Goo Goo Turtle Bars

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Howard Campbell would never have gotten into the candy business had it not been for a serendipitous contract: A small candy company went out of business, leaving the local bank with its inventory.  The bank turned to Campbell—a peddler who hawked goods from horse and wagon in downtown Nashville—to sell the surplus. To Campbell’s surprise, the candy—made from quality ingredients—virtually flew off the wagon. That experience led Campbell to found the Standard Candy Company in 1901. Working with business partner and plant supervisor, Porter Moore, it took Campbell several years to perfect a chocolate confection with caramel, marshmallow nougat and roasted peanuts. He called it the Goo Goo Cluster, and it was a smash hit–the first candy bar to market containing more than one primary ingredient. 

100 years later, Goo Goo is enjoying something of a revival. Spun off as a standalone business by Standard Candy in 2011, Goo Goo Cluster, LLC,  went through a makeover including a step-up to improved ingredients and package design.  Celebrating the new look, revamped recipe, and big birthday, Goo Goo organized several centennial events. Our favorite? A Nashville-wide restaurant dessert promotion. With Goo Goo’s chocolate-peanut-marshmallow heart as inspiration, 44 Nashville chefs created their own goo-gooey desserts. This one—a candy-like bar-cookie from chef Audra Dykes, did very well at Nashville’s “Coffee, Lunch” restaurant. Featuring a buttery oat crust with Goo Goo Cluster shards, marshmallow, caramel and chocolate, this dessert is sinfully sweet and rich, so cut into teensy bars—just right to cap an all-day outdoor family picnic. NOTE: Be sure to keep well chilled until right before service.

Makes 1, half-sheet (18 x 13) baking pan

Goo Goo Turtle Bar Base Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups oats
  • 1 lb butter, melted

Goo Goo Turtle Bar Filling Ingredients

  • 8 to 10 Goo-Goo Cluster candy bars
  • 1, 7-ounce package mini marshmallows
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar

Caramel Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown shgar
  • 2 1/2 sticks butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbsp cream

Chocolate Topping Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate bits (I used Guittard)


  1. Make cookie base: Preheat oven to 350F. Mix flour, salt, baking soda, brown sugar and oats together. Stir in melted butter. Line 13 x 18 half-sheet pan with parchment paper, allowing  a bit to overhang all around the pan. (Do not skip this step! you’ll never get the cookies out of the pan otherwise!) Press 2/3 of the cookie base mixture into the bottom of the pan.  Bake for 10 minutes until golden brown, at 350F.
  2. While cookie base bakes. Chop Goo Goo Clusters into small pieces and stir with marshmallows. Pull pan from oven and while cookie base is still hot, cover with the Goo-Goo bits and marshmallows.
  3. Heat peanut butter and brown sugar  in a microwaveable bowl for 2 minutes. Stir sugar and peanut butter together until there are no lumps. Drop by spoonfuls all over the candy and marshmallows.
  4. Make caramel: Melt butter and sugar in heavy-bottomed pot. Stir in sugar. Boil for 1 minute. Stir in cream (caramel will bubble up so be careful.) Pour hot caramel over the other ingredients in the pan. Crumble the reserved remaining 1/3 of cookie base ingredients evenly over all. Pull out the middle rack in your oven and cover with aluminum foil. Place half-sheet pan on the foil. Close oven and bake for 12 minutes until golden brown. The marshmallow and caramel may bubble up and ooze a bit over the edges of the pan–hence the foil under the pan.
  5. Completely cool finished bar cookies on a rack. Place cooled pan in refrigerator for 1 or more hours until bars are hard.
  6. Melt 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate bits. Drizzle over chilled bar cookies. Chill in refrigerator again for 15 minutes until chocolate completely hardens. Cut pan-full of cookies into small pieces and serve.

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