Recipe: Sugar Cookie Cake

(Image credit: Nealey Dozier)

If you really need to impress Santa this year, wow him with this stunning sugar cookie cake, decorated to look just like a festive holiday wreath. It’s surprisingly simple and so very delicious — you may never go back to baking regular cookies again!

(Image credit: Nealey Dozier)

We are cookie cake fanatics at my house. I make a chocolate chip cookie cake for each of my husband’s family members on their birthdays, and I even crafted a tiered version as a wedding cake upon a friend’s request. (Clearly, she loves them, too.) Honestly, I had never thought of making any other kind until Emma gave me the grand idea. But let me tell you, there’s nothing like receiving an email from your editor saying, “Giant holiday cookie … go!”

I knew almost immediately that I wanted to adapt Faith’s mind-blowing sugar cookie recipe (also featured in The Kitchn cookbook) into a colossal holiday cookie cake. What I didn’t realize was how incredibly easy the task would be. I just whipped up the original recipe, patted the dough into a nine-inch cake pan, and crossed my fingers for luck. Less than a half hour later, a beautiful, pale-golden cake emerged from the oven, as simple as could be. No chilling, rolling, or cutting required? Now that’s my kind of cookie.

(Image credit: Nealey Dozier)
(Image credit: Nealey Dozier)

While the cake was cooling, I perused Pinterest for some decorating inspiration. My goal was something sophisticated: I wanted a Christmas cookie cake I could proudly serve at a party. After witnessing a lot of over-the-top frosting ideas, I settled on an unfussy holiday wreath — just some lovely foliage to don the delicious cookie. To keep the color natural (because nobody really wants to eat neon), I chose Wilton’s Juniper Green food dye for subtle, realistic-looking leaves. Forming them was child’s play with the help of a leaf tip for my piping bag — and I consider myself piping challenged!

Not wanting to go through the hassle of making an additional red icing, I used tiny nonpareils to dot the leaves instead, suggesting adorable little clusters of berries. Since I’m not a bow person in real life I decided to go without an adorning frosted ribbon, but you are welcome to garnish your wreath however you so choose.

Serve a wedge of this soft, chewy cookie cake with a large glass of milk. Try not to eat it all in one sitting, though — you’ve got to leave enough for Santa!

(Image credit: Nealey Dozier)
(Image credit: Nealey Dozier)

Sugar-Cookie Cake

Serves 12 to 16

For the dough:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature for an hour
2 ounces cream cheese (1/4 of a standard cream cheese package)
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups (14 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the frosting:
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Green food coloring (I used Wilton Juniper Green)
Red nonpareils

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9-inch cake pan with baking spray and line with parchment paper (see how here).

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Combine the butter, cream cheese, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment (or use an electric hand mixer) and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract and mix until incorporated. Then add the flour mixture, bit by bit, to the butter mixture until fully incorporated.

Press the dough evenly into the prepared cake pan, using your fingers to smooth the surface. Bake the cake until the edges just begin to turn golden, 26 to 28 minutes. (The center should still be soft.) Allow to cool completely. Run a knife along the edges of the pan before turning out and frosting. Store the cookie cake in an airtight container until ready to frost and serve; the cake is best served within 2 to 3 days.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese, sugar, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or with an electric hand mixer), and beat on low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and beat until light and fluffy. Scoop out half of the frosting and set aside. Add a dollop of green food coloring to the remaining frosting and continue beating, adding more color as necessary, until desired shade of green is reached.

Using a small offset spatula, spread the white frosting over the top of the cookie cake. Transfer the green frosting to a piping bag fitted with a leaf tip (I used Wilton 352). Hold the piping bag so the points of the tip are horizontal, like a bird’s beak, and position just over the edge of the cake. Squeeze hard to create the base against the cake, then quickly raise the tip, releasing pressure at the same time. (I recommend practicing a few leaves on parchment paper first.)

Pipe a row of leaves around the perimeter of the cake, with the tips of the leaves facing away from the center of the cake. Pipe a second row of leaves inside the first row, this time with the tips of the leaves pointing towards the center of the cake. Pipe a final row of leaves on top of the first two rows, alternating the leaves to point in and out, using the seam as the guide. (I find it’s easiest to rotate the cake plate as I go, so that whatever I’m piping is closest to me.) And finally, use tweezers to place clusters of red nonpareils evenly along the piped leaves.

Leftovers will keep for several days kept in an airtight container.