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Peanut Butter Chocolate Layer Bars

I think many of us have heard of Ann Byrn, better known as “The Cake Mix Doctor.” She’s published multiple cookbooks sharing how to turn a traditional boxed cake mix into something special. Since cake mix is the cornerstone of most of Ann’s recipes it seems only logical that she would create her own brand of cake mix, right? Well, she has and I was recently contacted by a blog reader who is helping Ann on the PR front with an offer to try the new cake mixes.

Typically, I steer clear of boxed/pre-mixed baked because I prefer to make them from scratch and can do without all the preservatives, additives and food coloring that go into them. I agreed to test Ann’s mixes because they are made with only five or six ingredients and have no additives, preservatives or trans fats.

My all-time favorite cake combination when I was growing up was yellow cake with chocolate frosting so clearly that’s the first way I put the cake mix to use.

The cake mix was a breeze to put together. I only had to add butter (love that you add butter and not oil), milk and eggs. The batter produced perfectly shaped cupcakes.

And then I got a bit more creative with the mix and made the Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer Bars from Ann’s website. YUM!

I ate somewhere in the neighborhood of five of these addictive squares of heaven throughout the day on Saturday, including one warmed and topped with ice cream (I highly suggest that). These bars are one of those recipes that you know would be a hit with a crowd and a great thing to take to a party. They’re super simple to put together since you use the boxed mix for the top and bottom layer. You could use any cake mix but of course I recommend The Cake Mix Doctor if you can find it in your area! Also, I halved the recipe and baked it in a square 8×8 pan. I used my food scale to weigh out half of the mix.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Layer Bars
(Recipe source The Cake Mix Doctor)

1 package (18.25 ounces) plain yellow cake mix
1 cup chunky peanut butter
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted
2 large eggs
1 package (12 ounces; 2 cups) semisweet chocolate chips
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preaheat oven to 325 degrees and line a 13×9-inch pan with foil, shiny side down, leaving edges overhanging at end.

For the crust, combine the cake mix, peanut butter, melted butter and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Srape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. The mixture will be thick and crumbly. Reserve 1 1/2 cups for the topping and then transfer the remaining crust mixture to the pan. Using your fingertips, press the crust evenly over the bottom of the pan so that it reaches all sides. Set aside.

For the filling, place the chocolate chips, condensed milk and 2 tablespoons butter in a medium-size heavy saucepan over low heat. Cook until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is well combined, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove the pan from the heat and  gently mix in the coconut and vanilla. Pour the chocolate mixture over the crust and spread it evenly with the rubber spatula. Crumble the reserved crust and scatter it evenly over the chocolate layer.

Place the pan in the oven and bake until the bars are light brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes. Grabbing the sides of the foil, lift out of pan and allow to completely cool. Cut into squares and serve.

Yield: About 20-24 bars

Do you have any recipes you love that use cake mix? I have two more boxes to use!

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Hayley @ Running on Pumpkin October 21, 2012, 2:57 pm

    So glad you posted this because I have had a box of yellow cake mix sitting in my pantry forever and wasn’t sure what to do with it. I knew I didn’t want to make a cake or cupcakes, so these bars look like an awesome alternative! Thanks for the recipe!

    • Jen October 22, 2012, 4:12 pm

      awesome! some of the recipe links below look great too!

  • Bess @ Bess Be Fit October 21, 2012, 3:36 pm

    those look so good! I love the yellow cake and chocolate icing combo as well. Reminds me I haven’t had it in a very long time!

  • kelly October 21, 2012, 4:09 pm


    This is a must try– two of your favorite -pumpkin and yellow cake mix!!! Comes highly recommended!!

    • Jen October 22, 2012, 4:12 pm

      mmmmm…thanks for sharing!

  • Paige October 21, 2012, 6:04 pm

    Oh my goodness, so many of my family’s favorite dessert recipes come from The Cake Doctor cookbook! Ever since I’ve started cutting down on artificial ingredients and trans fats, though, I’ve kind of avoided these recipes. So good to know that I might be able to start making them again! If you have the cookbook, I highly recommend Gooey Butter Cake and Darn Good Chocolate Cake. My mouth is watering just at the thought!

    • Jen October 22, 2012, 4:13 pm

      i don’t have the cookbook but i will google those recipes. thanks for the suggestions!

  • Kelly October 21, 2012, 7:08 pm

    Every single dessert you make always looks SO delicious! My college roommate use to make cookies out of cake mix all the time — they always turned out nice & fluffy.

  • Amelia October 21, 2012, 10:12 pm

    These are insane! http://cookiesandcups.com/pumpkin-dump-cake/ topped with a dollop of cream cheese frosting or ice cream!

    • Jen October 22, 2012, 4:13 pm

      thank you! looks amazing!

  • Shay @ Whine Less, Breathe More October 21, 2012, 10:55 pm

    How have I never heard of the Cake Doctor?!

    • Jen October 22, 2012, 4:14 pm

      she’s a very wise woman! 🙂

  • Parita @ myinnershakti October 22, 2012, 8:34 am

    Delicious! I love anything that contains both PB and chocolate so this is right up my alley.

    And do you have a recipe for the icing that you used? It looks amazing!

    • Jen October 22, 2012, 4:15 pm

      i cannot remember because i made them like a month ago but it was probably the chocolate frosting recipe from the back of the hershey’s coco powder.

  • Kerry @ Totes My Oats October 22, 2012, 11:03 am

    Those look insane! I need to make them!

  • Carmen October 26, 2012, 10:05 am

    These look awesome! I’m making them for our neighborhood Halloween hayride tomorrow night!

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