When I was younger, I played lots of team sports like soccer. I like to think that doing so was formative in allowing me to be a “team player who works well with others” (something I frequently hear during my performance reviews), but really, the only thing that I can directly attribute to all those hours spent running around is my ability to kick a soccer ball with a halfway decent aim. That, and my love for soccer game snacks, the kind that would frequently appear during halftime breaks. Juice boxes, orange slices and grocery store baked goods like muffins and cookies.
One of my favorite grocery store baked goods were these weird “muffin top” cookies that often came stacked in rows on top of each other in plastic bins. They were like whoopie pies minus the sandwich component, with the frosting sitting on the domed tops instead of the flat bottom. Like a black and white cookie, but instead of the chocolate and vanilla glaze, they were frosted the bright blue or hot pink color you often see in grocery store baked goods, and adorned generously with sprinkles.
Sadly, I don’t see these muffin top cookies anymore in grocery stores — perhaps it was just a Texas big-box supermarket specialty? Eitherway, I decided to see if I could remake them at home:
Now, these aren’t exactly the cookies I remember from my childhood. For one thing, I used a chocolate sugar cookie recipe that makes these guys more cookie-like than whoopie pie-like. At first I was slightly disappointed to find that my own version left me wanting, but a few bites later, I realized that these cookies were delicious by their own merit. And topped with a pale pink sweetened condensed milk frosting (which I added a generous amount of salt to, to ensure that the cookie wasn't too sweet) and a handful or rainbow nonpareils? They were simply irresistible.
Some baker's notes:
- This recipe uses vegetable shortening, an ingredient I actually avoid because trans fats are terrible for you, etc. Unfortunately, the first time I tried this recipe and replaced the shortening with melted butter, it just didn't have the sugar cookie texture I was looking for (although it was really pretty tasty). So it's really up to you — if you're uncomfortable with using shortening, replace the amount in the recipe with the same quantity of melted butter.
- One of my favorite things about cookies is that you can adjust the baking time to get the temperature you want. Want a softer, traditional sugar cookie texture? Bake for 14 minutes. Want a crisp, crunchy cookie? Bake for 18 minutes. However, if you're a crispy cookie person, I'm going to warn you that these cookies don't keep very well and will eventually turn soft — overnight, the chocolate cookie will absorb some the moisture from the pink frosting and soften up the cookie. I'm personally a big fan of that texture, but I know it's not for everybody.
- Let me warn y'all now — this pink frosting isn't all that sweet. In fact, it's a little bit salty and tastes a lot like the hydrogenated frosting you get in between Oreo sandwich cookies. I made the frosting salty on purpose so that it would complement the deep chocolate flavor. If you're not into the combination of chocolate and salt, or would prefer something a little more like regular frosting, decrease the amount of salt in the recipe by half to 1/4 teaspoon frosting.
(adapted from Martha Stewart)
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
- 1 large egg
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
- "scant" 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
- 3 drops red food coloring
- 1/4 cup nonpareil sprinkles
- Preheat the oven to 375 (F) and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 1/2 cup unsalted butter and 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar. Beat on medium-high speed at least 5 minutes, until pale and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to its lowest setting and add 1/2 cup vegetable shortening until fully incorporated. Add 1 egg and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and continue mixing until fully incorporated and the mixture looks creamy. Gradually add the flour mixture (from the 2nd step) a quarter cup at a time, and continue mixing until just combined — be careful not to overmix, or you'll have tough cookies and I'll cry for you!
- Use a 2 1/2-inch cookie scoop to drop dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing each dough ball about 4 inches apart. Once you've scooped out the dough balls, run your hand under cold water and press down the top of each dough ball (having a damp hand will prevent the dough from sticking to your skin). Bake until the edges are firm, between 14 to 18 minutes (see baker's notes). Once the cookies are finished, transfer the baking trays to wire racks and allow to cool on the baking sheets completely.
- When the cookies are completely cool, make the frosting. Combine 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk, and 1/4 scant teaspoon of kosher salt in the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, and whisk on medium-high speed until smooth.
- Once the mixture is smooth, lower the mixer's speed to its lowest setting and whisk in 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar a 1/4 cup at a time until combined. Once all the confectioner's sugar has been combined, whisk on high speed for a minute or so, until the filling is thick and smooth. Add 3 drops red food coloring, and continue whisking until the frosting is a pale pink. Use immediately.
- Use a mini offset spatula to frost the top of each cookie; sprinkle immediately with nonpareil sprinkles.