While sorting out old recipes from my mom’s files, I came across a recipe for Vintage Payday Cookie Bars. The recipe was given to my Nana sometime in the late 60’s/early 70’s and both she and my Mom made them for us growing up. While doing some modern research, I found a couple variations of this cookie bar. One version calls for yellow cake mix as the base layer and is often called “Payday Bars”. And another very popular version – a copycat recipe for “Payday Candy Bars” – calls for sweetened condensed milk.
I have taken this recipe for Vintage Payday Cookie Bars and baked it modern using real butter instead of margarine. I also swapped out the peanut butter chips with real peanut butter, and used my own Homemade Cake Mix.
Baker’s tips for Vintage Payday Cookie Bars:
Use a homemade cake mix:
The original recipe calls for a boxed yellow cake mix. Boxed cake mixes are filled with artificial ingredients and additives, so try to find an all-natural brand if you can. If you don’t have a boxed cake mix on hand, simply make your own with a few basic pantry ingredients. Here is my recipe for Homemade Cake Mix.
Use real butter instead of margarine:
The original recipe calls for margarine, typical in recipes from this era. I used real butter since I prefer the all-natural flavor of butter. Margarine is a processed food made mostly of oil and contains more water than butter.
Balance the sweetness:
The original recipe calls for 2/3 c. white Karo syrup. Karo syrup is corn syrup and not to be confused with high fructose corn syrup. To balance the sweetness of this recipe, I’ve replaced a portion of the Karo with all-natural chunky peanut butter.
Use real peanut butter instead of peanut butter chips:
The original recipe calls for 12 oz. peanut butter chips, however, I used chunky peanut butter instead as peanut butter chips are made of sugar, oil and artificial flavor and when melted they lack peanut butter flavor. When choosing a peanut butter, make sure it is one that does not contain high fructose corn syrup such as Jif Natural. You can always use homemade peanut butter from fresh roasted, salted peanuts in which you just place in food processor and blend to the consistency you like.
Use natural marshmallows or homemade marshmallow cream:
For the best flavor, use all-natural marshmallows. Many conventional brands have artificial flavor and additives. This recipe can be made quick using pre-made marshmallows, however, you could use homemade marshmallow creme made without preservatives and high fructose corn syrup. To do so, place a mixing bowl over double broiler and place 3 egg whites, 1 c. superfine sugar like C&H brand, 1/2 tsp. cream of tarter and whisk for 5-7 minutes until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and place in mixer stand. Add in 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla and beat for 6-8 minutes until stiff peak. Spread over the cake base to form the middle layer of the bars.
Looking for more cookie bar recipes? Try my Classic Peanut Butter Bars.
Vintage Payday Cookie Bars
- 1 Homemade Cake Mix
- 1/2 c. unsalted butter soft
- 2 eggs
- 3 c. mini marshmallows
- 2/3 c. chunky peanut butter
- 1/3 c. white Karo syrup
- 1/4 c. unsalted butter
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 2 1/3 c. lightly salted peanuts
- 2 c. Rice Krispies
- Grease 9×13 pan. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place cake mix in bowl and add soft butter and eggs. Mix together and place in bottom layer of pan and bake for 18-20 minutes.
- Place mini marshmallows over the base layer and melt in oven 2-3 minutes. Remove from oven. Grease an off-set spatula with non-stick cooking spray and then spread the melted marshmallows.
- Place a bowl over simmering pot of water and melt peanut butter, Karo syrup, butter, and vanilla.
- Stir in peanuts and Rice Krispies and spread mixture over the marshmallow layer.
- Let cool and cut into bars.