Sprinkles Are Nothing to Celebrate: Birthday Cake Cookies

When I was looking through Sweet & Southern for a dessert to bring to an office birthday lunch, Ben Mims' recipe for "Birthday Cake Cookies" seemed like a natural choice. At bottom, they are simply vanilla sugar cookies coated in sprinkles. But they are super festive -- and I always have a lot of sprinkles on hand since I buy them by the pound from Little Bitts in Wheaton and Surfas in Culver City.

To make the batter, you cream softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy; add eggs and vanilla; and mix in flour, baking powder, and salt. You scoop out the dough, flatten the balls into disks, and then chill the disks for about half an hour. After the cookies are chilled, you brush them with egg whites, press sprinkles onto the tops, and bake.
This is the second recipe I've tried from Sweet & Southern, and while I've liked both recipes so far, I think that there are some serious issues with yields and portion sizes in this cookbook. For instance, Mims recommends that you cut a 9-inch by 13-inch pan his of Chess Squares into 16 servings, since the bars are so rich that you'll want to keep them "small."  One-sixteenth of a 9-inch by 13-inch pan is not small in my book -- I cut my pan into 24 bars and the servings were still quite generous.

With this cookie recipe, Mims says that the recipe yields 36 cookies and that they are "elegant little cookies."  Further, he instructs you to use a 2-ounce scoop (which would be a #16 scoop, or one-quarter cup) to portion the dough. One-quarter cup of dough yields an enormous cookie. I wanted my cookies to be more reasonably sized, so I used a #24 scoop (which is about two and a half tablespoons) and I got 32 cookies. Even with this lesser amount of dough, my cookies were quite large, about three inches across.

I have mixed feelings about these cookies. Freshly baked, the cookies were quite cakey, which I don't like. But as they aged, the cookies became less cakey and more chewy, which was a significant improvement in my opinion. There was definitely something a little fake about the taste -- but I think that might have been all of the sprinkles. I have chocolate sprinkles made with real chocolate, but colored sprinkles are generally made of sugar, color, artificial flavor, and carnuba wax -- and accordingly, they tend to taste like crap. (Stella Parks offers what I'm sure is a great a recipe for homemade sprinkles, but I have never been tempted to try and make my own.) At the same time, the fake-ness of the flavor was not so extreme that it seemed intentional, as it does with Christina Tosi's Confetti Cookies.

Instead, the fake-ness evoked the sugar cookies you buy at the supermarket, i.e., cookies that aren't made with quality ingredients. But at the same time, these cookies were very popular with my tasters and I did eat more than one. I think the cookie itself was quite good, and it was just the sprinkles that sort of ruined it for me. I would consider making these cookies again with fewer sprinkles, or perhaps with nonpareils (which I generally prefer to sprinkles anyway, because I'm a sucker for a crunchy texture). Or who knows -- maybe one of these days I will make these cookies with homemade sprinkles!

Recipe: "Birthday Cake Cookies" from Sweet & Southern by Ben Mims.

Previous Post: "Imitation is the Clearest Form of Flattery: Confetti Cookies," April 24, 2012.