Several years ago, on the day before I was to graduate from college, I had an intense craving for cookie cake.
Not just just any cookie cake, but cookie cake from Great American Cookies, the cookie cake of my childhood. There was (and still is, I think) a Great American Cookies in the mall in my hometown, and as a kid every single time we went to the mall* I remember demanding I get either a slice of cookie cake, or, even better, a Double Doozie, always with M&M cookies.
That day, I convinced Nathan to take me to the nearest Great American Cookies (which was only about 10 minutes away, fortunately), and when we were there, we asked for a cake, which they were able to make (and decorate to our specifications!) right there on the spot. I wish I still had a picture of it, but I think it said something like “Happy Graduation” or something to that point.
That was on May 10, and it was the best day ever. We enjoyed that cookie cake so much that we declared May 10 to be Annual Cookie Cake Day, and since then, we’ve had cookie cake in some form every year on that day, give or take a few days.
About three years ago for Annual Cookie Cake Day, rather than buy cookie cake like we usually did, I wanted to see if I could try to make my own. It took me a while to come up with a recipe, because regular chocolate chip cookie dough pressed into a sheet pan, while delicious, didn’t create the cookie cake texture I was looking for. I wanted a cookie cake that was more soft and limp and chewy than regular cookies, like the cookie cake of my childhood. I’m not totally sure how Great American Cookies does it, but I’m guessing there may be some sort of hydrogenated oils/ingredient wizardry going on to keep the cake so dense and so moist and soft. But I didn’t want to start using shortening instead of butter or turn my kitchen into a science lab, so I started thinking about ways I could change the ratio of a basic chocolate chip cookie dough to get the texture I wanted.
The key ended up being using a larger-than-normal ratio of butter to the rest of the dough, and using melted rather than softened butter, which creates a very dense, soft, and oily cake. This is not the recipe I would use to make drop cookies (although I doubt they’d be bad!), but for cookie cake it is perfect. And an added bonus of using melted butter means the entire recipe comes together in one bowl without the need to cream any butter. (Ever since my stand mixer died, this is even more of a plus than normal.)
You could certainly add nuts to the dough (or M&Ms; I’m trying that next), but I love it simple with plain semisweet chocolate chips. Topped with piped dots of American buttercream, the cake is as close to the cake of my childhood as I think I’m going to get.
*This is excluding my brief Dippin’ Dots phase, where for a few months I eschewed my usual Double Doozie and instead opted for a cup of Cookies ‘n Cream “ice cream of the future” when a Dippin’ Dots stall opened up in the mall. Yes, I have always been obsessed with dessert.
for the cake
1 cup (½ pound or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and just warm to the touch
¼ cup (4 tablespoons or ½ a stick) unsalted butter, softened
¾-1 cup (3-4 ounces) confectioner’s or powdered sugar (I like to use organic for the taste, but if you want a snow-white frosting, use regular)
½ vanilla extract (optional; if you’re looking for a snow-white frosting, leave out or use clear vanilla extract)
1 tablespoon cocoa powder (optional)
for the cake
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 8″ x 11 ½” sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
Combine the butter and two sugars in a large bowl and mix with a large wooden spoon until combined, about 1-2 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla, salt, baking soda, and baking powder and mix until combined, about another minute. Finally, add the flour and chocolate chips, stirring just until there are no more streaks of flour.
Fill the sheet pan evenly with the cookie dough, and bake for about 20 minutes, until the sides of the cake are firm and don’t leave an indention when you poke, and the center of cake does not appear doughy but does yield to a poke.
Let cool completely in the pan, then either leave the cake in the pan or remove it (carefully) to frost it.
for the frosting
In the bowl of a stand mixer, or with a medium bowl and a hand-mixer or simply a big spoon, beat the butter on medium speed for 2-3 minutes, until smooth and creamy. With the mixer on low speed, add ¾ of a cup of the powdered sugar and mix until combined.
Add the vanilla extract (if using) and the salt, and beat until fluffy and creamy, about 3 minutes. If your icing is too runny, add up to ¼ cup of additional powdered sugar as you mix.
If you’d like half chocolate and half vanilla frosting to decorate with, remove half of the frosting from the mixing bowl and set aside or in a piping bag — this will be your vanilla frosting. Add the cocoa powder to the remaining frosting and beat on medium speed until fully combined. At this point, if your chocolate frosting is too thick, feel free to add a drop or two of milk to thin it out. If you’d like just vanilla frosting, skip the chocolate step and put all the icing into one piping bag.
Decorate using a piping bag and the tip of your choice. I like to use the larger, fluted tip on the outside to mimic the cookie cake of my childhood and a thin, round tip to write in the center.