These rich and decadent caramel crumb bars have a buttery shortbread base, salted caramel and crumb topping. They’re the perfect recipe if you love caramel, shortbread or anything sweet and gooey.
Decadent, Caramel Crumb Bars
If you love gooey caramel – then these caramel crumb bars are the perfect recipe. They’re rich, buttery and filled with a thick layer of sweet, decadent caramel. There’s something about the richness of these bars that makes them perfect for over the holidays, but they’re equally delicious all year long. You can either cut them in large bars and serve as dessert, or into smaller pieces for a Christmas cookie tray.
The dough for the shortbread base actually doubles as the crumb topping. It’s buttery and firm to support the caramel layer in the middle. It’s also not too sweet – to balance out the caramel. You’ll press a little more than half of the dough into the bottom of the pan. It bakes on its own to firm up. Then the rest of the dough gets mixed with a little extra brown sugar so that it truly crumbles, and then it’s sprinkled on top of the caramel and the bars go back in the oven to finish baking.
For this recipe, you can either use homemade salted caramel sauce or a high-quality store bought caramel sauce. I recommend using something that’s thick and comes in a jar, instead of a squeeze tube. I’ve included my favorite recipe for salted caramel sauce in the recipe below. It will yield about 1 cup in total of salted caramel, but you’ll only need ⅔ cup in this recipe. So you’ll have a little leftover.
Baking Tips & Tricks
- You must bake the shortbread base on its own first, otherwise it will be raw. It bakes for about 20 minutes, or until the top looks set and is starting to turn golden brown.
- Cool the base for at least 20 minutes before adding the caramel on top. This is absolutely necessary – otherwise the caramel can seep through the shortbread base and cause it to be soggy.
- Make sure the caramel has a good hint of salt – otherwise, the bars will be too sweet.
- Cool the bars fully before slicing. They’ll need at least 2-3 hours. If you cut the bars while they’re still warm, the caramel can ooze out and cause a a big mess.
Need more caramel recipes? Then be sure to try:
- Caramel Cheesecake – it’s ridiculously creamy with rich caramel on top and mixed into the batter
- Chocolate Cupcakes with Caramel Frosting
- Caramel Fudge – for those with a serious sweet tooth
Caramel Crumb Bars
- 8x8 inch baking tin (20x20 cm)
Salted Caramel Sauce (or use your own)
- 1 cup granulated sugar (200 grams)
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (84 grams) cut into pieces
- ½ cup heavy cream (120 ml)
- ½ teaspoon coarse salt
Shortbread Base and Crumb Topping
- ¾ cup unsalted butter (168 grams) melted
- ¾ cup granulated sugar (150 grams)
- 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour (219 grams)
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch (22.5 grams) AKA cornflour in Australia
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar I used light
- ⅔ cup salted caramel sauce (160 ml)
- Add the sugar to a medium saucepan over medium heat.
- Stir the sugar occasionally using a rubber spatula. It will first form clumps and then melt into an amber-colored liquid.
- Once there are no more lumps, add in the butter and carefully stir. The mixture will boil up, so be careful. Continue stirring as the butter melts.
- Once the butter is mostly combined (ie there aren't large pools of melted butter), turn down the heat to low heat. Stir in the cream and whisk until the mixture is smooth and everything is combined.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the salt. Cool fully.
Caramel Crumb Bars
- Preheat the oven to 325F (160C) degrees. Line an 8x8 inch (20x20 cm) baking pan with parchment paper so that there's an overhang around the edges.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter and granulated sugar. (You'll use the brown sugar later).
- Stir in the flour, cornstarch and salt until there are no lumps. The dough will be thick and somewhat crumbly.
- Press a little more than half of the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan. Place the remaining dough in the fridge.
- Bake the base layer in the preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until the top looks set and is beginning to golden. (Leave the oven turned on)
- Remove from the oven and cool for 20-30 minutes - this is necessary!
- After the base has cooled for 20 minutes, spread ⅔ cup salted caramel sauce on top. If you made your own caramel using the recipe above, you won't need all the caramel you made.
- With the remaining dough, mix in the 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. It should be quite crumbly.
- Crumble the remaining dough over the caramel layer. You will still see caramel through. I like to make larger crumbles, as they're less likely to dissolve into the caramel.
- Return to the oven (still at 325F) and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the crumble on top is golden and no longer looks doughy. The caramel will bubble, which is expected.
- Remove the pan from the oven. Cool the bars fully in the pan - they'll take at least 3 hours. You can place them in the fridge to speed up the process.
- When ready to slice, lift the bars out of the pan using the parchment paper and place on a cutting board. Slice the bars using a sharp knife (not a table knife).
- Caramel Sauce: If using the recipe provided, it will make a little over 1 cup of sauce, so you'll have leftover. Store leftover caramel in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. If using store bought, make sure it's very thick (ie comes in a tub) with a good hint of salt.
- Storage: These bars will last for up to 5 days in an airtight container. I prefer to store them in the fridge. They can be frozen for up to 2 months, then thaw in the fridge before enjoying.
- Nutrition: Nutrition details are an estimate only and based on 1 bar, assuming the pan is sliced into 12 equal pieces.