Have you had a Magic Bar cookie—a combination of chocolate chips and coconut, bound with sweetened condensed milk on a graham cracker base? If you love it as much as most people, you’ll want to check out Baskin-Robbins’ flavor of the month: Magic Layer Bar: swirls of coconut and graham cracker crumbles in a French custard flavored ice cream with a smooth ganache swirl.
Introduced today at Baskin-Robbins stores nationwide, each ingredient in a scoop of Magic Layer Bar represents an ingredient you’d taste biting into a Seven Layer Magic Bar, says Baskin-Robbins. “The graham cracker crumbles mimic the bottom graham layer, while the ganache swirl brings through the essence of melted chocolate chips, and the must-have coconut shreds top it all off with that last bit of sweetness. The French custard-flavored ice cream imitates the rich creaminess you get from the sweetened condensed milk which holds the Seven Layer Magic Bar together, giving a subtle background flavor that allows for the other ingredients to shine through.”
You’ll see in a minute why we call them Magic Bars instead of Seven Layer Bars.
THE HISTORY OF MAGIC LAYER BARS,
The cookie has been called Magic LBars, Seven Layer Bars, Magic Layer Bars, Magic Cookie Bars, Hello Dollys, Hello Dolly Squares, and Coconut Dream Bars.
Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk, which popularized the recipe by placing it on on the can’s label, called it Seven Layer Magic Cookie Bars.
The facts are that American food writer Clementine Paddleford featured the recipe in her column in The Week magazine, of September 19, 1965.
She said that she received the recipe from 11-year-old Alecia Leigh Couch of Dallas, who had learned the recipe from her grandmother. Alecia purportedly called the bars Hello Dollys.
Why? The previous year, on January 16, 1964, Carol Channing had opened in the musical Hello Dolly! on Broadway (it became one of the longest-running Broadway shows ever.
Later in 1964, Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk featured the recipe on the back label of the can. It was called Magic Cookie Bars, and still can be found on the labels today [source].
We can connect the dots and presume that Alecia’s grandmother saw the Eagle Brand recipe and, if it is true that the name Hello Dollys came from Alecia, that the girl or her grandmother renamed the recipe.
Check out these similar recipes gathered by Barry Popick, a contributor to the Oxford English Dictionary, Dictionary of American Regional English, Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Yale Book of Quotations, Dictionary of Modern Proverbs and Gerald Cohen’s Comments on Etymology.
How Many Layers Are Actually In The Bar?
The original Eagle Brand recipe for Magic Cookie Bars has four layers, since the butter is melted into the graham cracker crumbs to make the bottom layer; and the sweetened condensed milk is a binder for the other layers: chips, nuts, coconut.
Even if you call the condensed milk a layer on its own (it isn’t), you have a five-layer bar. Add the butterscotch chips (not part of the original recipe) and you have either a five-layer bar or (counting the sweetened condensed milk) a six-layer bar.
Has no one noticed that there aren’t seven layers? Butter isn’t a layer. And to split hairs, the chocolate chips and butterscotch chips are in the same layer.
So we default to Magic Bars. There’s no need to call them Magic Bar cookies. A bar is a type of cookie (the different types of cookies).
We tinkered with the recipe, as many bakers have. We added butterscotch chips, dried cranberries, raisins, mini marshmallows, and mini M&Ms (not all at the same time).
So feel free to customize the recipe below.
 Magic Bars, also called Seven Layer Bars (photo © Kodama Kitty | CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0 License).
 Baskin-Robbins’ version, Magic Layer Bar ice cream, is January 2022’s flavor of the month (photo © Baskin-Robbins).
 The Eagle Brand recipe (photos #3 and #4 © Eagle Family Foods Group).
 Check out the many recipes you can make with sweetened condensed milk.
RECIPE: MAGIC BARS a.k.a. SEVEN LAYER BARS
½ cup butter, melted
1-½ cups graham cracker crumbs
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips or 1 cup each semisweet and butterscotch chips
1⅓ cups flaked coconut
1 cup chopped nuts
1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F (325°F if using a glass baking dish). Coat a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with no-stick cooking spray.
2. COMBINE the graham cracker crumbs and butter. Press the mixture into the bottom of the pan.
3. POUR the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the crumb mixture. Layer evenly with chocolate chips, coconut, and nuts. Press down firmly with a fork.
4. BAKE for 25 minutes or until the tops are lightly browned. Cool. Cut into square/rectangular bars or diamond shapes.
Some bakers advise cutting the bars into one-inch squares because they’re so rich. Store them covered at room temperature. Freeze any extra.
Magic Peanut Cookie Bars: Substitute 2 cups (about 3/4 pound) chocolate-covered peanuts for the semi-sweet chocolate chips and chopped nuts.
Magic Rainbow Cookie Bars: Substitute 2 cups plain candy-coated chocolate candies (like M&Ms) for the semi-sweet chocolate chips.
Peanut butter-flavored chips or white chocolate chips may be substituted for butterscotch flavored chips.
Instead of chocolate chips and/or nuts, substitute the same amount of dried cranberries, raisins, mini marshmallows, or M&Ms.
Variations for the basic recipe:
> THE HISTORY OF COOKIES
> A COOKIE GLOSSARY: HOW MANY TYPES OF COOKIES HAVE YOU TRIED?
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