This 7 layer bar cake uses all the delicious elements of the 7 layer bars treats: a buttery graham cracker crust, coconut-flavored doctored cake mix, a gooey coconut pecan filling (which I also use on my German chocolate cake), a fluffy butterscotch buttercream and a rich chocolate ganache.

A 7 Layer Bar Cake showcasing the graham cracker crust and 3 layers of white cake and mini chocolate chips.

Why This Recipe Works

  • This cake has all the components of a 7 layer bar! It has the crunch from the nuts, the coconut-flavored, fluffy cake and the butterscotch flavor from the buttercream.
  • I’m a huge fan of doctored cake mixes. For one, they are so much easier to make since all the dry ingredients are right there. But, we doctor them (meaning we add additional ingredients here and there) to make the cake extra moist and tasty. Because, trust me, regular ‘ole cake mixes without any additional buttermilk, sour cream or vegetable oil are way too dry!
  • This recipe uses my famous coconut pecan filling that I use on all my favorite German chocolate treats (like my German chocolate brownies!) It’s perfectly gooey and really brings out the buttery, coconut-y flavor that make 7 layer bars so delicious!

Ingredients

A slice of 7 Layer Bar Cake on a white plate with a fork next to the cake.
  • Graham Cracker Crumbs: About 15 full rectangle crackers, crushed fine.
  • Unsalted Butter: We’ll use butter for the graham cracker crust, the coconut pecan filling and the buttercream.
  • Box White Cake Mix: The cake element of this 7 layer bar cake is a doctored cake, which means we use a cake mix as our base but add additional ingredients to make it extra amazing.
  • Sour Cream and Buttermilk: This will make for a really moist cake.
  • Coconut Emulsion: This gives a coconut flavor to the cake. If you don’t have coconut emulsion you can use coconut extract.
  • Mini Chocolate Chips: You can toss them in a bit of flour before adding to the cake so they don’t fall to the bottom. You’ll also use semi-sweet chocolate chips for the ganache.
  • Heavy Cream: For the coconut pecan filling, the butter cream and the chocolate ganache drizzle.
  • Toasted Pecans: For the coconut pecan filling. I always toast the pecans because it brings out their flavor.
  • Toasted Coconut: Yes, the coconut mus be toasted otherwise the texture will be off.
  • Butterscotch Chips: For the buttercream.
  • Powdered Sugar: Make sure it is sifted.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Prep the cake pans. Spray three 6-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray, line the bottom with a circular piece of parchment paper and spray on top of the parchment paper.
  2. Make the graham cracker crust. Add the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, sugar, and salt to a large bowl. Mix to combine.
  3. Firmly press 1/3 of the graham cracker mixture into each pan to create a crust at the bottom of the pan. Bake for 5 minutes and let cool while you make the cake batter.
A graham cracker crust in a 6 inch round cake pan.
  1. Make the cake batter. Beat the oil, sour cream, buttermilk, egg whites, coconut emulsion and vanilla extract in a stand mixer until combined.
  2. Sift in the white cake mix, then add the chocolate chips. Mix until just combined. You don’t want to over mix your cake or it won’t rise as well.
  3. Add 1/3 of the batter to the top of the graham cracker crust-lined cake pans.
A white cake batter with mini chocolate chips in a 6 inch round cake pan.
  1. Bake for 30-34 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and let them cool completely. 
A baked white cake with mini chocolate chips in a round cake pan, on a white background.
  1. Make the coconut pecan filling.
  2. Make the butterscotch buttercream.
A butterscotch buttercream covered 7 Layer Bar Cake with a chocolate drip going down the sides.
  1. Assemble the 7 layer bar cake. Place a cake layer, graham cracker crust side on the bottom, on a cake stand. Spread ½ cup of the butterscotch buttercream over the cake layer, then pipe a rim of buttercream around the edge of the cake. Add 1/2 of the coconut pecan filling inside that buttercream rim.
  2. Place the second cake layer on top of the filling and repeat these steps 1 more time. (Graham cracker crusts on the bottom). Then add the final cake layer to the top, with the graham cracker crust on the bottom.
  3. Apply a thin buttercream layer over the entire cake and freeze for 15 minutes. (This is called the crumb coat).
  4. Make the chocolate drip. Heat the cream in the microwave until hot, then pour the cream over the chocolate chips and let sit for 2 minutes, then stir until smooth. 
  5. Remove the cake from the freezer and apply the rest of the buttercream frosting on the top and sides.
  6. Add the chocolate drip to the edge of the cake and then pour the remaining chocolate over the top of the cake. Place in the fridge to let set.
  7. Slice the cake and serve!
A slice of 7 Layer Bar Cake on a white plate.

Recipe Tips

Cake Batter Tips: You can toss your chocolate chips in a teaspoon or so of flour before adding them to the cake batter to prevent sinking.

Don’t open your oven prematurely or your cakes may collapse. Cakes need to bake more than 3/4 of the way (or longer) before opening the oven to make sure they are done. If your oven seems to cook faster, you can open the oven and do the toothpick test 1-2 minutes before the end of the requested bake time. As instructed, the toothpick should come out with moist crumbs on it. Remember, we don’t want a dry cake!

Butterscotch Buttercream: Make sure your butter is slightly cold. You don’t want the butter for your buttercream to be room temperature or soft at all or the buttercream will be too lax. Plus, you’ll be adding the butterscotch drizzle to the buttercream which will be slightly warm. (I’d let the butterscotch drizzle sit for a minute or two before adding it to the buttercream so you don’t completely melt the buttercream and lose your texture.) Let the buttercream whip up really well (for 4-5 minutes) once all the ingredients are in there. This will cause the heavy cream in the mixture to whip up a bit and you’ll get a nice, fluffy buttercream texture.

Chocolate Ganache: Be sure to let the cream sit over the chocolate chips for a few minutes before stirring. This ensures a smooth ganache. If you stir prematurely, you make get separation and grittiness in the chocolate. Apply the chocolate ganache drip using a squeeze bottle.

Cake Assembly and Decorating: I use two cake boards on the bottom of the first cake layer — one the size of the cake and another an inch or two bigger. This makes the cake easier to frost. Using a cake turn table will make frosting the sides of the cake much easier.

FAQs

Why is it called a 7 layer bar?

7 layer bars are named because there are 7 elements that are layered on top of each other to make the delicious bar treat. The 7 elements are butter, graham crackers, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, chopped pecans, shredded coconut and sweetened condensed milk.

Cake I freeze a frosted cake?

Definitely! If you have leftover cake, cut it into quarters and wrap each quarter in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil and store in the freezer. The cake will keep in the freezer for 2-3 months. Remove from the freezer and let thaw on the counter.

Should you refrigerate cake?

Cakes are fine to sit at room temperature for a day or two. Just make sure the cake is covered to keep it from drying out. If you want the cake to last longer, you can store it, covered, in the fridge for 3-4 days.

What is the difference between cake filling and cake frosting?

The cake filling is a flavored filling that goes in between the cake layers. Cake frosting can also go in between cake layers, in addition to the filling, but it also is what covers the cake.

A fork cutting into a slice of 7 Layer Bar Cake.

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A slice of 7 Layer Bar Cake on a white plate.
Print Review
5 from 1 vote

7 Layer Bar Cake

This moist 7 Layer Bar Cake tastes JUST like the classic 7 layer bars dessert! This cake features 3 graham cracker crust lined cakes with a coconut pecan filling and butterscotch buttercream. The finishing touch is a chocolate drip!
Prep Time: 1 hr 15 mins
Cook Time: 32 mins
Chilling time: 30 mins
Total Time: 2 hrs 17 mins
Servings: 10 servings

Ingredients
 

Graham Cracker Crust

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs - about 15 full rectangle crackers, crushed fine
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter - melted (if using salted butter omit the salt)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Coconut Infused Cake

  • 1 box white cake mix
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup sour cream - full fat or light is fine
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 4 egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons coconut emulsion
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Coconut Pecan Filling

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream - or evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup pecans - toasted and finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut - toasted

Butterscotch Buttercream

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter - slightly softened to room temperature, butter will still be somewhat cold
  • 8 oz butterscotch chips
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar - measured then sifted

Chocolate Drip

Instructions
 

Graham Cracker Crust

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray 3- 6 inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottoms with parchment paper and spray the pans again. 
  • To a large bowl add the graham cracker crums, melted butter, sugar, and salt. Mix to combine.
  • Press 1/3 of the graham cracker mixture into each round cake pan. Firmly pressing into each pan to create a crust at the bottom of the pan. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove and let cool while you make the cake batter.

Cake

  • Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment beat the oil, sour cream, buttermilk, egg whites, coconut emulsion and vanilla extract until combined. Sift in the white cake mix, then add the chocolate chips. Mix until just combined. 
  • Divide the cake batter amongst the 3 cake pans. (You’ll add the batter to the top of the graham cracker crust).
  • Bake for 30-34 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs on it. Let cakes cool in cake pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and let them cool completely. 

Coconut Pecan Filling

  • In a medium saucepan whisk the cream, sugar, egg yolks, and salt. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally. Bring to a low simmer and cook until slightly thickened. 
  • Remove from the heat and add the butter, vanilla, toasted coconut and pecans. Mix to combined. Set aside to cool to room temperature. The mixture will appear fairly thin but will thicken as it cools. 

Butterscotch Buttercream

  • Beat the butter in a stand mixer until smooth and creamy, about 3 mins. Add half of the powdered sugar to the butter and beat until smooth. 
  • Place the heavy cream and butterscotch chips in a microwave safe bowl. Warm in the microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between each increment until melted and smooth. 
  • Drizzle the butterscotch ganache into the stand mixer and continue mixing. Add remaining powdered sugar, vanilla and salt and beat until smooth. 

Assembly

  • Place the first cake layer, with graham cracker crust side on the bottom, on a cake stand. Spread ½ cup of butterscotch buttercream over the cake layer, then pipe a rim of buttercream around the edge of the cake. Add 1/2 of the coconut pecan filling to the cake. Place the second cake layer on top of the filling and repeat these steps 1 more time. (Graham cracker crusts on the bottom). Then add the final cake layer to the top, with the graham cracker crust on the bottom.
  • Apply a thin buttercream layer over the entire cake and freeze for 15 minutes. (this is the crumb coat). Once set, apply the remaining buttercream then apply the chocolate drip. 

Chocolate Drip

  • Heat the cream in the microwave until hot, then pour over the chocolate chips and let sit for 2 minutes, then stir until smooth. 
  • Add the chocolate drip to the edge of the cake and then pour the remaining chocolate over the top of the cake. Place in the fridge to let set.
  • Slice the cake and serve!

Notes

Cake Batter Tips: You can toss your chocolate chips in a teaspoon or so of flour before adding them to the cake batter to prevent sinking.
Don’t open your oven prematurely or your cakes may collapse. Cakes need to bake more than 3/4 of the way (or longer) before opening the oven to make sure they are done. If your oven seems to cook faster, you can open the oven and do the toothpick test 1-2 minutes before the end of the requested bake time. As instructed, the toothpick should come out with moist crumbs on it. Remember, we don’t want a dry cake!
Butterscotch Buttercream: Make sure your butter is slightly cold. You don’t want the butter for your buttercream to be room temperature or soft at all or the buttercream will be too lax. Plus, you’ll be adding the butterscotch drizzle to the buttercream which will be slightly warm. (I’d let the butterscotch drizzle sit for a minute or two before adding it to the buttercream so you don’t completely melt the buttercream and lose your texture.) Let the buttercream whip up really well (for 4-5 minutes) once all the ingredients are in there. This will cause the heavy cream in the mixture to whip up a bit and you’ll get a nice, fluffy buttercream texture.
Chocolate Ganache: Be sure to let the cream sit over the chocolate chips for a few minutes before stirring. This ensures a smooth ganache. If you stir prematurely, you make get separation and grittiness in the chocolate. Apply the chocolate ganache drip using a squeeze bottle.
Cake Assembly and Decorating: I use two cake boards on the bottom of the first cake layer — one the size of the cake and another an inch or two bigger. This makes the cake easier to frost. Using a cake turn table will make frosting the sides of the cake much easier.
Recipe inspired by Cake by Courtney.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
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