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.
Last weekend, a cousin reached out to see if I made pulla, a Finnish cardamom sweet bread. My experience with break making is limited as I’ve only made challah and a cranberry bread before. Breads take a lot of time. Longer bakes like breads are definitely harder to work into a schedule. After reading over the recipe she sent over, the pulla seemed simple enough to make and I already had the ingredients on hand. Sure! Let’s give it a go.
The recipe states that the prep takes 3 hours and the cook time is 25 mins. So you’re basically devoting half a day to the process, but it’s broken up as much of the time is waiting. The act of making the dough is quite easy and it came together really well. I had never heard of or tried pulla before, and as soon as I started to smell the aroma from the oven, I knew I would be in love! The flavor in this bread is so good! The cardamom isn’t overpowering, the structure of the bread is light, and the crust is golden perfection. After communicating my success, the cousin informed me that not only is this bread traditionally dunked in coffee (being a tea drinker, I opted for some chai to compliment the cardamom) but it can also be made as rolls with a sweet icing on top! I promise not to go crazy making pulla all the time now, but it is now one of my favorite breads.
3/4 cups milk, warmed to 110°F
1/4 cup water, warmed to 110ºF
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 package)
4 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 eggs, room temperature
2 tsp ground cardamom
3/4 tsp salt (I always leave the salt out of recipes when I make them)
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 egg beaten w/1 Tbsp water (egg wash)
coarse sugar and sliced almonds (topping)
In a large bowl, combine milk, water, and sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and let stand for five minutes, until foaming. Add 2 cups of flour, the eggs, cardamom (and salt). Mix until smooth. Add the butter and mix until combined.
Knead the dough in the bowl, adding enough of the remaining flour to keep it from sticking, until the dough comes clean from the sides of the bowl and doesn’t stick to your hands. (I did not end up using all of my flour)
Shape the dough into a ball in the bowl and cover it with a damp tea towel. Let the bowl rise in a warm, draft-free place** for 1-1.5 hours, or until doubled. (Mine more than doubled in an hour.)
**To create your own proofing box, turn on your oven to 250ºF. Once the oven gets to that temperature, turn it off. Place a bowl of water in the oven to keep moisture in the air. Place your covered bowl of dough in the oven with the bowl of water. Close the oven door and wait.
Once risen, knock back (punch the dough down to knock air out of it) the dough and divide it into three strands for a braid. Roll each strand into a 20″ snake. Braid the strands and place the braided loaf on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the top of the loaf with the egg wash and sprinkle it with sugar and almonds, if desired. (You can get pretty heavy-handed with the sugar or you can go light. The extra sweetness is delicious!)
Let the loaf rise for 30-40 mins or until doubled in bulk (30 mins did it for me). Near the end of the rise time, preheat your oven to 375ºF. Bake the bread for 25-30 mins, until golden and hollow sounding when tapped (25 mins did the trick in my oven).
Remove the loaf from the oven and let it cool slightly on a wire rack before cutting or tearing apart. Bread will keep for one week on the counter in an airtight container.
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!
Did you grab a slice of the sarlacc pit cake, the blue or orange Portal cakes, or the galaxy glaze cake at last year’s Geek Gala? You didn’t but this sounds right up your alley?
Well, “good news, everyone!” I will be donating treats again to this year’s Geek Gala and Casual Confections is a vendor at this year’s Muggles Market!
I know what you’re thinking. “Please have the butterbeer fudge!” It is 100% on the menu for the Market! I’m also cooking up fun new geek-themed treats that will all be available for purchase.
Keep an eye here on the blog for upcoming Market-related experiments and officially product announcements ahead of the event.
See a goodie you’d like and want to ensure you get some before they’re sold out? Place your order ahead of time and I’ll have it ready for you to pickup onsite. Email me at CasualConfections@gmail.com or use the Muggles Market tab (coming soon) at CasualConfections.com.
Be sure to grab your tickets for the Gala! One of the raffles will include a gift certificate for a Casual Confections baking class!
It’s mid-August. The school buses are back out and rush hour is back to its full capacity. It’s still hot outside and summer will be around for a few more weeks, but visions of pumpkin flavored goods have started to dance in our heads.
This year I decided to join in the pumpkin fun. A pumpkin roll is the first of two planned pumpkin treats that are new additions to the menu! For my first pumpkin roll attempt, I started with a recipe for the infamous Libby’s pumpkin roll (recipe is available on the label of the can of pumpkin).
2/3 cup (5.3 oz) pumpkin (I used an entire 15 oz can for my first experiment and the cake held together mostly fine)
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
6 Tbsp butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375ºF. Grease and line a 15×10 inch jellyroll pan with parchment paper. Grease and flour paper. Sprinkle a thin, cotton kitchen towel with powdered sugar.
Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and cloves in a small bowl.
Beat eggs and granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl until thick. Beat in pumpkin. Stir in flour mixture. Spread evenly into pan. Sprinkle with nuts. Bake for 13-15 mins or until top of the cake springs back when touched. Immediate turn cake onto towel. Carefully peel off paper. Roll cake and towel. Cool on wire rack.
Beat cream cheese, 1 cup of powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla in a small bowl until smooth. Carefully unroll cooled cake. Spread mixture over cake. Reroll, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
I’ve always wanted to try my hand at making a traditional ice cream sandwich, but didn’t really carve out the time to do so. This week, a video from Delish.com came across my feed and I had to try it. They made red velvet ice cream sandwiches using a box mix. I had a box of devil’s food mix sitting in my pantry and some mint ice cream in the freezer and decided to give it a go.
This recipe takes almost no time on task to whip together. While my sandwich ends were more thin and cookie-like and less thick and cake-like, they made for a very tasty treat!
One thing to note, the recipe in the link has fewer details than the video. The butter should be melted. I creamed some softened butter for mine which may have played a role in the cookie vs cake texture.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Chocolate Mint Ice Cream Sandwiches (using a red velvet ice cream sandwich recipe)
1 box cake mix
2 large eggs
1 stick butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 gal ice cream, softened (apply as much as you like. I prefer a thinner ice cream layer, so I only used about half a carton)
Preheat oven 350°F. Line a large rimmed pan baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine mix, eggs, butter, and vanilla. Mix until evenly combined (mixture will be thick).
Spread the batter onto the prepared baking sheet. My batter was quite thick and I found it easier to drop globs on different parts of the pan and using an offset spatula to slowly work it around until there was a smooth and somewhat even layer of batter across the pan.
Bake until set (about 18-20 mins).
Let cool in the pan completely, then cut the cake in half across the middle to make two large rectangles. Spread ice cream onto one half and then place the second half on top to form one large sandwich. Freeze until ice cream is firm (about 2 hours) then slice it into bars (should yield about 12 depending on size of slices). Serve immediately.
CCK is back with another bake designed and executed by an almost-four-year-old. It all started with his grandfather’s birthday.
“Oh, it’s GP’s birthday! We need to make him a cake!”
“What kind of cake do you want to make for him?”
“A chocolate chip cake!”
As I showed him different photos for inspiration on what we could do with the chocolate chip cake idea, he spotted a set of colorful popsicles.
“Let’s make those!”
“We can do that. Those are cake.”
The kid was hooked. We ordered two mini cakesicle molds and some small popsicle sticks.
After a few more discussions about what flavor the cake and icing would be, we landed on chocolate cake with chocolate chips and chocolate icing. Perfect! The birthday boy loves chocolate and this would be far from chocolate overload.
Since we only had two molds, we used half a box of Devil’s Food cake mix and applied my usual modifications (butter for oil and double the amount, milk for water). Note: when making half of a box mix, be sure to half the wet ingredients. Store the rest of your dry mix in a sealed baggie and be sure to mark what type of mix it is, the expiration date, and any instructions you still need from the box. (These can easily be made with cake made from scratch, too.)
The small baker excitedly put on an orange apron and chef’s hat and got to work using the hand mixer. He did need some help after a while as the mixer is still big for his small hands, but he did a great job for his first solo mixer run! The junior baker wanted to also make this a mint cake, so we added some peppermint extract to the batter.
When the batter was ready, we greased a 9″ x 13″ cake pan, poured in the batter, and got ready to put it in the oven.
“WAIT! We forgot the chocolate chips!”
Indeed we had! Instead of scraping the batter back into the bowl, we poured a layer of chocolate chips on top of the batter in the pan, knowing the cake would rise over them (especially since I did not coat them). The pan then went into the oven, following the box instructions for time and temp.
Meanwhile, I had taken some leftover chocolate-flavored black American buttercream out of the freezer to thaw overnight. While the cake was in the oven, we let the buttercream sit out on the counter to further soften up. Since we were going to be mixing it directly into the cake, we did not re-whip it.
After the cake came out of the oven and cooled on a rack, we dug our hands in. This was a fun part for the junior baker. You crumble the cake into small bits in a bowl using your hands. This is great for kids because they can just go wild. After crumbling our cake to pieces (the chocolate chips had become melted chocolate at this point), we added two tablespoons (cereal spoons, not measuring spoons) of buttercream to the bowl. Now, we got really messy! We used our hands to blend the buttercream with the cake until it was one wet cakey mixture.
Now it was time to see how this mixture went into the molds. Since this was my first go, I greased the molds. The quality of the molds is so good, though, that they do not require greasing. My molds will be ungreased next time.
We continued to use our hands and pressed the mixture into the molds. Each cavity holds a surprising amount of cake mixture! After filling our eight molds, we slid a popsicle stick into each one. The design of the molds makes this step super easy as there is a rest for the stick and a slot for it to slide into. You still need to be a bit careful so you’re not pointing the stick up or down when sliding it in as this may cause the stick to pop out of the cake.
We hand plenty of mixture left and decided to make some cakepops. We took a small handful of mixture and rolled it between our palms until we had circles. Then we carefully pushed a lollypop stick into the center. We lined a baking sheet with wax paper and placed the cakepops and cakesicle molds on it. Once everything was shaped and molded, the entire sheet was popped into the freezer to set overnight.
The next day, we took the sheet out of the freezer. The cakepops stayed sitting where they were. We took the cakesicle molds and popped the cakesicles out. This was super easy! Start at the top and slowly push the cakesicle up and out. We placed the unmolded cakesicles onto the wax paper with the cakepops. While these sat out, we melted a bag and a half of dark chocolate candy melts in a double boiler. They melted fairly quickly. We poured our candy melts into a large red Solo cup for easy dipping since the cakesicles are tall. We took turns dipping our cakesicles first, since we’d need our melts to be higher up in the cup. While dipping the cakesicle, be sure to slowly turn the treat to get a good coating, especially around the area of the stick. Slowly pull the treat out of the melts and turn your treat right-side-up so that any chocolate on the top falls down onto to cakesicle or cakepop. The melts started to cool down and get a bit harder to work with as we went on, but that is easily fixed by reheating or adding newly melted candy melts to the mix to get it a bit more runny again.
After each dip, we added colorful sprinkles. Junior baker had his choice of sprinkles and made his own mix.
The first couple cakepops we tried rolling them in the sprinkle mix, but the melts were still too warm and the sprinkles carried them right off the pop in dollops. The cakesicles did not have that issue as much because we did not roll them, we just pressed them into the sprinkles. After a few attempts with pressing and rolling, we both decided to use our fingers to sprinkle the sprinkles onto the pops and cakesicles. Instead of setting the cake pops in a stand so they were upright, we placed them right back on the wax paper, resulting in flat sides. This was fine by us as the pops were extras and were just for fun.
The candy melt coating set very quickly and letting the cakesicles and pops set on the wax paper worked out perfectly. Since junior baker wasn’t going to see GP for a few days, we needed to sore the cakesicles. Once they were completely set, we lined an airtight container with wax paper and placed the cakesicles inside. Each layer of cakesicles was topped with a piece of wax paper to keep them separated. The candy melt coating does lock in the moisture of the cake and help keep it preserved, but popping these guys in the freezer if you don’t need them for a while helps to extend their shelf life.
Now it was time to sample our work. The junior baker and I each took a cake pop and bit in. They were delicious! The various chocolate flavors (dark chocolate candy melts, Devil’s food cake, black chocolate buttercream, chocolate chips) combined with the peppermint extract resulted in a very tasty bite. The sprinkles, especially, gave the pop an extra crunch that really tied the treat together.
I highly recommend cakesicles as a bake to do with kids, especially smaller kids. They can have a lot of freedom in making them without you needing to make sure they’re not over-mixing or adding the wrong thing or doing something unsafe. Everything they get their hands into can be licked off immediately (the cake is baked, the buttercream is made, the candy melts can be tried as long as they’re not too hot) without worry. Doing them in two parts (baking and molding one day, dipping and decorating the second) means that each part does not take long, making it easy to keep the kids engaged before they reach the end of their attention spans. Plus, they get to eat what they created. Seeing their faces when they taste just how good the treat is and your remind them that they made that themselves, is priceless. It’s a great exercise and confidence boost for them.
So order at least four molds (I immediately ordered more after we were done) for a half cake (eight for a whole) and start planning your flavors with your favorite junior baker.
Have you tried one of our CCK bakes? If so, post your pictures in the comments, on our Facebook page, on Instagram, or on Twitter! Be sure to use the hashtags #CasualConfectionsKids #CasualConfections and #WeKeepItMessy!