Love Bars – A Gift from Bourke Street Bakery


Love BarsThese Love Bars are a variation of one of the most unusual, delicious cakes I have found in recent memory. The recipe, with minor changes, comes from “Bourke Street Bakery, All Things Sweet“. It’s a beautiful book with gorgeous photography and great recipes.  I’m not even sure how I found it but I am so happy I did.  While they serve this as a cake Down Under, I cut it into bars and if I still had my bakery it would be front and center in the case.

This recipe for Love Bars is one of those easy treasures where you make the base, press it into a pan, add a few more ingredients to the reserved amount, pour it on top, and bake it.  It couldn’t be easier.  The toffee flavored base of the bar is topped with a tender, moist, spicy cake. Don’t be put off by the large amount of pepper and spice in the cake.  It’s amazingly balanced.

I changed the nuts from walnuts to toasted pecans and changed the mixing method slightly but all credit for this treat goes to Paul Allam and David McGuinness, the owners of the Bourke Street Bakery in Australia.  Because Americans use volume measurements I made  small adjustments to some of the amounts given since the original recipe is written in metrics.

My thanks to them for sharing this treat and I will certainly be looking forward to trying more recipes from this book.

Here is their introduction to the Love Cake or Love Bars: “This cake, inspired by Persian love cake and Armenian nutmeg cake is adored by the women in our lives.  They tell us it has nothing to do with being romantic – it is the nutty, slightly burnt caramel flavor and moist consistency combined with a crumbly, biscuit base that makes it all so delicious.”  I’m not sure where the “slightly burnt” came from because mine was more of a toffee base.  But whatever description you give, delicious is the right word.

There is one ingredient that may not be familiar – Golden Syrup.  I have fallen in love with this and could easily just eat it by the spoonful.  It tastes like caramel and I will use it more in the future.  It comes from England and can be found as Lyle’s Golden Syrup and Lyle’s Golden Dessert Syrup in a squeeze bottle.  They are the same thing.  If you want to make this and don’t have this ingredient, you can substitute half clear corn syrup and half honey or all of one of them.

FYI, I will be posting a wonderful tart from Down Under that uses the Golden Syrup and macadamia nuts. I encourage you to get a bottle of the syrup because this recipe won’t taste the same without it.

Love Bars

3 ounces pecans (85 grams or 3 ounces)
2 cups all-purpose flour (280 grams or 10 ounces)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened  (114 grams, 4 ounces or 1 stick)
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon golden syrup (100 grams or 3 1/2 ounces)
1 2/3 cup brown sugar (320 grams or 11 1/4 ounces)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cloves,
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and toast the pecans for 7 to 9 minutes until fragrant and lightly browned. Cool completely.  Chop coarsely.

Turn the oven up to 400°F.

Line the bottom of a 9×9″ square baking pan with parchment paper.  Spray the parchment and sides of the pan with a non-stick release.  Set aside.

Put the flour,baking powder, salt,  butter, sugar and golden syrup in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle.Crumb ingredients

Mix to form crumbs.   Crumbs for Love Bars
Press 400 grams or 14 ounces of the crumbs evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Set aside.Crumbs in the pan for Love Bars

Crumbs pressed int the pan

To the remaining crumbs in the bowl add the cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, and nutmeg.Spices added in  Pour the nuts on top. Pecans added Mix briefly.Pecans mixed in

Combine the milk, egg, and baking soda in a small container.  Liquids mixed for Love BarsWith the machine running slowly pour it into the crumb mixture along with as the recipe says, “heaps and heaps of love, even more than usual.”  Scrape down as necessary.Batter mixed

Pour the batter over the pressed in crust and bake for 5 minutes.

Reduce the temperature to 350°F and bake for 35 minutes or until dark golden brown and just set.  The sides will shrink away slightly.Baked Love Bars

Cool in the pan.  Go around the sides of the pan to release the cake.  Turn right side up and cut 6 across and 3 down.

Yield:  18 Love Bars

Storage:  3 to 5 days at room temperature in an airtight tin.

Pastry has not only been my profession, but my passion. If there is anything in particular you would like to see or any questions about baking or pastry, please let me know. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss a post!
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25 thoughts on “Love Bars – A Gift from Bourke Street Bakery

  1. Maureen Kelly

    Hi Helen,
    These Love Bars sounded intriguing, so I made them for my family for dessert last night, using corn syrup and honey as I didn’t have golden syrup. Just wow! Such unusual and delicious flavors and texture. I was leery of using a full teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper, but it added a sophisticated and tasty touch. The crunchy bottom and slightly gooey center were unexpected, and made these bars a truly unique treat. As always, thank you!

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Maureen, So happy you liked these. Like you, I was hesitant to include all the spices but since I love spice and black pepper with my spice, I went ahead. I agree with you – the combination is amazing and somehow all those spices and pepper work.

  2. Eileen

    Hi Helen, these look so yummy. I will have to order some Golden Syrup on line before I can try them. Today’s Corona Virus baking is going to be eclairs with your pastry cream. BTW just wanted to mention how much I appreciate your including weights in your recipes. I was, like most home cooks brought up with measuring cups but I find weighing ingredients makes such a difference in the final product. Thanks for all your hard work.

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Ellen, I agree that weights ensure a consistent, better outcome. I started using weights in the ’80’s and was rather poked fun at. Happy to see more and more recipes are including them. In my professional life, I use nothing but weights. It would be irresponsible to do anything else. Happy to hear you are using them.

  3. Melissa

    Australian golden syrup is a very old fashioned and beloved ingredient here. I live quite near Bourke Street Bakery in Sydney, but haven’t bought this book far. So thank you for this recipe! They are currently selling their 23 year old sour dough starter – I bought some to compare with my 8 year old one. They make great bread.

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Melissa, It must be wonderful to live so close to the bakery. I can only look at pictures. I love golden syrup and use it whenever I can.
      I had no idea they had a starter so old. How did it compare to yours?

  4. RobL

    Ah, Helen you make me laugh.

    We saw this early this morning, and the grands and I decided to make them. No Lyle’s so we improvised, half honey, half clear corn syrup, and we were a little concerned about the pepper. We couldn’t wait for them to cool.

    DELICIOUS!!!! Many thanks to YOU and Paul and David.

    Oh, and WHY do you make me laugh? Eighteen bars! Come on. It’ll never happen. We cut them into nine squares. Coulda made it eight, or six.

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Rob, I have to admit that this morning I ate two bars for BREAKFAST. I could easily eat the whole thing. So happy to hear you made these today. It seems like a lot of people are making them also. Nice to know.

  5. Judy Garden

    Golden syrup has been a staple in my cupboards for years. I use it in my Christmas cakes and anything that has corn syrup in the ingredients gets substituted with Golden Syrup. I’ll definitely be making these, they look delicious. I have no idea how they get such a distinctive flavour. I love it. (and yes, I can eat it by the spoonfuls too, although I try not to. It’s a slippery slope…)

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Judy, I think anyone who has tasted it once will want to eat it by the spoonful. I am like a child, licking the spatula and eeking out every last drop to taste it.

  6. Cheryl

    I have plenty of golden syrup to use. I use it mainly for a pecan tassie recipe. Since I’m not fond of cloves, is there a substitute?

  7. don

    Hi Helen –

    I have this book and it’s definitely one of my favorites. My friend from Melbourne, AU, sent me a recipe for making Golden Syrup (a little lengthy, but easy) and stores perfectly in the fridge for months. Also from this friend, I’ve learned two recipes: Anzac Biscuits (cookies) & Golden Syrup Dumplings. The dumplings, in my opinion, are not my favorite and sort of gelatinous (icky) , but the Anzac cookies, a recipe from this mom, are a winner.

    A question for your alterations to this recipe. I really like walnuts, and believe they add a specific flavor, and wondering if pecans are only a personal preference or changing the flavor profile. I’ve made this recipe, from the book, a few times and find them flattering to the overall finished product.

    Thanks for sharing your insights and thanks for posting!


    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Don, happy to hear from you. I have seen the method of making golden syrup. It’s interesting. If you make candied orange rind, take a look at my method on the blog. Much easier and it uses golden syrup.

      I changed the nut because I like pecans and they are indigenous to the US. I don’t think it matters a lot what nut you use. The Aussies are good bakers for sure.

  8. Hilda Willman

    So lovely to see a recipe that uses Lyle’s Golden Syrup. A friend from England brought me 8 bottles on a visit and I have struggled to find recipes using it. Bless you! And stay well!

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Hilda, I hope you and your family are well in these most unusual times. So glad you have golden syrup. YOu can use it anywhere corn syrup is used. It would be great in a pecan pie. I also use it in the candied orange peel that I blogged and it makes all the difference in the world. Happy to hear from you.

  9. sallybr

    I adore GOlden Syrup! Just recently made those famous ANzac Biscuits and that syrup is amazing, a real game-changer!

    These Love Bars will be perfect for my bakes for the homeless meals – I can wrap each one and deliver like that. I might make a batch still today!

  10. Adrian West

    Hi Helen,
    The ingredient list above has baking powder & baking soda (I know the difference between them), however the method does not mention baking powder.
    Does the baking powder need removing from the ingredients list, or adding somewhere in the method?
    Kind regards


    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Adrian, Thanks for the catch. The original recipe called for self rising flour. I changed it to use all-purpose flour and forgot to add not only the baking powder but the salt also. Those should be added with the flour and other ingredients called for in the first mix. The recipe has been corrected.

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