Are you ready to change your life? If so, great, because I made frosted pecan pie bars.
Pecan pie…on top of a shortbread crust (the bars part)…with buttercream frosting.
[are you breathing?]
Do you see that gooey caramel pecan pie filling? It’s proof that these teeny tiny squares are intensely rich and sticky-sweet.
I found the inspiration for this recipe deep within the pages of My Nepenthe, a new and beautifully-photographed book of recipes from the famous Nepenthe restaurant in Big Sur, California. In the book, these frosted pecan pie bars are called “Passion Cookies,” and they were made time and time again for the legendary actor Richard Burton, who frequented the restaurant while filming The Sandpiper with Elizabeth Taylor. He couldn’t get enough of them and I completely understand. They’re irresistible.
One bite through the three melting layers and I was a smiling fool. They’re extravagant, luxurious, over the top in decadence. All the flavors of toasted pecan and deep dark caramel and coconut and and…what’s that thing that makes the world continue to spin around on its axis? Right, butter.
Bake them for the holidays; bring them to a party; package them up in cookie sampler gifts; have one this afternoon with a mug of tea. Whatever you do, my advice is to cut them small. Like a rich chocolate truffle, they’re intense enough that two perfect bites will do you just fine.
How to Make this Frosted Pecan Pie Bars Recipe:
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Begin by greasing a 9×12″ pan (or 9×13″, which is more standard) with melted butter. You want to really coat the bottom and the sides of the pan well, so that the bars don’t stick after baking.
Make the crust: In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the flour and stir until just combined (the dough will be crumbly). **A note about the recipe: I decided, after baking the bars according to recipe instructions, to add more butter to the crust, because I just didn’t feel the amount called for was enough because my bars *made as directed) turned out very crumbly and this shortbread crust didn’t hold together as well as I think it could with the addition of a few tablespoons more butter. I’ve added more butter to my ingredient list below.
Press the mixture firmly and evenly into the pan. Set it in the oven to bake for 20 minutes, or until it’s just beginning to turn golden.
While the crust is baking, make the filling. In a large bowl, beat the sugar and eggs until well combined.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. **A note about the recipe: I added a bit of salt here, but the recipe called for none. As a rule, I add salt to my baked goods because it tends to heighten the sweetness of things, and really round out flavors well. You can omit it if you’d like.
Add the flour mixture and beat until just combined.
Stir in the shredded coconut and pecans. **A note about the recipe: I used sweetened coconut flakes, rather than unsweetened as the recipe called for, because I never have unsweetened on hand, and because I absolutely adore the sweetened variety.
Now pull your crust out of the oven. It should be a very faint golden brown. Pour the pecan-coconut filling over the top of the warm crust and bake the whole thing for another 20 minutes.
While the bars cool in the pan set on top of a wire rack, make the frosting. Beat the butter for a few seconds, just until creamy. Then add the sugar and the vanilla and beat for about 2 minutes on medium-high, until the mixture is fluffy and light.
Now spread the frosting evenly over the top of the cooled bars. I suggest you tent the bars with aluminum foil and refrigerate them for about 20 minutes before cutting, so that the frosting will firm up a bit and be easier to neatly slice.