My favorite kind of sugar cookies are the ones that bake up tall and pillowy, with that dense, gooey, and almost slightly under-baked center. This recipe channels everything there is to love about those cookies, and brings them to you in the form of a bar cookie. Top it with a thick swipe of lightly scented strawberry frosting and a shower of colorful sprinkles, and you've got a sweet Valentine's Day treat to feed the classroom, your coworkers, or your book club buddies.
Easy Strawberry Frosting
If you're like me, you'll be into these bars just as much for the cookie as you are for the generous layer of pretty pink strawberry frosting. The frosting is really what completes this sweet treat. My favorite trick for adding color and fruity flavor to any frosting is a few spoonfuls of strawberry jelly (or any flavor will work). For a super-smooth frosting, stick with a jelly that's not too chunky, and watch it blend together in seconds.
A Fun Trick for More Festive Bars
As with any big slab of bar cookies, you could cut these frosted, thick sugar cookies into squares, but I suggest taking it a step further with something a little more cute and festive. Once the slab is cool and before frosting, grab a heart-shaped cookie cutter (any size will work) and press into the cookies to cut out big or bite-sized hearts. This will also work well beyond Valentine's Day and brings a fun twist to these basic bar cookies.
5 Sweet Ways to Share the Love This Valentine's Day
There is no better way to spread some love and celebrate Valentine's Day than with a sweet treat. These five low-effort, high-reward baked goods are made for sharing. They offer a little something for everyone, whether you're celebrating with your main squeeze, crew of girlfriends, family, officemates, or a classroom full of kiddos.
Frosted Sugar Cookie Bars
Makes 24 bars
- For the sugar cookie bars:
2 1/2 cups
(2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups
- For the frosting:
(1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
strawberry jelly or preserves
Pink and red sprinkles (optional)
Make the sugar cookie bars: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with parchment paper so that it hangs over two sides of the pan. Lightly grease the pan and parchment with cooking spray or butter.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.
Place the butter, cream cheese, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and a large bowl). Beat on medium speed until fluffy and lightened in color, about 3 minutes. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed.
Add the egg and vanilla and beat on medium speed, until well-combined, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle. Turn the mixer to low speed and slowly add the dry ingredients; mix until just fully incorporated.
Transfer the dough into the prepared baking pan and spread into an even layer with wet fingers or an offset spatula. Bake until golden-brown around the edges and light brown across the top, 20 to 25 minutes.
Place the pan on a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes. Use the parchment sling to lift the cookie slab out of the pan, then place the slab on the wire rack to cool completely. While the cookie slab cools, make the frosting.
Make the frosting: Place the butter in a clean stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.) Beat on medium speed until lightened in color and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, about 3 minutes. Add the strawberry jelly and vanilla and beat until combined. Turn the mixer to low speed and add the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, until completely incorporated.
Once the cookie slab has cooled, scoop the frosting onto the slab and use an offset spatula to spread into an even layer. Top with sprinkles if desired. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to let the frosting stiffen. Grasping the overhanging parchment, lift the slab out of the pan and place on a cutting board. Trim the edges of the slab if desired, then slice into 24 pieces.
Make ahead: The bars can be made a day in advance, covered when cool, and stored at room temperature.
Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, or wrap in foil and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature before serving.