Cinnamon Caramel Nut Crumble Bars

Smooth cinnamon caramel is the star in these Cinnamon Caramel Nut and Crumble Bars.  A layer of sweet shortbread holds homemade caramel that is topped with a spice nut crumble topping.  This is an easy small batch recipe for dessert bars that are diverse in flavor and texture and great for the holiday’s!

Slice of cinnamon caramel nut crumble bars

Cinnamon Caramel Nut Crumble Bars

Ever hear of Millionaire’s Shortbread?  Well, these bars are nothing like those.  Kidding.

Millionaire’s Shortbread are shortbread + caramel + chocolate.  These caramel nut bars have 2 of the 3 – shortbread and caramel.  That said, I suppose you could drizzle a little melted chocolate over the top once these are done baking to make yourself Billionaire’s Shortbread.  Hold on – I may go trademark that …

What I love about these bars is all of the textures – flaky shortbread, smooth caramel, and a nut crumble topping.  Otherwise known as texture explosion in your mouth.

Not to mention the spicy cinnamon.  A holiday bar wouldn’t be holiday without the cinnamon!

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Ingredients Needed For Cinnamon Caramel Bars

With 3 components to these Cinnamon Caramel Bars, we do need a few ingredients.  But trust me, they come together easy.

Shortbread crust

  • Flour – We are using all-purpose flour.  Though, I’m anxious to try a shortbread with almond flour.
  • Butter – The butter can be cold.  We are ‘cutting’ it into the flour, much like a pie dough.
  • Sugar – Granulated sugar here.  Though, I did test the recipe with powdered sugar and the result was equally delicious.  My preference is granulated sugar because it gives the shortbread more stability.

Caramel Filling

  • Sweetened condensed milk – I consider this the base for the caramel filling.  It makes the caramel creamy and it won’t make the caramel too thick.  You will have extra that can be used to make ice cream!
  • Heavy whipping cream – Makes the caramel creamy!
  • Butter – Adds flavor and makes the caramel smooth and silky.
  • Brown sugar – I used light brown sugar, though you could try dark brown sugar.  The brown sugar intensifies the caramel flavor.
  • Vanilla extract – Purely flavor here.
  • Cinnamon – It wouldn’t be cinnamon caramel without a little ground cinnamon!

Nut Crumble Topping

  • Reserved shortbread crust – All of the ingredients in the shortbread are what we would normally put in a crumble topping.  Specifically, the butter.
  • Flour – We add a little more flour to give the crumble some more ‘crumbly’ structure.
  • Brown sugar – Light brown sugar again.  I love brown sugar in a crumble topping for the flavor.
  • Mixed nuts – Or any preference you have for nuts.  I like to keep it easy and use a simple salted mixed nut.  Store brand too, to keep the cost down!
  • Cinnamon – We add a bit more cinnamon in the crumble to really drive home the warm holiday spice in these bars!

So, where it may seem like a lot of different ingredients, you will find that several of the ingredients are in all 3 components.  

Stack of caramel nut crumble bars

Small Batch Holiday Caramel Bars

What makes these Cinnamon Caramel Nut Crumble Bars a holiday dessert, you may ask?  I’m going to say the cinnamon and the caramel.  Two flavors that you may see a lot of in holiday baking.

Not to mention the mixed nuts.  Is it just my family, or is the bowl of mixed nuts sitting on the coffee table a holiday tradition.  I mean, we all need something to snack on while we are waiting for the holiday roast to finish cooking!

That said, you could dial back the cinnamon, or simply omit it, if you want to make these anytime of the year.  Or, keep it in.  Cinnamon is a spice that doesn’t necessarily need a specific time of year to be delicious!

And you may be thankful that this is a small batch recipe.  The bars can be cut into smaller squares that make them almost like a holiday candy.  As you can imagine, the bars are a bit decadent with a shortbread crust and thick caramel layer.  Yum.

Small batch of caramel shortbread bars

Tips For Making Cinnamon Caramel Crumble Bars

Baking pan

  • I used a 6×6 inch square cake pan.  You could also use a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
  • Parchment paper sling – We are using two pieces of parchment paper to make the sling.  Why?  Because the caramel will stick to the un-lined side of the pan if we don’t.  
  1. Two pieces of parchment paper
  2. Cut long enough to hang over the sides of the pan
  3. Lay one strip of parchment in the pan – then lay the other on top of it to make a cross

Shortbread

  • Granulated sugar vs. powdered sugar – You may see some shortbread recipes that use powdered sugar.  I’ve use both, and both are great.  I prefer granulated sugar in this recipe because I think it makes the crust more sturdy, and able to hold the caramel.
  • Reserve part of the shortbread dough – This may seem silly, but we want all of the ingredients in the shortbread for the crumble, so why not.
  • Pre-Bake – Even though we are going to bake it again once we get the caramel and crumble on it, we want to pre-bake it.  Otherwise, it may turn out raw.

Caramel

  • Give the mixture time to thicken – it will eventually – I would say between 5 and 10 minutes.  Just when you think it is going to say liquid thin, it thickens before your eyes. 
  • Let the caramel cool – This is just good measure that we don’t pour boiling hot caramel on top of the pre-baked shortbread.

More Dessert Bar Recipes

Single slice of caramel shortbread bars
Stack of caramel nut crumble bars
Print Recipe Pin Recipe

Cinnamon Caramel Nut Crumble Bars

Smooth cinnamon caramel is the star in these Cinnamon Caramel Nut and Crumble Bars.  A layer of sweet shortbread holds homemade caramel that is topped with a spice nut crumble topping.  This is an easy small batch recipe for dessert bars that are diverse in flavor and texture and great for the holiday's!
Prep20 mins
Cook16 mins
Total36 mins
Servings: 1 6×6 Pan of Bars
Author: Erin | Butter and Bliss

Ingredients

Shortbread

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Cinnamon Caramel

  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Nut Crumble Topping

  • 1/4 cup of the reserved shortbread dough (see instructions)
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons mixed nuts, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350Fo degrees and adjust the oven rack to the middle position.
  • Line a 6×6 inch square cake pan with parchment paper: Cut two strips of parchment to fit the sides of the pan, and long enough to hang over the sides. Line the pan with the paper strips crossed. This creates a sling to lift the bars out of the pan, and keeps the caramel from sticking to the sides of the pan.

Shortbread

  • In a medium mixing bowl, add the flour, sugar, and butter cubes. Cut the butter into the flour using a pastry cutter or two forks, until a crumbly moist dough forms. This may take a few minutes for the butter to moisten the flour.
  • Reserve 1/4 cup of the dough for the crumble topping.
  • Press the remaining 1/2 cup of dough into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes and until the edges are golden. Set on a wire rack, and keep the oven on.

Cinnamon Caramel

  • While the shortbread is baking, make the caramel.
  • In a small heavy bottom saucepan, add the sweetened condensed milk, cream, butter, and brown sugar. Cook over medium heat until the mix comes to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, at a low boil for 10 minutes, until it thickens to caramel.
  • Remove from the saucepan from the heat and stir in the cinnamon. Cool the caramel in the saucepan for at least 5 minutes.

Nut Crumble Topping

  • While the caramel is cooling, make the crumble topping.
  • In a small mixing bowl, add the 1/4 cup of the reserved shortbread dough, 1 tablespoon of flour, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, chopped nuts, and cinnamon. Mix until it is a coarse meal.

Baking the Bars

  • Pour the caramel over the top of the pre-baked shortbread. Then sprinkle the nut crumble evenly over the top of the caramel.
  • Bake the bars for 13-16 minutes, or until the caramel starts to bubble and the crumble turns golden brown.
  • Cool the bars in the pan set on a wire cooling rack, until they are completely cool. You can either cut and serve the bars from the pan. Or carefully lift the bars out of the pan using the parchment paper sling. Cut to desired shapes and sizes and enjoy!

Notes

  • I used a 6×6 inch cake pan.  A 9×5 inch loaf pan will work too.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
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