Tangy and just sweet enough, cranberry lemon bars are a beautiful layered dessert bar with a shortbread base and layered lemon curd and a thick quick-cook cranberry jam. The layers stay distinctly separate in the oven so you get a lovely colour contrast in a slightly fancy winter sweet. Crisp press-in shortbread makes the ideal base for the smooth fruit layers!

These bars store well, so you can mix up a batch and keep them in the fridge for days. The base will stay crisp and the filling only tastes better as it rests. Equal parts lemon and cranberry make for perfectly balanced bars that aren't saccharine – and with just 8 ingredients, you can't go wrong.

If you love cranberries, also try our cranberry orange bread, festive cranberry pistachio shortbread fingers, and slice-and-bake cranberry orange shortbread cookies.

Icing sugar-topped cranberry and lemon layer bars on a white marble piece.
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Ingredients

Cranberry lemon bars ingredients with labels.

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Cranberries: fresh or frozen cranberries can be used interchangeably here, and no need to thaw if using frozen.
  • Butter: we always use salted butter unless otherwise specified. You want a hint of saltiness in the shortbread to cut through the filling layers.
  • Lemon zest: since you are using the zest, it's a good idea to try to find organic, unwaxed lemons. They'll taste best with no unpleasant wax coatings.
  • Make it dairy-free: use a good vegan butter that comes in stick or block form to replace the butter in the shortbread.

Method

Cranberry bars steps 1 to 4, making cranberry jam and pressing down shortbread base.

Step 1: add the cranberries, sugar, and water to a saucepan.

Step 2: cook for about five minutes, then blend until smooth to make a thick jam.

Step 3: mix the shortbread ingredients to form a crumbly dough and tip into the baking dish.

Step 4: press the shortbread into a roughly even layer in the tin. Bake for about 22 minutes.

Layered bars steps 5 to 8, adding filling layers and the baked dessert.

Step 5: spread the cranberry jam over the shortbread and bake for another 5 minutes.

Step 6: add the lemon layer ingredients to a large mixing bowl and beat to combine.

Step 7: pour the lemon layer over the cranberry layer.

Step 8: bake for another 35 minutes, until set, and cool fully before slicing.

Top Tips

  • Use two pieces of parchment paper: for neater edges, use two strips of parchment paper and lay one in each direction. This helps to avoid crumples in the corners.
  • Top with sugar: sprinkling icing sugar over the cooled bars will help to hide any imperfections and makes the bars especially pretty.
  • Slice with a hot knife: for perfect slices, dip the knife in hot water and dry fully before using it to cut the bars into squares.

Recipe Notes

An immersion blender is ideal for blending the cranberry jam if you have one. Otherwise, use a heat-safe blender or let the jam mixture cool before blending.

If you reduce the sugar in the cranberry or lemon layers, they won't set properly. We haven't tried making this with gluten-free flour, but you should be able to use a good gluten-free blend for both the base and the lemon filling.

FAQ

Can I use dried cranberries?

No. For this recipe you'll need fresh or frozen berries.

Why didn't my cranberry layer thicken?

If you don't cook the cranberries long enough - a full five minutes, almost boiling - they won't thicken properly into a jam.

Why is my shortbread tough?

If you reduce the butter or sugar content in the shortbread base, it'll turn out tough after baking.

If you make this Lemon Cranberry Bars recipe or any other cookie and bar recipes on the Baked Collective, please take a moment to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. It’s such a help to others who want to try the recipe. For more baking, follow along on InstagramTikTok, and YouTube.

Icing sugar-topped cranberry and lemon layer bars on a white marble piece.
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5 from 1 vote

Cranberry Lemon Bars

Tangy and just sweet enough, cranberry lemon bars are a beautiful layered dessert bar with a shortbread base and layered lemon curd and a thick cranberry jam.
Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time1 hour
Total Time1 hour 25 minutes
Author: Kelly Neil
Yield: 12 servings

Equipment

  • Measuring cups and spoons or a digital kitchen scale
  • Small-medium pot
  • Stand mixer or hand mixer
  • Mixing bowl
  • Citrus zester & juicer
  • 9-inch (23-cm) square baking dish
  • Parchment paper
  • offset spatula optional

Ingredients

For The Cranberry Layer

  • 2 ½ cups cranberries fresh or frozen
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water

For The Shortbread Crust

  • ½ cup butter plus 2 tablespoons, room temperature
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

For The Lemon Layer

  • 1 medium lemon zest only, finely grated
  • ½ cup lemon juice freshly squeezed
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Instructions

Make The Cranberry Layer

  • Place the cranberries, sugar, and water in a small-medium pot. Bring to a light boil over medium-high heat. Once the cranberries have started boiling, continue to cook at a lively simmer for five minutes. Set aside to cool.
    2 ½ cups cranberries, ¾ cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons water
  • Transfer the cooked cranberries to a food processor or blender. Purée at high speed for 1 minute or until smooth. Set aside.

Make The Shortbread Crust

  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Lightly spray a 9-inch (23-cm) square baking dish with baking spray and line with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • Use the paddle attachment of a stand mixer to beat the butter and sugar until well mixed, about 1 to 2 minutes. Sift in the flour and add the salt. Mix on low speed until the butter is well blended, and the dough is coarse and crumbly.
    ½ cup butter, ¼ cup granulated sugar, 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Dump the shortbread crumbs into the prepared baking dish. Spread the crumbs into an even layer, then use your hand to press the crumbs down into a tightly packed layer. Place the crust in the oven and bake for 22 to 24 minutes or until the edges are pale gold. Transfer the baking dish to a wire rack.
  • Spread all of the cranberry purée evenly over the hot shortbread base. Return to the oven for 5 minutes.

Make The Lemon Layer

  • While the cranberry-topped crust is in the oven, make the lemon layer. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice, sugar, eggs, and salt to the same mixing bowl. Switch to the whisk attachment and mix on medium-high speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl halfway. Sift in the flour and mix well.
    1 medium lemon, ½ cup lemon juice, 1 ½ cups granulated sugar, 3 large eggs, ¼ cup all-purpose flour, ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Remove the crust from the oven. Carefully pour the lemon mixture over the cranberry layer. Some cranberry purée may rise through the lemon—this is fine.
  • Carefully return the baking dish to the oven for the final bake, about 33-35 minutes or until the middle of the lemon layer is set. Transfer the dish to a wire rack to cool completely before removing, slicing, and serving.
    Optional step—Top the bars with powdered sugar, crushed meringues, and sliced cranberries before serving.

Nutrition

Serving: 1bar | Calories: 319kcal | Carbohydrates: 58g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 67mg | Sodium: 178mg | Potassium: 66mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 43g | Vitamin A: 321IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 15mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate. If this information is important to you, please have it verified independently.

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