These scrumptious Cherry Kuchen Bars are like a mashup of cherry pie, sweet vanilla pound cake and sugar cookies. The soft and sweet kuchen dough mingles deliciously with ruby-red cherry pie filling and a simple vanilla glaze!
My Favorite Cherry Kuchen Bars
Have you ever eaten kuchen? It’s a German dessert somewhat like an American cobbler, meaning that it’s a cake-like batter, combined with fruit, and baked up into a cross between cake and pie. Custard topping is traditional, but not necessary.
I love a classic cherry kuchen! And I also love these nifty bars, which are a spinoff of traditional cherry kuchen. They’re sweeter, overall, and I top mine with a drizzle of glaze instead of custard. Plus, you don’t need to use any yeast. These are nice, easy cookie bars with a wonderful glossy fruit filling.
Another thing about cherry kuchen bars: they’re perfect for Valentine’s Day! The deep, luscious red cherry filling and vanilla kuchen batter make a beautiful presentation, especially when drizzled with the glaze. I like to serve mine up with a hot cup of coffee.
You’ll notice that this recipe calls for canned cherry pie filling. I suspect that a lot of us have a can of this stuff lurking in our cabinets! I know I usually do! But if you’d like to make your own, that’s totally fine, too.
For the Bars:
- Shortening: You may not use shortening often, but it’s very useful! I like to use half shortening and half butter in this recipe because the shortening keeps the kuchen dough from flattening out too much.
- Butter: You’ll need a stick of butter, or half a cup, for this bake.
- Eggs: Three large eggs add richness to the kuchen dough. Yum.
- Vanilla: For the best flavor, use pure vanilla extract.
- Baking Powder: You’ll need one and a half teaspoons of baking powder.
- Sugar: I use 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar; feel free to substitute raw sugar, monkfruit sweetener, etc. Keep in mind that some sweeteners, even honey and maple syrup, can vary in intensity, so you may need to adjust the amounts.
- Flour: I typically use ordinary all-purpose flour for baking. If you’d like to try a gluten-free all-purpose blend, I think it would work just fine. Using flour substitutes like almond meal or cassava may be trickier, since those aren’t usually a 1:1 substitute for AP flour.
- Cherry Pie Filling: You’ll need a 21 ounce can of cherry pie filling, or roughly the same amount of homemade filling, if you choose to make your own.
For the Icing
- Powdered Sugar: The gold standard for making frosting and icing, about 1 ½ cups of powdered sugar mixed with a couple of spoonfuls of milk will create that creamy drizzle.
- Vanilla Extract: You can omit the vanilla if you wish, but a teaspoon really makes the icing special.
- Milk: You can use any kind of milk that you like, whether non-dairy, whole, skim, etc.
Other Fruit Variations
What about other types of fruit fillings? Honestly, just about any kind will work. Peach kuchen, in fact, is kind of a classic type of kuchen and would make a wonderful variation on this recipe! Also, if you choose to make your own fruit filling, you can really customize it however you want, using anything from rhubarb to strawberry.
How to Make Cherry Kuchen Bars (Cherry Pie Bars)
Making these bars is very simple and fun. It’s a great recipe to make with kiddos, who are naturally drawn to the bright colors of the fruit and soft, tactile dough. Making the icing is also fun and easy!
- Prep Oven & Pan: You’ll want to preheat the oven to 350°F, and grease a 15×10 baking pan. If you’d like, you can also line the pan with parchment paper.
- Start Beating Dough Ingredients: In a large mixing bowl, beat the shortening and butter together for one minute, on medium speed with an electric mixer. Then, beat in the eggs and vanilla until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Finally, add the baking powder, sugar, and salt. Beat together until combined.
- Add Flour: Add the flour one cup at a time, mixing with the electric beater until the dough becomes too thick. Then switch to a wooden spoon and stir in any remaining flour.
- Make & Bake Bottom “Crust:” Set aside 1 ½ cups of the dough, and press the remaining dough into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven.
- Add Pie Filling & Remaining Dough: Spread the cherry pie filling evenly over the baked crust. Then, spoon small amounts of the reserved dough over the top. If you’d like, you can shape these with your hands!
- Finish Baking & Cool: Bake the kuchen bars for 30 minutes longer, or until lightly golden brown. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
- Make Icing and Drizzle Over Bars: While the bars cool, prepare the icing by combining the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and milk in a small bowl. Add the milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired thickness is achieved. Once the bars have cooled, drizzle them with icing, cut, and serve.
Tips for the Best Cherry Bars
This recipe may be new to you, so I’m sharing my best tips for making perfect cherry kuchen bars!
- Don’t Overbeat: Keep in mind that the kuchen dough is wheat-based, so you want to mix it thoroughly, but not so much that it begins to grow tough. The more you mix and stir wheat-based doughs, the more you activate the gluten, which then adds a firm and stretchy texture to the dough. Keep this dough soft, like a sugar cookie, by not over-mixing.
- Adjust the Sweetness: This recipe uses a sweet dough, prepared fruit filling, and a sugar glaze, so if you prefer less-sweet desserts, feel free to adjust the sugar content! You can do this by reducing the amount of sugar in the dough, skipping the glaze, or making your own filling with less sweetener. Or you can do all three!
- Chill Out: These bars are absolutely amazing at room temperature, but they’re also amazing chilled! Just place them in the refrigerator for an hour or so for an intensely juicy, dense, and sweet treat.
How to Store Leftovers
- You can refrigerate these yummy bars by covering the pan with plastic wrap and placing it in the fridge, or by removing each bar and wrapping them individually.
- They’ll keep well in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Can You Freeze Homemade Kuchen Bars?
- Yes, you can! Wrap them well in two layers of plastic wrap, then place them in airtight containers or freezer bags.
- They will keep frozen for several months.
Cherry Kuchen Bars
For the Bars:
For the Icing:
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 to 3 tablespoons whole milk
- Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 15×10 baking pan with a bit of butter. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the shortening and butter for 1 minute on medium speed.
- Add the sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat together until thoroughly combined and mixture is smooth.
- Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Add the flour one cup at a time, mixing with the electric beater until the dough gets thick. Then, switch to a wooden spoon and stir in any remaining flour.
- Reserve 1½ cups of the dough, and press the remaining dough into the prepared baking pan.
- Bake for 12 minutes, then remove from oven.
- Spread the cherry pie filling over the crust, then spoon small amounts of the reserved dough over the top.
- Bake for 25 to 28 minutes longer, or until lightly golden brown.
- Remove from oven and set on a wire rack to cool completely.
- While the bars cool, prepare the icing by combining the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and milk in a small bowl, adding the milk 1 tablespoon at a time until desired thickness is achieved.
- Once bars have completely cooled, drizzle with icing, cut, and serve.
More Dessert Recipes
Want some more sweet treats to snack on? Try these easy recipes!