I promised I’d be back with a recipe for these things, and here I am, attempting to ignore the shame I feel inside. As far as cake mix cookies go, I do feel like these are pretty good, and here’s the thing: no one ever needs to know you made these from cake mix. Just don’t tell them. When people rave and swoon and otherwise go on and on about how your cookies taste incredible and how talented a baker you are, just smile and say thank you and know that you’re basically committing some sort of horrific crime against scratch baking.
These are easy. These are fun. These can be made with basically any standard-size box cake mix. I’ve tried a few muffin and quick bread mixes, with mixed results, so I’d stick to the actual cake mixes with this or you’re taking your chances. Benefits of the cake mix cookie:
- One bowl + one whisk + one measuring cup = you’re done.
- They stay soft and chewy forever, but they’re not so soft you can’t work with them. It’s like they completely retain their stability while being melt-in-your-mouth soft.
- You can make them virtually any size you wish, from tiny to giant, with a minute or two here or there for time adjustment.
- Since they are soft and cake-like, they are the perfect thing for sandwich cookies/whoopie pies. I call these “1-2-3 Wookies” (whoopie pie cookies). Add sticks? 1-2-3 Lollies.
- Instant delicious cookie with basically no work. Also, very inexpensive and hardly any cleanup.
And the biggest benefit? You may never have to look at this post again. I felt dumb every time I made these because I had to find where I wrote down the recipe. It took longer to look for my notes than to make the actual cookies. Rather than go through all of that, I made up my own little mnemonic device to remember how to make these. All you need to remember is:
- 1-2-3 cookies: 1 box cake mix, 2 eggs, 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 3-4-5 temperature: not really, but it reminds me I need to bake them at 350˚F.
- (350) 3+5+0=8 minutes: because it takes 8 minutes for a standard 1-inch ball to bake to perfection.
Now if you want to make my fake caramel cookie apples, all you need to do is whip up a batch of 1-2-3 cookies, turn them into wookies with my easy buttercream recipe below, melt some semi-sweet chocolate down, and have some chopped nuts on standby. I used blanched almonds for this, because I thought chocolate and almonds would be a nice combination on this. I imagine a chocolate cake mix would be lovely with a little white chocolate dip and maybe some chopped peanuts or pecans, and so on. Whatever you do, put it on a stick and let it chill, and you’ll have ooohs and aaahs from all your party guests.
I’ll be honest: I made these aiming primarily for adorable, flavorful being secondary. Turns out, I’m an idiot, because these tasted so good. Which is why my secret shame is now your recipe.
Happy Halloween. Again. Because these are so easy, you may still have time to make them before trick-or-treating tonight.
Easy buttercream from a recipe I found on Food Network which I’ve used many times over. The cookies, although possibly universal, are my own.
Cake Mix Cookies (dressed to look like caramel apples)
for the cookies:
- 1 box red velvet cake mix (I used Duncan Hines brand), or any flavor you like
- 2 large eggs
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
for the easy buttercream:
- 1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
for the assembly:
- 1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips or around 8 ounces 60% (or thereabouts) chocolate
- 3/4 cup chopped nuts (I used blanched almonds here)
- 1 bag 4-inch lollipop sticks (sold at cake supply and craft stores; I like Wilton brand), which should give you 24, so 4 more than you probably need.
In a large bowl, add your eggs and oil. Whisk together lightly and then add your box of cake mix. Whisk. I feel stupid that this is the recipe, but it is. Just whisk until the lumps have ironed themselves out and everything is incorporated. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in fridge for about an hour to chill.
When you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Remove your chilled dough from the fridge and roll into 1-inch balls using your palms, placing them about 2 inches apart on your prepared sheet pan. Bake for about 8 minutes until cookies are crackly and have spread out. They’ll be poofy when you first remove them from the oven; this will go down once cooled.
Let cool on sheet pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Buttercream step (which I suggest you do as your cookies are baking/cooling):
In a large bowl using an electric mixer (my preference for frosting; I think it’s easier to do this way), add your sugar and butter and mix on high until fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add vanilla and 1 tablespoon of the heavy cream, mixing until smooth. If it’s the consistency you like, great; you’re done. Too thick? add a bit more heavy cream. Too runny? Add a few spoonfuls more of confectioner’s sugar. Once it’s the consistency you like (and it should be thick enough to hold these cookies together) place in the fridge until it’s time to wookie your cookies.
Wookie those cookies:
Once your cookies have cooled completely, make them into pairs of roughly the same sized cookies. Doing this ahead of time means you won’t be scrambling for matches later, or have ones which look strange and fall over. Get out your buttercream and, using a butter knife, scoop maybe a teaspoon of buttercream onto the middle of one of the cookies in a pair. Place the other half of the pair down, crackly sides facing outward, and smoosh gently and evenly until the frosting has made a nice little Oreo-like effect in your cookie. Repeat.
Take a lollypop stick and stick it about an inch or so deep into the side of each wookie, securing it in the frosting. Your wookies, if you did them correctly, will have the cookies close enough together to provide stability for the sticks. Once you’ve lollied all of them, stick them back in the fridge until your chocolate melts so they get a little firmed up.
Melt your chocolate:
Place chocolate in the top of a double boiler/heatproof bowl set over just simmering water, and stir occasionally as the chocolate melts. Once melted and smooth, remove from heat. Use this time to get out to line another sheet pan with parchment paper. Place your chopped nuts in a small bowl, and line up your prepped things in this order from left to right: Chilled wookies, melted chocolate, bowl of nuts, prepared sheet pan.
Time for fake caramel apples:
Holding onto the lollipopped side of the cookie (notice I said hang on to the cookie, not the stick), dip your wookie halfway down into your chocolate, swirling to coat as much of your wookie as you want. When done, drag the bottom of the wookie (the part which the “caramel apple” would rest on) gently against the side of the bowl to remove excess drippy chocolate. Holding your dipped wookie over the nut bowl, use your other hand to grab some of the chopped nuts and sprinkle them onto the melted chocolate, coating as much or as little as you want to, on all sides.
Place finished “caramel apple” on prepared sheet pan just like I did above, standing up, making sure to firmly place it to where it’s not wobbly and will keep still. Repeat until all have been decorated, then place carefully in the fridge for maybe a 1/2 hour to harden. Once they’re hardened back into solid chocolate, you can leave them at room temperature for serving.
If you’re making these as fake caramel apples, you’ll get around 20. Making just the cookies by themselves will, quite obviously, give you around 40. These keep in a tightly sealed container at room temperature for up to 3 days.