Sunshine Dream Bars

In honor of Martin Luther King Day, today’s recipe is Dream Bars – bar cookies traditionally made with a shortbread crust and a topping of brown sugar, coconut, eggs and nuts. These “Sunshine Dream Bars” are a bit different. Instead of coconut, they have a filling made with cream cheese, lemon and pecans. The end result is a cross between lemon bars, cheesecake and pecan pie.  What’s not to love?

The original version makes a 13×9 inch pan, but I scaled it down to fit an 8 inch square pan.

Sunshine Dream Bars

Sunshine Dream Bars (Based on a Pillsbury recipe from l963)

2 tablespoon butter, softened
1 ounce cream cheese, softened
2 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/2 cup all purpose flour

3 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Nut Topping:
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (toasted if possible)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 inch square metal pan with non-stick foil or parchment paper.

In a medium size mixing bowl, beat the butter, cream cheese and sugar until creamy. Stir in the lemon peel, then add the flour and stir just until mixed. Press the mixture into bottom of lined pan. It will seem impossible, but if you use wet hands, you can do it. The crust is supposed to be thin. Bake for 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until soft. Add the egg and beat just until it is blended in. Stir in the lemon peel and lemon juice. Pour this mixture over the baked crust.

Prepare topping. Combine flour, baking powder and salt and stir thoroughly. Stir in sugar, egg and vanilla. When well mixed stir in 1/3 cup of the nuts. Spoon topping over filling and sprinkle the remaining nuts on top. Bake for 20 minutes or until set (top will be golden brown).

Let cool completely, then lift from pan and cut into 16 bars

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  1. Bill Root says

    Well, I don’t want to rain on your parade…but I cannot tolerate cream cheese in anything except, perhaps, a fresh bagel. Yeah, I know, I must be out of my mind…but cream cheese in cake or cookies just doesn’t work for me…

  2. says

    Therese. Agreed!

    Rachel, I’ll save you a few. I think these will age well.

    Anj, I’m glad you like the photo. I’m learning to take better macros.

    JEP, you can have Bill’s portion.

    Bill, it rained all day so I couldn’t have had a parade anyway. Hardy, har, har. Just kidding. I guess you are a cream cheese purist. I’m kind of the opposite, as I only like it mixed with sugar. Luckily, my daughter and husband are more like you and prefer it spread on a bagel.

  3. Jessica says

    So creative! Lemon is a tricky flavor to experiment with, but I bet in this case the cream cheese does a lot to soften the lemon’s acidity.

    Keep on dreaming! And thanks, by the way, for adding me to your blogroll!

  4. Debbi says

    I just want to double check, is it really only 3 oz. of cream cheese in the filling? These look delicious.

  5. says

    Debbi, that is correct. If you make a 13×9 inch pan, you’d use 6 oz. For an 8 inch square pan, you only need 3 oz.

  6. Nikki says

    I made these last night, They were good!

    Just an FYI, You didn’t add the egg and the vanilla into the ‘topping’ written instructions.

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