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Pecan Pie Surprise Bars: Easy Cookie Recipe & Bake-Off Winner

By Pearl Hall, Snohomish, WA

Pecan Pie Surprise Bars taste just like pecan pie, but are far easier to make and more portable.

The recipe uses corn syrup and pecans, key to a successful pecan pie, but in place of a fussy pie crust is a simple cake mix base.

Like other cake mix cookie recipes, these bars can be mixed together quickly. The cake mix makes putting the bars together easy because the mix saves you steps.

This recipe is not only a winner when it comes to simplicity, but also in nationwide popularity. It won the Grand Prize in the iconic Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest # 22 in 1971, the first time the contest was held in the great state of Hawaii.

Pecan Pie Surprise Bars by The Cookie Elf

Prep time: 15 minutes

Bake time: 45-55 minutes, divided

Makes 35 bars




1 package (16 - 18 ounces) yellow cake mix, such as Pillsbury® Moist Supreme® classic yellow cake mix

1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened

1 egg



Reserved 2/3 cup dry cake mix

½ cup packed brown sugar

1 ½ cups dark corn syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 eggs

1 cup chopped pecans


  1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease 13 x 9 baking pan with vegetable spray.

  2. Measure and reserve 2/3 cup of the dry cake mix to use for the filling.

  3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on low speed, mix together the remaining dry cake mix, butter, and egg until well blended. Press the base mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.

  4. Bake the cookie base for 15-20 minutes or until light golden brown.

  5. Meanwhile, in a large bowl using an electric mixer on low speed, beat together the reserved 2/3 cup dry cake mix, brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, and 3 eggs until ingredients are combined and well moistened. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat the filling mixture for 1 minute.

  6. Pour the filling mixture over the warm cookie base. Sprinkle pecans evenly over the surface of the filling.

  7. Bake the bars for 30-35 minutes longer or until filling is set. Remove Pecan Pie Surprise Bars from the oven. Allow bars to cool completely on a wire rack, about 45 minutes.

  8. Cut cookies into 5 rows by 7 rows (or in any other size you wish.)

  9. Store bars in an airtight container, with waxed paper in between layers, in the refrigerator.

High Altitude Instructions

Heat oven to 350º F. Stir 1/3 cup all-purpose flour into dry cake mix before removing 2/3 cup for filling. Decrease dark corn syrup to 1 ¼ cup.

A Special Baking Tip for Making Pecan Pie Surprise Bars

Pecan pie filling is notoriously sticky. The filling in these bars is no exception. Make sure you grease the 13 x 9 baking pan very thoroughly before adding the base and filling. As an alternative to protecting the shape of the Pecan Pie Surprise Bars, prepare the pan by lining it with aluminum foil, allowing ends of foil to extend over two sides of the pan. Coat the foil with vegetable spray. Once bars have baked and are cooled, grasp ends of aluminum foil and lift them from the pan. Peel away the foil and proceed with cutting bars.

More Winning Pillsbury Bake-Off Cookie Recipes

Butterscotch Cake Mix Cookies: just 4 ingredients ...

Cake Mix Christmas Bar Cookies: just 6 ingredients ...

Choco-Butterscotch Bars: from Bake-Off 22 ...

Chocolate-Cherry Bars: a favorite from Pillsbury Bake-Off #25 ...

Chocolate Chip-Peanut Butter Squares from Bake-Off #38 ...

Cinnamon Toffee Pecan Cookies: just 6 ingredients ...

Pineapple Coconut Bars from Bake-Off #35 ...

Pumpkin Cake Mix Cookies: Just 2 Ingredients!

Pumpkin Pie Bar Cookies: easier than pie!

White Chocolate Key Lime Calypso Bars: from Pillsbury Bake-Off #40 ...

All about the Pillsbury Bake-Off and its cookie winners ...

More Yummy Cake Mix Cookie Recipes from The Elf

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Chocolate Cake Mix Bar Cookies: Easy Cake Mix Cookie Recipe ...

Easy Candy Bar Cookies Recipe: use your favorite candy bars ...

Fran's Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies ...

Funfetti Sugar Cookies: easy cookie mix recipe ...

Lemon Cake Mix Cookies ...

Peanut Butter Fudge Bars: cake mix, peanut butter, chocolate chips ...

Red Velvet Chip Cookies ...

Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies ...

Strawberry Cake Mix Cookies: strawberries and cream in miniature ...

Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cookies: easy cake mix cookie recipe ...

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