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Today's Case

School Cafeteria Sunshine Bars

Subject: Sunshine Bars
From: Shannon
Date: 12/24/2021, 11:19 AM

On 12/23/2021 9:43 PM, Shannon wrote:

Phaedrus, I am trying to find a recipe from the late 1970’s early 1980’s 
that was served in school cafeterias called Sunshine Bars. I have found 
several recipes for “Sunshine Bars” however none were close in ingredients 
as they were either granola bars or lemon bars. The ones I am thinking of 
were similar to a cake but made in jelly roll pans and dusted with powdered 
sugar on top. It was very dense and very moist and a dark brown in color 
however not as dark as a chocolate cake. It was either made with pumpkin, 
sweet potatoes, or carrots. I am leaning towards sweet potatoes or pumpkin 
as it had a smooth texture whereas carrots would have been more coarse and 
fibrous. It had a molasses type taste and was very rich. They reminded me 
of a jam or spice cake in taste but not the same consistency.
Any help or insight would be appreciated.

Hi Shannon,

I was going to wait until I heard from you about the identity of the school, but I had nothing happening this morning, so I decided to see what was out there regarding "sunshine bars."

I immediately found the first recipe below at It is made with sweet potatoes, but it has a topping recipe rather than just being dusted with powdered sugar. Exploring further, I found two posts on a "Reddit" "old recipes" message board.The first one began like this:

"I work for a public school nutrition department. We found some really old tins with hand-written or typed recipe cards from God knows when. Some really weird stuff we would never serve today."

Looking through the five images that this person posted, I found an image of a school lunchroom recipe for "Sunshine Bars," the second recipe below, dated "1986". The poster did not say which "public school nutrition department" was her employer. The person who posted those images also made a second posting with more images of school lunchroom recipes that she had found. This batch of images also included the "Sunshine Bars" recipe, as well as an image of the back of the "Sunshine Bars" recipe, which contained the rest of the instructions for making them and which also said "frost with powdered sugar". So, this find appears to check all of the boxes for your request. I think and hope that it is what you were searching for.

Note, Shannon, that the first recipe and the second recipe, even though they are from completely different, unconnected sources, contain exactly the same ingredients and that they are listed in the same order. The only difference between the two lists of ingredients is the amount of each ingredient. I will speculate that at some point in time, some enterprising individual used the large lunchroom recipe (#2) to created a home version of "Sunshine Bars" by reducing the ingredient amounts to quantities suitable for home kitchen use. I also think that, probably at the same time, that person added the topping recipe made with butter, sugar, and flour in place of the simple powdered sugar that was the topping given with the original school lunchroom recipe. To make them like you remember them, I'd use recipe #1 and top them with powdered sugar instead of the recipe topping given.

If this is not what you were searching for, write me back with the requested identity of the school where the bars were served to you, and I will search some more. If this IS what you were searching for, then:

You're Welcome.



Sunshine Bars  #1  

2 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. oil
2 c. sweet potatoes
4 eggs
3/4 c. water
1 tsp. vanilla
3 1/2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cloves
2 c. butter
1 c. sugar
4 c. flour
Mix all ingredients together. Pour into baking dish, greased. 
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes until done.

Sunshine Bars  #2  (1 pan) 1986

2 lbs 10 oz    sugar
2 cups        oil
1 qt        sweet potatoes
4 oz        eggs
1 1/3 cups    water for eggs
2 tsp.         vanilla
1 lb 11 oz     flour
4 tsp.         baking soda
1 tsp.         salt
2 tsp.         cinnamon
1/2 tsp.     nutmeg
1/4 tsp.     cloves
1 1/3 cups     water

Combine sugar, oil, sweet potato and mix
Add eggs, water and vanilla and blend.

Back of recipe card:

Add all dry ingredients to other mixture
and mix only enough to blend.

The elementary school was Robards Elementary in Robards Kentucky however I 
also had them in Middle School at South Middle School in Henderson Kentucky. 
Robards Elementary has since been closed.
Thank you so much, these sound like the right recipe. I just saw this email 
and had already replied with the school information.

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