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.

Soft Sugar Cookies with Raspberry Buttercream Frosting

My daughter is mildly obsessed with the grocery store version of these cookies. I was always hesitant to make them because I thought that they required shortening or margarine in order to keep their soft texture. This version uses a combination of butter and cream cheese to create the soft-baked, cakey texture.

I loved the color and taste from the freeze dried raspberries in the frosting. The resulting color was pretty and fun. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Eric Kim. I used a stand mixer and reduced the size of the cookies. They would be very festive as a Valentine’s Day treat. ❤

Yield: about 26 cookies

For the Cookies:

  • 1/2 cup/115 grams unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature
  • 3 ounces/85 grams cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup/200 grams granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups/285 grams cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • sprinkles, for garnish

For the Frosting:

  • 1 cup/30 grams freeze-dried raspberries, finely ground in a food processor or spice grinder (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 cup/225 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
  • 2 cups/245 grams confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of kosher salt

Make the Cookie Dough:

  1. In a large bowl, using a spoon, cream the butter, cream cheese, sugar and salt until smooth and fluffy. (I used a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and mixed on low-speed.)
  2. Add the eggs and vanilla extract, and whisk to incorporate some air and to dissolve the sugar crystals, about 1 minute. (I mixed the batter in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on low-speed.)
  3. Stir in the flour and baking powder until just incorporated.
  4. Using two spoons or a cookie scoop, ration out 1 1/2-tablespoon/25 to 30-gram rounds onto a plastic wrap-lined baking sheet, tray, or container. Cover with another sheet of plastic wrap.
  5. Place the rationed dough in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes until the dough is no longer sticky and easier to handle.
  6. Heat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection, and line two rimmed sheet pans with parchment paper.

While the dough chills, Make the Frosting:

  1. Finely grind the freeze dried raspberries in a food processor or spice grinder.
  2. In a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl, sift the ground raspberries, using a spoon to help pass them through, until most of the ruby-red powder is in the bowl and most of the seeds are left behind in the sieve. (Discard the seeds.)
  3. To the sifted dried raspberries, add the 1 cup butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract and salt and, with an electric hand mixer or stand mixer, mix on low-speed until the butter absorbs the sugar.
  4. Turn the speed up to high and beat until the frosting doubles in size, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to ensure all the ingredients are incorporated.
  5. Transfer the frosting to a small container, cover tightly, and set aside. (You should have about 2 cups of frosting.)

To Bake the Cookies and Decorate:

  1. Remove the dough from the freezer.
  2. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Roll the chilled dough into even balls and flatten them slightly with your fingers so they’re about 2 inches wide and 1 inch high. Place on the prepared baking sheets. (You should get about 12 to 13 cookies per sheet pan.)
  4. Bake the cookies for 9 to 15 minutes, rotating the pans and switching racks halfway through, or until they no longer look wet on top, are still light in color and spring back to the touch. They will puff up and crack slightly.
  5. Let cool completely on the sheet pan. (They will continue to cook as they sit.)
  6. Using a butter knife or offset spatula, frost each cooled cookie with the raspberry frosting and adorn with the sprinkles.

Vanilla-Sour Cream Cake with Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting

I have had my eye on a couple of easy sheet cake recipes. My indecisiveness led me to combine them. 😉 It was a successful combination! This cake was moist and delicious.

The simple vanilla cake is from Food 52, from their book Genius Desserts, contributed by Jami Curl. It was proposed to serve it topped with strawberry compote & butterscotch whipped cream. I included these original topping recipes below- just to keep my options open.

The frosting recipe is from Bon Appétit, contributed by Claire Saffitz. It was originally from an easy sheet cake recipe with a “reverse creaming” technique. Of course, I’ll have to try this cake as well at some point. 🙂

For the Vanilla–Sour Cream Cake:

  • 3 1/3 cups (400 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 T plus 2 tsp (20 g) baking powder
  • 1 tsp (5 g) kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup (227 g) sour cream
  • 1/2 cup (105 g) canola oil
  • 1 T (18 g) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup (75 grams) boiling water

For the Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 6 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 T) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1/2 to 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • sprinkles, for garnish, optional

To Make the Vanilla–Sour Cream Cake:

  1. Heat the oven to 350°F, preferably on convection. Line the bottom of a 9×13-inch pan with parchment paper. Spray with cooking oil spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk until combined.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs and sour cream with a fork, mixing until smooth. Add the oil and vanilla and use the fork to mix until they’re incorporated. The mixture will be smooth and creamy.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and continue to stir until the dry ingredients are mostly incorporated. The batter will turn very thick.
  5. Add the boiling water and stir until the batter is smooth and uniform with no traces of unmixed ingredients remaining.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and use a spatula to smooth it evenly into the corners.
  7. Bake the cake for 35 (to be safe- check even earlier) to 40 minutes, until it’s golden, springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool completely.

To Make the Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting:

  1. Make icing while cake cools.
  2. Using electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add powdered sugar, sifted cocoa powder, and salt and beat again, scraping down sides of bowl, until completely smooth.
  4. Add vanilla and continue to beat until fluffy and lightened in color, another minute.
  5. Smooth icing over top of cooled cake (it should not be at all warm to the touch, or else the icing will melt).
  6. Top cake with sprinkles, if desired.
  7. Cut into pieces and serve.

Do Ahead: Cake can be baked and frosted 2 days ahead. Chill until icing is solid, then cover with plastic wrap and keep chilled. Bring to room temperature before serving.

For the Alternate Cake Toppings:

For the Strawberry Compote & Butterscotch Whipped Cream:

  • 4 cups (600 grams) frozen strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) apple cider vinegar
  • 4 cups (800 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 cups (480 grams) heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup (72 grams) brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (12 grams) pure vanilla extract

To Make the Strawberry Compote:

  1. Combine the strawberries and vinegar in a saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until the fruit is soft and has released some juice.
  2. Add the granulated sugar 1 cup (200 grams) at a time, stirring between additions until the sugar disappears.
  3. Increase the heat to medium and bring the fruit and sugar to a boil. Boil for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Turn off the heat and let the compote cool before using.

To Make the Butterscotch Whipped Cream:

  1. Chill a bowl and a whisk.
  2. Pour the cream into the bowl and add the brown sugar and vanilla.
  3. Whisk the cream until stiff-ish peaks form. Take care that you don’t turn it into butter by overwhipping.(You can use a mixer with the whisk attachment to whip the cream.)
  4. Use immediately.

To Serve the Vanilla Sour-Cream Cake with Compote & Whipped Cream: **Two Options:

Option 1: Spoon the Strawberry Compote over the cake. Top the compote with the Butterscotch Whipped Cream, using the back of a spoon to give it some pretty swirls.

Option 2: Use the parchment paper to lift the cooled cake out of the pan. Cut the cake into 12 equal pieces. Spoon some Strawberry Compote over each piece. Top with a generous dollop of Butterscotch Whipped Cream.

Note: The Vanilla–Sour Cream Cake will keep, tightly covered at room temperature, for several days. Once assembled with the Strawberry Compote and Butterscotch Whipped Cream, plan to enjoy this cake the day you assemble it. That said, if you cover and refrigerate it, it will not disappoint the next day or the day after that. Especially for breakfast.

Butterbeer Cupcakes

My son was blessed with a snow day on his 13th birthday! We were able to load him up with his favorite meals all day long. 🙂

After having Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins for breakfast, some sort of meaty concoction involving kielbasa, sliced sourdough baguette, melted cheese and garlic powder prepared by my husband for lunch, and his ultimate favorite, Thai One-Pot, for dinner, we topped off the day with these Butterbeer Cupcakes. ❤

He is such a Harry Potter fan; he has read the series over fourteen times, now losing count. After visiting both Harry Potter Worlds at Universal Studios in Orlando, he is a HUGE butter beer fan as well. (We tried every version available. 🙂 )

This recipe is from PastryAffair.com, adapted from Amy Bites. I added cream to the frosting and halved the ganache recipe. I halved the recipe below with success; I weighed one beaten egg to use “half” of an egg.

I can’t believe that I have a teenager in my house! So sad to make “13” Number Cookies

Yield: 18 cupcakes

For the Butterbeer Cupcakes:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • generous pinch of coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon butter flavoring
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup cream soda (I used Dr. Brown’s)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), preferably on convection. Line a cupcake tin with baking cups.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Using a stand mixer, beat together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. Beat in the vanilla extract and butter flavoring.
  6. With the mixer on low, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then the buttermilk, 1/3 of the flour mixture, cream soda, and then the remaining flour. Mix just until incorporated. Do not over mix!
  7. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 of the way full and bake for 15 minutes one tin at a time, or 16 minutes for 2 trays (rotating halfway through baking), or until the cupcakes are golden and spring back when touched.
  8. Cool completely before frosting.

For the Butterscotch Ganache:

  • 5.5 ounces (1/2 package) butterscotch chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  1. In a small saucepan on medium heat, melt the butterscotch chips into the heavy cream, stirring until smooth.
  2. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature before using.

For the Butterscotch Buttercream:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup butterscotch ganache (recipe above)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon butter flavoring
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-4 T heavy cream (as needed)
  1. Using a stand mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Mix in the butterscotch ganache, vanilla, butter flavoring, and salt.
  3. Beat in the powdered sugar for 2 to 3 minutes, until incorporated.
  4. Add the cream a tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is achieved (I used 4 tablespoons).
  5. Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.

To Assemble:

  1. Pour butterscotch ganache into a plastic squeeze bottle. Stab the tip of the bottle into each cupcake, completely immersing the tip, and fill with butterscotch ganache until it starts to overflow.
  2. Fill a pastry bag with butterscotch buttercream and pipe onto the top of each cupcake.
  3. Drizzle on the butterscotch ganache, as desired.

Notes:

  • If you have any leftover butterscotch ganache, it can be used as ice cream topping.
  • Store cupcakes in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

I’m sharing my birthday treats at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #207 this week, co-hosted by my friends Judi @Cooking with Aunt Juju and Lily @Little Sweet Baker. I also brought these cupcakes to What’s for Dinner Sunday! Enjoy! 🙂

One Year Ago: Crème Brûlée

Two Years Ago: Eleventh Birthday Longboard Cake!

Three Years Ago: Black Hole Birthday Cake

Four Years Ago: Minecraft Enderman Cake

Five Years Ago: Birthday Cake Gallery

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