This delicious mash-up packs all your favorite birthday cake flavors into one little, chewy sugar cookie package. You can even customize these birthday cake cookies with any festive color of sprinkles to match the theme of any occasion, be it big or small.
- What ingredients you'll need to make Birthday Cake Cookies…
- How birthday cake becomes cookies…
- Special tools or equipment you'll need…
- How to make Birthday Cake Cookies from scratch…
- So are these just sugar cookies?
- Can I substitute for any of those special ingredients?
- Can you make these ahead of time?
- How do you store these?
- Top tip for making the BEST Birthday Cake Cookies…
- ~The Sweet Recipe Card~
Now if you haven’t been living under a rock, you've probably heard of the original inspiration for these cookies. These funfetti festive sweets are of course inspired by the treat queen herself, Christina Tosi, and her Milk Bar Confetti Cookies.
Many many versions (and literally years) ago, this recipe started with hers from her cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar: A Cookbook. It has seen many variations from minis, to megas, to wedding chic, and beyond as a constant favorite of my bakery customers.
If you've ever had one of those rare friends who’s just not a cake person, and wondered…what can I make them instead of a birthday cake? Deliciously chewy birthday cake cookies of course!
While these little guys are a type of sugar cookie, there are a few speciality ingredients you won't find in a typical sugar cookie recipe. It's those newbies that take these little babies to the next level. They have a deliciously chewy texture with a slightly crisp edge. And they are PACKED with sprinkles, because they wouldn’t be worthy of the birthday name otherwise. I mean really, what more could you ask for?!
What ingredients you'll need to make Birthday Cake Cookies…
(Pssst…if you're ready to just get baking, check out all the details recipe card below!)
- Butter, Egg, Sugar, All-Purpose Flour: classics for any cookie recipe to bring all the usual fat, rise, sweetness, and structure
- Light corn syrup: helps to bring the chewiness
- Vanilla: can't have classic birthday cake flavor without some vanilla! (There's practically no sweet recipes that I don't think aren't helped by a hint o' vanilla!)
- Lemon juice: a little bit of acid helps offset the sweetness and balances the dairy notes from the milk powder
- Dry milk powder: adds an extra layer of dairy notes to help transition from "sugar cookie" flavor to "birthday cake cookie" flavor (this one is my favorite!)
- Cream of tartar: an acid that pairs and reacts with the "basic" (in the scientific pH sense) baking soda to give us the lovely rise and fall for a pretty crackle top
- Baking soda: a "base" (in the scientific pH sense) that pairs with the "acidic" cream of tartar to give us the lovely rise and fall for a pretty crackle top
- Salt: you always need a little salt to amplify, blend, and balance all the other flavors
- Sprinkles: the primary function of sprinkles is always to bring extra cheer. I recommend the long stick sprinkles instead of round nonpareils. The stick sprinkles have a softer texture that blends better with the texture of these chewy confetti cookies
How birthday cake becomes cookies…
So what is the difference between cake and cookies if the ingredients are the same?
Well, the difference between a birthday cake-tasting sugar cookie and an actual birthday cake, is found most significantly in ratios. I'll be talking about baker's math in future articles in The Baker's Manual, but as we all know, a cookie dough and a cake batter have very different textures.
Cakes have a lot more egg, and usually some added liquid (likely milk). Alternatively, cookie dough has typically 1 egg per batch and no other liquid. To imitate that milk flavor from cake batter, we've added the dry milk powder here.
You'll also have a higher ratio of dry ingredients (mostly flour) in cookie doughs. This of course stiffens the dough so you don't end up with cookie puddles. But you also keep flour lower in cake batters to allow the batters to stay more fluid. This prevents an overly dry crumb (that's the fancy word for the interior texture of the cake).
Special tools or equipment you'll need…
- hand or stand mixer
- 1.5" ice cream scoop, optional
How to make Birthday Cake Cookies from scratch…
(Pssst…if you're ready to just get baking, check out all the details recipe card below!)
- Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla extract: you want to really mix well here as getting lots of air in the batter helps with the rise and fall that gives these cookies that delicious crackled top. Always add your flavoring with your fat so they can combine as long and as well as possible for the best flavor impact. (See more on that in my lesson on Butter 101!)
- Whip the egg: again looking to really whip that egg and get lots of air in the batter here, as well as fully homogenizing the batter with the egg.
- Mix in dries: mix in the dries just until fully combined (no super whipping here, so you don't over-mix).
- Scoop and sprinkle: scoop into 1.5" dough balls, round them off, and cover in all the sprinkles!
- Tray and bake: tray up on your sheet pan and bake just until the edge is golden brown. (The center will still be a little under-baked.)
- Knock em' down: immediately when you pull the cookies out of the oven, knock them hard several times on your counter. You see the puffy centers drop, settle, and crackle.
- Cool, share, and enjoy! (I think you know how to do this step all on your own…wink*)
So are these just sugar cookies?
Well…yes and no. Are these sugar cookies? yes. Are these JUST sugar cookies? oh no…they are much much more…
As you'll see from the ingredient list, there are so many extra ingredients in here you won't find in a classic sugar cookies. Those special additions each add complexity to the flavor. They also improve that perfectly contrasting structure for a crisp edge and perfectly chewy birthday cake cookie middle…yum!
Can I substitute for any of those special ingredients?
…i.e. lemon juice, corn syrup, dry milk powder, etc.
In short, you are always welcome to experiment, and you will absolutely still get a cookie with one or more of those ingredients left out. But if you're missing all those ingredients or looking to strip this recipe down, I'd recommend you look for a more classic sugar cookie to be made without them, because you'll lose the magic of the birthday cake cookie dough flavor in this chewy sugar cookie variation.
Can you make these ahead of time?
You can absolutely make these cookies ahead of time! They do bake straight from the fridge or freezer, but the texture will be a little different due to the chill/freeze of the dough.
Whether baking from the fridge or freezer, you can still bake them at 375°F. They likely will just take an extra 2-5 minutes to bake starting from a chilled temperature. Pull them out whenever you see that hint of golden brown on the edges. They also may stay a bit more domed and not crackle as much (but they'll still be super delicious!).
How do you store these?
These birthday cake cookies rarely survive more than a day or two in our house. But, if you do need to store them, keep them at room temperature in an air tight container for up to a week. Because of the slightly under-baked centers, these cookies actually keep better than most over a few days which is an added bonus of this recipe!
Top tip for making the BEST Birthday Cake Cookies…
The most important thing to keep in mind to achieve that deliciously chewy texture is to really beat these cookies well before adding the dry ingredients.
Whipping this batter well at the early stages traps air bubbles in your dough. Those air bubbles then heat up and expand in the oven. This gives your cookies a lovely little puff in the middle. In order for the cookies to drop when you knock them on the counter, you need them to be puffy in the first place!
So making sure that you beat them really well early on is very important because mixing them a lot after the flour is in there can toughen your cookies (one no one wants a tough cookie).
~The Sweet Recipe Card~
Birthday Cake Cookies
- 10 tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons dry milk powder
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup multi-colored stick sprinkles
- Prep and line: preheat your oven to 375°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Cream butter, sugars, and vanilla: cream together the butter, sugar, corn syrup, and vanilla extract for 3 minutes until very light and fluffy on medium-high speed.
- Whip the egg: add in the egg and lemon juice, and beat for 1-2 more minutes on medium-high until the batter is smooth, opaque, and slightly fluffy (you can over-whip the batter here and break the mixture, so be sure not to beat longer than 2 minutes).
- Mix in dries: add in flour, milk powder, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt, and mix on low speed until fully combined, then beat briefly on medium-low for just 15-20 seconds. A smooth, slightly sticky dough should form, and be sure to scrape the bowl really well about half-way through mixing.
- Scoop and sprinkle: place sprinkles in a fairly small, wide bowl. Scoop dough into 1.5" balls, roll between your hands to fully round if not using an ice cream scoop, then roll in the sprinkle bowl until fully coated (see tips). (An ice cream scoop is really helpful here as this is a bit of a sticky dough to make sure all the sprinkles adhere, but you can use a regular spoon and roll by hand if needed.)
- Tray and bake: place cookies on prepared trays, at least 3” apart. Bake for 9-11 minutes, just until they have a hint of golden brown on the edge (you do want these cookies to be a little under-baked for the tastiest texture).
- Knock em' down: knock each tray firmly on the counter or stove top immediately after removal from the oven to collapse the dome and get that perfect cookie crackle.
- Cool, share, and enjoy: allow cookies to cool as long as you can (so those doughy middles can set up to a perfectly chewy center, and the edges can get deliciously crisp). Then share with anyone and everyone to have a birthday party any day of the week!
Test Kitchen Tips
I hope you and your loved ones enjoy this recipe and when you give these a try, please share (literally and electronically!) and tag me on Instagram or Facebook @mint.and.mallow.kitchen so I can see all your amazing sweets and help you with any baking conundrums that come up!
Love, light and sweets always,
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