Cream cheese is a dessert superstar and these simple bars show us exactly why that is. With two sweet cinnamon-scented crumb layers sandwiching a silky cheesecake-inspired layer, these bars let that tangy creaminess truly shine. (But, don’t worry, they have a little crunchiness, a little cinnamon-spice, and just enough sweetness going for them too.)
The crumbly crust and topping are basically the same mixture, which involves butter, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and chopped walnuts. Half of that gets pressed into the bottom of the pan to form a crust, while the topping mixture gets an extra helping of brown sugar, nuts, and butter so it’s a little more crumbly. (I never said these were tidy… But I promise you won’t be complaining about any errant crumbs.)
The mixture is sweet and simple enough that it shows off the cream cheese layer without overpowering it. That cream cheese layer isn’t any trouble at all to mix up. It’s just a quick mixture of cream cheese, sugar, and egg, thinned out with some milk and delicately flavored with vanilla and nutmeg (which echoes the cinnamon in the crumb layers so nicely).
When these go into the oven, the cream cheese mixture firms up into creamy, silky magic and the crust and topping stay soft with just a touch of crunch.
These bars aren’t cluttered by chocolate or fruit or other adornments. No, instead they remain simple in their composition, which really allows the delicate cinnamon-spice, soft crumb, and dreamy silk cream cheese flavor to shine through.
Cream Cheese Crumb Bars
- For the crust and topping:
- 1/3 cup butter, softened plus 1 tablespoon, melted
- 1/3 cup brown sugar plus 2 tablespoons, divided
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 cup walnuts, chopped and divided
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 tablespoons whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Preheat oven to 350°F and line an 8x8-inch baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving some overhang so you can easily pull the bars out later.
- In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 1/3 cup of the brown sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add flour and cinnamon and mix until just combined. Stir in 1/2 cup of the chopped walnuts until a crumbly mixture forms. Reserve one cup of the mixture and set aside.
- Press remaining mixture into prepared pan and bake for 12 minutes. Place on wire rack to cool while you make the filling and crumble topping.
- To the reserved crumb mixture, add remaining brown sugar, remaining chopped nuts, and one tablespoon of melted butter. Mix until well combined and set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat together the granulated sugar and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add egg, milk, vanilla, and nutmeg and beat until light and creamy, about 3 minutes.
- Pour mixture over cooled crust and top with reserved crumble topping, pressing it very lightly into the mixture.
- Bake until set, about 25 minutes, and remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cool, lift bars out of pan by parchment paper or foil and slice and serve. Enjoy!
Recipe adapted from A Family Feast.