I grew up knowing this treat as Seven Layer Bars. Others know it as Magic Bars. So I guess I’m just gonna hafta call this recipe Magic Seven Layer Bars!
Just so you know, this is the classic vintage recipe. I’ve never posted it because, well, basically it’s hardly a recipe at all.
About Magic Seven Layer Bars:
These Magic Seven Layer Bars are classic, just how they’ve been made for decades. I know coz I was there, lol! It’s layer upon layer of goodness, and these bars are everything.
And the bars aren’t just about taste; there’s texture, too. They’re ooey gooey deliciousness punctuated by the crispy, chewy caramelly coconut, the crunchy nuts, and the softer bottom crust. And layered between all that: melted chocolate and butterscotch.
Whether you have them slightly warm in a fit of I can’t wait a minute longer to taste them or wait until they’re fully cool, these sturdy bars read more like a candy than a dessert.
Make these for a get-together, a game party, maybe a pool party, or a backyard barbecue – they are gonna shine! Make more than you think you’ll need! They’re so easy, that’s not gonna be a problem.
Making Magic Seven Layer Bars:
The original Magic Seven Layer Bars have a graham cracker crumb crust, then a layer each of butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, nuts (originally walnut but pecans are good and no nuts even better, lol!) coconut, and finally, at last, sweetened condensed milk, pretty much in that order.
Start out with a 9 x 13 pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, place the pan in the oven with the butter (cut into pieces.) Let the butter melt and promptly pull out the pan, sprinkle the graham crackers over the butter, and mix with a fork. By then, the pan should be cool enough to pat the crust down, and use fingers if needed. The bottom of a measuring cup or glass works, too.
Now you’re on to the layers. And the key, here, is that each layer of a seven-layer bar is a full layer and if you’re in doubt, refer back to the name! A cup doth not a layer make! And by the way, each layer serves a purpose!
On top of that graham cracker crust goes a full-sized package of butterscotch chips, 11 ounces or so. They go first because they’re pretty soft and melt easily, so that helps to hold the graham cracker crust in place.
Next, a full-size package of Semi-Sweet Chocolate again, about 11 ounces, because that’s classic. I don’t even think that way back when I started making these bars we had milk chocolate chips, and I know we didn’t have dark.
The next two layers, nuts, and coconut flakes are interchangeable. I personally like the nuts first, then the coconut. And a lot of each. At least 1 1/2 cups of sweetened coconut flakes and nuts are pretty much your call. 1 to 1 1/2 cups chopped.
The last layer, though? It really has to be condensed milk. That’s going to ooze over the coconut, help everything get all caramelly and toasty, and help hold that coconut in place!
That’s it! Toss the pan in a 350-degree F. oven for about 30 minutes (watch the top for browning) and you are good to go! Just wait for them to cool.
- You can line your pan with parchment if you’d like. It helps to remove the bars so they can easily be cut. Spray your pan, place the parchment in, then melt the butter on the stove or in the microwave and pour it into the parchment-lined pan. Sprinkle in the graham cracker crumbs and proceed.
- To get a clean cut: Remove the bars from pan by lifting the parchment while the bars are still slightly warm. If they start to ooze, use a long knife to push them back up into place. Cut through them as soon as they start to firm up while they are still slightly warm. A serrated knife really helps get through the toasted coconut cleanly. After they’re completely cooled, you’ll probably need to pass a knife through them a second time.
Variations on Magic Seven Layer Bars:
Ok, I’m not against any variations of Seven Layer Bars, just don’t pass them off as the original! Especially if you are only using a cup of each of the chips like I see these days. Even Eagle Brand Condensed Milk has a bizarre recipe and I was sure I would see the old original recipe there! That brings out the Karen in me, lol!
Two things I often do, and mostly because I bake a lot and always have a few of almost every kind of chip in my pantry – I like to add in dark chocolate or milk chocolate, sometimes toffee or heath bar chips, and I am known to leave off the nuts altogether! Then they’re 8 layer or 8 1/2 layer bars!
This recipe is listed sometimes as a Hello Dolly Bar, but my understanding is that a Hello Dolly has a shortbread crust. That’d be delish, too! But it’s not a Magic or Seven Layer Bar!
How to Store Magic Seven Layer Bars:
Store your Magic Seven Layer Bars tightly covered at room temperature. Believe me. they probably won’t last long enough for storage to be much of a concern!
I have not personally frozen these bars. My Mom used to cut them small and freeze them in layers in a plastic container. She’d use wax paper between the layers. Usually, she’d pull out one or two when she wanted a treat.
Subbing for the Graham Cracker Crumbs:
1 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs weigh exactly 5 ounces. If you’re making your bars with graham crackers that you are going to crush, you want to get petty close to that weight. You can weigh your graham crackers or estimate by the number of ounces on the box.
You can go wild and use some other item instead of graham crackers. The surefire successful way to do this is to go by weight.
Too many crumbs mean the crust will be dry and crumbly. Too few and the crust will be soggy and fall apart.
Saving Money on Ingredients:
There is no doubt that if you just decide to go out and buy the ingredients for these bars, they’ll cost a small fortune! If you keep a well-stocked pantry full of sale-priced baking goods, your cost will be about 1/3 to a half of just buying straight up.
Pick up all these items on a deep sale before most holidays, but especially look for condensed milk and nuts to be on sale around Thanksgiving and Christmas. The condensed milk keeps pretty much forever (at some point, you may see a bit of darkening or caramelization, which makes it taste even better, don’t be concerned about it from a safety standpoint.) Nuts should be kept in the freezer.
The chocolates should be stored at a cool room temperature, coconut goes in the freezer, and do watch the graham crackers or crumbs for freshness. There’s no saving them if they taste stale but they are usually good months past their best-buy dates.
If you’d like to see what items I look to buy before any Holiday, check out my post: Win at the Grocery. There are links to each of the major holidays and what to shop for.
That’s it for me, guys, I’m out~ I’ve eaten way too many of these bars and am ready for a nap, lol! Now if I haven’t scared you off, what’s your fave variation of these Magic Seven Layer Bars?
Magic Seven Layer Bars
The classic recipe for seven layer or magic bars.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 16 bars (or more) 1x
- Category: desserts
- 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons or 1 stick) butter, in peices
- 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1 package (about 11 ounces) butterscotch chips
- 1 package (about 11 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1/2 to 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
- 1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
- 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Scatter pieces of butter in a 9 x 13″ pan, preferably pyrex. Leave until butter is just melted. Remove from oven and sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs. Stir to incorporate the butter and then press to the bottom of the pan.
Layer in this order: butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, nuts, coconut flakes. Drizzle with the condensed milk.
Place in oven and bake for about 30 minutes until the top is golden brown and chocolate has melted. Check early; ovens can vary in temperature.
Keywords: Butterscotch, Chocolate, Chocolate Chips, Coconut, condensed milk, Desserts, Graham Crackers, nuts, Pecans, walnuts