I have seen various versions of this around the blogosphere for the past few months, most having rave reviews and leading me to wonder "what am I missing?" I like vanilla so I wanted to make it too. And I did attempt it a few times, including my Valentine Sugar Cookie Cake that I made up on the fly. The most common version was the Lofthouse Sugar Cookie Cake which contains cream cheese and butter. The first 2 variations of the same recipe that I tried didn't include cream cheese so for my third attempt, I decided to stick to the more common version that had it.
Why was I trying so many (for me) times? Because I have to admit, I was underwhelmed with the results of the cookie cake. I liked the flavor but not the texture. But so many people raved about them, not just liked them but raved about them, that I convinced myself I must've done something wrong on the previous tries. And if I could just hit on the right recipe and technique, I too would rave. I went with this version from Dreaming of White Chocolate's blog because her picture showed a fluffy, moist cake and that was what I wanted (click on the title above to go to her recipe). What I hadn't liked about my previous attempts is they always seemed a little dry to me. Part of that was my own perception - if it's made in a 9 x 13 pan and looks like a cake, it should be moist like a cake. But it's meant to be a "cookie cake" and cookies aren't as moist and fluffy as a cake. But still, I wanted a moist cake.
I followed the directions for the cake but made up my own frosting recipe. I was a little concerned when I cut the frosted cake because mine didn't look fluffy like the Dreaming of White Chocolate blog picture. It looked.....dry. Gads. Been there, did it again. Once again, I had made a decent bar cookie but a slightly dry cake. The only thing that really saved it was the frosting. And I'm not even a frosting person! So when the frosting is the best part of the piece, well, as I said, I was underwhelmed.
But wait, you know what you can do with a dry-ish cake? That's right, pop it into the microwave for 10 seconds. The frosting gets a little melty on top and the cake softens up to the perfect texture. So I actually ended up loving these when they're warm to lukewarm. So that's a good tip to remember: if you like the flavor of something but not the texture, try warming it up just a bit. For cakes, I wouldn't go more than 15 seconds in the microwave, 10 seconds if it's got frosting. Same with cookies. I liked this warm but no, I wouldn't eat it at room temperature.
Vanilla Frosting1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2-3 cups confectioners' sugar (depending on the consistency you want the frosting to be)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1-2 tablespoons whole milk, as needed
Beat butter until soft and creamy. Add 2 cups confectioners sugar and vanilla extract and paste. Alternately add milk and confectioners' sugar until you have the desired consistency and taste.