Cookie Love Letters

I Save These 4-Ingredient Christmas Cookies for Baking with My Kids

updated Dec 10, 2019
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Credit: Meghan Splawn

In my family, we do a lot of holiday baking. There are the pizzelle cookies I make for neighbor gifts and an entire afternoon dedicated to power-houring through cookies for parties, Santa, and more. By the second week in December my own enthusiasm for baking tends to be diminished, if not entirely extinguished. My two young kids, however, often still want in on the action. And there is (alas) typically still reason to whip up a batch of cookies — like, say, the classroom party I forgot I’d signed up for until the night before. This year, however, I have the perfect recipe for such occasions.

That recipe? Cake mix cookies — they’re a shortcut cookie that my 8- and 5-year-old kids can bake themselves. You read that correctly: With this recipe, my kids can bake cookies for their friends and teachers or just to bust boredom on a wintery December break. This is how a shortcut, choose-your-own-adventure, sprinkle-wrapped cookie recipe has changed how I bake with my kids.

Credit: Meghan Splawn

Why Cake Mix Cookies Are Ideal for Baking with Kids

Outside of their ease and the short ingredient list, cake mix cookies are recommended because they are entirely delicious. They bake up perfectly round, with a tender crisp edge and a buttery, soft center. You can use any standard (typically 15.25-ounce) box of cake mix, which makes it easy to make cookies in a variety of flavors. And if you’re baking for someone with a wheat or gluten allergy, just use a gluten-free cake mix and you’re good to go.

Here’s how you make cake mix cookies: Open the box of cake mix and dump it into the largest bowl you’ve got — first or second graders who are comfortable with scissors can do this part. Then crack two eggs into the bowl — my two kids like to fight over who gets to crack the eggs, so they each get one. You might have to measure out the vegetable oil, but then one of the kids can add it to the batter, and each kid gets a turn mixing it all together with a sturdy wooden spoon — both because the batter gets pretty thick and because you really can’t overmix this batter.

For scooping and rolling we usually set up a sort of assembly line — the oldest scoops (this is sometimes me) and the youngest dips and rolls the cake mix cookies into the coating of our choice. At this point we’ve made these cookies enough times that my kids can do all this work on their own too, while I “supervise” with a book and a cup of cocoa from the couch.

Credit: Meghan Splawn

Depending on the flavor you’ve chosen, you can top the cookies in a variety of ways, which helps make every batch a little different. The Kitchn recipe calls for dusting chocolate cookies with powdered sugar, but my family really loves to roll them in sprinkles — and crushed candy canes would also be perfect this time of year. We even change up the sprinkles for different holidays — making ghoulish chocolate cookies for Halloween with the addition of candy eye balls.

You can roll lemon cake mix cookies in sanding sugar or crushed pretzels. Gooey butter cookies are delicious with candy-coated chocolate pieces too — like a seriously upgraded monster cookie.

The resulting cookies delight our friends (or hey, just the four of us sometimes) and my kids get to build memories of cooking and baking together without me having to plan and prep for an entire afternoon of cookie construction.

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. Kitchn Love Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.