I could write some charming anecdote about butter and sugar; maybe reminisce about Easters past*, and how as a little girl with an insatiable sweet tooth I felt supremely lucky to have divorced parents, because the Easter bunny would inevitably visit not once, but twice! But, today I’m feeling unusually drowsy, extremely distracted, and not particularly articulate, so rather than stare at a blank screen any longer, I leave you with these snaps; hopefully, they can speak for themselves.
*Why Easter? Well, I think these would make a lovely Easter treat with their chipper colors and smattering of sprinkles. Change up the color scheme and they’d be suitable for a panoply of holidays. Presto change-o.
I will say, these are both grown-up (ha) and child approved. I recently made these with the help of my brother and sister who at 8 and 6 haven’t quite grasped their luck at having a baker for a sister, and tend to eschew homemade treats for Oreos and Hershey’s bars (I’m not offended, really). Let’s just say that these were devoured by all parties with apparent relish. I’d like to say that my tactic of baking with them spurred their interest in these lovelies, but I suspect simpler things may have been at play. Food coloring and sprinkles always seem to work their wonder on young eyes, and these were no exception.
I prefer these with a thinner frosting than some might, as the frosting is quite sweet. If you want something a little more spreadable and less likely to migrate off the edges of the cookies (I’ll admit a thicker frosting looks a bit more polished), just add a bit more sifted powdered sugar, or dial back the milk slightly. These are also fantastic with a layer of frosting sandwiched between two cookies whoopie pie style. If you’re making these into sandwich cookies err on the side of a thicker frosting.
Yield ≈ 2 dozen cookies
Adapted, barely, from Annie’s Eats
4 ½ cups (22 ½ ounces) all-purpose flour
4 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups (10 ½ ounces) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
5 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 cups (20 ounces) powdered sugar
heaping ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
5 ⅓ tablespoons (2 ⅔ ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoons vanilla extract
7-8 tablespoons milk (plus more, as needed)
food coloring (optional)
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together til fluffy and light in color. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and add the eggs one by one, beating in between additions until they’re well incorporated. Mix in the vanilla. On low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions, beating til just incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
15 minutes before you take the cookie dough out of the fridge, preheat the oven to 350° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.
To form the cookies, scoop a scant ¼ cup of dough and roll into a ball between your palms; flatten the ball slightly. Place the flattened dough ball on the prepped baking sheet leaving 2 to 3 inches margin between the cookies (I fit 8 cookies on a standard baking sheet). Bake for 9-12 minutes, or until the dough is just set and the bottoms of the cookies are the lightest golden brown. Let rest for a minute or two on the baking sheets then transfer the cookies to a wire baking rack to cool completely.
While the cookies cool, make the frosting. Sift the powdered sugar into a large mixing bowl and add the salt, melted butter, vanilla, and 7 tablespoons of milk. Whisk together til smooth and evenly incorporated. Add the food coloring if using (start with a small amount – a few drops usually is sufficient, you can always add more if you want a more intense color) and whisk til no streaks of color remain. If the frosting still appears too thick add additional milk 1 tablespoon at a time til it reaches a spreadable and slightly loose consistency. Working quickly (the frosting will set up fairly rapidly) frost the cooled cookies using a butter knife or small offset spatula (my preference) and decorate with sprinkles if using. While slightly less efficient, I frost each cookie then add the sprinkles rather than frosting them all first then adding the sprinkles, as I found that given the chance the frosting will set up making it difficult for the sprinkles to adhere to the cookie.
I highly recommend using a spring-loaded ice cream scoop for portioning out cookie dough as it takes the guesswork out of making cookies that are the same size. For these cookies I used a #16 size (4 tablespoons or ¼ cup) scoop.
Between batches of cookies, make sure to allow the baking sheets to cool completely before loading up with any more dough (if you plop the dough down on a hot sheet pan it will begin to melt the butter in the dough and the cookie will not bake evenly). You can always expedite this process by running the baking sheets under cool water, then wiping dry, but then you’d have to line the sheets with parchment again, so I usually just wait a few minutes for them to cool.
I find that with soft cookies in general, but these specifically, it’s important to err on the side of underbaking. For these cookies to have their ideal texture they will look a bit underbaked when they come out of the oven (follow my visual guidelines as described in the recipe). The residual heat in the baking sheets and the cookies themselves is sufficient to finish cooking the dough.
I used Wilton gel color (generally speaking I prefer to use gel coloring vs liquid as it’s much more concentrated and works much better especially when tinting anything with a lot of fat content, like frosting) in kelly green and pink for this particular batch, and Wilton sprinkles. If using more than one color of food coloring, split the untinted frosting into two bowls before adding the color. When frosting the cookies, make sure to press a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the frosting you’re not currently working with to prevent it from drying out.
Ideally store the cookies in a single layer without anything (plastic wrap, tinfoil etc) touching the frosted surface as even when the frosting has had time to set up its not particularly hardy. If that’s not an option lay a sheet of parchment or wax paper between the layers of cookies as this will help to protect the frosting somewhat.