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Every Epiphany (January 6), our family hosted an Open House for the entire congregation. Since my Dad was a pastor, it was a good way for our family to celebrate and share a special evening with our friends and fellow church members.
For the week or so before our Open House, my family would spend lots of time baking. My mom, sisters and I spent time every day in the kitchen, baking a variety of special desserts for the evening. Dad was responsible for the candy cane cookies, and Joel helped with the buckeyes. The rest, the girls made and checked off our baking list.
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We made buckeyes, coconut macaroons, chocolate chip shortbread, gooey butter bars, candy cane cookies, caramel morsel bars, cranberry date bars, pizzelles and these fudge-full bars. I know it sounds like a lot but we wanted everyone to enjoy a variety of sweets as they visited!
We always had lots of chocolate desserts and these peanut butter and chocolate fudge bars were one of my favorites growing up. The original recipe had nuts in them but I always leave those out. If you are a nut person, feel free to add them back in!
I love bar recipes because you aren’t scooping cookies for hours or washing lots of dishes. Bar recipes really are simple recipes. The combination of peanut butter and chocolate in this recipe is also a perfect pairing (in my chocolate loving opinion). Plus, the middle chocolate layer is a deliciously rich fudge with a nice surprise of coconut.
These chocolate fudge bars are also nice because they can be made ahead of time, cooled, sliced into bars and frozen until you are ready to serve them. They freeze wonderfully which is always a bonus in my recipe book!
If you are looking for a simple but rich dessert, try these peanut butter and chocolate fudge bars. Whether you are serving them to a crowd or enjoying them with your family, they are delicious!
For Bottom Layer and Top:
1 package (15.25 ounces) yellow cake mix
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 cup coconut
2 tablespoons pure vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
In large mixing bowl, combine dry cake mix, peanut butter, melted butter and eggs. Stir until dough holds together.
Press two-thirds of dough into the bottom of an ungreased 9 by 13 pan. Reserve remaining dough for topping.
In heavy saucepan, combine chocolate chops, sweetened condensed milk and butter. Melt over low heat, stirring constantly until smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in coconut, vanilla and nuts (if desired).
Pour filling over dough in pan. Use a spatula to ensure the filling completely covers the bottom dough layer. Crumble reserved dough over filling to make a top layer.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool and cut into bars.
Let the bars cool completely before cutting them into pieces to serve. Be sure to use a sharp knife for clean cuts on your bars. This is the best paring knife I’ve ever used (I own several) and it’s a bargain under $8!
I have used pure Mexican vanilla for years and believe it really does make a difference in my baking. While I normally buy mine at El Mercado (the Mexican market) when I am visiting my parents in San Antonio, you can get the same Mexican vanilla for a bit more on Amazon here.