valentine [or anytime] vanilla sandwich cookies.

valentine [or anytime] vanilla sandwich cookies.

I still remember how I spent last Valentine’s day. Okay, not really, but I clearly remember what I did leading up to that most sacred *cough gag* of days: throwing a ton of effort into a cake I thought I’d be stoked about, and having it be way less than what I was expecting.

That’s lame.

This year, I realized something: I, too, am a valentine. I don’t need to fuss about over some crazy valentine’s day dessert this year, because truly, that’s more about me feeling like I should do something fancy versus my two valentines – one aged 40, the other aged 4 – requesting something fancy. You know what they want? Vanilla somethings. They are those people when it comes to food. I am the one who wants to inexplicably spend hours making a sky-high layered pie for no other reason than to prove I can.

So I made vanilla somethings: vanilla cookies, to be precise. And they are the easiest-to-make, breeziest-to-roll-out cookies you’ll ever make for yourself. They’re my new go-to if i need a roll-out cookie to stay put and not give me fits when I try to re-roll the excess. I would marry them. They are my cookie valentine.

valentine [or anytime] vanilla sandwich cookies.

And then I made the simplest, most luxuriously-textured vanilla cookie flavoring to go with. And then – because my 4 year old valentine loves to help – I stuffed them with sprinkles. Not too many, but just enough to be fun. And easy: what you’re seeing in the photo? That’s the Wee One’s handiwork: I had nothing to do with it. That’s how easy these are.

So happy valentine’s day to you and yours, if you celebrate it. If you don’t, that’s cool too: use the cookie cutter which most exemplifies your feelings about the day, make frosting, then smash those buggers together and chow down.

valentine [or anytime] vanilla sandwich cookies.

If you’ll excuse me, I just came off a writing bender and this is my one morning to do something by myself while the Wee is in school. I didn’t change this recipe for the cookies one iota: it comes from The Kitchn, and you should use it all year round for any cookie-cutter project. It’s fabulous. So fabulous you can get it right here versus me retyping it, because why, right? I never do that: today, I’m doing that.

As for the frosting, it’s one I cobbled together myself based on a standard cream cheese frosting I make for cakes. Not too sweet, and a perfect complement to these delicately-flavored cookies. It enhances their vanilla-ness and keeps the sprinkles from flying all over the place. And it doesn’t sog the cookies out at all: keep them in the fridge, tightly covered, and they’ll stay perfect for days.

Valentine [or Anti-Valentine, or Anytime] Vanilla Cookies

This recipe makes quite a few cookies, even when you sandwich them together. With a standard linzer cutter or other normalish-size cutter, you’ll be looking at at least 40 sandwich cookies total: if you don’t need that many, freeze one of the two dough disks for later. 

for the cookies:

for the filling:

  • 4 oz full-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups confectioners’ sugar

for cutting and assembly:

  • linzer cookie cutter (or use whatever works for you)
  • sprinkles – the jimmies work well, as do the tiny ball sprinkles, and if you can find little sprinkle hearts, bully for you. We mixed them together and they came out awfully nice.

make the cookies:

simple enough; just follow The Kitchn’s directions for these to the letter; you can even freeze the dough and thaw it in your refrigerator if you want to use it at a later date. I baked my cookies for about 10 to 11 minutes: you’ll know they’re done when they get the slightest bit of color to the bottoms.

make the filling:

just as easy: beat the cream cheese and butter together in a medium bowl until fluffy. Add vanilla and beat to combine. Add the confectioners’ sugar, starting with 1 cup and going up about a 1/4 cup at a time, until you reach a consistency that works for you. I like to make this ahead and then let it set back up in the refrigerator, so take that into account when you make this.

assemble the cookies:

grab some butter spreaders, spread the filling, settle a cookie on top, sprinkle away.

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  • Reply Willow @ Will Cook For Friends February 12, 2015 at 10:41 am

    These are so fantastically amazingly adorable! I love that the Wee one helped. And you know what? I can totally relate to feeling pressured to do something for Valentine’s Day, not by my valentine, but by my own darn self. Especially in the world of blogging, it feels almost like an obligation sometimes. This year was a bit of an exception, because I really wanted to make what I was making (and The Husband loved it), but in general, I feel ya. Valentine’s Day isn’t really my jam, but I try to make it my jam anyway, which is just silly.

    These cookies, however, seem perfect. Simple, tasty, and suitable for just about any occasion, really. Plus, they’re stuffed with sprinkles. Maybe that can be a new saying, instead of “the icing on the cake,” we should say “the sprinkles in the cookie.” It might take a little while to catch on, but when it does, it will be EPIC.

    • Reply shannon February 12, 2015 at 11:04 am

      thank you, Willow! she loves a kitchen project, that one. AND she’s finally old enough to where “help” means something more than “make a mess mom will clean up”, which is awesome.
      you hit the nail on the head: as a blogger, i think we see our colleagues start to ramp up with each holiday, every recipe cuter than the next, and it’s like UGGGHHHHH I HAVE TO DO SOMETHING and really? we don’t. unless we want to, and speaking of which, those marshmallows you made were awesome. probably going to try those b/c i’ve made successful vanilla ones, but never anything that pretty, or involving a flavor or swirl. I’m excited about them. 🙂

      for me, V-day is less about flowers and candy and way more about like, appreciating my valentines and making sure to do something fun with them, you know? i feel like these types of holidays, which can so often be contrived and corny and full of expectations can just serve as reminders to be with each other without distraction…at least that’s how i see it.

      i mean, i think if we work at that saying, it’ll totally catch on. and it makes sense to me, because relevant. 🙂

  • Reply Wendy February 12, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    But, Shannon…..where are the 12 ozs. of red food coloring…….the pink striped straws? Not even an esoteric ingredient or epicurean technique?! Sigh. We will have to settle for cookies that are lovely, simple, delicious, and memorable (because my friend, moments together creating in the kitchen with the Wee One are priceless,) and sprinkled just enough to make them and the day celebratory. I love vanilla. I love these cookies. I hope your Valentine’s Day is hug and smile filled!

    • Reply shannon February 18, 2015 at 11:54 am

      not even a TUTORIAL, Wendy…it’s like i didn’t even TRY with these very hard. 🙂 And yes, that’s the real beauty of it all, because i DID get to spend time with my Wee One, who is growing rapidly, without having to worry about tiny details, notes, speciality food coloring, or perfect lighting. It was awesome. And i love that you love them too, and i hope your valentine’s day was perfect. 🙂

  • Reply Ashley February 12, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    I love this! And I heart you!
    My valentine (Eric) is likewise requesting something simple (brownies from a box) and I decided to show my love by doing that….and resisting the urge to make a from scratch brownie without anything added. It’s a serious display of true love, that resisting. And I made sure to tell him so. But I’m still getting my way because I made momofuku chocolate cookies (that cracked and burnt on the edges, still tasty) for everyone else.

    • Reply shannon February 18, 2015 at 11:51 am

      I heart you too! Brownies from a box are awesome: my mom is a huge fan of the ghirardelli double chocolate ones and i had my doubts, but they’re fabulous. no shame in that game, i’ll say, and even though regular scratch brownies aren’t all that difficult, there’s something about buying a box and only having to add liquid that makes it really nice.
      oooo you made the chocolate momofuku cookies?!?!? they cracked and burnt?!? NOOOOO! i mean, i believe they’re tasty but i wonder what happened there. 🙁

  • Reply Jennie @themessybakerblog February 12, 2015 at 5:05 pm

    Yah, this year is the very first year I baked something special for V-Day. Usually, I just give it a big thumbs down and move on my merry little way, landing in the direction of bread and cocktail recipes. Priorities. This year I actually made stuff. The only identifiable V-Day characteristic is the addition of pink sprinkles. Other than that, they’re everyday treats. I like that these cookies are special but still something I would want more than once a year. Sprinkles: clearly the wee one knows what’s up.

    • Reply shannon February 18, 2015 at 11:48 am

      The wee one DOES know what’s up when it comes to sprinkles. It’s pretty evident by how many sprinkles we have now thanks to her seeing them in the store and being all “mom mom mom mom mom hey: did you see those? can we get those sprinkles WE NEED THOSE SPRINKLES MOM! MOM!” and me being all “yeah okay. just one more.” I’m a rock.

  • Reply natalie @ wee eats February 12, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    These cookies are unbelieveably gorgeous – Mr. Eats would LOVE them since he dies over cream cheese anything. True story.

    I am seriously dying over how gorgeous these cookies are- they came out so PERFECT i could just DIE.

    • Reply shannon February 18, 2015 at 11:46 am

      Perfection = amazing cookie recipe. the dough is MAGIC DOUGH, and even like, 5 re-rolls didn’t destroy it. I have honestly never worked with a cut-out dough this awesome and i’ll be using it again this weekend for our Oscar party.

  • Reply Deb|EastofEdenCooking February 12, 2015 at 7:16 pm

    Valentine’s Day is always a coin toss, isn’t it? Go out or stay home, bake something special or not?
    I enjoy baking so very much that any holiday is an excuse to make something! I try to temper my baking enthusiasm with the realism of how much time I have and what my family would enjoy. I see no reason to make light of your enchanting cookies, they are gorgeous! I very much like that they can be made ahead and that you had expert assistance with sprinkles! Valentine’s Day baking doesn’t get much better than that!

    • Reply shannon February 18, 2015 at 11:45 am

      it IS, Deb! I think part of that, at least where i’m at, comes from never knowing what weather we’re going to get. Some years it’s 60 degrees and gorgeous, other times (like this year) it’s 20 degrees with a chance snow and high winds. We stayed in: it was nice. we had two plans and that was the one that DIDN’T involve going out in the freezing temps.
      it’s hard when you love to bake to really reign it in, isn’t it? I totally agree: you want to make so many things and if you’re not careful, you have a huge overage, impossible to eat. I can totally identify with that. 🙂

  • Reply Brianne February 12, 2015 at 8:12 pm

    These cookies are so fun! I love the story behind them. How exciting that Miss Wee is getting big enough to play her part in your cooking adventures. I loved baking cookies with my younger siblings growing up–in fact, I still love it–we bake and decorate cookies every Christmas still. Baking with kiddos is the best, though. We’re going all out with the cream cheese this weekend with a cheesecake. The guy chose our dinner (Chicken Paprikash, his favorite thing ever and what we cooked the night we got married), so I got to choose dessert. Cheesecake is my most favorite thing ever.

    • Reply shannon February 18, 2015 at 11:43 am

      Brianne, she’s a BOSS in the kitchen: that poor girl’s earliest memories are probably sitting in her high chair watching me cook, so it’s great that she’s really into helping now versus hating it (a fear i had only because she spent so much of her life in there). I bet you and your siblings were awesome in the kitchen! and what a great thing to still do today; when my mom and sister are in town we definitely spend a good amount of time falling back into baking and cooking with each other, and it’s an effortless thing.
      MMMMM CHEESECAKE! ugh…so good, and i almost never get a chance to make cheesecake. and chicken paprikash? YUM. and how great is that that you’re doing the dinner you had on your wedding? I love you two. 🙂

  • Reply elizabeth February 12, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    Here’s to simplifying things for holidays, even silly Hallmark-commissioned ones. I would easily eat half a dozen of those cookies without blinking, mainly because there are sprinkles and homemade frosting involved, and frankly I would make them all year ’round because they are that versatile.

    • Reply shannon February 18, 2015 at 11:39 am

      Totally – i’m not a fuss-prone person when it comes to things like this, and it was refreshing not to explode my kitchen making something super-fancy. These are going on the year-round list for sandwich cookies: the flavor of the cookies just matches anything you want to throw them into (ice cream sandwiches, berries and whipped cream), and the filling…WAY better than the vegetable shortening-based sort. *blech*

  • Reply Monica February 13, 2015 at 7:49 am

    These are just lovely. I love the ethereal lighting because these look totally heavenly. The sprinkle love nestled within the heart-openings is just the perfect touch!

    • Reply shannon February 18, 2015 at 11:37 am

      Thank you! i figured it’s the one time i could get away with rainbowish-pink fairy lighting, so that’s me taking advantage of a situation.

  • Reply John@Kitchen Riffs February 13, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    Everyday is Valentine’s Day around our house. Really. Truly. So we should make this daily. 😉 But it’s fun to celebrate the official day too, isn’t it? Dunno what we’re going to do — probably decide what we want to eat when we wake up tomorrow, then buy the stuff and cook it. It’ll be good, whatever. Fun post — thanks.

    • Reply shannon February 18, 2015 at 11:36 am

      I hope Mrs. KR gets to read this comment: how sweet! 🙂 I’d agree: i think it’s really the nice things you do for each other day in and day out that are maybe the most special, but it’s fun to have a day to focus the effort, perhaps. Hope you had a lovely day with each other, no matter what the plans ended up being.

  • Reply Amy @ Elephant Eats February 13, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    You know who else is plain vanilla (in the best sense possible)? Nate. He would adore these cookies. One day when I get back in the kitchen, perhaps I’ll surprise him. I love that you used a cream cheese frosting…and the wee one did an awesome “sprinkling” job!

    • Reply shannon February 18, 2015 at 11:35 am

      Nate and mr. Table would totally get along: tim is also very “vanilla” in a great way, but yes, all vanilla all the time: it’s his favorite flavor of ice cream, cake, etc. These are super good, and not a pain (like some roll out cookies) to roll and reroll: the dough stays really soft and nice and you won’t end up frustrated. maybe when Berkeley’s old enough, buy some plastic cookie cutters and go to town. 🙂

  • Reply movita beaucoup February 14, 2015 at 6:44 am

    These are perfection! A perfect treat for the day. (And the photos are top notch!) xox

    • Reply shannon February 18, 2015 at 11:25 am

      I feel like i need to send the Afterlight app a personal thank you for the photo help. b/c i’m not above using apps to fine-tune the color magic, because i’m very professional like that.

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