Fruitcake Bar Recipe (Friendship Bars)

fruitcake bars

Maybe this happens to you. Maybe it doesn’t.

You’re invited to a party and as a nice gesture, you bring something along. Being a baker you decide, naturally, to bake something.

So you get to the party, you’re wining and dining, loosening up and enjoying yourself. But when people find out you’ve brought a dessert, they all of the sudden get very interested in you, and what you’ve brought, what’s it called, how you’ve made it, what’s in it, what’s the recipe, etc..etc…

The most difficult was when I brought a Bûche de Noël to a Christmas party, which is a fairly complicated affair involving spongecake, chocolate buttercream, soaking syrup, and lots of crackly meringue mushrooms for decoration. Some nutty woman followed me around all night with a pen and note pad, prodding me for recipe details and I spent the whole night trying to avoid her.

But let’s say you’ve been working on recipes all day, or adding recipes to your blog. So you go to a party and maybe you’d rather just not talk about what you’ve made: After all, don’t they know you have a food blog and a couple of cookbooks where they can get all that information?

(And no, I don’t have a recipe for Bûche de Noël. But thanks for asking…)

Bakers Edge Pan

So my technique for throwing ‘em off the scent is to make up names for things I’ve baked that mean nothing, something innocuous that no one can possibly question what’s inside it. I’ve brought to parties Chocolate Surprise Cake, Mystery Spice Cake and Baked Summertime Fruit Dessert. But you need to be careful since if you pick the wrong name, something like Chocolate Emergency Cake, you’ll have to explain the story behind the moniker ‘emergency’.
And we can’t have that, can we?

Then there’s Friendship Bars, which is the name I often give these Fruitcake Bars.


This recipe is a riff from Alice Medrich’s book Pure Dessert.

These Date and Walnut Bars hold special appeal to me and they don’t have any icky green cherries or other oddities in there. Instead they’re packed with lots of healthy dried fruits and nuts, and are one of those great desserts to make when you don’t feel like going shopping, since you’re likely to have these ingredients on hand. There’s no butter either, so they keep for quite some time and could easily to filed under ‘low-fat’ recipes, so you don’t have to feel bad when you polish off the whole pan in one afternoon.

Dried Armenian Peaches

Recently I’ve been taken by these tiny dried Armenian peaches I found at my friendly Arab market since it’s impossible to find tart dried California apricots here. A few friends, perhaps not so in-the-spirit-of-friendship, nicknamed them Chernobyl peaches. Perhaps I’m just naive, but I’ve been snacking on them a lot lately and haven’t noticed any ill effects—so I’m going to keep using them. But if I no longer feel the need for a nightlight in the dark or I start sprouting a third arm, I’ll stop. Probably.

Come to think of it, a third arm could definitely come in handy sometimes. Like it might be good at warding off all those people swarming around, trying to get the recipe out of you.

fruitcake bars

Fruitcake Bars
About 16 bars

Adapted from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich

Feel free to use any friendly combination of dried fruits that strikes your fancy. The dates really do make the recipe, but I’ve tossed in a scoop of dried sour cherries or cranberries as well with great results. Whatever you do, stick with the quantities below and no one will get hurt.

For all the folks that absolutely feel they have to change things (and you know who you are…) a handful of candied ginger, a few swipes of freshly-grated citrus zest, or some crushed anise seeds might be welcome. For those of you who are gluten-free, I imagine you could substitute another starch for the flour, but otherwise I recommend sticking pretty close to the recipe, since these Fruitcake Bars are perfect just as they are.

  • 6 tablespoons (50 g) flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons (90 g) packed, light or dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups walnuts, almonds, or pecans (200 g), toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1½ cups (170 g) dates, pitted and quartered
  • 1 cup (170 g) dried apricot halves, preferably from California, snipped in half
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Line an 8-inch (20 cm) square pan across the bottom and up the sides with two sheets of aluminum foil, making a big criss-cross with the sides overhanging.

2. Preheat the oven to 325F (160C) and position the rack in the center of the oven.

3. In a large bowl, toss together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the brown sugar, walnuts, dates, and apricots. Use your fingers to mix the fruit, separate any pieces sticking together.

4. Beat the egg and vanilla in a small bowl, then mix it with the fruit and nut mixture until everything’s coated with the batter. Spread the mixture in the baking pan and press gently to even it out.

5. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the top of the bars are golden brown and has pulled away just-slightly from the sides of the pan. Cool the bars in the pan, then lift out.

6. To cut the cooled bars, use a heavy sharp knife, such as a bread knife, for best results in getting clean slices.

Storage: The bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Note: I used my Baker’s Edge pan, which I’ve fallen head-over-heels for. Because the pan is larger than the 8-inch pan the recipe calls for, you should double the recipe if using one. And instead of driving yourself nuts trying to line this wacky pan with foil, grease the pan lightly with nonstick spray instead.

39 comments

  • I’m sure that lots of people chase you around at parties David. That’s what you get for bringing the sweet stuff. I’m really happy for this recipe. The coming Spring means that my husband will be on 50 mile bike rides several times a week, so I’ll need to make him healthy treats to feed his perpetual hunger. Thanks.

  • Thanks for the recipe, David. I can use up all the dried fruit in my cupboard, while entertaining myself by imagining how you’re being chased by women who are keen on your recipes:)

  • I think I may be the only foodie that doesn’t understand the love for the baker’s edge pan. It is an intriguing idea, now someone needs to come up with an edgeless brownie pan already :)

    As for the recipe leeches, I’m going to have to try your technique in the future :)

  • Look delicious! Thanks!

    However, you may want to fix your “bouche”. Buche de Noel is the Christmas log; Bouche de Noel is Christmas Mouth! :OD (I couldn’t get the accents to work for some reason, but there should be a circonflexe on the U in Buche and a trema on the E in Noel. And an accent aigu on the e in trema! And a circonflexe on the first E in my name–maybe it’s because I’m a Mac-er?)

  • Mary: He’ll certainly appreciate these bars, since they’re deliciously packed with nuts and lots and lots of dried fruits (although the people behind him might not be so appreciative…)

    Pille: Yes, this is a great recipe for using up odds & ends…enjoy!

    Jef: I wasn’t sure I’d like the Baker’s Edge pan when they sent it to me, thinking it was just another gimmick. But I’ve come to really like it. Especially for those of us that love crusty edges.

    La Rêveuse: Thanks and I corrected you too!

    All accents, circumflexes, and symbols have to be in HTML (and bold and italiced text too, then converted to ASCII) hence the infrequent errors I make on the site, not to mention my mangled French, which happens too frequently for me, too.

    You can find a good guide here for future reference. It’s not a Mac thing, since I’m on a Mac too.

  • Hmmm… I’m a Blogger blogger, and they work on blogger. (bloggerbloggerblogger) Another new skill to learn. Sigh.

    Thanks! :)

  • I bet this recipe is a winner, especially with a name like this!

  • I wonder if it’s because of the blog and books that the recipe leeches follow you at parties. The possibility of getting “off-the-record” recipes may be much like the thrill of going to a restaurant and getting dishes that aren’t on the menu. Thanks for supplying the recipe. Those bars sound awesome–I’m going to be giving them a try (particularly as my own efforts to make lower-fat and lower-sugar treats with healthful ingredients invariably produce what my husband calls “bulletproof cookies”).

  • Dude I simply can’t STAND when people don’t use circumflex over the U when correcting other’s French!

    Would that be Alice of Alice’s Restaurant?

    When people follow me with note pads I always get nervous, but when people politely ask I give the recipe. Even when it’s long. “Last March I found some cabbage root and simmered it briefly it in a reduced pintade neck stock with sliced new garlic, which was actually dipped into the stock for 7 minutes, precisely. Then after letting it sit for three weeks on the counter, skimming as necessary, I added a 6 month old mother on a lark and used the hand blender to create an emulsion, which I dried to a powder and sprinkled into the duck foot stock that eventually was incorporated into the meurette sauce in which I simmered, briefly, ris de veau. That sauce was then used as a base for the soup that you are tasting tonight.” I get nervous because when I get put on the spot sometimes I forget an ingedient or don’t explain in full enough for people to understand. I really prefer that people see my recipe in writing, so sometimes I just say I’ll blog it.

  • When I made marshmallows for Valentine’s Day and took a box of them to school with me, I got asked like a zillion-trillon times how it’s really possible to make these at home. I finally managed to explain it in only some words (which was a master development) and decided to just add the recipe to my blog. That’s the feeling of surrender:D

  • The edgeless pan is exceedingly easy to implement. All you need to do is to make sure the place where the right edge would’ve been connects to the place where the left edge would’ve been – and the same is true with top / bottom edges. The topological body that satisfies this requirement (or, rather, the simplest body – there’s more than one, generally speaking, even if we stick to the old boring three dimensional topology) is a sphere. So imagine this metallic round thing that you slather all around with batter, and then, I guess, suspend in artificial zero gravity and rotate, so your batter wouldn’t drip down from it (as long as you don’t rotate it too fast, because the centrifugal force would take over at a certain speed and you’ll get Brownie Splatters all over the inside of your expensive zero-gravity oven). Oh, also you will need a source of heat in the middle of this sphere, lest your batter will get baked on top and stay raw inside. Since you can’t have any wires leading into this sphere (if you do, there will be an edge where the wire connects to the sphere!), the elementary solution is a small nuclear micropile inside this pan.

    See, easy. Less effort than, um, converting Celsius into Fahrenheit. Piece’a’cake.

  • Bellaviva.com is a California business that sells wonderful dried fruits. I especially like the dried pears diced in oatmeal nut cookies in place of raisins. Bellaviva also sells dried white peaches, which I’ve never found anywhere else. I don’t mean to sound like an advertisement, but they have great stuff that would be especially good in the Friendship Bars.

  • Will you be my friendship bar?

  • I love these bars. I made them for Christmas once and called them “fruitcake bars.” Horrible name…I had to convince my brother that they were nothing like those prepackaged bricks. Once people tried them, they couldn’t stop though.

  • These look like just the sort of cookies I love. And since I’m getting ready to soak a ton of dried fruit in rum and port for making Black Cake at Christmas, this is the perfect thing to make with the extra odd bits of fruit.

    David, I think people are following you around at parties because you’re a pastry guy. A famous pastry guy. A famous foreign pastry guy. Either that or they’re ogling your butt!

  • Baked these up this morning. And just as you predicted, they were so good that after scarfing down a quarter of the pan, my roommate immediately began grilling me for the recipe.

  • David, I love you again! These look fabulous, and they can easily be gluten-free. I’d suggest sorghum flour or sweet rice flour for their properties here. Yippee! Another David recipe to try.

  • I just made these, and they are so very tasty. Also, my house smells wonderful. I was having chilli for dinner, so I managed not to scarf down the whole batch, and I look forward to having them as a tea-time sanck throughout the week. It’s important to have snacks with tea, I’ve found. Thank you!

  • Thanks for this recipe. I tried it over the weekend for my young children and it was quite the hit. They preferred the bars still warm from the oven, but what few made it to the next day were just as good. I enjoyed having a snack that was healthy, tasty and didn’t involve copious amounts of white sugar and corn syrup. Thanks again.

  • Am so glad you’re all enjoying the recipe. It’s one of my absolute favorites. It’s simple to make, no fuss and so zany ingredients, and they’re good for you. What more could you want?

    If you want more, Alice Medrich’s books are uniformily excellent and I’m a big fan of her Vermouth and Sweet Potato Cake and Buttermilk Pound Cake in her book Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Baking.

  • David, I came across your recipe for friendship bars on topgrubs.com on Friday and tried your recipe yesterday and I have to tell you how incredible they turned out. And you are dead on about the bars not lasting too long, the family cleaned me out, next time I’m doubling the recipe for sure

  • Thank you for sharing that fantastic recipe. Those who wouldn’t ordinarily look at dried fruit, let alone eat it, ate a quarter of the batch, and didn’t want to give away any to “friends”!

  • please tell me which arab market in paris you found these apricots. I do tend to stock up regularly on my armenian and lebanese staples at a market in alfortville, but that’s too far. and some of the other smaller international markets i’ve found in la chapelle and belleville don’t have much of a selection.

    I shop at Sabah, which has a few branches near the marche d’Aligre. It’s great! -dl

  • I love this recipe… i have also substituted peach schnapps and grand marinier for the vanilla – adds a fruity flavor. So is that bad that i consider liquor a fruit in my diet? ;o)

    Another treat – chopped a few yogurt covered pretzels for a little crunch! YUM.

  • David, I finally got the chance to make these today (initially I’d planned on making your recipe for the chocolate biscotti), THESE ARE PHENOMENAL! It is a good thing that I was short on supplies and I could ONLY make half a batch; I’ve eaten seven of them.

    I opted to add some roasted (unsalted) pumpkin seeds along with the toasted almonds. I also had some candied orange peel that I’d made recently (OMG!). The pantry blessed me with dates, figs and currants as my fruits. I added a tablespoon of crushed anise seeds too.

    These are my new favorite cookie and something that I will add to my handwritten recipe file. It is a good thing that these are healthy…or is that, healthful? Who gives a flip … as long as there’s a plate of them in front of me! lol. Don’t tell anyone, but I’m considering a drizzle of bittersweet chocolate on the next batch. :)

  • It’s 95 degrees and 95 % humidity here in central Illinois today, so dates and walnuts seem too wintry. I used Brazil nuts, macadamias and pecans, apricots and dried pineapple instead. Oh, and a sprinkling of Hawaiian (sp?) red salt over the top to get that salty sweet taste. Well…Aloha baby! These are special. I’ll bet they freeze well too. Thank you David.

  • It’s 95 degrees and 95 % humidity here in central Illinois today, so dates and walnuts seem too wintry. I used Brazil nuts, macadamias and pecans, apricots and dried pineapple instead. Oh, and a sprinkling of Hawaiian (sp?) red salt over the top to get that salty sweet taste. Well…Aloha baby! These are special. I’ll bet they freeze well too. Thank you David.

  • It’s 95 degrees and 95 % humidity here in central Illinois today, so dates and walnuts seem too wintry. I used Brazil nuts, macadamias and pecans, apricots and dried pineapple instead. Oh, and a sprinkling of Hawaiian (sp?) red salt over the top to get that salty sweet taste. Well…Aloha baby! These are special. I’ll bet they freeze well too. Thank you David.

  • I’m always on the lookout for lower fat energy bar type things, with heaps of fruit and nuts. These look like they fit the bill! Mmm crushed anise sounds good. Oh no the thought of walnuts + apricots + anise is making me drool.

  • Score. I know I am two years late here, but these bars are so simple and so good. I also had a bag of raisins, cranberries, cherries, pistachios and almonds, so I added them to the ingredients above. The Calif. apricots over the Med. ones were spot on. The only problem was that I couldn’t quite wait until they cooled all the way to try to start cutting and eating. I’ve only recently happened upon your blog, but I’ve been recommending it to people I know left and right.

  • David they look fantastic and I love that pan! I enjoy reading your blogs so much-being at a party with you would be such a blast. You made me laugh out loud in the morning when I check twitter before work. Thank you for all your tweets and blogs…..

  • I’ve been looking for a recipe for a fruitcake-lover who is on a restricted low-fat low-cholesterol diet. I’m not normally one of those people who want to change the recipe, but am curious if there’s a way to eliminate the egg yolk and achieve similar results. I guess using two egg whites wouldn’t work, or would it? Suggestions?

  • I went the whole post reading the name of these as Friendship Bars and I was confused as to why you wouldn’t have to explain the moniker for them. This is why I should be in bed at 12:20am instead of catching up on your blog posts but I just can’t help myself. Will be making these and Nigella Lawson’s granola very soon to send in a care package, thanks for the constant inspiration.

  • Hi Dawn: Since the recipe only has one egg yolk (5 grams of fat) for the entire cake, that’s a rather slight amount per serving. But if you do try it with 2 egg whites, let me know as I’d be interested to hear if it works. You might want to substitute a dollop of prune puree (or baby food) for the yolk, instead.

  • One nice thing with those little chernobyl peaches, is that, in a few months, you’ll be able to give the recipe to the party people directly from your new telepathic abilities \o/ . On arrête pas le progrès :)

    About the friendship bars, they seem to be the kind of food that do not need ANY storage time at all, but if I may ask, in what kind of conditions would you recommand to keep them for the longest time possible ? (I mean without freezer. Zip loc or tight sealing in foil or ?). My man will probably go to a 10 days long aïkido class and I’d love to bake the bars for him, but he won’t have any cold device to keep them where he stays for that time.

  • Hehe….Im getting strong visuals of you with a greenish light shining from the top of your head and 3 arms waving about at parties as you try to hid behind others trying to escape those intent on extracting recipe information out of you LOL!! Thanx for this stunning looking recipe. I have recently embarked on a weightloss program (Low GI) and these are right up my alley. Im off to raid the cupboard……..

  • I am sorry to hear about the barnacle – woman. This doesn’t happen to us gardeners at indoor dinner parties, but it does happen at outdoor events in the summertime, when guests and even hosts drag me around the gardens quizzing me about scale, thrips and nutrient deficiencies and cultivar names. I imagine that if you are cornered in the kitchen of your own home it’s even worse. Do guests look in your pantry, examine your wine rack, peer into your fridge? Oh the joy. I can only imagine.
    Perhaps a chewy fruitcake bar will prevent unnecessary gabbing? I think I would be too preoccupied with this to do anything else – except perhaps roll my eyes with delight.
    Michaela

  • Ooooohhhhh these look fabulous, just the thing to round out a cookie tray. Love the photo, with the contrast of the blue cutting board (actually it looks like the lid of a plastic storage container except for the knife marks).

  • Hi Everyone: I closed comments for this recipe. Thanks for all your responses. I’ve gave it a second life as Fruitcake Bars in a new post, and you can head over there to leave comments or questions.

    -David