These spiced zucchini carrot bars might be my favorite new dessert. They’re thick, chewy and soft with lots of moistness due to the carrots and zucchini. A half cup of pecans and a layer of cinnamon cream cheese frosting send these bars to the next level.
I know, I know. There are zucchinis and carrots in this recipe but please do not be scared away by them, because cross my heart and hope to die these are some of the best bars I’ve ever made. They’re so good that I had a moment of: If I were to open a little bakery tomorrow, I would want to be known for these bars. (I’m embarrassed to admit that thought out loud.)
These bars are somewhere between a cake and cookie bar. They are stuffed full of cinnamon, nutmeg, oats and pecans. They’re thick and soft. They’re very moist because the zucchini and carrots add moisture and help retain that moisture for days after they’ve been baked.
Don’t let the long list of ingredients scare you. They’re all very basic ingredients that you should have in your cupboard.
So how did this idea come around? Oh, the typical way. I had a zucchini and a carrot in my fridge and a hankering for thick, spiced bars (Just wait until pumpkin season rolls around…). I envisioned a cookie bar that was thicker and slightly cakier than a cookie. I wanted these bars to dance the line of cake and cookie.
I started with my soft sugar cookie base. However, in order to yield that thick, cakier cookie bar, I had to make a few adjustments. First, I used a bit of brown sugar instead of all granulated sugar. Brown sugar makes things extra moist and adds a depth of flavor that I love (but simply can’t be present in a classic sugar cookie.)
To achieve that cakier texture, I added a half cup of flour. The more flour a cookie has, the cakier and thicker it becomes. A little extra flour would take these from distinctly cookie to something a bit closer to cake. I also added some old fashioned oats because oats, that’s why. (That was my actual reasoning but they also added to the chewiness.)
It’s quick and easy to put these together. They’re basically a cookie with the addition of zucchini and carrot. I used about one large carrot (like the kind you would feed to a horse) and grated it up then chopped it some more. Then, I used about a third of a zucchini. I was shocked at how much zucchini and carrot can come from such a little amount.
What makes these bars extraordinary is the pecans and cream cheese frosting. I’m in the camp of “avoid nuts in desserts if possible” but lately I’ve been edging closer towards nuttier territory and I’ve started to genuinely enjoy the flavor that nuts add to baked goods. Add the nuts, if you have any! Add walnuts or pecans! Just add some nuts. You’ll love the burst of flavor you get in every bite.
And the cinnamon cream cheese frosting? An absolute must. Especially with lots and lots of cinnamon dumped in.
A list of tips for you!:
- Grate up the carrot and zucchini and then chop it into finer pieces.
- Please, do yourself a favor and add the nuts. Be it walnuts, pecans or what have you in your cupboard. You won’t regret it.
- I recommend using my favorite method of making a non-stick layer by “sugaring” the pan. You spray a bunch of Pam all over the pan and then put about a fourth cup of sugar into the pan. Then over a sink, you rotate the pan around until the sugar has stuck to the Pam and then you dump the remaining left over.
- For the bars:
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons milk
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup old fashioned oats
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 3/4 cups shredded zucchini
- 3/4 cups shredded carrot
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts etc.), optional
- For the frosting:
- 4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1-2 teaspoons cinnamon
- dash of nutmeg
- For the bar:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9 x 13 pan with Pam and then use a 1/4 cup of sugar to evenly coat the Pam.
- In a bowl, using a stand mixer or a hand mixer, cream together the butter and the sugars.
- Add the egg and milk. Mix until incorporated.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and old fashioned oats.
- Slowly add the flour mixture to the egg/sugar mixture. It will be extremely crumbly. Stop mixing when they’re just incorporated. It doesn’t have to be perfectly mixed.
- Add the zucchini, carrot and nuts, if you’re using them. Mix until fully and evenly incorporated. The mixture will still be crumbly, so press together with your hands.
- Press into the prepared pan. The dough will stick together quite nicely when you’re pressing it into the pan.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges are slightly browned.
- Once baked, let the cookies cool.
- For the frosting:
- Cream together the butter and cream cheese. Add the powdered sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cream for until fluffy. Add more cinnamon or spices or powdered sugar until to desired thickness.
- Evenly spread over the cooled bars and sprinkle with pecans.