Recently, I had a dear friend unexpectedly end up in the hospital for a week. Lexi is so full of joy and quick with a smile, even from her hospital bed. I created these bars, with her in mind...thinking that if her brilliant smile couldn't coax some special treatment from her visitors and caregivers, maybe a sweet bribe could. And, on top of everything, they're easy to make!
1Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 13” x 9” baking pan with foil. Spray foil with non-stick cooking spray.
2In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, combine cake mix, peanut butter, melted butter and eggs on low speed for one minute. Scrape down sides often while beating. Set aside 1 ½ cups cake mixture.
3Place remaining cake mixture in bottom of 13” x 9” baking pan and press evenly on bottom of pan, using fingers. Set aside.
4Combine chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, butter and vanilla in microwave safe bowl. Heat on high for 2 minutes, remove and stir until chips are almost completely melted. Return to microwave, if necessary, for 30 second intervals until chips are melted, (they don't need to be completely melted, they will finish melting in the oven). Stir in coconut. Pour chocolate mixture over cake crust and spread evenly.
5Pour caramel topping evenly over chocolate and sprinkle peanut butter chips and peanuts (if using) evenly over caramel.
6Sprinkle the remaining cake mixture (breaking it up with fingers) over the top.
7Bake, in center of oven, for 25 to 30 minutes or until top cake pieces are firm to the touch.
8Allow to cool in pan and then place in refrigerator to firm completely. Remove from pan by lifting foil and cut into 1 inch squares. Refrigerate any leftovers.