Revising a Classic: Seven-Layer Bars

Categories: Recipes, Sweets

Seven Layer Bars.JPG
Photo by Joanna O'Leary.
That hint of yellow is an eggshell.
"Seven-layer bars," also known as "magic bars," are one of my favorite baked goods, falling just behind chewy chocolate chip cookies. You may wonder why, then, I would ever mess with the traditional recipe, which calls for butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, coconut, nuts (usually walnuts), sweetened condensed milk, butter and graham cracker crumbs.

The simple answer is that I was missing about a third of the aforementioned ingredients, needed to get rid of some Easter candy and was too lazy to go to the store. Rather than make three- or four-layer bars (or something equally lame), I made some substitutions and hoped for the best.

In place of chocolate chips, for example, I used chopped Robin Eggs and Hershey's milk chocolate mini-eggs.

robins' eggs.JPG
Photo by Joanna O'Leary.
Not the same chocolate chips but definitely more festive.
I also swapped butterscotch chips for raisins. Eliminating nuts altogether from seven-layer bars seemed blasphemous, so in the absence of the traditional walnuts, I used dry roasted peanuts.

Here's the modified recipe:

  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 7 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup chopped Robin Eggs and chocolate eggs
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 2/3 cup flaked coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped peanuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a separate bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs with melted butter. Press crumb mixture firmly to the bottom of 8-by-8-inch baking pan.

2. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumb mixture. Layer evenly with Robin Eggs, chocolate eggs, raisins, coconut flakes and peanuts. Press down firmly with fork.

3. Bake 25 minutes or until coconut is light brown. Cool. Chill if desired.

For those of you unfamiliar with the complex architecture of the seven-layer bar, here's a picture guide.

Layers No. 1 and No. 2 are butter and graham cracker crumbs, which should be pressed firmly to the bottom of the pan.

Photo by Joanna O'Leary.
Layers 1 and 2.

Layer No. 3 is sweetened condensed milk. Try not to drink any remaining liquid straight from the can.

Photo by Joanna O'Leary.
Layer 3.
Layers No. 4 and No. 5 are chocolate eggs and raisins, both equally healthful.
Photo by Joanna O'Leary.
Layers 4 and 5.

Layers No. 6 and No. 7 are coconut flakes and peanuts.

Photo by Joanna O'Leary.
Layers 6 and 7.
My substitutions produced a chewier bar, slightly imbalanced in terms of salty and sweet flavors. Next time, I'll add more chocolate and fewer peanuts; keep my original proportions, though, if your tastes favor the savory and you enjoy a heartier bar.

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My Voice Nation Help

 Have you lost your senses?? The sweetened condensed milk is the FINAL layer. Adding it last helps make the bar cohesive enough to cut into pieces.

Your post took me back, way back! I used to make Magic Cookie Bars in college for friends. I could buy everything in a package that was just enough for the recipe and make it in the dorm in a foil pan.

just saying
just saying

What I consider blasphemy is omitting the butterscotch chips!  They lend a dulce de leche flavor they lend is crucial to the magnificence of the bar.  You could have at least quickly whipped up a caramel sauce as a substitute by melting and condensing butter, sugar and cream.  Agreed that the use of the Cadbury's eggs is a waste--those things are treasure, and should not be tampered with...

Billy Radcliffe
Billy Radcliffe

Those. Are. Cadbury Mini Eggs! YOU WASTED THEM. I forgot to comb the 50% off sales and now I have but one bag to last me until next year. Fuck.


I agree... the b-scotchies must be there.  I use dried cranberries instead of raisins, and pecans, but only if I have them.  Melt the butter in the pan in the oven; then sprinkle the crumbs on top.  Add whatever you want, but the sweeted condensed milk gets poured on LAST.  A totally different end result and there are NEVER leftovers around this house.


Understood and appreciate y'all's love/need for butterscotch, but I wasn't able to go to the store and didn't have any cream with which to make a substitute sauce.

Also, technically they are HERSHEY's eggs, not Cadbury's, manufactured in Hershey, PA.  Hershey's has a license to make Cadbury products, but from experience I can tell you they don't taste quite the same...

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