Macarons are a tasty sandwich cookie that can be customized in many ways. It’s also a very finicky treat to make. There are many ways these cookies can go wrong, but that’s no reason to avoid trying to bake them. Whether you over mix, under mix, end up with hollows, or little nipples on top of your cookies, your oven may be too hot or cold, the non-slip mats may be better for your oven than parchment paper…you’ll still end up with a tasty cookie and a fancy new recipe under your belt!
There are several different methods to try, too, so if you don’t succeed at first, check out another method that might be easier for you. For my first and second go, I used King Arthur Flour’s recipe. This recipe gives you a nice plain macaron shell to work with. The base recipe is easy to add color and other details to (I added some cinnamon on top of some of mine the second go-round). This ended up being a great first recipe for me, though I do recommend checking out a video or two on YouTube to see someone go through the process. The first time I pipped macarons, I did a swirl instead of a flat pipe and ended up with plenty of air pockets resulting in a hollow cookie (still yummy).
Plain Macaron Shells (via King Arthur Flour)
1 1/2 cups almond flour (sprinkle lightly into a dry measuring cup and level with a straight edge)
1 cup confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)
3 large egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
3 Tbsp + 1 tsp water
Process the almond flour and confectioner’s sugar in a food processor for about 20 seconds (I skip this step). Sift to remove any large pieces and to aerate the mixture (don’t skip this step).
Separate the eggs and put the whites in the bowl you will use to whip them (use whisk attachment). Don’t start whipping yet, but add a pinch of cream of tartar.
Combine the water and granulated sugar in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until dissolved, then bring to a rapid boil. Boil for about 2 minutes. The temperature should reach 235°F-240°F (I go by temp, not time for this step). Take the syrup off the heat. Immediately start whipping the egg whites using an electric mixer. When they hold a curved peak on the end of the beater, stop, grab the pan of the hot syrup, resume beating, and pour the syrup steadily into the whites as you beat them.
Continue beating until the meringue is smooth, glossy, and forms soft peaks. Remove from mixer.
Fold in the almond flour mixture until everything is evenly combined. Then, start stirring. This will thin the mixture. Stir until the batter runs in ribbons that disappear back into the mass in 10-20 seconds (the batter should be sort of thick, not too runny). Test frequently and stop when you reach this point.
Pipe onto parchment-lined baking sheets. The cookie should flatten out. If it doesn’t spread, stir the batter some more. Cookies can be positioned close together since they don’t spread while baking.
Allow the cookies to rest on the sheets in a dry place with good air circulation (counter top is fine) until you can touch the top and come away with a clean finger (roughly 2 hours).
Toward the end of the baking time, preheat oven to 275°F. Bake 25-30 mins, until firm on top. Remove and let cool completely on the sheet. Use a thin spatula to remove them from the parchment (I’ve been able to lift them easily with my hand). Spread half of the cookies with filling. Top with the remaining cookie.
Chocolate Peppermint Buttercream Filling
This I made up as I went along. I took about a stick of butter and beat it until soft. I added some unsweetened cocoa and mixed until combined. Then, added a splash of milk and mixed again. Then I went back and forth with adding powdered sugar, milk, and cocoa until I got a flavor and consistency I liked for the macarons (not too stiff, not too soft). Add a tiny splash of peppermint extract, mix again, and then you’re ready to go.
If you follow Casual Confections on social media, you’ve seen a lot of chatter leading up to the Muggles Market and Geek Gala which both took place last Saturday. Both events were a huge success!
Want to try your hand at making any of the goodies Casual Confections sold or donated to the events? Go for it! These are the recipes I started with and tweaked to end up with the current versions on my menu:
Topping – same fluff recipe as above, just add ground freeze dried strawberries, strawberry flavor oil, or strawberry Jell-O mix in place of the vanilla extract. Start with a small amount and add more to taste. Sprinkle with ground freeze dried strawberries.
I was on the hunt for a tasty chocolate sugar cookie that didn’t spread when baked, didn’t need to be chilled for 2 hours, and could be handled well as a cutout. After looking over several recipes, one from Smitten Kitchen was recommended. After reading the blog post description of the cookies, how to work with the dough, and comments from others who have experimented with it, I decided to give it a go. This recipe is amazing! Some people have used it for hamantaschen and ice cream sandwiches. The chocolate flavor is so rich that it would make for a great s’more cookie or any sandwich cookie (raspberry filling anyone?)! I’m using this recipe to make Cookie Cat sandwich cookies which will include strawberry and vanilla marshmallow creme in the middle. Yum! The Cookie Cat cookies will be available for purchase at the Muggles Market in Charlotte, North Carolina, on November 2nd! I’ll have a post up about how to make the cookies later that month.
The dough is soft, which is why there is a recommended time for chilling it, but it is totally workable whether at room temp or having been chilled. So use it right away or make the dough and store it away to bake later.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Brownie Roll-out Cookies via Smitten Kitchen
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup lightly salted butter, softened (use 1 stick salted, 1 stick unsalted to achieve lightly salted) *as usual, I used unsalted butter since I bake without salt by choice
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Whisk dry flour and baking powder in a bowl and set aside. Mix butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and cocoa in a mixer (can do it all at once, just start the mixer on low speed until the wet and dry ingredients are mixed a bit so they don’t fly out. Then raise the speed to medium). Gradually add flour mixture and mix until smooth. Cover the bowl in plastic and chill for at least an hour (some bakers do 15 mins while they clean everything else up, I’ve done as few as 10 mins and as much as an hour).
Roll out chilled dough on floured counter (use flour or cocoa powder). Cut into desired shapes, brushing extra flour off (can do with a dry or slightly wet finger). Bake on a parchment-lined sheet for 8-11 mins (former for 1/8″ cookies, latter for 1/4″ cookies) until edges are firm and centers are slightly soft and puffed. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
Carrot cake fans rejoice! Now you can satisfy your craving for that moist, chewy goodness without needing to invest in an entire cake! The cookies can be made as drop cookies or by using a whoopie pie baking sheet (my favorite method for stackable cookies). This recipe includes an easy cream cheese filling. You can also add cream cheese to your favorite buttercream (for this experiment, I used the Italian meringue buttercream recipe from the carrot cake bake and added a portion of cream cheese to it). This recipe does require some refrigeration but comes together very quickly and easily.
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened slightly
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 3 Tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats (not quick oats)
1/2 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
2/3 cup finely grated (using the small holes on the grater) carrots (not carrots that are packed in water) – this is the equivalent of half a large carrot or 2-3 medium to small carrots. To measure, place grated carrots loosely into the measuring cup.
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or grease two whoopie pie sheets). Placing cookies on an unlined sheet will result in them spreading too much.
Beat butter and sugars for 1-2 minutes until light and creamy. Add egg and vanilla and best to combine, scraping the bowl if necessary.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat on low until just combined. Add the oats, coconut, carrots, and walnuts. Mix until just combined.
Place the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Remove the dough from the fridge and scoop the dough evenly into 2 tsp-sized mounds and place a couple of inches apart on the cookie sheets (make sure they are mounded and not flat). For the whoopie pie sheets method, place enough dough in each well to provide a not too thick but not too thin layer on the bottom. Press to flatten/smooth out slightly, but do not press completely flat. You want the cookies to be similar in size since you are sandwiching them. They do not need to be perfect matches, but you don’t want a tiny cookie and a cookie double its size as a match.
Make for 9-11 minutes, until golden brown and still slightly soft in the center. Rotate your cookie sheets halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking. Cool the cookies completely on the baking sheet. If you try to move them too soon, they’ll fall apart. Once cool, place the cookies in the refrigerator to firm up a little while you prepare the frosting (this step is optional). If using whoopie pie sheets, gently and slowly twist the cooled cookies so that they loosen in one piece before gently lifting them out of the well.
Cream Cheese frosting:
4 oz cream cheese, softend
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, plus more if needed
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
Beat cream cheese and butter for several minutes, until combined. Add powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Beat for a couple more minutes until smooth and creamy. If the frosting appears too thin, add a little more powdered sugar or place it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to slightly firm up.
Spread frosting on the underside half of the cookies and top with another cookie (if I use the whoopie pie tin, I put the icing on the top of the cookie so that you hold on to the flat sides). These cookies are best within 1-2 days of making them. Store them in the refrigerator and eat them from the fridge or bring them to room temperature before serving.
If you’ve been following Casual Confections on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, you’ve noticed several different versions of s’mores sandwich cookies that I’ve made over recent months. Each batch has had aspects that I’ve liked and aspects that simply didn’t work. Each new version explored a new take or technique for the cookie.
For version 4, I made several changes that have resulted in a cookie I am very happy with! Version 5 will text out a few small tweaks to the cookie for easier packaging and other similar logistics.
So what did I do differently for version 4?
Let’s start with the graham cookie. Versions 1 and 2 used the graham cup recipe for s’mores cup. As a cookie, the taste was very good but they fell apart a bit too easily while being eaten. Versions 3 and 4 utilized a recipe that was based off of a s’mores cookie recipe by Brown Eyed Baker. For the sandwich cookie, I left out the chocolate chips and the marshmallow bits since those flavors would have their own components. Version 3’s cookies were made in a whoopie pie sheet whereas version 4 was done as drop cookies. There was a noticeable difference in color and texture, but both versions of the cookie were absolutely delicious! This graham cookie recipe will be used for a variety of graham-based flavors in the future. It’s that good!
While the drop cookie version was a hit, it does not work well for packaging cookies that need to be shipped or transported. I will 100% be making them any time I serve them at my house. Otherwise, it’ll be the whoopie pie versions. Their flat sides are perfect for packaging, storing, and easier eating.
Next, let’s talk about the marshmallow! Versions 1-3 utilized an egg-free marshmallow creme that uses honey and maple syrup as sweetener. The recipe is one of my favorite flavors of marshmallow to date! The one drawback to the recipe is that the creme sets really fast, even with continuous whipping with the stand mixer. The first two cookies would spread so beautifully, but the third on would end up with lots of globs. While that aspect didn’t impact texture or flavor, it made the cookie look less put together and more thrown together. For version 4, I tried my hand at a marshmallow fluff recipe from LivforCake which she adapted from a King Arthur Flour recipe.
If you were on the Facebook or Instagram feeds Sunday night, you likely saw my misadventures in making the fluff (if you missed it, go check them out). The sugar syrup was slowly climbing in temperature while on the stove, and I got cocky and decided to shift my attention to something else, just in time for the temp to jump past where it needed to be and burn! First thought: dump it. Second thought: pour it on a non-stick mat and see what happens. I’ve always wanted to try sugar work and this seemed like a perfect opportunity to play, even if I wasn’t going to be able to eat the results. While pouring my bitter brown syrup, I went back and forth in my head, debating whether to throw another round of ingredients into the pot after it was de-syruped and try again or whether to call it a night and try again another time. I already had the egg whites whipped in the mixer, so I opted for cleaning and starting over.
This time, paying full attention, it didn’t take long for the sugar syrup to heat up and be perfect! Before I knew it, the stand mixer was churning away, mixing everything into a sticky, shiny, white fluff. The next step was getting the fluff into a piping bag to quickly and easily add the marshmallow to the cookies. This was my first time trying to wrangle fluff this way and it was a mess! I did end up with enough in the bag for the cookies and once I started piping, it was so easy!
Now, the flavor isn’t as strong as the marshmallow creme recipe, but it played in my favor as now the honey and other flavors from the graham cookies were not dominated by the maple/honey flavor of the creme. Instead, this smooth marshmallow added just the right light flavor to the cookie. I’m really excited to flavor this fluff recipe, too, as it seems like it will showcase each of them well. There are a lot of great things to say about this fluff recipe. I was able to store the leftover fluff and scooped it out several days later as a topping on chocolate cake. Yum!
The chocolate. What about the chocolate? The experiments with the chocolate have been less about finding which chocolate I wanted to use and were more about how I wanted to use it. Versions 1 and 2, I used a chocolate ganache to cover the cookies. This resulted in some not so clean looking treats and some messy fingers and faces. Version 3, I opted for straight melted chocolate instead of a ganache and did a half-dip for easier holding. The flavor was exactly where I needed it to be, but I gave up on coating the outside. Having the chocolate on the inside, like a traditional s’more, was going to be the way to go.
So, for Version 4, I melted some milk chocolate and coated the bottom of each cookie. Since I did this Sunday night after my marshmallow mishaps ate up most of my time, I had no patience to wait for the chocolate to cool and piped the marshmallow on the very slick chocolate. After pressing two cookies together, some of them slipped and slid all over the place, making for white the fun and tasty mess. Those that stayed balanced, however, made for some deliciously gooey photographs! And let me tell you, they tasted as good as they looked. I’m typically not one to eat a lot of sugar right before bed, but I had to enjoy the fruits of my labor while I cleaned up.
I am super stoked that I pretty much have my s’more sandwich cookies figured out. I love s’mores but don’t have too many opportunities to make them around a campfire, so I made them out of everything else (s’mores brownies anyone?).
Are you drooling at the end of this post? S’mores will be one of the three flavors in September’s cookie care packages! The theme is sandwich cookies. Monthly cookie care packages are limited to six and there are only two left for September! Order yours now!
Want a half dozen or a dozen s’mores sandwich cookies all for yourself? You can order those, too!
Hanging out with friends while they indulge in sweet treats can be a bummer if you stick to a special diet. This is the concern a recent client brought to me. She and some friends were headed to ConCarolinas and a member of the group was gluten free and felt as though she was missing out. The idea my client had was to create a con care package of gluten free treats that hit that sweet spot. A con care package has to meet a few criteria: the treats should not melt easily, they need to travel well, be easy to eat on the go, and stay fresh for longer than a day.
After kicking around a few ideas, we landed on some flourless fudge cookies. Half of the cookies were chocolate chocolate chip and the other half were chocolate chocolate chip with raspberries. There are a few great things about the right flourless fudge cookie recipe: 1. it really hits the sweet spot, 2. it satisfies chocolate cravings in the best way, 3. it can easily be made dairy free by using dairy free chocolate chips or using mix-ins other than chips!
King Arthur Flour is a great place to start for gluten free recipes and gluten free ingredients. The base recipe I started with comes from their site. I highly recommend checking out their link for the recipe, their blog post for lots of tips and tricks, and the comments sections to see what others have done in making this recipe. Another big plus about using recipes from King Arthur Flour is that you can select whether you want to bake by volume, ounces, or grams, and the site automatically updates the amounts for you!
Flourless Fudge Cookies (gluten free, can be made dairy free)
9 ounces (2 1/4 cups) confectioners sugar
3 ounces (1 cup) cocoa powder
3 3/4 ounces (3 large) egg whites (it is helpful to have an extra egg white or two on hand)
2 tsp vanilla extract
8-12 ounces (2 cups) chocolate chips, chopped nuts, and/or chopped dried fruit (my batch used far fewer mix-ins than the recipe called for)
Lightly grease two baking sheets or line with parchment paper and grease parchment (you want the surface to be as non-stick as possible).
Whisk together egg whites and vanilla (I used the whisk attachment in the stand mixer and walked away for a second, resulting in starting a meringue…whoops! If this happens, add an extra egg white to help get the mixture wet again.)
In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (powdered sugar and cocoa powder). Stir in the wet ingredients. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and stir again until smooth. The sticky batter will be the consistency of thick syrup. If the recipe appears too dry and not syrupy, then add another egg white.
Mix in chips (I used mini semi-sweet chips), nuts, and/or fruit. I split my batter in half after adding the chips and added chopped, freeze dried raspberries to one half. The raspberries and chocolate smelled amazing!
Drop the syrupy batter onto the prepared baking sheets in 3″ circles (for large) or 1 3/4″ – 2″ circles (for small). A Tbsp or tsp cookie scoop works well here, respectively.
Let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 30 minutes while preheating the oven to 350°F.
Bake the cookies for 7 mins (smaller) or 8-9 mins (larger) They should spread slightly, become somewhat shiny, and develop faintly crackled tops. Note: large cookies with chips or nuts need to bake for 10 mins.
Remove from oven and allow them to cool on the pan. While nearly cooled, use a spatula to carefully loosen them from the pan. The cookies can also be peeled carefully from the parchment paper.
I love s’mores! Any time someone is even considering asking for a s’more dessert, I emphatically encourage them to go in that direction just so that I can add another s’more experiment to my growing library.
If you’ve followed along on some of the other experiments that use chocolate ganache, you know that I’m still on my journey to finding my process. My trials continued on this bake as well. While the ratios of chocolate to cream were fine, I did not let it sit out to cool so that it would pour as a thicker chocolate layer. Instead, the thin stream of chocolate cascading over the cookies soaked into the cookies and covered everything in a thin brown sheen. I’ve now added, in big friendly letters, a note to LET THE GANACHE COOL next time.
The graham and the marshmallow components ended up being brand new challenges for me. Making homemade marshmallow has been on my baking bucket list for a while and I had just asked a friend for her recipe since her homemade marshmallow tasted amazing! The recipe for the marshmallow comes from a cookbook and I do not have permission to share it. However, it is an egg-free recipe and utilizes raw honey and maple syrup in place of sugar!
The marshmallow was way easier to make than I had suspected and came together very easily. One trick I learned quickly, though, is that the marshmallow creme sets fast! I started plopping marshmallow creme onto the cookies and ended plopping gobs of marshmallow by the end. This round, I used my hand mixer. Next time, I’ll likely use my stand mixer so that I can re-whip the marshmallow while I’m filling the cookies, keeping it on the creme consistency a bit longer.
I’m equally excited about how the graham cracker cookies turned out! I found a recipe on TogetherAsFamily.com for s’more cookie cups. The cups looked like exactly what I was envisioning for my cookie sandwiches. While mixing the ingredients together, I became distracted. It wasn’t until the cookies were in the oven that I realized I had never added the white sugar. The good news is that the graham cookies still tasted great! Graham is such a versatile base that these cookies can and will be used in many different sandwich cookie combinations.
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar (accidentally omitted)
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a small mixing bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, flour, and baking soda. Stir with wire whisk. Set aside.
In a large bowl and with a handheld electric mixer, blend the butter, brown sugar, and sugar until creamy and combined.
Add in the egg and vanilla extract. Mix well.
Dump in the bowl of dry ingredients, mix on low speed until just combined. The dough will be crumbly.
(Together As Family’s baking instructions are for mini muffin cups. I modified them for a whoopie pie-style cookie)
Grease whoopie pie tins. Spoon or place dough into the bottom of each well. For a thinner cookie, just coat the bottom. For a thicker cookie, fill the well at least half way with dough. Press the dough down flat. Depending on the thickness of your cookies, you should make around 24 total (this makes for 12 sandwich cookies).
Bake for 6 minutes. Look for the edges to be brown (bake slightly less for a softer cookie and slightly longer for a tougher cookie). Let cookies cool in the tin for 15-20 mins before moving to a wire rack. If you try to move them too early, they will fall apart.
Constructing the Sandwich Cookie
Scoop a hefty spoonful of marshmallow onto the top of one graham cookie. Spread around to get even coverage. Add as much or as little marshmallow as you prefer. Place a second graham cookie, top down, onto the marshmallow and press down lightly to squish the marshmallow but not break the cookie. Once the cookie sandwiches are all made*, prepare your ganache.
For this round, I did a half milk chocolate, half dark chocolate mix. Either a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio of chocolate to cream will work well here. Microwave your cream for 30-45 seconds (until hot). Pour the cream over your chocolate pieces and let sit for 2-3 minutes to melt. Stir, ensuring all of the chocolate melts and blends with the cream. (The step I keep missing) Let the ganache sit out for 10-15 minutes to thicken. When ready, either pour the ganache over the cookies to coat or, with gloved hands, dip and roll each cookie into the chocolate. Let sit on a wire rack to set for several hours. When you’re ready to serve or package, slide an uneven spatula under each cookie to separate it from the cooling rack.
*One recommendation that was made was to freeze the cookies for about an hour before coating with ganache. This may prevent the chocolate from soaking into the graham cookie and will help set the ganache quickly.
Baking with kids can be a lot of fun and very educational. It can also be a test in patience for the head baker. Finding the right terms and ways to explain measuring ingredients, why things need to be mixed a certain way, and what happens in the oven can be a challenge, but it is a great mental exercise and kids are typically fascinated to learn how things work. The absolute best part of baking with kids is seeing the look of pride, surprise, and satisfaction on their faces when they get to eat what they created.
This past week, a 3.5-year-old designed a cake with me. It started with a simple question: “Do you want to bake cookies this weekend?” After excitedly answering “yes,” I asked which type of cookie he wanted to bake. It was no surprise it was chocolate chip. They are his favorite to make. It escalated quickly from there. When all was said and done, the final design ended up being a devil’s food cake with orange-colored icing that has pieces of chocolate chip cookies in it. It typically takes me no time to whip each of these parts together, so I figured it would take a few hours, tops.
We compiled our grocery list and went to the store to get what we needed. We talked about why we were getting the smaller bag of sugar instead of the larger bag of sugar (storage), why we didn’t need marshmallows for this bake (any excuse to eat marshmallows is a good one), and the ways we need to be careful when handling a carton of eggs. After getting back to the kitchen, we prepped our ingredients, set out our tools, and selected our aprons (having at least two kid-size aprons around is great as it gives them a choice and they get to dress like you do in the kitchen). After selecting his apron, the young baker got a quick introduction on how to tie it around his waist. It will take some practice, but he loved seeing how easy it could be to tie something.
Chocolate chip cookies are a great first-bake for kids. The ingredients are easy and safe to work with, it’s more than four steps, and, for most kids, it’s a treat they love to eat. Flour and sugar are easy for kids to use to measure out ingredients and are easy to clean up if it results in a mess. While putting the dry ingredients together, it’s easy to talk to the young baker about ingredients that are safe to taste and ones that are not. For example, cookie dough that is just butter and sugars mixed together is safe to taste. Once the flour and/or eggs are added, however, the dough is not safe to taste. The flour and eggs can be unsafe to eat before they are baked or cooked. Speaking of safe to taste, a tradition I have when baking chocolate chip cookies with anyone is to pour out a few chips to eat before we dump the bag into the dough. It’s a special treat since the baker has not had a chance to sample anything in a bit while the dough was coming together and it’s a few small bites of chocolate. Yum!
This junior baker did everything for the cookies except for cracking the eggs (he decided it was too messy for him to do that day) and dealing with the oven (he’s not quite tall enough or his arms long enough to do that, yet).
For most cookies, and especially the soft batch, it’s a good idea to roll the dough into balls or mounds for them to bake properly. Some kids, however, struggle to roll a ball between their hands when they’re younger. This young baker decided that he was going to roll logs instead of balls. We did one full tray of logs and one full tray of balls so that we could gauge the baking time for the logs and have everything cook evenly. When we took the tray of logs out of the oven, we were excited to find that the logs had baked down to perfect dipping bars!
While the cookies cooled on our cooling racks, we did a quick clean up of the area and of the tools we’d need to use for our cake. At this point, the junior baker needed a break.
After a break watching some videos on his iPad and having lunch, we got back to work on part 2.
Part 2 – Devil’s food cake
For this bake, we kept it simple. We grabbed a box of Duncan Hines mix and doctored it. Doctoring a box cake mix can range from very simple to more complex. I like to keep it simple. Use the same measurements that are on the box but use milk in place of water and use butter in place of oil. Typically, I melt the butter to add to the mix, but this time, I tried creaming the butter first and then adding the other ingredients to the butter. Making a cake using a box mix is another great first-bake for kids, though it can be disappointing as there aren’t too many steps and it’s over quickly.
We poured our batter into two 9″ rounds greased with Baker’s Joy (this is my favorite non-stick baking tool outside of parchment paper). Once baked, we let the cakes cool in the pans before flipping them out onto the cooling racks.
After another round of clean up and preparing tools and ingredients, it was time for the junior baker to take a good long break and for me to make the buttercream. This junior baker does not enjoy American buttercream as it is too sweet, so for him to really enjoy his creation, we decided to go with Italian meringue buttercream (IMBC). It’s less sweet, very creamy, and is easy to work with. Since the IMBC is basically boiling a syrup and whipping egg whites, there wasn’t much for this junior chef to help out with at this stage.
For this cake, I halved the recipe I used in the pull apart cupcake cake (link above). It ended up being a nearly perfect portion! After adding the butter to the mixture, my buttercream wasn’t coming together. Having made this several times now, I was a big confused and just kept whipping. It took about 10 minutes for me to realize that I had only prepared and added half the amount of butter I needed! I quickly grab a stick from the fridge, throw it on a plate, and send it spinning in the microwave for a couple of 10-second rounds to soften it. After adding the second stick of butter, the buttercream came together quickly and beautifully! Phew!
The junior baker wanted the buttercream to be orange. I did not have orange color (on purpose) and asked him which two colors we could combine to make orange. This is an easy way to work color lessons into baking. As he excitedly stated “yellow and red,” we grabbed the correct bottles of gel coloring and decided which order to add them to the buttercream. Once the colors were added, we set the mixer to run and watched as the yellow and red streaks started to combine into a light orange. Bouncing up and down with excitement, the junior baker proclaimed the color to be perfect so we stopped the mixer and grabbed our cookies. This was the moment the junior baker was waiting for. We crumbled the cookies into the buttercream. As we crumbled, we talked about the differences in adding big pieces vs. smaller pieces vs. crumbs. He decided for chunks instead of pieces. We added 3-4 cookie logs to the batter and folded the chunks into the buttercream.
Now for the new challenge, spreading the buttercream with large cookie chunks across the cake without ripping up the cake. Junior baker did a great job of spreading and our cake handled it very well.
Once the cake was iced, it was time to enjoy!
We asked the junior baker what he was going to call his cake. He proudly proclaimed “Chocolate chip cookie Halloween cake because it’s orange and black!” and so the dessert earned its name.
The cookie chunks ended up working really well with the icing and the cake for flavor and crunch. The bake ended up taking us all day instead of the few hours I itiniall thought but it was well worth it. This cake design was definitely a success and the junior baker has told everybody who would listen, including a very nice lady at the deli counter in the grocery store, about the cake he designed and baked.
I have been a fan of Christina Tosi‘s for a few years now. I’ve had some treats from the original Milk Bar and have two of her cookbooks, but hadn’t yet tried one of her recipes. I really wanted to try at least one before 2018 was over. I opted for the cornflake-chocolate-chip-marshmallow cookie. This recipe is from her book, Milk, and she’s also shared it online as well.
Tosi includes various types of measurements for her recipes, so you can bake by volume or mass or recipe percentage. Typically, I like to write out recipes before I try them so that I can catch any points of confusion before I dive in. I did not do that this time and the result was using the entire box of cornflakes instead of only half of the box. The crunch still came out tasty, just not as clustered as it is intended to be.
My second mistake was not flattening out the portions of dough before placing 4″ apart on the sheet and baking. These cookies are huge and they spread! Unfortunately, this meant that I sacrificed some cookie dough to the burner on the bottom of the oven.
Cornflake crunch (makes 4 cups)
1/2 box (5 cups or 170 g) of cornflakes
1/2 cup (40 g) milk powder
3 Tbsp (40 g) sugar
9 Tbsp (130 g) butter, melted
Heat oven to 275°F.
Pour the cornflakes in a medium bowl and crush them with your hands to one-quarter their original size. Add the milk powder and sugar and toss into the mix. Add the butter and toss to coat. As you toss, the butter will act as glue, binding the dry ingredients to the cereal and creating small clusters.
Spread the clusters on a parchment-lined sheet pan and bake for 20 mins, at which point they should look toasted, smell buttery, and crunch gently when cooled slightly and chewed.
Cool the cornflake crunch completely before storing or using in a recipe. Stored in an airtight container at room temp, the crunch will keep fresh for 1 week; in the fridge or freezer, it will keep for 1 month.
16 Tbsp (2 sticks or 225 g) butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups (250 g) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (150 g) tightly packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp (2 g) vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (240 g) flour
1/2 tsp (2 g) baking powder
1/4 tsp (1.5 g) baking soda
3/4 recipe (3 cups or 270 g) of cornflake crunch
2/3 cup (125 g) mini chocolate chips
1 1/4 cups (65 g) mini marshmallows
Combine the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium-high for 2-3 mins. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg and vanilla and beat for 7-8 mins.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flower, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix just until the the dough comes together, no longer than 1 min. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Still on low speed, paddle in the cornflake crunch and mini chocolate chips just until they’re incorporated, more than 30-45 secs. Paddle in the mini marshmallows just until incorporated.
Using a 2 3/4 ounce ice cream scoop or a 1/3 cup measure, portion out the dough onto a parchment-lined sheet pan. Pat the tops of the cookies down flat (flatten cookies a bit). Wrap the sheet pan tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 1 week. Do not bake from room temp as they will not hold their shape.
Heat oven to 375°F.
Arrange the chilled dough a minimum of 4″ apart on parchment-lined sheet pans. Bake for 18 mins. The cookies will puff, crackle, and spread. At the 18 min mark, the cookies should be browned on the edges and just beginning to brown toward the center. Leave them in the oven for an additional minute or so if they aren’t and they still seem pale and doughy on the surface.
Cool the cookies completely on the sheet pans before transferring them to a plate or to an airtight container for storage. At room temp, the cookies will keep fresh for 5 days; in the freezer, they will keep for 1 month.
Any time is a good time for sugar cookie cutouts. I had a smallish window to pull together a cookie dough and get it ready for cutters, so I looked around for a recipe that didn’t require time in the fridge. I stumbled across In Katrina’s Kitchen’s recipe for the “Best Sugar Cookie Recipe Ever!” Check out her page for a printable version of the recipe and some of her tips.
For a quick recipe, it worked well. The dough didn’t spread when baked. It ended being a bit difficult to work with as it was a bit too dry and a bit too wet. I had a tough time finding a balance. My dough didn’t end up as thick as the recipe suggests so I may need to try a different approach when I add my dry ingredients next time. I also found the flavor to be ok. It didn’t wow me but I did enjoy it.
Star Wars cookie cutters were purchased from ThinkGeek. Dinosaur cutter was purchased from Michaels.
Best Sugar Cookie Recipe Ever
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 tsp baking powder
3 cups all purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350F.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until smooth, minimum of 3 mins. Beat in egg and extracts.
In a separate bowl, combine baking powder with flour. Add the dry ingredients a little at a time to the wet ingredients. The dough will be very stiff. If it becomes too stiff for your mixer, put the dough on a counter top, wet your hands, and finish kneading by hand. DO NOT CHILL THE DOUGH.
Divide into workable batches, roll out onto a floured surface and cut. You want them to be closer to 1/4” than 1/8” in thickness. Bake for 6-8 mins. Start with 6 mins and check on them from there. Let cool on the sheet until they’re firm enough to move to a cooling rack.