desserts, snacks

seven-layer bars of my youth.

So…seven-layer bars. I had all but forgotten these existed until recently. My mother used to make these bars when we were kids, but past the age of maybe 12, I just don’t remember having them. Surely she moved on to more classy dessert things. this may have been the age where she switched to the Omnipresent English Christmas Toffee. 

First let me say that this may be a deep-seated source of bitterness for me. You see, i never much liked The Toffee. Don’t get me wrong: it is fine. it is chocolate bottom layer, toffee top layer, and covered with chopped pecans. You break it up into little pieces like tiny bark and it, to most people, a fantastic indulgence around the holidays.

However: my memories of The Toffee may be as they are because of the work which went into it. Every year, immediately following Thanksgiving, our pantry would be PACKED with chocolate bars and bags of pecans…and you just knew it was almost time. And you started to fear for your life. Why? Because although I have never made this myself, i know that there is something about The Toffee recipe that is tricky, or takes a delicate touch, or involves cautiousness. Because every year there would be the inevitable Ruined Toffee incident. This incident would be met with cursing and some tears of frustration, and would culminate with a rush trip to the grocery store for more candy bars and pecans. This happened EVERY YEAR.

So, I do not make The Toffee. And even though people rave about The Toffee, I do not care for it. My husband, a newcomer to The Toffee fanclub, wonders why I don’t make it.

This is why.

It is no coincidence that a few years ago, when The Toffee made a noticeable comeback in our Christmastime traditions (thanks to our family getting to all spend christmas together once again), I remembered there used to be something before The Toffee began its annual torment on my mother. And this was it. It’s ridiculously sweet, so think small when you slice them into squares. It is, let’s face it, sort of a trashy dessert. you dump one ingredient on top of another, on top of another, pour a can of cavity-inducing sweetened condensed milk over the whole thing, and stick it in the oven, where it magically melts just enough to stick together but not enough to lose it’s bumpy individuality. It may not be sophisticated, like The English Christmas Toffee, but this is my official christmas candy.

Taken from numerous searches for ingredients and advice from my mother. voila.

Seven Layer Bars

  • 1 box (three packages) graham cracker sheets, pulsed in food processor until in crumb form.
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cups shredded coconut
  • 2 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 cups butterscotch chips (1 11 oz bag)
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1 14-oz (about 2/3 cup) can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350˚. Position rack in the middle of the oven. Butter bottom and sides of a 13 x 9 pyrex glass pan.

Measure out 2 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs and discard the rest. Mix crumbs and melted butter in a bowl until it resembles ocean-soaked sand. Using the bottom of a measuring cup, press evenly into the bottom of the pan, pushing down any errant perimeter crumbs with your fingers.

In this order, layer on the following ingredients: shredded coconut, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, pecans.

cover the whole dang thing with the sweetened condensed milk.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until you can’t take it anymore. Set on a rack to cool, which will take too long and you’ll want to try a sample (just to see if they turned out okay) after around about 20 minutes. After you test your final product, either continue to cool on the rack or wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour before trying to cut.


You Might Also Like


  • Reply Anna October 9, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    OMG Yumm! I so need to make this 🙂 Gorgeous photos.

    • Reply shannon October 9, 2011 at 7:26 pm

      Thank you so much for the compliment! These are so easy to make, but be careful: you can absentmindedly eat your way into a sugar coma in no time. 🙂

  • Reply d m October 10, 2011 at 1:57 am

    YES! I remember these! Thanks for posting this recipe. My mother made them around Christmas time (in the 1970s), too, and then … she didn’t, anymore.

    The melted butter/graham layer was heavenly. Only we used salted butter, and melted the stick(s?) in the pyrex 9×13 in the heated oven, then sprinkled the crushed graham over, pressing lightly until the crumbs soaked up the butter darkly. It was more awesome that way.

    first time reader, thank you.

    • Reply shannon October 10, 2011 at 7:33 pm

      You have to wonder what changed in the late seventies/early eighties to make these little gems disappear, right? I have seen recipes which included salted butter rather than unsalted, and the melting pool of butter/graham sprinkle technique sounds fantastic! I’m intrigued, and will try them this way next time I make them. Thanks for reading!

  • Reply MelindaB October 12, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    If you’re really lazy (like me) you can buy packaged graham cracker crumbs. I haven’t made these in years, because I have children who won’t eat coconut and/or nuts. I have a quilting bee this Saturday and I just might make these to take along.

    • Reply shannon October 13, 2011 at 2:48 am

      You know, for some reason packaged graham cracker crumbs elude me around my market of choice; it’s where my food processor comes in very handy as i truly am too lazy for hand-crushing. Those kids don’t know what they’re missing! If you make them this weekend, make sure to save a few for yourself.

    Leave a Reply