Coconut Spice Cheesecake Bars
Spice cake tends to be one of those under-appreciated desserts, but I just love it.
Any time I can indulge in flavors similar to carrot cake but without the dreaded chore of eroding my kitchen sponge (or my fingertips) because I need to clean shredded carrot fragments from my box grater, I am happy.
I really like cheesecake, too, but sometimes it gets a little monotonous.
Traditional cheesecake filling and graham cracker crust is lovely and all, but after a few bites I’m usually looking around to see what’s next.
It doesn’t tend to hold my attention, but these sure did. Probably because they’re like having two desserts in one; cheesecake and cake.
These bars also capitalize on my love of frosting. A little cake with my frosting. You can relate, right?
Nothing pains me more than seeing a great piece of cake with a skimpy layer of frosting on it.
Nothing skimpy about the cream cheese layer here.
These bars turned out to be:
part cheese cake
part cream cheese frosting
part carrot cake flavors
part spice cake
Chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and coconut are baked in between the cake and cream cheese layers, adding some texture to the smoothness and breaking up anything resembling cheesecake monotony.
These disappeared rather quickly from around these parts. Shocking.
Coconut Spice Cheesecake Bars
Makes 24 bars
1 box spice cake mix
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract + 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon water, optional if necessary
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut flakes
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup butterscotch chips (or white chocolate chips or peanut butter chips)
1/2 cup raisins, optional
1 can (14-ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup cream cheese, softened (I used whipped cream cheese)
Preheat oven to 350F and prepare a 9-by-13 inch pan by lining it with aluminum foil and then spraying it with cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, butter, egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla and mix. The batter will be extremely thick and will be difficult to combine, but keep stirring or use your fingers and knead it together, adding the water if necessary. Press the dough it into the prepared pan. It will be tacky, sticky, and a bit tricky to work with, but keep pressing, spreading, and finessing it. Sprinkle the coconut evenly over the dough, then sprinkle the chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and optional raisins evenly over the dough.
In a mixing bowl (the same one from the cake mix is fine), combine the sweetened condensed milk, cream cheese, 1 teaspoon vanilla and stir until well combined, and pour mixture evenly over dough, using a spatula to even it if necessary. Bake for 28 to 31 minutes, or until edges of bars begin to brown and pull away slightly from the sides of the pan, taking care not to overbake. Note that the middle will not seem very well set and will be jiggly upon removing from oven and that is okay, you want to keep these gooey. They will continue to set up more after they have cooled. Allow bars to cool well before slicing and serving. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze for up to three months.
To keep gluten free use a gluten free cake mix, and take care all ingredients meet your dietary requirements and needs.
The bars come together very easily with a boxed spice cake mix, an egg, and a stick of butter. Make the dough, press it into a pan.
Sprinkle with baking chips and coconut. These don’t have a particularly strong coconut flavor, and you could omit it if you don’t like coconut, but since I always have a bag on hand and open, a little sprinkle never hurts.
Flood with a sweetened condensed milk and cream cheese mixture.
If you like carrot cake, and want a no-bake, vegan, gluten-free option, try Oatmeal Raisin Carrot Cake Bites
Pumpkin Spice Donut Holes (no-bake, vegan, GF) play on similar flavors
Related cake bar recipes:
Do you like spice cake or carrot cake?
I love them but find that carrot cake tends to make the rounds in the fall, along with anything and everything pumpkin.
Spice cake never seems to make the rounds which is unfortunate because cake that’s sweet and spicy from ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg is right up my alley. Even in the springtime.
One thing I don’t like is nuts in baked goods and I never put nuts into cookies or cake. On their own, I like nuts and I love nut butter, but nothing ruins a white chocolate cookie faster than a macadamia nut, and nothing ruins a great piece of spice or carrot cake faster than a walnut. Most storebought and bakery cakes have nuts in them. Not a fan.
Do you like cream cheese frosting? Cheesecake?
Cake is just not cake without frosting. And that is especially true with spice or carrot cake. It must have cream cheese frosting, and lots of it.
Cheesecake is one of those things that people tend to love or hate. I do like it, but as I mentioned, a few bites and that’s usually all I want because it gets a little…boring.
I promise, these bars aren’t boring. Two kinds of baking chips, coconut flakes, and two-desserts-in-one: cake + cheesecake. Not boring.