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…on the 1st Day of Christmas, my true love brought to me
A lofthouse-style sugar cookie!
This holiday season, we are so excited to be bringing you 12-days worth of sweet treats that will make for great gifting, sharing, leaving out for Santa, or gobbling up yourself as you wait for the coffee to brew on Christmas morning!
Day 1 of The Twelve Days of Cookies starts off with these delightful Lofthouse-style cookies. A blending of batters that meets somewhere between cookie and cake, these soft, buttery vanilla rounds bake up with a little dome reminiscent of a muffin top. Topped with a fluff of buttercream frosting and a shake of festive sprinkles, these cookies are irresistible to adults and children alike.
If you read my post on iced sugar cookies, you’ll recall that I was once on a hunt to replicate the Lofthouse Sugar Cookie. For years, I didn’t really know what they were called; I just knew my husband had a fixation on those soft round cookies piled with frosting and sprinkles that you find in the grocery store around various holidays.
You can’t imagine how excited I was when my mom gifted me Stella Park’s incredible cookbook, Bravetart: Iconic American Desserts, last Christmas. As I flipped through the pages, I spotted one recipe that looked awfully familiar…
Eureka! It’s called a “Lofthouse” sugar cookie!
Now, these are absolutely delicious. Sweet, yes, but also buttery and balanced by a dash of kosher salt.
Although Bravetart’s recipe doesn’t pass as a substitute for the original with my husband, who insists these are more cookie/crumbly than the store-bought version (which have an ethereal lightness that may just be unattainable in the home kitchen), nevertheless they are, when judged in their own right, in his words, “perfection.”
frosting vs. icing
Stella Park’s recipe is for a thinner, shiny icing on top of the cookie (examine photo above), which dries hard. I recall the store-bought cookies having a soft, fluffy frosting on top, which is part of the reason why they are packaged in those elaborate clamshell plastic containers.
I’ve tried the cookie recipe both ways: with the suggested icing and with a buttercream frosting. I like them both. If I were planning on stacking these cookies on a serving tray, or packaging them as gifts, then I’d opt for the icing recipe (Option A below), because it dries hard. If I wanted the full-on decadent Lofthouse cookie experience, with the fluffy frosting on top, and the wonderful textural contrast that offers, I’d go with the buttercream recipe (Option B below). You choose!
Lofthouse-style sugar cookies
makes 26 cookies (see note)
2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
1 cup (7 oz) white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 egg whites (about 2 ounces)
2 tablespoons (1 oz) heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 2/3 cup (11 oz) cake flour*
1 recipe for either icing (A) or frosting (B), below
sprinkles, for decorating
special equipment: parchment paper, pastry bags, 1/2-inch round tip (see notes)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Prepare a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round tip. (See note)
In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix on low until just combined, then increase speed to medium and beat until light and creamy, about 3-5 minutes.
Whisk together egg whites, cream and vanilla. With mixer on low, dribble in the egg mixture a little at a time. Scrape down bowl, increase speed and beat until smooth.
With mixer on low, slowly pour in cake flour, mixing until just combined. Remove bowl from stand and use a large spatula to scrape down the bowl and fold the dough, making sure no flour streaks remain.
Scrape cookie dough into the pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round tip. Pipe out 1.25-oz portions (that’s roughly 2 tablespoons) about two inches apart. I find it works best to pipe three rows of three, and then stagger between them two rows of two. (See note & photo below if that is confusing.)
Bake at 350 degrees, rotating pans halfway through, until cookies dome and just begin to turn a pale golden on the edges, about 15 minutes. Let them rest on the pans for a minute, and then transfer to cooling racks and let cool completely.
While the cookies are cooling, mix up a recipe of either icing (option A, for a hard-drying layer) or frosting (option B, for a soft, fluffy layer) below!
option a: icing
3 1/2 cups (10 oz) powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
shy 1/3 cup (2.5 oz) heavy cream, cold
1 teaspoon vanilla
food coloring (optional)
In the bowl of a mixer, add powdered sugar, salt, heavy cream and vanilla (and food coloring, if using). With the paddle attachment, beat on low until it comes together, then increase speed to medium and beat until very smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape icing into a parchment bag or ziplock bag, snip the corner, and pipe about 1 tablespoon of icing onto each cookie. Work on cookies 2-3 at a time, so you have time to spread the icing and add sprinkles before it begins to harden. Spread evenly and top with sprinkles. (You can skip the piping and just use a spoon, but it could get a little messy.)
options b: frosting
1 stick unsalted butter, softened and cubed
2 1/2 cups (roughly 7.5 oz) powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 tablespoon heavy cream
food coloring (optional — I used a couple drops of blue in the photos above)
In the bowl of a mixer, add butter, powdered sugar, salt, vanilla and 2 tablespoons heavy cream (and food coloring, if using). With the paddle attachment, beat on low until it comes together, then increase speed to medium and beat until very light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add additional tablespoon of heavy cream if it seems too stiff. Scrape frosting into a parchment bag or ziplock bag, snip the corner, and pipe about 1 tablespoon onto each cookie. Spread out and swirl evenly, then top with sprinkles. (You can skip the piping and just use a spoon, but it’s just not as neat & tidy a process!)
cake flour: If you don’t have any cake flour on hand, you can easily make some in your kitchen. It won’t yield the exact same fluffy/tender results, but in a recipe like this it shouldn’t make a huge difference. Simply sift together two ingredients: 1 cup of flour minus 2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoon of corn starch [updated 12/18/18]. It’s best to sift this back and forth between bowls a couple of times to make sure it’s well incorporated and aerated.
pastry bags: I always keep a box of disposable pastry bags on hand for projects like this. These ones come in a neat dispenser for easy storage; I also like that they are sturdy enough to wash and re-use, but inexpensive enough so I don’t mind tossing them either.
piping tip: if you don’t have a 1/2-inch round piping tip, the opening of a medium-sized coupler is about 1/2 inch and will work just fine! Just screw it on and pipe without a tip attached.
cookie amount/size: Stella’s original recipe makes 28 3-inch cookies, piped out on the sheet at 2.5 inches apart. That means you’d need to bake these in the oven in multiple rounds. I’d rather sacrifice two cookies, make slightly larger portions, and fit them all on two pans that can cook at the same time. That being said, if you’re not careful in your spacing, some of the cookies may spread and touch, so be forewarned!
Adapted from Stella Park’s Bravetart: Iconic American Desserts.