These Cherry Pie Bars are sweet and tart with a delicious chewy cookie crust made from a cake mix, golden brown topping, and a sweet almond glaze to finish them off. The gorgeous vibrant chunks of juicy cherries and sauce are on proud display, peeking out between the pockets of crumble topping in this easy recipe.
Cherry Pie Bars are a tasty variation of a dessert bar recipe, typically made with a shortbread crust followed by the tart and sweet cherry pie filling, then topped off with a sprinkling of dough and a simple sugar glaze.
This cherry dessert is made extra simple by using a cake mix for the crust. These cake mix cherry bars are perfect to make ahead of time since they can be frozen for up to 2-3 months. Serve a cherry bar just as it is, with whipped cream or with vanilla ice cream.
If you love dessert bars, make sure to try these Lemon Cream Cheese Cookie Bars. I modeled this delicious dessert after the lemon kind because they are one of our all-time favorite cookie bars! We’ve also turned this easy cherry bar recipe into Blueberry Pie bars and Lemon Pie bars.
- cherry pie filling – convenient and beloved my many, cherry pie filling can be found in the baking aisle of the grocery store and needs no preparation. Use up to two full cans of store-bought cherry pie filling for an extra gooey, somewhat messy cherry pie bar. Use just 1 can for a thinner layer.
- vanilla cake mix – we use two packages of cake mix so that we can make a nice sturdy base to the cookies and still have leftovers to make the crumble topping. You can use white or yellow cake mix as well.
- eggs – the eggs help to bind the simple crust together and also give it some rise – it makes more of a chewy cookie crust rather than a buttery shortbread crust that would not have eggs and would be more crisp.
- vegetable oil – this binds the cookie base together and gives a softer texture to the pie crust.
- almond extract – this adds another dimension of flavor to the glaze that goes over the bars. Almond extract compliments sweet cherries very well.
- powdered sugar – we use powdered sugar to make a quick sweet glaze – the glaze will develop a bit of a crust as it sets.
- cream or whole milk – Either will work, you can even use water – you’re simply thinning out the powdered sugar until it’s a drizzling consistency.
For a complete list of ingredients and their measurements, please refer to the printable recipe card 📋 at the bottom of the post.
Variations and Substitutions
- You could easily use another fruit pie filling for an entirely different dessert such as strawberry pie bars, lemon pie bars, blueberry pie bars…I think you get the point! When making this variation, consider using vanilla extract instead of almond for those fruits that blend better with a drizzle of vanilla glaze.
- A substitute for the glaze, if you prefer a more tangy flavor, is to use a cream cheese glaze.
- This recipe uses a vanilla cake mix but you can substitute it with either a yellow or white cake mix. They are both perfectly suitable. You can also swap in a nice shortbread crust – this type of dough typically uses all purpose flour, sugar, and unsalted butter so it’s quite easy too with those simple ingredients.
- By adding a handful of chocolate chips you can transform easy cherry pie bars into cherry pie black forest bars! Yummy!
- Substitute cookie dough for the crust. You will need two tubes or a large batch of homemade sugar cookie dough.
Prep: Preheat oven to 350°F.
Step 1: Combine both packages of cake mix, eggs, and the oil in a large bowl and beat together with a hand mixer or stand mixer until crumbly and well combined. Set aside half of the crumble mixture to use as the topping later.
Step 2: Press half of the dough mixture into a 9×13 glass baking dish.
Step 3: Bake the crust just until it sets. We don’t want to over-bake it as we will be putting it back in the oven to finish once the toppings have been added.
Step 4: Spread the can of cherry pie filling over the baked crust.
Step 5: Add the reserved crumble topping over the top of the filling and return to the preheated oven to finish baking.
Step 6: In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, a little almond extract, and enough milk or cream to make a pourable glaze. Drizzle the glaze over the baked pie bars.
Step 7: Allow the dish to cool completely before cutting into bars and serving.
Cherry pie bars can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for 2-3 days or in the refrigerator for an extra few days.
Yes, you can! These fruity pie bars can be frozen for up to a month. They can be stored in an airtight container or even Ziploc bags.
If you opt to store them stacked in layers or in Ziploc bags, I recommend that you first flash freeze them for 1-2 hours and then wrap them individually in plastic wrap. This will help ensure that they don’t stick to each other.
Thaw at room temperature or defrost in a microwave or oven. You can serve them chilled or heated slightly.
Canned cherries are so convenient to use any time of year and have enough sauce to make a fabulous dish. If you cannot get canned cherry pie filling then you could use frozen or fresh cherries instead to make homemade cherry pie filling.
When using fresh or frozen cherries, be mindful of the additional preparation required such as defrosting and draining.
A downside to not using canned cherries is the fact that you won’t have the sauce that comes with the canned cherries to add to these cherry pie bars. Without that sauce, this treat can come out somewhat dry. To prevent this from happening, you may need to add in some watered-down cherry jam or make a cherry filling by combining and cooking lemon juice and sugar with tart cherries. Simmer for about 5 minutes, then stir in a cornstarch slurry and cook another 2-3 minutes until thickened.
Tips For Making Cherry Pie Bars
- You have the option of using 2 whole cans of cherries if you like a generous layer of cherry pie filling. However, I’ve preferred to use only 1 ½ cans of cherry pie filling for these dessert bars. It really did provide sufficient mouthfuls of cherries per bite in my opinion. Too many cherries/sauce can also make the bars a bit sloppy, but if more is what you like – these bars go down just fine with a plate and fork!
- Almond extract is a complimentary ingredient for cherry pie filling. I love the combined flavors but not everyone does. You can substitute the almond extract for vanilla only, or combine a half quantity of almond and a half quantity of vanilla.
- If the dough mix sticks to your hands when spreading the base, you can either wet your hands lightly with water or you can also oil / butter your hands very lightly. Using parchment paper on top of the dough is also effective. Press and spread the dough with the parchment paper.
- Put the remaining dough to chill in the refrigerator while preparing the base and the filling. Once chilled, the dough becomes easier to break into bits as the topping. Make sure that you leave enough gaps between the blobs of dough for the cherry mix to be seen.
- Instead of greasing or spraying your baking dish, line it with parchment paper that goes all the way up the sides of the tray/dish. Once cool, lift by the parchment paper, place on a flat surface, then you can then effortlessly cut your individual cherry pie bar pieces.
- Allow this freshly baked dessert to completely cool before you cut the bars; otherwise the cherry pie filling is likely to run out.
If you try these Cherry Pie Bars or any other recipe on my website, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how you liked it in the 📝 comments below.
Cherry Pie Bars
- 2 packages of vanilla cake mix
- 2 large eggs
- ⅔ cup vegetable oil
- 1-2 21 oz. cans cherry pie filling
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- 1-2 tablespoons whole milk or cream
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×13 baking dish.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat together the cake mix, eggs, and vegetable oil. Beat with a hand (or standing) mixer until combined – mixture will be thick.
- Remove half of the mixture and set aside. Press the remaining dough into the bottom of the prepared baking dish.
- Bake for 15 minutes then remove from the oven.
- Spread cherry pie filling over the top of the baked base. One can of pie filling will cover the pie bars lightly – use up to 2 cans of pie filling for extra cherry filled pie bars.
- Sprinkle the reserved dough in clumps over the top of the cherry pie filling.
- Return the baking dish to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes longer, until the top of the bars are just beginning to brown.
- Cool bars completely.
- Whisk together powdered sugar, almond extract, and enough of the milk to make a sugar glaze. Drizzle over the top of the cooled cherry pie bars.
- Cut into bars and serve.
- This recipe uses a vanilla cake mix but you can substitute it with either a yellow or white cake mix. They are both perfectly suitable.
- Put the remaining dough to chill in the refrigerator whilst preparing the base and the filling. Once chilled, the dough becomes easier to break into bits as the topping. Make sure that you leave enough gaps between the blobs of dough for the cherry mix to be seen.
- Allow this freshly baked dessert to completely cool before you cut the bars otherwise the cherry pie filling is likely to run out.