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Apricot Mud Hen Cake Bars

These mud hen bars have been in my family for generations. My maternal grandmother gave this recipe to my mother, who shared it with me. I’ve been told the name comes from the speckled meringue topping that resembles the coloring of hens. —Kristine Chayes, Smithtown, New York
  • Total Time
    Prep: 20 min. Bake: 30 min. + cooling
  • Makes
    24 servings


  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1 cup apricot preserves


  • Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 5-7 minutes. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. In another bowl, whisk flour and salt; beat into creamed mixture. Spread into a greased 13x9-in. baking pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 12-15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile for meringue, with clean beaters, beat egg whites with cream of tartar on medium speed until foamy. Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating on high after each addition until sugar is dissolved. Continue beating until stiff glossy peaks form; gently fold in pecans.
  • Spread preserves over hot cake. Spread meringue over preserves, sealing meringue to edges of pan. Bake until meringue is golden brown, 15-20 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack. Refrigerate leftovers.

Test Kitchen tip
  • Raspberry, peach, or other jam can be used in place of apricot.
  • Nutrition Facts
    1 piece: 163 calories, 9g fat (4g saturated fat), 31mg cholesterol, 69mg sodium, 21g carbohydrate (12g sugars, 1g fiber), 2g protein.
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    Average Rating:
    • GiniLang
      Jul 14, 2020

      Good Morning from canton Ohio!I have to give this a 5 plus star rating. I followed the recipe exactly using strawberry jam and it came out perfectly. Interesting to know why it's called" mud hen". And thank you so much for submitting this recipe. I am sharing this with several friends Also !

    • KristineChayes
      May 12, 2020

      As noted in the recipe description, this is an old family recipe and it was always referred to as Mud Hen Cake Bars. I kept the title to keep it authentic. I certainly know the difference between cake and cookie bars. To those who were confused over the recipe title, please understand that this recipe dates back about 100 years. At that time, you either baked cookies or cake; the “cookie bar” designation did not exist back then. I hope this explains the recipe‘s title :)

    • Stephanie
      Apr 9, 2020

      These were delicious but these are a cookie bar. Not a cake bar. At least that is how mine turned out. The meringue topping is so good on these!

    • Marg
      Apr 2, 2020

      I have been watching this recipe for a while but I’ve been on a strict weight loss diet and didn’t dare have these in the house.Being in the house for so long due to Covid-19 and having a birthday I fell off the wagon today.I made ,ate and enjoyed this excellent recipe. My husband was sneaking pieces and enjoying it all day long! It was a very happy birthday ! As another reviewer mentioned, the meringue did take longer than the usual bake time I’ve used on other recipes but it was fine.

    • Marcia
      Mar 30, 2020

      Two of my neighbors agree that this is definitely a keeper! I used strawberry preserves and plan on raspberry next time. I could have eaten the whole thing! Delish and I thought very easy. I do suggest that one use a stand up mixer instead of a hand mixer. Mine really strained and got that burning motor smell. The thinness of the crust is what really made this easy to serve! Granny Dre

    • Melinda
      Mar 27, 2020

      I made these last night and they came out pretty good. A couple of things though... First, these do NOT make a cake, and have little relationship in flavor or texture to a cake. They are a cookie bar where the bottom crust is very reminiscent of short bread, but not so crumbly. Two egg yolks and some butter is not enough liquid to give you a "cake" and note that the recipe has no leavening.... So the "testing the cake with a toothpick when done" part of the recipe does not make a ton of sense. Essentially you get a crumbly wet "dough" that you press into the 9X13 pan like you would with other cookie bars for the bottom crust. As for "spreading" the apricot jam... I think this would be very very hard to do with cold or even room temperature jam. However, if you microwave the jam until it melts, you can pour the jam across the crust using a spatula to smooth it out very easily. The Meringue is quite good, and really does take the 15-20 minutes the recipe says to cook. I was very surprised by this since most meringues dont take that long in my experience......

    • Jellybug
      Mar 23, 2020

      I used my own homemade (canned) apricot-pineapple jam. The finished cake was delicious, moist and easy to prepared!

    • Shirley
      Mar 23, 2020

      I haven't made this yet, but, it's March and I'm thinking rhubarb. Maybe rhubarb and strawberries. I'll stick to rhubarb for now. I can whip up a batch of jam in small quantity easily enough.

    • Deborah
      Mar 22, 2020

      these did not work very well. the cookie/cake part never set - is the 1 1/2 cup flour correct? The taste was there but not quite right...