Soft Sugar Cookie Bars with Buttercream Icing
Thick, soft sugar cookie bars slathered with vanilla buttercream frosting, with a secret ingredient. These melt in your mouth.
It’s funny how sometimes, when you try really hard, things don’t quite work out. But when you don’t try hard at all, they do. Take babysitting. When you try really hard to get the kid to like you, more often then not, you screw up and they don’t end up warming up to you. Once, I went to babysit for a family with two girls. It must have been my first time taking care of such young children (besides my now 7-year old cousin whom with, I pretty much act like his equivalent, so technically I shouldn’t be allowed to look after other kids). The ages were 3 and 8, and I was pretty nervous. The night before, I remember thinking of what I’d say to them and what activities we could do. I decided on baking cookies as an activity- duh. All the ingredients I needed were measured and placed neatly in my bag. We ended up making chocolate white chocolate cookies- they were good, the idea of making them? Not so much.
Making cookies meant the girls fought over who would get to stir. It meant having them stay up past their bedtime to get a sample. And it meant me spending extra time washing dishes and trying to ease the signs of anger raging inside each kid when the other was stirring. There was snapping. There was crying. They both slept in separate rooms, which meant I had to shuffle back and fourth as neither of them was ready to sleep and both of them wanted me to be in their respective rooms. Finally, they fell asleep close to 10:30 pm. At 11, I realized I needed to change the younger one’s diaper. So I had to wake her up and do it. I am such a great babysitter. Thankfully (oh, thankfully), she went back to sleep shortly after. I don’t think either of the girls liked me and I was scared of what they would tell their parents the next day. I did get paid well, so it was all good in the end (for me).
Their parents called me again pretty recently, and I was surprised. I learned my lesson and this time, I took a batch of these sugar cookie bars. After frosting and cutting them, I greedily consumed 5 bars. They looked so pretty- pink with little white pearl sprinkles. And the taste. Oh the taste. So rich. Perfectly sweet with deep scents of vanilla. The texture- soft, not chewy, but enough to simply melt on your tongue- like my favorite sugar cookies. So can you blame me?
I made the difficult decision to give them away to our neighbors and to the girls I was babysitting for, because otherwise, the entire batch would be prayed upon by none other than me, myself and I. So I took these, which was a far better alternative than making something at the girls’ house. I let them watch Sofia the First- a new princess TV show that I too, enjoyed. And after the little one went to bed, the older one whispered out to me, asking for a second piece – I ended up eating one as well. When kids demand a second piece of whatever it is you serve them, you know it’s good. Kids don’t lie. I think I ended up treating them like I would one of my friends, perhaps that’s why they liked me. They wanted me to come back the next day. Sometimes it’s good not to try too hard.
The secret ingredient, by the way, is almond extract. I’m not a huge fan of this stuff, but it takes the bars to a whole new level- and there isn’t an overwhelming scent of it either. Very subtle. Very delicious. Substitute vanilla extract if you cannot find the almond kind.
- For the sugar cookie bars:
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp almond extract
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- For the vanilla buttercream frosting:
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1-2 tbsp milk
- 1-2 drops pink food coloring (optional)
- 1-2 tbsp sprinkles (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 375 F or 180 C and line an 8×8 or 9×9 square baking pan with parchment paper (or grease with butter).
- In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the egg and extracts and continue to mix until combined.
- In a small bowl, stir together the baking powder, soda, salt and flour.
- Add the dry ingredients into the butter/egg mixture and whisk until incorporated. Switch to a spatula or wooden spoon once the dough becomes too tough to mix by hand.
- Spread the dough evenly onto the prepared pan, it will be quite thick.
- Bake until the top is golden brown, about 8-10 minutes and cool completely before cutting.
- Beat the butter slightly to loosen.
- Gradually add in the confectioners’ sugar, alternating with the milk and beating vigorously until you get a thick, smooth texture. Adjust the consistency by adding more milk if it is too thick or more sugar if it is too thin.
- Add the food coloring if using.
- Take the cookie slab out of the pan using the parchment paper as handles.
- Spread the frosting evenly on top and evenly distribute the sprinkles, if using.
- Cut into 16-20 small pieces.
Adapted from my sugar cookie recipe