Frosted Sugar Cookie Bars

These soft sugar cookie bars were one of the most popular recipes this week on The New York Times’ website. They described them as “worth the hype” and, with their cheerful frosting and sprinkles, as “happiness in a 9-by-13 pan.” 🙂

Thanks to cream cheese in the dough, they are soft and tender- similar to Lofthouse cookies, my daughter’s favorite cookie. I made them to celebrate the release of my daughter’s middle school musical. Despite the limitations caused by Covid, the school was able to successfully stage their annual musical in a movie format instead of live performances- great. She had a lot of fun participating in the show.

This recipe was adapted from American Girl Cookies, via The New York Times, contributed by Margaux Laskey. I baked the dough in a rimmed sheet pan and used Meyer lemon juice in the frosting. I love bar desserts! They would be a crowd-pleaser served for Valentine’s Day, a birthday, or just as a special treat.

Yield: 20 cookies

For the Cookie Base:

  • 1 cup/225 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 2 3/4 cups/350 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 (8 ounce/225 gram) package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups/300 grams granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • lemon zest, optional (or Meyer lemon zest)

For the Frosting:

  • 6 tablespoons/85 grams unsalted butter (3/4 stick), at room temperature
  • 2 cups/245 grams confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk or heavy cream, plus more as needed (I used whole milk)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed (I used Meyer lemon juice)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, plus more as needed
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • a drop or two of gel food coloring, optional
  • assorted sprinkles, for decorating, optional

To Make the Cookie Base:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Lightly butter (or coat with cooking oil spray) a 9-by-13-inch baking pan or rimmed sheet pan. Line the pan with parchment paper, running it up the two long sides of the pan and letting it extend past the rim by about 2 inches.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.
  4. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and cream cheese on medium speed until well blended, about 1 minute.
  5. Add the granulated sugar and beat until smooth, about 1 minute.
  6. Add the egg, vanilla, and lemon zest, if using, and beat on low speed until well combined, about 1 minute.
  7. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing on low speed just until blended, about 1 minute.
  8. Using a spatula, scrape the dough into the prepared baking pan. Using damp fingers or a greased offset spatula, spread the dough into an even layer.
  9. Bake just until the edges are starting to turn light golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the middle has moist crumbs, 20 to 25 minutes. (Do not overbake! The bars should be quite moist, and almost slightly underbaked in the middle.)
  10. Remove the pan from the oven and set it on a wire rack. Let cool completely. When fully cooled, remove the bars from the pan using the overhanging parchment paper.

To Make the Frosting:

  1. Place the 6 tablespoons of softened butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute.
  2. Add 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, beating on low speed until fully combined, then repeat with remaining 1 cup confectioners’ sugar.
  3. Add the 1 tablespoon milk or heavy cream, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, the vanilla, salt and food coloring, if using, and beat on medium speed until the frosting is light and fluffy, scraping down the sides halfway through, about 4 minutes. Add more milk if needed to thin out the mixture. Add lemon juice and vanilla to taste.
  4. Using a spatula, spread the frosting on top, then decorate with sprinkles, if using. Cut into 20 bars and serve.

Note: I stored the leftover cookies in the refrigerator and we actually preferred them chilled.

Maple Layer Cake with Maple-Vanilla Buttercream

This maple variation of the “All-Occasion Downy Yellow Butter Cake” from the famed Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum may quite possibly be the best cake I’ve ever made. My son chose it to celebrate his 16th birthday. 🙂 His favorite flavor profile usually incorporates vanilla and/or cream soda so this maple cake was a definitely a good choice.

I adapted the recipe to bake the cake in 8-inch cake pans. I also used fine sea salt and substituted vanilla extract for maple extract. It was very moist and rich. Fabulous.

I served this cake after an indulgent meal made to order for my birthday boy. He requested penne alla vodka, chicken parmesan, garlic bread, and Caesar salad. No one argued- all family favorites. 🙂

Yield: One 8-inch layer cake, about 12 to 14 servings

For the Cake: (all ingredients at room temperature)

  • 6 large egg yolks (3.5 fl oz/4 oz/112 g)
  • 1 liquid cup (8.5 oz/242 g) milk (I used 2% milk)
  • 2 1/4 tsp (9 g) pure vanilla extract (can substitute 3/4 tsp vanilla extract + 1 tsp maple extract)
  • 300 g (3 cups/10.5 oz) cake flour, sifted
  • 300 g (2 cups/10.5 oz) maple sugar, sifted (from Whole Foods)
  • 19.5 g (1 T + 1 tsp) baking powder
  • 5 g (3/4 tsp) fine sea salt
  • 12 T (6 oz/170 g) unsalted butter, softened

  1. Butter two 8-inch (2-in deep) cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper and butter the paper. Dust bottom and sides with flour, tap out excess. Set aside. (The layers can alternatively be baked in 9-inch cake pans that are 1 1/2-in deep.)
  2. Position an oven rack in the center position. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  3. In a medium bowl, lightly combine the yolks, 1/4 cup of the milk, and vanilla. (I used a 2 cup measuring cup.)
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix on low-speed for 30 seconds to blend.
  5. Add the butter and remaining 3/4 cup milk. Mix on low-speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high speed if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1 1/2 minutes to aerate and develop the cake’s structure. Scrape down the sides.
  6. Gradually add the egg-milk mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the sides.
  7. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pans. (I weigh them to distribute the batter evenly.) The pans should be about 1/2 full.
  8. Bake 25 to 35 minutes, or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. (I baked mine for 27 minutes.) *The cakes should start to shrink from the sides of the pans only after removal from the oven.
  9. Let the cakes cool in the pans on racks for 10 minutes.
  10. Loosen the sides with a small metal spatula and invert onto wire racks. To prevent splitting, reinvert so that the tops are up. Let cool completely before frosting or storing.

Note: The unfrosted layers can be wrapped tightly and stored for 2 days at room temperature, 5 days refrigerated, and 2 months frozen. The frosted cake should be stored in the refrigerator.

For the Neoclassic Maple-Vanilla Buttercream: (all ingredients at room temperature)

Yield: 4 cups, enough to fill and frost two 8-inch layers

  • 6 large egg yolks (3.5 fl oz/4 oz/112 g)
  • 150 g (3/4 cup/5.25 oz) granulated sugar
  • 164 g (1/2 liquid cup/5.75 oz) pure maple syrup
  • 1 pound (4 sticks/2 cups/454 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into tablespoons
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract or maple extract
  1. Grease a 1-cup heatproof measuring cup. Set aside.
  2. Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl. (I used a stainless steel bowl.) Using a hand mixer, beat the egg yolks until light in color.
  3. Combine the sugar and maple syrup in a small saucepan. Heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup comes to a full rolling boil. (The entire surface will be covered with large bubbles- see note.) Immediately transfer the syrup to the prepared glass measuring cup to stop the cooking.
  4. Using a hand mixer, beat the syrup into the egg yolks in a steady stream. Don’t allow the syrup to fall on the beaters. Use a rubber scraper to remove any syrup remaining in the measuring cup.
  5. Continue beating until the mixture is completely cool.
  6. Gradually beat in the butter. (I incorporated 1 stick at a time.)
  7. Beat in the vanilla extract.
  8. Use immediately, or store in an airtight bowl in the refrigerator. (If stored, bring to room temperature before using.)

Note: The syrup must come to a rolling boil or the finished buttercream will be too thin.

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

One of the few things that my daughter loves as much as her birthday is the beach. That being said, she naturally chose a “wave” theme for her celebratory 14th birthday cake this year. 🙂

The cake recipe was adapted from Kathleen’s Bake Shop Cookbook: The Best Recipes from Southampton’s Favorite Bakery for Homestyle Cookies, Cakes, Pies, Muffins, and Breads by Kathleen King. The vanilla cream cheese frosting recipe was adapted from various sources. It was incredibly moist and absolutely delicious.

Similar to my husband, my daughter requests a similar birthday dinner annually, calzones. 🙂 This year we started the day with pumpkin doughnut muffins instead of crumb cake though! Her traditional birthday number cookies were orange inspired by monarch butterflies- another love.

For the Yellow Cake:

Yield: Makes one 9-inch 2-layer cake

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (245g/8.6 oz) sour cream
  • vanilla cream cheese frosting, recipe below
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans, line with parchment paper and grease the parchment. Dust with flour and shake out the excess.
  3. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In another large bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
  5. Add egg yolks one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  6. Beat in vanilla.
  7. Add dry ingredients alternately with the sour cream, ending with the dry ingredients.
  8. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff.
  9. Fold egg whites into cake batter, and pour into the prepared pans. (I weigh the pans to evenly distribute the batter.)
  10. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
  11. Remove pans to a wire rack. Cool 10 minutes before removing cake from pans; finish cooling on a rack (parchment paper side down).

For the Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting and Oreo Filling:

  • 16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 6 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 7 vanilla Oreos, crushed in a food processor, plus more for the decorative “sand”
  • blue gel food coloring
  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. Meanwhile, place one of the cake layers on a serving platter or cake stand.
  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 icing. Spread over the top of the first layer of cake.
  8. Place the second layer, inverted, on top.
  9. Tint the remaining frosting pale blue 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 blue frosting. (I used a relatively thin coat.) Reserve 1/4 cup of the pale blue frosting if needed for touchups.
  12. Tint the remaining frosting deeper “ocean blue.” Place in a pastry bag fitted with an open star piping tip.
  13. Then, starting at the bottom of the cake, pipe “waves” of varying sizes. Fill in beneath the upper border.
  14. Pipe “waves” of varying sizes on the top of the cake. Fill in beneath the upper border.
  15. Crush additional vanilla Oreos in a food processor. Sprinkle in the center of the cake and around the outer edge of the serving platter for the decorative “sand.”
  16. Chill prior to serving and store any leftover cake in the refrigerator.

Soft-Baked Oreo Blondies

Inspired by my husband’s (seemingly) week long birthday celebration, my daughter had a few requests for her “week” of birthday meals. 🙂

The first meal included her favorite penne alla vodka with blondies for dessert. We had plans to incorporate Oreos into her birthday cake, so it seemed natural to make Oreo blondies!

This recipe was adapted from Delish.com via TogetherasaFamily.com. I used mini Oreos and added a little bit more to sprinkle over the top prior to baking. They had the perfect balance of a crispy top and soft center.

  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup butter, melted & slightly cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped Oreo cookies, divided (I used mini Oreos, cut in half)
  • 3 (1.55oz each) Hershey Cookies ‘n’ Cream candy bars, chopped (about 1 cup)
  1. Heat oven to 350°, preferably on convection.
  2. Prepare a 9×13 baking pan (preferably metal) by spraying with cooking spray and lining with parchment paper. Spray parchment with cooking spray.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda.
  4. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or a bowl using a hand mixer, add melted butter and brown sugar. Beat together for 1-2 minutes until lighter in color and fluffy looking.
  5. Add in 1 egg and beat together until combined.
  6. Add the other egg and vanilla extract. Beat until combined.
  7. Slowly add in the flour mixture and beat on low speed just until combined and no flour pockets remain.
  8. Gently stir in 3/4 cup of the chopped Oreo cookies and all of the chopped Cookies ‘n’ cream candy bars.
  9. Place large dollops of the batter in the prepared baking dish. Using an offset spatula, evenly spread out the batter.
  10. Sprinkle the reserved 1/2 cup of chopped Oreos on top of the bars and gently press down.
  11. Bake for 24-26 minutes. The edges will be light golden brown and look “wrinkly” and the middle will look pale and puffy.
  12. Let the bars cool completely. Using the parchment to lift bars out of the pan, place on a cutting board and cut into squares.

Fried Chicken with Biscuits & Tomato Gravy

Like my last post, this special and indulgent feast was also included in Food and Wine Magazine’s “40 Best-Ever Recipes” issue celebrating the 40th anniversary of their publication. I made it for the second year in a row to celebrate my husband’s birthday! 🙂

The recipes were adapted from The Gift of Southern Cooking by Scott Peacock, the then chef at Watershed in Decatur, Georgia, and co-author Edna Lewis, the legendary Southern cook, his mentor and close friend. I modified the cooking techniques and substituted sunflower oil for lard. Last year, I made Lewis’ wonderful biscuits from this full menu, but, this year I served the chicken and gravy with sourdough biscuits.

The chicken is double-brined, first in salt water and then in buttermilk, and then fried in a cast iron skillet filled with oil (or lard), butter, and bacon fat. It was very tender and juicy. The creamy and rich gravy is reminiscent of Italian vodka sauce. Pretty delicious. 😉

We ate the chicken, gravy, and biscuits with macaroni and cheese (my favorite version), and iceberg wedge salad on the side. My husband’s birthday meal is not complete without his favorite Vanilla Bean Birthday Cheesecake for dessert. ❤

For the Fried Chicken & Tomato Gravy:

  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • One 3 1/2 to 5 pound chicken, cut into 8 to 10 pieces (I cut each chicken breast in half)
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 3/8 oz, 180.7g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons potato starch (optional) (I included it)
  • fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound lard or solid vegetable shortening, for frying (I substituted 2 cups of sunflower oil)
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 pound sliced bacon (I used 4 thick slices)
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups drained canned diced tomatoes (from three 14-ounce cans)
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I used whole milk)

To Make the Fried Chicken:

  1. In a large bowl, dissolve the kosher salt in the cold water. Add the chicken pieces; cover and refrigerate for 4 hours. Drain.
  2. Put the chicken in a large bowl, add the buttermilk and turn the pieces to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours. (The chicken can be refrigerated overnight at this point, if desired.)
  3. In a gallon-size zip-lock bag, combine the flour, cornstarch, potato starch, 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and shake.
  4. Set aside 1/2 cup of the flour mixture for the gravy.
  5. Lift the chicken out of the buttermilk, wipe off any excess and set the pieces on a wire rack; let dry for 5 minutes.
  6. Add the chicken, a few pieces at a time, to the flour mixture in the bag; shake to coat.
  7. Dry the rack. Shake off any excess flour and return the chicken to the rack.
  8. Meanwhile, in a large cast-iron skillet, melt the lard (I used sunflower oil) and butter over medium heat. (I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet.)
  9. Add the bacon and cook over moderate heat until crisp, about 5 minutes; reserve the bacon for another use. (I crumbled the bacon over our wedge salads.)
  10. Add the chicken, in batches, and cook over moderate heat, basting and turning, until golden, crisp and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Lower the heat if necessary. (I kept the cooking oil temperature between 300 and 340 degrees. I also completed cooking the larger pieces (especially the breast pieces) in the oven at 300 degrees, until they reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees.)
  11. Set the chicken on a clean wire rack to drain.

To Make the Gravy:

  1. Transfer 1/4 cup of the chicken cooking fat to a large saucepan.
  2. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden, about 5 minutes. (I chopped the onion and garlic in a food processor.)
  3. Add the reserved 1/2 cup of seasoned flour and cook, whisking, for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the drained tomatoes and thyme and stir constantly until blended.
  5. Whisk in the cream and milk until the sauce is smooth.
  6. Season with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened and no floury taste remains, about 10 minutes.
To Serve:
  1. Transfer the fried chicken to a platter.
  2. Pour the tomato gravy into a gravy boat and serve with the chicken.

For the Biscuits:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons single-acting baking powder or double-acting baking powder (see Note)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cold lard or vegetable shortening, cut into pieces (I used bacon fat)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

To Make the Biscuits:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°.
  2. In a bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, work in the lard just until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
  4. Stir in the buttermilk just until moistened.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead 2 or 3 times.
  6. Roll out or pat the dough 1/2 inch thick.
  7. Using a 2-inch round cutter, stamp out biscuits as close together as possible. Transfer the biscuits to a baking sheet.
  8. Pat the dough scraps together, reroll and cut out the remaining biscuits; do not overwork the dough.
  9. Pierce the top of each biscuit 3 times with a fork and brush with the butter.
  10. Bake the biscuits for 12 to 14 minutes, or until risen and golden. Serve at once.

Note: The unbaked biscuits can be frozen in a single layer, then kept frozen in an airtight container for up to 1 month. Thaw before baking.

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

My baby celebrated her 13th birthday last week. I officially have two teenagers in my house!

She requested a yellow-themed celebration. Yellow is indeed her favorite color, but I think that it was also an excuse to have vanilla Oreos and goldfish crackers around to nibble on. 😉 Our decor included yellow mums, yellow balloons, yellow streamers, yellow tablecloths and place settings, and “yellowish” birthday cake popcorn. We also had a yellow cake with yellow (sunflower-themed) cream cheese frosting and pale yellow number cookies, our family birthday tradition. It was a solid theme!

The recipe for the yellow layer cake was adapted from The New Best Recipe: All-New Edition from the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated. I used the vanilla cream cheese frosting with Oreo filling from her 12th birthday cake. There was enough frosting for the layer cake and 12 cupcakes- perfect.

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.
  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 & Sunflower Design:

  • 16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 6 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 15 mini-Oreos, crushed in a food processor, plus more for the center of the cake sunflower
  • yellow and green gel food coloring
  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. Reserve 1/4 cup icing for the green leaves, set aside.
  6. Tint the remaining icing pale yellow with food coloring, mixing well.
  7. Remove 1 1/4 cup of icing for the Oreo filling and place in separate bowl.
  8. Incorporate the crushed Oreos in the reserved 1 1/4 cups of filling icing. Spread on one of the layers.
  9. Place the second layer on top.
  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 yellow icing.
  12. Tint the remaining icing deeper “sunflower yellow.” Place in a pastry bag fitted with a leaf tip.
  13. Tint the leaf icing deep green. Place in a pastry bag fitted with a leaf tip and pipe onto 3 areas of the outside of the cake, or as desired.
  14. Then, starting at the outer edge of the cake, begin piping the dark yellow flower petals. Work in circles moving toward the center of the cake.
  15. When about 3 rows are complete, place a dollop of the dark yellow icing in the center and form the center of the flower with mini-Oreos. (It seemed easier to start by placing the first Oreo in the center.)
  16. Fill the gap between the last piped row of petals and the center by piping an additional row of petals.
  17. Chill prior to serving and store any leftover cake in the refrigerator.

BTW- If you thought that was enough… we had another celebration that required another dessert- this time yellow cupcakes with yellow (also sunflower) frosting. We do love our celebrations and yellow cake over here!

Yellow Cupcakes with Creamy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

Happy Halloween! Halloween is my daughter’s favorite holiday. It’s just fun to dress up… and candy is involved. 🙂

She had two friends over for a Halloween themed “dinner party” a couple of weeks ago. I made these moist and delicious cupcakes for dessert. I was very pleased when she announced that they were the best cupcakes she’s ever had! ❤

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Claire Saffitz. It is part of a list named BA’s Best, a collection of essential recipes. I halved the cupcake recipe and doubled the frosting ratio.

We decorated them with candy eyes and sprinkles to make them festive for the occasion. They decorated caramel apples in the same fashion. Fun and tasty.

Yield: 12 frosted cupcakes

For the Cupcakes:

  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 1/2 T cake flour, sifted
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 T baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/2 T pieces
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 T vanilla extract
  1. Arrange rack in the center of the oven; preheat to 400°, preferably on convection. (If doubling the recipe, arrange the racks in the upper and lower third of the oven.)
  2. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.
  3. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
  4. Add butter, buttermilk, and oil and beat on medium speed, scraping down sides of bowl, until smooth.
  5. Whisk egg yolks, egg, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth.
  6. Add egg mixture to flour mixture in 2 additions, beating well between additions.
  7. Continue to beat on medium speed until mixture is homogenous and very thick, about 2 minutes.
  8. Using a scoop, divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling two-thirds full (a level ⅓ cup batter per cupcake).
  9. Bake 5 minutes in the preheated 400° oven, then reduce oven temperature to 350°.
  10. Continue baking, rotating pans halfway through, until cupcakes have domed and spring back when touched in the center, 14 (on convection for 12 cupcakes) or up to 20-25 minutes in a standard oven.
  11. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

Note: If doubling the cupcake recipe, use 7 egg yolks plus 1 large egg.

Do Ahead: Cupcakes can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature (unfrosted) or in the refrigerator (frosted).

For the Creamy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  1. Using an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat cream cheese, butter, and salt in a large bowl until smooth.
  2. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until incorporated, then increase speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Scrape down sides of bowl, then beat in vanilla.
  4. Pipe the frosting on cupcakes.
Note: The frosting recipe can be halved if it’s going to be spread instead of piped onto the cupcakes.

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