Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Birthday Cake Cookies

A few weeks ago, when Matthew heard that we were planning on having a small garage sale along with the rest of our neighborhood association, he got the grand idea to hold a bake sale simultaneously as a way to earn money for a new bike. The poor kid loves to ride but had far outgrown his first bike with 16-inch wheels. He had been begging us to purchase him a new bike but we told him that he either had to wait until Christmas or figure out a way to earn the bike on his own. So, the bake sale was his enterprising way of trying to fund his new set of wheels. When I first heard the idea, I inwardly groaned. I knew that "Matthew's bake sale" would really translate into a lot of extra work for me. But, I agreed to help him with it and planned pretty much our entire week around baking and prepping for our sale.

First, I sat Matthew and Emma (who really wanted to help her big brother) down and had them come up with the types of cookies they wanted to sell. Matthew, the creative one, came up with chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin. Emma wanted a birthday cake cookie with sprinkles and white chocolate. I added a blueberry cookie (my personal favorite) and white chocolate macadamia nut. With our flavors chosen, we gathered ingredients and spent the next several days baking batch after batch of cookies. I ended up baking several batches by myself after the kids had gone to sleep because it was easier and quicker that way. However, Matthew and Emma made the oatmeal raisin cookies 100% by themselves - other than putting the trays in and out of the oven.

Matthew was really enthusiastic about helping at first, but after we had made about six batches of cookies he was pretty sick of the project. I had to keep reminding him of the entire reason we were up to our elbows in butter and sugar - his new bike! Emma just wanted to eat all the cookies. After making the birthday cake cookies (which were fantastic), I made the mistake of letting Emma sample from the batch. Soon enough, she was trying to sneak additional cookies. When I told her she couldn't eat any more, she looked at me with complete bewilderment: "Why??"

Because we have to sell these!!

In the end, we made 150 quarter pound cookies (I weighed each dough ball to ensure even size). Friday afternoon, Matthew bagged all the cookies for me in ziplocs while I decorated each top with a cute label. I also quickly made up a chalkboard menu for the sale using Photoshop and Paul had it printed by a local copy shop. Saturday morning, we all got up early and arranged our bake sale table in addition to all of our junk for the garage sale. We had people walking up and perusing about an hour before the sale officially started! But thankfully, we were ready.

The garage sale was a decent success. We had a lot of people come look. But the cookie sale was smashing! We were nearly completely sold out by noon. We had people stop by, buy a single cookie, and then walk up the road while unwrapping it only to come hurrying back after eating it to buy five more. I had a couple people stop by in their car and ask what we did to make the cookies so delicious.  One older gentleman came back an hour after buying an oatmeal raisin cookie to ask if he could buy all the rest we had. Unfortunately, we had sold out of that type by then and he was outwardly crushed.

"That was the best cookie I've had in my entire life!" he said.

In addition, several people wanted my number and a couple families hired me to make the treats for birthday parties in July. It was all so incredibly flattering!

Emma was a great little saleswoman. She wore a cute little skirt and her purple Colorado baseball cap and was not shy at all about tapping people on the shoulder and asking them: "Would you like to buy one of our delicious cookies?" In addition, she also tried to sell lemonade, water, and a few other drinks but only succeeded in pawning off a handful.

Matthew started off the day tired and grumpy but gained a little momentum after making his first sale. However, he made enough money for his bike within the first hour and that knowledge made his interest plummet. He kept asking me if he could go visit his friend around the corner or complaining that he was too hot or begging to eat a cookie. Eventually, I ended up just letting him walk over to his friend's house for a quick visit because he was acting more as a distraction at that point (and most of the cookies were gone).

Paul was so impressed with the success of the bake sale that he made me promise that we would ditch the garage sale next year and just sell cookies (we made 80% of our money off the cookies). He also has some grand ideas of possibly grilling meat (like ribs) to sell to passing garage-salers as well. We will see!

The recipe I am sharing today was for the most popular cookie among little tykes at our sale - Birthday Cake Cookies! While trying to come up with a way to emulate the flavor of cake batter in my cookie, I had the brilliant idea to substitute a portion of the flour with boxed cake mix. After a quick google search, I found that my "brilliant" idea was in fact not so original. Many people had done this to achieve the same result I desired. In my search, I found this recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction that I decided to use (because I didn't have time for a test batch), tweaking just a bit to suit my purposes. The results were exactly what I had in mind! The kids absolutely loved these cookies. One little boy told me that on a scale of 1 to 10, my birthday cookies were 1,000,000. I'll take it!

Birthday Cake Cookies
barely adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction

1 and 1/4 cup (160g) all-purpose flour
1 and 1/4 cup (190g) dry yellow or vanilla boxed cake mix
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt2
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks or 170g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (100g) packed light brown sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup (180g) white chocolate chips
1/2 cup (80g) sprinkles

In a large bowl, sift together flour, cake mix, and baking soda. Set aside.

Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream the softened butter and both sugars together on medium speed until smooth. Add the egg and mix on high until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla and beat on high until combined. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix on low-medium speed until just combined. Add the white chocolate and sprinkles. Mix on low until evenly dispersed.

Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours, or up to 3-4 days. This step is mandatory. The dough is fairly sticky, so chilling the dough is required in order to avoid the cookies from spreading too much. If you chill longer than 2 hours, make sure you roll the cookie dough into balls after the 2 hour mark. Place dough balls on a plate, cover tightly, and store in the refrigerator until ready to bake. You may also freeze the balls at this point for up to 3 months. (Then bake as directed adding 1 minute to the bake time without thawing.)

Once dough has been chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Scoop rounded balls of the cold dough onto an ungreased baking sheet - I weighed my dough into 4 oz portions. Shape your cookie dough balls to be "taller" than they are wide. Make sure to keep dough chilled when working in batches.

Bake the cookies for 15-18 minutes or until edges are slightly browned (please note that this baking time is only if you are making gigantic quarter pound cookies like me! Reduce the time if you are making smaller cookies!). The top will still appear very soft but will set as it cools.

Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 4 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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