Butterscotch Chocolate Meringue Bars

Butterscotch Chocolate Meringue Bars by @javelinwarrior


Fear Conquered: Mrs. Cedarholm Bars

“I thought I’d make Mrs. Cedarholm Bars for the Maundy Thursday dinner,” my mom tells my dad. I’m no more than 8 years old and busy doing whatever 8 year olds do while parents plan for grown-up events - but at the mention of the bars, my attention is immediately glued to mom. Mrs. Cedarholm Bars.

My dad is less interested. He’s busy preparing the pressure cooker to soften up soybeans for dinner. Soybean tuna surprise - with tomatoes. “Sounds fine,” Dad says curtly, pouring a heaping cup of dry beans into the cooker. “But if you’re using the oven, I’ll need it in an hour.” To bake the soybean tuna surprise. With tomatoes.

I try to inconspicuously hang about, covertly checking on my mom’s progress while actively pushing thoughts of a soybean dinner out of my head. I catch a glimpse of mom separating eggs, then a few moments later, pressing dough out to the corners of her lasagna pan. I hear the whine of the hand mixer and somehow egg whites have magically transformed into meringue. And then meringue changes into sugary, caramel swirls. Nuts arrive from somewhere and then before I can even spy a peek at the bars, they’re in the oven, concealed behind dark glass.

Sugar Beaten into Egg Whites

The scent of toasted meringue and sugar lures me back into the kitchen where mom is flipping the bars out of the pan onto a wire rack. I sneak a crumb of toasted meringue and mom gives me a stern frown. “These are for church,” she says. “You’ll have to wait until then if you want one.”

My 8 year old mind is tugged between two important questions and it’s only the intoxicating aroma of freshly baked bars that convinces me not to ask what “Maundy” means and instead ask, “Why are these called Mrs. Cedarwood Bars?”

“It’s Mrs. Cedarholm,” my mom corrects, nudging me a safe distance away from the cooling bars. “She was a sweet lady from one of the first churches your dad served at and she used to make these bars.” She smiles at the memory and pulls out the handwritten recipe card. “She called them Caramel Squares.”

Mrs. Cedarholm Bars is a far more mystical and magical name than plain old Caramel Squares. At least to an 8 year old. And to an 8 year old, the creator of such rare and special bars deserves appropriate attribution whenever such magic is crafted. It was the promise of Mrs. Cedarholm’s bars for Maundy Thursday that got me through soybean tuna surprise. And a lot of other culinary “surprises” my dad concocted over the years.

Butterscotch Chocolate Meringue Bars by @javelinwarrior

Mom has since given me a copy of the recipe, but like so many magical memories from childhood, the flavor and texture of today doesn’t quite live up to the pedestal of the past. So I have gently tucked Mrs. Cedarholm’s recipe in the files and crafted a new bar inspired by the original. Mrs. Cedarholm used “oleo” (which I think is margarine) - I use butter. She used granulated sugar - I rebelled with brown. She used two eggs, I think three work better. And I added vanilla to the meringue topping and ditched the cream of tartar.

But where I really went astray is the bourbon and chocolate. But if you love that butterscotch flavor, bourbon is a must. And personally, I just think these bars are too sweet without the dark chocolate. So I mixed the nuts into the bars and added a layer of chocolate between the bar base and the meringue.

Butterscotch Chocolate Meringue Bars by @javelinwarrior

Yeah. So these aren’t really Mrs. Cedarholm Bars. To avoid besmirching her good name, I’ve renamed them. Which also allows me to preserve the untainted childhood memory from so many Maundy Thursdays past. (Oh, and just in case you’re curious, I looked it up - Maundy is derived from the Latin word for “command”, as in, “Love one another.”)


Photo Tutorial

12 Tablespoons of Butter
12 Tablespoons unsalted butter.

Melted Butter in Large Bowl
Melt the butter.

Brown Sugar Added to Melted Butter
Add 3/4 cup brown sugar.

Egg Yolks Added to Batter, Egg White Reserved
Separate 3 large eggs; add the egg yolks to the butter and sugar and reserve the egg whites in a clean bowl.

Egg Yolks, Butter and Sugar Combined
Beat the egg yolks, butter and sugar together until smooth and silky.

Vanilla and Bourbon Added to Batter
Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 2 teaspoons bourbon.

Flour and Baking Power in Sifter
Sift together 1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour and 1 teaspoon baking powder.

Chopped Pecans
Chop 1/3 cup pecans.

Flour and Pecans Added to Dough
Fold the flour, leaveners and nuts into the wet ingredients.

Butterscotch Bar Dough
Mix until well combined.

Foil-Lined 10x12 Baking Dish
Line a 9x13 (or 10x12) inch baking dish with foil.

Bar Dough Pressed into Foil-Lined Pan
Press the bar dough evenly over the bottom of the foil lined baking dish.

Chopped Dark Chocolate
Finely chop 3.5 ounces dark chocolate.

Chocolate Sprikled Over Bar Dough
Sprinkle the chocolate over the bar dough.

Whipped Egg Whites
Beat the reserved egg whites until they form stiff peaks.

Brown Sugar Added to Egg Whites
Add the reserved brown sugar in 2 parts, beating thoroughly between each addition.

Sugar Beaten into Egg Whites
Continue beating egg whites until smooth.

Meringue Dolloped Over Bars
Dollop the meringue topping over the chocolate.

Meringue Spread in Even Layer
Spread the meringue evenly to coat the bars.

Baked Butterscotch Chocolate Meringue Bars
Bake the bars for 35 minutes at 325F. Then let the bars cool in the pan for 15 minutes.

Bars Cooling Upside Down
Turn out the bars onto a wire rack and let cool upside-down for 30 minutes.

Butterscotch Chocolate Meringue Bars Cooling
Remove the foil and flip the bars upright and let cool completely.

Butterscotch Chocolate Meringue Bars by @javelinwarrior
Cut the bars into squares.

Butterscotch Chocolate Meringue Bars by @javelinwarrior
Store the bars in an airtight container for up to 3 days.


Butterscotch Chocolate Meringue Bars

    by Javelin Warrior
     Prep Time: 45 min
     Cook Time: 35 min

Ingredients (20 bars)
    Butterscotch Bars
    • 12 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    • 3/4 cup (180 grams) light brown sugar, packed
    • 3 large egg yolks, at room temperature (egg whites reserved)
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 2 teaspoons bourbon
    • 1 1/2 cups (215 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/3 cup (40 grams) chopped pecans
    • 3 1/2 ounces dark chocolate (70% cocoa), chopped
    Meringue Topping
    • 3 large egg whites (reserved from bars), at room temperature
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 cup (240 grams) light brown sugar, packed
    1. Preheat the oven to 325℉ and line a 9x13 (or 10x12) inch baking pan with foil
    2. Stir the melted butter and sugar together, then add the egg yolks and beat the mixture until smooth; add the salt, vanilla and bourbon and mix thoroughly
    3. Sift the flour and baking powder into the wet ingredients and add the pecans; fold the dry and wet ingredients together until thoroughly combined
    4. Evenly spread the dough across the bottom of the foil-lined pan and sprinkle with the chopped chocolate
    5. For the caramel topping: In a clean bowl, whip the reserved egg whites on high-speed until they form stiff peaks; add the brown sugar to the meringue in two parts, beating thoroughly between each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract
    6. Spread the topping evenly over the dough, then bake the bars for 35 minutes until a toothpick comes out mostly clean
    7. Let the bars cool 15 minutes, then turn the bars out onto a wire rack and let cool upside down for 30 minutes; remove the foil and flip the bars upright so the meringue is face up, then cool completely
    8. Cut the bars into squares and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days
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    Hungry for Tips?
    • It may seem counter-intuitive to turn these bars upside down, essentially flattening the puffed meringue topping. But it’s a crucial step in the final texture of these bars. The easiest method of flipping the bars that I have found is to first lift the bars out of the pan using the foil and place them on a wire rack. Place a second wire rack on top of the bars - and flip.

      Bars Cooling Upside Down
    • Lining the pan with foil is the easiest way to ensure you will be able to easily remove the baked bars. If you’re using a non-stick pan sprayed with Baker’s Joy, you can likely skip the foil.

      Foil-Lined 10x12 Baking Dish
    • If you don’t like nuts, leave them out. The bars will be still be delicious. You can also select your favorite nut to replace the pecans - such as walnuts, pistachios or even pine nuts.

      Chopped Pecans
    • Do not over bake these bars. They will continue to “bake” as they begin to cool, so check the bars early and pull them out of the oven as soon as a toothpick comes out mostly clean. I use a ceramic baking dish, but if you’re using metal, you will likely need to reduce the bake time by 10 minutes or so.

      Baked Butterscotch Chocolate Meringue Bars

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    1. oh my good lord these are breathtakingly gorgeous! I want one now!

    2. Mmmm, these sound just perfect. I can't practically taste them right now!

    3. JW, these look so good, I want to rush down to the kitchen immediately and get baking. Too busy to do it now, but I have bookmarked. Fabulous sounding recipe.

    4. Lovely looking bars. And a great story -- thanks.

    5. I'm so glad you enjoyed, Dom - they're definitely hard to resist once they're baked and hanging about the kitchen ;)

    6. Thank you for the kind words, Laura. They're one of my most favorite bars - I think it's the texture of the toasted meringue topping....

    7. I'm so glad these appeal to you, Choclette - I think they're pretty easy to make, even the meringue bit. If you get a chance to try, let me know what you think...

    8. Thanks so much, John, and I'm so glad you enjoyed :)

    9. Exquisite! I am sharing this in my Easter round up on the blog! Hope you don't mind xo

    10. I'm so glad you enjoyed, Liz, and thanks so much for sharing! I'm honored and happy to share...

    11. Betsy @ Desserts RequiredApril 16, 2014 at 11:19 PM

      These are fabulous. I can't wait because in 6 days, when Passover ends, I look forward to making your Butterscotch Chocolate Meringue Bars!

      Thanks, also, for the definition of Maundy. Always good to learn something new.

    12. I'm so glad you enjoyed, Betsy, and these are one of my favorite bars. The meringue topping gives it something special, I think. And happy to share the definition for Maundy - maybe now next year I'll remember ;)

    13. Kayle (The Cooking Actress)April 17, 2014 at 6:50 PM

      aw I loved reading about little 8 year old you! and I think you made some AMAZING changes! so perfect!

    14. I'm so glad you enjoyed , Kayle. I vividly remembering having the conversation about who this Mrs. Cederholm was and trying to learn all I could about here. Unfortunately, these bars are about all that remain...

    15. So..... You're telling me that these last for 3 days? I don't think so, at least, not in my house!


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