lift out and are easy to cut.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, cream together 1 cup butter softened and sugar until light and creamy. About 2-3 minutes on medium speed. Make sure to scrape down the bowl as needed.
You want to make sure your butter is softened, but not too much! Your butter shouldn’t be melted at all. When you indent your finger into the butter, there should still be some resistance. It’s important to cream your butter properly to aerate the ingredients and provide the best lift.
Beat in the eggs, vanilla, and food coloring until combined. I used natural food coloring so at this point my batter was more “pink” than red. If you are using traditional food coloring then yours will be more red than mine.
Add the flour mixture until a soft dough forms. Add in the white chocolate chips if using. At this point make sure to not overmix. I like to fold mine in with a spatula.
Press the cookie dough into the bottom of the 9×13 inch pan. Bake for about 20 minutes until the edges start to pull away from the sides and a toothpick entered into the center comes out clean. Allow to completely cool before frosting. To make the cream cheese frosting, Beat together the cream cheese and butter. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat together until smooth. Frost the top of the bars and enjoy!
Then to make the cream cheese frosting, Beat together the cream cheese and butter. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat together until smooth. Frost the top of the bars and enjoy!
Tips On Making These Red Velvet Bars
- Line your baking pan– You want to line your 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper and spray lightly with a cooking spray. When making bars or brownies, I really do recommend taking this extra step. It makes removing the bars so ridiculously easy and cutting them into squares.
- Bring your ingredients to room temperature– Your butter and eggs need to be at room temperature. Softened in the recipe is not just for kicks. It matters. If you forget to bring the butter and eggs to room temperature (basically ME all the time) then you have a couple options. For the butter, there are 3 different ways I used to soften my butter fast. For the eggs, place them in warm (not hot) water for about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Don’t overcream the mixture. I cream for 2-3 minutes on medium speed. If you continue to continue cream this will result in a cakier texture.
- Do not overmix. Make sure you don’t continue to mix the batter once the flour is added or it will result in a tough texture.
- Wait to cut and frost them. You want to make sure to not frost these while warm as the frosting will melt. And then make sure to wait to cut them as well (if you’re not frosting them) as it makes for easier, cleaner cuts.
How to store these bars
These will be fine stored at room temperature for about 2 days covered. You can also try freezing these as well for up to 3 months.
Do I need to use food coloring?
Nope you don’t! You can omit them. Just as tasty, but will be a muddy, light brown color.
Can I bake these in a smaller pan?
I haven’t tried in a smaller pan, so if you do you will need to increase your baking time.
More Red Velvet recipes
If you’re craving more red velvet, then make sure to check out my:
To Make These Red Velvet Bars You Will Need:
- 9×13 pan
- stand mixer
- red food coloring <– I like to use an all natural coloring, for these bars I used Watkins. You won’t get quite a “red” bar but still delicious!
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Red Velvet Sugar Cookie Bars
For the bars
- 3 ⅓ cups (400 g) all purpose flour
- ¼ cup (25 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup (2 sticks, 226g ) unsalted butter softened
- 1½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 Tablespoons (one 1-ounce bottle) red food coloring
- 1 cup (170 g) white chocolate chips
For the frosting
- 8 ounces cream cheese softened
- 1/2 cup (1 stick, 113 g) unsalted butter softened
- 3 cups (340 g) powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Make the cookie bars
- Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Lightly grease or line 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or you can use a hand mixer, on medium high speed, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add in eggs, one a time, and beat until thoroughly combined. Beat in vanilla, and food coloring until combined.
- Add the flour mixture until a soft dough forms. With a wooden spoon, or spatula, stir in the white chocolate chips to combine.
- Press the cookie dough into the bottom of the prepared pan into an even layer.
- Bake for about 20 minutes until the edges start to pull away from the sides and a toothpick entered into the center comes out clean Remove from the oven and allow to completely cool in pan before frosting.
Make the cream cheese frosting
- In a mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth and combined, about 2-3 minutes.
- Slowly add the powdered sugar and beat to combine on low speed. Scrape down bowl as needed.
- Add vanilla and beat to combine.
- Frost the top of the bars and enjoy!
- Make ahead/Storage: Because of the cream cheese frosting, I like to store these covered in the fridge for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving, so frosting has time to soften.
- Freezing: You can also freeze baked bars for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature before serving.
- White chocolate chips: You can swap the white chocolate chips for semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips. Or try stirring in some M&M’s!
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