Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

Happy Valentine’s Day! ❤

I made these delicious cookies for my daughter and some of her friends for their Valentine’s (Galentine’s!) Day celebration. Tanya Ott, the amazing baker of globalbakes.com, promised that they would hold their shape and she was right. I was so pleased! 🙂 Because the dough does not contain a rising agent, the cut out shapes stay completely intact while baking.

The cookie recipe was adapted from globalbakes.com. I made half the recipe, used fine sea salt, increased the chilling time, and baked the cookies in a convection oven. Tanya’s blog has many informative videos with amazing royal icing techniques and ideas. I highly recommend checking it out. 🙂

The royal icing recipe is from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook.

For the Cream Cheese Sugar Cookie Dough:

  • 227 grams (1 cup; 2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 114 grams (4 oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 200 grams (1 cup) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 337 grams (2 1/4 cups plus 2 T) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and cream cheese until well blended and smooth.
  2. Add the sugar, vanilla extract, and egg yolks, and mix until just combined.
  3. Add the flour and salt, and mix to form a soft dough.
  4. Shape the dough into a ball, press into a 1/2-inch disk, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until firm.
  5. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thick. Cut the dough into desired shapes with cookie cutters, and place them on a plastic wrap-lined cookie sheet. Place another layer of plastic wrap between each layer of cookies. (I stack similar shapes on top of one another.)
  6. Chill for at least 15 minutes. (I chilled the cut shapes overnight.)
  7. Preheat the oven to 350F, preferably on convection. Line 2 or 3 baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking sheets.
  8. Place the chilled cookies one inch apart on prepared baking sheets. (Bake cookies of similar size at the same time.)
  9. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until light golden brown around the edges. Bake time will vary with the size and thickness of the cookies. Allow to cool completely before frosting or decorating.

For the Royal Icing:

  • 1/2 pound (8 oz) Confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 1/2 T meringue powder
  • liquid or gel-paste food coloring
  • sanding sugar or sprinkles, as desired
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugar, meringue powder, and a scant 1/4 cup (4 T) water on low speed.  Beat until mixture is fluffy yet dense, 7 to 8 minutes.
  2. To thin the icing for flooding (filling in areas with additional icing), stir in additional water, 1 teaspoon at a time.  Test the consistency by lifting a spoonful of icing and letting it drip back into the bowl; a ribbon should remain on the surface for 5 to 7 seconds.
  3. To tint icing, dip a toothpick or wooden skewer into food coloring, and gradually mix it in until the desired shade is reached. (I used 3 shades of pink once the icing was “flood” consistency.)
  4. Using a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip, pipe a border around each cookie. Then, thin the icing to a flood consistency and fill in the border. (I used a larger tip to fill in the cookies.)
  5. Decorate with sanding sugar or sprinkles before the icing has set, if desired.

Vanilla Cupcakes with Brown Butter Buttercream

Sarah Kieffer is an absolute GENIUS. Incorporating brown butter in buttercream!?!? I’m upset that I have never thought of trying it.

These were quite possibly the best cupcakes I’ve ever made. The cake portion was delicious- moist and tender, but the icing really put the cupcakes over the top. It was incredibly light and flavorful. I may have to make them again for Valentine’s Day. ❤

The recipe was adapted from The Vanilla Bean Baking Book: Recipes for Irresistible Everyday Favorites and Reinvented Classics by Sarah Kieffer. I halved the recipe and made 12 cupcakes. (I now regret not making 24!) I also used fine sea salt. Amazing.

Yield: 12 frosted cupcakes (with about 2 cups buttercream)

For the Cupcakes:

  • 1 1/2 large eggs (I used a scale to measure 1/2 an egg)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 T pure vanilla extract
  • 6 T sour cream
  • 2 T buttermilk
  • 1 cup (142g) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (149g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick, 114g) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces

Note: If doubling the recipe for 24 cupcakes or 2 8-inch round cakes, use 297g sugar and 227g butter.

For the Brown Butter Buttercream:

  • 1/4 pound (1 stick, 114g) unsalted butter for browning
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick, 114g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 oz (27g) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 T heavy cream
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 cups (226g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted

To Make the Cupcakes:

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Line a standard cupcake/muffin pan with 12 liners. Set aside. (If making a round cake, butter and flour the pans and then line them with parchment paper.)
  3. In a medium bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk the eggs, egg yolk, vanilla, sour cream, and buttermilk.
  4. In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt on low until combined.
  5. With the mixer running on low, add the butter one piece at a time, beating until the mixture resembles coarse sand.
  6. With the mixer still running on low, slowly add half the wet ingredients. Increase the speed to medium and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds.
  7. With the mixer running on low, add the rest of the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined.
  8. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 20 seconds. (The batter may still look a little bumpy.)
  9. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and use a spatula to mix the batter a few more times.
  10. Using a large cookie scoop (mine is 3T), divide the batter between the cupcake wells. Each well should be a little more than halfway full.
  11. Using an offset spatula, smooth the tops. Tap the pan gently on the counter 2 times to help get rid of any bubbles.
  12. Bake for 16 to 20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (I baked mine for 17 minutes on convection.) (If baking cake in an 8-inch pan, bake for 17 to 22 minutes.)
  13. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting. (If using a round cake pan, let cake cool in the pan set on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Then, remove to let cool completely.)

To Make the Brown Butter Buttercream:

  1. Have a small, heatproof, freezer-safe bowl set next to the range.
  2. Melt one stick of butter in a light-colored, heavy bottomed skillet or saucepan over medium-low heat. Swirl the butter around with a rubber spatula as it melts and starts to bubble.
  3. When it starts bubbling, increase the heat to medium and keep stirring the butter until it boils and begins to foam, about 3 minutes. It will smell nutty and you’ll start to see little brown bits on the bottom of the pan. *Keep stirring, making sure to genly scrape the bottom of the pan with the spatula as you do so. At this point, the butter will begin to quickly change from light brown to dark to burned, so keep a close eye on the pan.*
  4. Once the butter and browned bits are golden brown, remove from the heat, and immediately pour the brown butter and the toasted bits and flecks from the bottom of the pan into the reserved heatproof, freezer-safe bowl.
  5. Let the brown butter cool in the bowl for 10 to 15 minutes at room temperature. Then, place the bowl in the freezer and let chill until solid, about 30 minutes.
  6. When the butter is solid (but not frozen!), transfer it to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle.
  7. Add the remaining 1/4 pound (1 stick) of room temperature butter to the brown butter in the mixer bowl and beat on medium until smooth.
  8. Add the cream cheese and beat on medium until smooth and creamy.
  9. Add the heavy cream, vanilla, and salt and mix on low to combine.
  10. With the mixer running on low, slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until combined. (I turn the mixer off in between additions of sugar.)
  11. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary, 6 to 8 minutes.
  12. Using a cookie scoop (I used a 3 T scoop), place a heaping dollop of buttercream on top of each cupcake. (Alternatively, use an offset spatula to ration the icing.) Spread the buttercream over the top decoratively, as desired.

Note: Frosted cupcakes should be refrigerated if not serving right away. Bring to room temperature prior to serving.

Iced Oatmeal Cookies

It seems like a good time to share more cookie recipes. 😉

Before the holidays, I started receiving weekly cookie emails (I subscribed :/ ) from The New York Times- a pretty dangerous and crazy idea! This “pantry cookie” recipe caught my eye right away. A crowd-pleaser for sure.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Jerrelle Guy. The recipe starts by creaming the sugar with eggs rather than butter. The end result is a cookie with a crusty exterior and chewy interior. Cracks also form on the surface which are highlighted by the essential glaze. Great.

Yield: 15 to 16 cookies

  • 1 cup/95 grams old-fashioned rolled oats 
  • 1 cup/128 grams all-purpose flour 
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup/100 grams granulated sugar 
  • 1/4 packed cup/55 grams light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 4 T/57 grams unsalted butter, melted 
  • 3/4 cup/92 grams confectioners’ sugar 
  • 5 teaspoons whole or oat milk, plus more as needed 
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection, and line two large rimmed cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl, combine the oats, flour and salt.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat both sugars with the egg, cinnamon, vanilla and baking soda on high speed, scraping the bowl as needed, until glossy, pale and thick, a full 2 minutes.
  4. Reduce the speed to medium. Very slowly drizzle in the melted butter and whisk until thoroughly incorporated.
  5. Add the oat mixture and gently fold by hand using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula just until incorporated, being careful not to over mix.
  6. Using a small cookie scoop or two spoons, drop 15 golf ball-size mounds of dough onto the sheet pan, spacing them at least 2 inches apart. (I used a 1 1/2 T cookie scoop.)
  7. Bake until the edges and surface are set and lightly golden brown, but the center is still gooey, 10 to 11 minutes on convection or up to 12 to 14 minutes in a standard oven.
  8. Remove from the oven and immediately rap the cookie sheet on the counter or stovetop a couple of times to help the cookies flatten a little more, and cool on the sheet for 5 minutes.
  9. In a small bowl, mix the confectioners’ sugar and milk using a small whisk or fork until the icing is completely smooth and very thick but still moves if you tilt the bowl. Add more milk in small increments as needed. (I add the milk 1 teaspoon at a time to make sure the consistency is not too thin.)
  10. Dip only the very tops of the cookies into the bowl of icing, leaving the deeper cracks in the cookies uncoated and allowing any excess icing to drip back into the bowl.
  11. Flip the cookies over and return them to the cookie sheet to allow the icing to harden, 10 to 15 minutes. The iced cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

One additional note about special cookies….

My oldest just had his 17th birthday! He is DRIVING. We celebrated with several family favorites- enjoying Creamy Chicken and Greens with Roasted Poblano Tacos (first celebration), Thai One Pot (second!), a Maple Layer Cake, and, most importantly, with our traditional Number Cookies– two versions, Roman numerals are his preference. 🙂

Frog Birthday Cake (Yellow Layer Cake with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting & Oreo Filling)

My daughter’s 15th birthday celebration involved several sweet treats. All of her requests were granted! 🙂 We enjoyed crumb cake, salted brown butter blondies, number cookies, of course, and this cute cake. She asked for a frog cake after falling in love with others she had seen while perusing Pinterest.

For dinner, we had Summer Corn Pasta with Sausage & Basil– her favorite dish from our summer vacation in Rehoboth Beach. I was surprised by this request because we usually have calzones!

The recipe for the yellow layer cake was adapted from The New Best Recipe: All-New Edition from the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated. We also enjoyed this cake on her 13th birthday. I used the vanilla cream cheese frosting with Oreo filling from her 12th birthday cake– it’s her favorite.

Yield: One 9-inch layer cake, generously frosted

For the Cake:

  • 7 oz (1 3/4 cups) plain cake flour, sifted, plus more for dusting pans
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 10 1/2 oz (1 1/2 cups) granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 16 T (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool, cut into 16 pieces
  • vanilla cream cheese frosting, recipe below
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Generously grease two 9-inch round cake pans and cover the pan bottoms with rounds of parchment paper. Grease the parchment rounds and dust the cake pans with flour, tapping out the excess. (I would consider using 8-inch pans next time to elevate the cake slightly.)
  3. Beat the eggs, milk, and vanilla with a fork in a 2-cup measuring cup with a spout. Measure out 1 cup of this mixture and set aside.
  4. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer. Beat at the lowest speed to blend, about 30 seconds.
  5. With the mixture still running at the lowest speed, add the butter, one piece at a time; mix until the butter and flour begin to clump together and look sandy and pebbly, with pieces about the size of peas, about 30 to 40 seconds after all the butter is added.
  6. Add the reserved 1 cup egg mixture and mix at the lowest speed until incorporated, about 5 to 10 seconds.
  7. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.
  8. Add the remaining egg mixture (about 1/2 cup) in a slow, steady stream, taking about 30 seconds. Stop and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula.
  9. Beat at medium-high speed until thoroughly combined and the batter looks slightly curdled, about 15 seconds.
  10. Divide the batter equally between the prepared cake pans. (about 1 lb plus 2.5 oz per pan) Spread to the sides of the pans and smooth with an offset or rubber spatula.
  11. Bake until the cake tops are light gold and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 27 minutes. The cakes will mound slightly but will level when cooled.
  12. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
  13. Run a knife around the pan perimeter to loosen. Invert one cake onto a large plate and reinvert onto another wire rack. Repeat for the other layer. Cool completely before frosting.

For the Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting and Oreo Filling (as well as Frogs & Mushrooms):

  • 16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 6 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 5 to 6 full-size Oreos or 15 mini-Oreos, crushed in a food processor
  • green gel food coloring, plus additional colors for mushroom caps, as desired
  • chocolate chips, for frog eyes
  • chocolate sprinkles, for frog mouths
  • sugar pearls, for mushroom caps
  1. Place cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add sugar and vanilla. Beat, on low-speed to combine.
  4. If too soft, chill until slightly stiff, about 10 minutes, before using.
  5. Remove about 1 cup frosting and set aside for mushrooms and frog cheeks.
  6. Remove 1 1/4 cup of frosting for the Oreo filling and place in separate bowl.
  7. Incorporate the crushed Oreos in the reserved 1 1/4 cups of filling frosting. Spread on one of the layers.
  8. Place the second layer on top.
  9. Tint the remaining frosting pale green with food coloring, mixing well.
  10. Cover cake with a crumb coat and chill briefly, if necessary before continuing.
  11. Using an offset spatula, ice the sides of the cake with the pale green icing.
  12. Tint the remaining frosting deeper “frog green.” Place the majority of the icing in a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip, for the frog bodies. Place the remaining frosting in a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip, for the frog eyes, arms, and legs.
  13. Pipe the frogs on the cake, as desired, using the large bag/tip. Add eyes, arms, and legs using the small bag/tip.
  14. Divide the remaining frosting into 4 bowls. Keep one bowl of frosting white for the mushroom stems.
  15. Tint one bowl red, for the frog cheeks and mushroom caps.
  16. Tint the other 2 bowls of frosting, as desired, for mushroom caps.
  17. Pipe mushroom stems around the sides of the cake. Using a variety of pastry bags and tips, pipe decorative multi-shaped mushroom caps on the stems. Decorate caps with sugar pearls.
  18. Pipe rosy cheeks on each frog with the red frosting.
  19. Place 1-2 tablespoons of chocolate chips in a sandwich sized ziplock bag. Microwave until melted. (I check the progress in 30 second increments.) Cut a small corner off of the ziplock bag; use the melted chocolate to pipe eyes onto the frogs.
  20. Add mouths onto the frogs with chocolate sprinkles.
  21. Chill prior to serving and store any leftover cake in the refrigerator.

Funfetti Mini Bundt Cakes

My daughter and I made these mini cakes as a birthday surprise for her friend. ❤ Sprinkles=Birthday over here. Using red, white, and blue sprinkles would make these cakes a fun and patriotic Fourth of July treat.

The recipe was adapted from thebittersideofsweet.com. They can be served for breakfast or dessert! 🙂

Yield: 4 mini cakes

For the Mini Bundt Cakes:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1/2 cup sugar 
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt 
  • 1 large egg 
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used whole milk Greek yogurt)
  • 1 tablespoon milk (I used whole milk)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
  • 1/3 cup rainbow sprinkles 

For the Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup Confectioners’ sugar 
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons milk (I used 1 1/2 T whole milk)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
  • rainbow sprinkles
  • gel food coloring, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 325° F, preferably on convection. (My pan has a dark, non-stick interior finish. Set the oven to 350° F if using a pan with a light interior finish.)
  2. Spray 4 wells of a mini bundt cake pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  3. In large bowl, whisk together flour, baking power, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Set aside.
  4. In medium bowl, whisk together milk, yogurt, and eggs. Stir in melted butter and vanilla and whisk until combined.
  5. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Slowly stir until just combined. 
  6. Fold in sprinkles. Avoid over stirring.
  7. Using a cookie scoop, distribute the batter into the 4 prepared wells of a mini bundt pan.
  8. Bake for 17 minutes in a convection oven, or for 20-25 minutes in a standard oven, or until edges are golden. A toothpick inserted in the center of the cake should come out clean or with a few moist crumbs.
  9. Remove from oven, leave cakes to cool in pan for 5 minutes.
  10. Remove cakes from pan and allow to completely cool on wire rack.
  11. Once cool, make the glaze. In a medium bowl add milk, Confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Tint with food coloring, if desired.
  12. Drizzle glaze over cakes. Top with sprinkles.

Fried Chicken Biscuits with Cornmeal & Sage

My entire family looks forward to my husband’s birthday feast. It typically involves a lot of comfort food like fried chicken and macaroni and cheese. 🙂 We always have his favorite Vanilla Bean Cheesecake as our celebratory dessert.

When my food blog friend Jess@Cooking is My Sport posted Cornmeal Sage Chicken Biscuits, I knew that my husband would absolutely love them. My first thought was to serve them on Valentine’s Day but then I realized that they would be perfect for his birthday dinner. Jess is an amazing cook and baker but most of all I must say that she is a complete master of biscuits. I learned many new techniques from her post in order to make biscuits thick enough to create a sandwich. Flaky and amazing! I also loved that she incorporated cornmeal in both the biscuits and the seasoned flour that is used to coat the fried chicken. This recipe also made all of us fans of Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute.

I served these fried chicken biscuits with classic macaroni and cheese and green salad dressed with Icebox Buttermilk Dressing. The chicken biscuit recipe was adapted from CookingisMySport.com. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, modified the proportions, cut the biscuits into squares, and omitted the topping. My daughter declared it was the best birthday feast ever. 🙂

Yield: Serves 12 to 14

For the Cornmeal & Sage Biscuits:

Yield: approximately 14 2-inch biscuits

  • 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 T baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground sage
  • 1 T savory spice mix (I used Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 12 T (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, frozen
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups buttermilk, plus more if necessary

For the Fried Chicken Thighs:

Yield: about 16 to 18 pieces

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4 heaping tsp savory spice mix (I used Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute)
  • 2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 8 to 9 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 2 1/2 to 3 pounds), trimmed, halved crosswise, patted dry
  • 8 cups vegetable oil
  • hot sauce, for serving, optional (we used Chipotle Cholula)
  • bread and butter pickles, for serving, optional

To Make the Cornmeal & Sage Biscuits:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, cornmeal, coarse salt, baking powder, sugar, ground sage and the seasoning mix.
  2. Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients; stir with a fork.
  3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients; add the sour cream. Using a fork, incorporated it into the dry ingredients until it forms thick clumps.
  4. Make another well in the center of the dry ingredients; add the buttermilk. Use a large fork and a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add the additional buttermilk, just until it forms a shaggy dough. (I added 1 3/4 cups of buttermilk.)
  5. Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board, or a clean, smooth countertop with flour. (I used a silpat baking mat.)
  6. Turn the dough out onto the floured surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the biscuits to be tough.)
  7. Use a bench scraper (or a large sharp knife) to divide the dough in half. Roughly shape each half into a square.
  8. Stack one of the halves on top of the other and use a rolling pin to roll it together into one mass. Repeat this process 4-5 more times before patting it into one final rectangle. (This is a process of layering so that the biscuits will bake flaky.) (I formed a 9×7-inch rectangle, about 2-inches thick.)
  9. Tightly wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
  10. Preheat oven to 425°. (I set my oven to convection.) Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven.
  11. Sprinkle your work surface with flour and unwrap the biscuit dough out onto it.
  12. Using a bench scraper (or very sharp knife), trim the edges of the rectangle. (I trimmed it to form a 6×8-inch rectangle.)
  13. Using a biscuit cutter or a knife, cut the dough into rounds or squares about 2″ each. You can recut the leftover dough into new biscuits, just try not to handle it too much. (I cut my dough into 12 2-inch squares and reformed the trimmed edges into 2 additional 2-inch squares.)
  14. Place the cut biscuits on the parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheet, placing them close to each other (it will help them rise higher).
  15. Place the tray into the freezer for about 15 minutes.
  16. Spray the top of the biscuits with cooking spray.
  17. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 22 minutes, covering them with foil if they brown too quickly. (I baked mine for 22 minutes total, covering them with foil after 20 minutes.)

To Make the Fried Chicken Thighs:

  1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with wax paper, foil, or plastic wrap on the bottom; place a wire rack on top.
  2. Line a second rimmed baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels; place a wire rack on top.
  3. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, cayenne, spice mix, salt, and black pepper in a bowl.
  4. Pour buttermilk into a separate bowl.
  5. Working with one piece at a time, toss chicken in flour mixture, dip in buttermilk, then toss again in flour mixture. Transfer to the wire rack over the wax paper/foil/plastic wrap-lined baking sheet to allow batter to set, about 2-3 minutes.
  6. Repeat dipping process until all of the chicken is double-coated.
  7. Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil to 350 degrees. (I used a large stainless steel Dutch oven fitted with a thermometer. I found it much easier to control the temperature of the oil in this pot versus using a cast iron skillet as I have in the past.)
  8. Working in batches of no more than 3 or 4 pieces at a time, use tongs to place the chicken in the hot oil. Using a slotted spoon, turn it occasionally and cook until each piece is golden brown on both sides, about 2-4 minutes per side. (I tried to cook pieces similar in size at the same time.)
  9. Using a slotted spoon or clean tongs, remove chicken to the wire rack over the paper towel-lined sheet pan. At this point, use an instant read thermometer to confirm that the chicken is cooked, having an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
  10. To assemble: Split a biscuit in half (it will have a natural breaking point) and assemble the sandwich with chicken topped with pickles, as desired. Serve with hot sauce to pass at the table, as desired.

Much to my husband’s displeasure, another birthday tradition is to document the many seasonal feathered visitors who arrive to celebrate with us. Like clockwork, the night heron arrived on his birthday morning while I was making pancakes. 🙂

Magnolia Bakery’s Vanilla Confetti Cupcakes

My daughter and I made these cheerful cupcakes together. She is obsessed with sprinkles! 🙂 She wanted to give them to her friends as a little surprise. We put one in each of their mailboxes with a note. ❤

The cupcake recipe is from The Magnolia Bakery Handbook- A Complete Guide for the Home Baker: Baking Made Easy with 150 Foolproof Recipes & Techniques by Bobbie Lloyd. The recipe is adapted from their recipe for “Everyone’s Favorite Vanilla Cake.”

The vanilla frosting recipe is from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes, via Martha Stewart.com. We used fine sea salt and weighed the ingredients when possible for both the cake and frosting. They were moist and tasty- Fun too!

For the Vanilla Confetti Cupcakes:

Yield: 24 cupcakes

  • 3 cups (345g/12.2oz) cake flour
  • 1 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 cup (240g/8.5oz) whole milk (I used 1%)
  • 1/2 cup (115g/4oz) sour cream
  • 1 cup (2 sticks/226g/8oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cup (300g/10.6oz) granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 4 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (130g/4.6oz) confetti sprinkles, plus more for decoration, if desired (We used rainbow sprinkles)

For the Fluffy Vanilla Frosting:

Yield: frosting for 24 cupcakes (about 4 cups)

  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature  
  • 1 pound (16oz/4 cups) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • gel food coloring, for tinting, optional
  • confetti or rainbow sprinkles, for decoration, optional

To Make the Vanilla Confetti Cupcakes:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325F. (I set my oven to convection.) Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the milk and sour cream until no lumps remain. Set aside.
  4. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Scrape the paddle and the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  5. With the mixer on medium speed, slowly add the egg whites, a little at a time, beating until incorporated before adding more. Once the egg whites have been incorporated, stop the mixer and scrape down the paddle and the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  6. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix for about 15 seconds, just until incorporated.
  7. Scrape down the paddle and the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the sprinkles and mix for 20 to 30 seconds, until smooth and combined.
  8. Using a scoop or a 1/4-cup dry measuring cup, evenly ration the batter into the prepared muffin cups.
  9. Bake for 20 to 24 minutes, or until the tops spring back when touched and a cake tester inserted into the centers comes out clean.
  10. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Remove and let cool completely on a wire rack.

To Make the Fluffy Vanilla Frosting & To Decorate the Cupcakes:

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium-high speed until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes.
  2. Reduce speed to medium. Add the confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed; after every two additions, raise speed to high and beat 10 seconds to aerate frosting, then return to medium-high. This process should take about 5 minutes. Frosting will be very pale and fluffy.
  3. Add salt and vanilla; beat until frosting is smooth. The frosting can be tinted with food coloring, if desired.
  4. To decorate, fill a piping bag with desired tip and pipe onto cupcakes. Top with additional sprinkles, if desired.

Note: If not using immediately, frosting can be refrigerated up to 10 days in an airtight container. Before using, bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.

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