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Applesauce Fruitcake Bars with Caramel Icing

Servings: Makes 48 bars
A quick and easy treat for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Making these little fruitcake bars will give you more time to spend with your guests, instead of spending your time in the kitchen baking all day.

I like to ice these bars with Caramel Icing, but if desired, you can dust top of bars with confectioners' sugar instead. The recipe for Caramel Icing is included below.

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 large eggs
1/4 cup (1/2 stick/2 oz./56g) unsalted margarine or butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups biscuit baking mix
1 (15-ounce) jar applesauce (sweetened or unsweetened)
1 cup chopped dates
1 (6-ounce) container green candied cherries, chopped
1 (6-ounce) container red candied cherries, chopped
1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans are good)
1 cup raisins
Confectioners' sugar

For Caramel Icing (optional)
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup evaporated milk
2 1/2 tablespoons (1.25 oz/35g) butter or stick margarine
2 teaspoons light-colored corn syrup (such as Karo Light Syrup)
Dash of salt
2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Garnish (optional)
24 candied (glace) red and green cherries, cut in half

Preheat oven to 325ºF/160ºC. Grease and flour a 15 x 10-inch jelly roll pan.

In bowl of an electric mixer, beat condensed milk, eggs, margarine and vanilla. Stir in remaining ingredients except confectioners' sugar.

Spread mixture evenly into prepared jelly roll pan. Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool thoroughly before spreading with caramel icing (if using). If desired, garnish with candied cherry halves after cutting into bars. If not making icing, sprinkle with confectioners' sugar. Cut into bars. Store tightly covered at room temperature.

Caramel Icing

Combine brown sugar and next 4 ingredients (brown sugar through salt) in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat, and simmer until thick (about 5 minutes), stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Add confectioners' sugar and the vanilla extract; beat at medium speed of an electric mixer until smooth and slightly warm. Cool 2 to 3 minutes (icing will be thin but thickens as it cools). Using a spatula, spread icing over cooled fruitcake bars before slicing.

Makes 48 bars.

Source: DianasDesserts.com
Date: September 28, 2002-Recipe revised 12/22/07