Copycat Hilton Garden Inn Cookies and a Cookie Swap!

Hilton Garden Inn Cookies

I participated in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap! I was somewhat hesitant to do so this year since I’ve been traveling so much, but I’m so glad I did. It gave me a chance to share some of my favorite cookies with people, and I got to taste cookies from some amazing bloggers. It also gives me a chance to share a story that I was too embarrassed to share earlier, but now that I’m posting this recipe, I can’t hide my crazy anymore.

A few months before my wedding, I went to check out some hotels near my parents’ house in Indiana that our guests would be staying in. After a trip to the Hilton Garden Inn, the manager offered us some of their cookies, warm and fresh our of the oven. I’m not often impressed by hotel cookies, but these were good. Really good. Essentially, they’re oatmeal cookies with cranberries, blueberries, and white chocolate chips. And apparently crack, because they’re totally addictive (don’t worry people who received my cookies, I left that ingredient out).

When I got back home to Dallas, instead of focusing on my upcoming wedding, I became obsessed with recreating these cookies. I even went to a few local Hilton Garden Inn’s so I could get some cookies to aid in the recreation process. They all refused to sell me any and looked at me like I was crazy.

I did, however, manage to get my hands on a list of ingredients, and I found out that the original recipe uses no butter or eggs. However, I like the flavor of butter in my cookies, so I used a half butter half shortening combo, but feel free to use all shortening to make them more authentic. I didn’t like any of the eggless varieties of these cookies that I tested, so I added an egg to mine. I also made these cookies mini, because when it comes to snacks, I’m a fan of quantity. If you decide to make larger cookies, you’ll need to adjust the baking time.

To keep these cookies from spreading, shape them into squares and freeze them for at least one hour before baking. If you don’t care if they look exactly like the original Hilton Garden Inn Cookies, there’s no need to shape the cookies in advance. You can just chill the dough in the fridge for an hour before baking.

Hilton Garden Inn Cookies

Copycat Hilton Garden Inn Cookies and a Cookie Swap!

Yield: about 3 dozen mini cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 dried blueberries (or blueberry craisins)
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup plus all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons quick-cooking oats
  • For topping:
  • Rolled Oats
  • Sparkling sugar or turbinado sugar

Instructions

  1. Place the dried cranberries, blueberries, and white chocolate chips in a food processor and pulse a few times until you get smaller bits. (This step is optional, but leads to a more authentic cookie).
  2. With an electric mixer (or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment), cream together the butter, shortening, brown sugar, and white sugar for 1-2 minutes. Don't over mix, as this can cause the cookies to spread.
  3. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat for an additional 30 seconds until combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Add the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture and beat on low until just combined.
  6. Stir in the quick oats and the cranberry/blueberry white chocolate mixture.
  7. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Use a small cookie scoop to portion out the dough and shape them into squares with your hands. Place the shaped cookies onto the cookie sheets and top with rolled oats and sparkling sugar.
  9. Place the cookie sheets in the freezer for at least one hour.
  10. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  11. Bake the cookies for 11-13 minutes, until the edges start to lightly brown.
  12. Cool completely on wire racks.
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Cookie recipe adapted from allrecipes.com

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookie Crunch Cake

Mint Chocolate Cookie Crunch Cake

I will admit that December has pretty much been kicking my ass so far. In the balance of work/blog/life/sleep, blogging has been coming in last place. Not to mention the fact that I’m married to a non-Indian person now so I have to think about Christmas and presents and all that stuff more than I normally would. I did, however, have a few minutes to throw together this little cake. And by throw together, I mean I had 2 failed attempts because I tried to rush and ended up leaving out some important ingredients (like eggs) the first couple of times. Remember that whole post about having a relaxed holiday? Yeah, that totally didn’t work. But enough grumbling, let’s talk cake!

The cake recipe is from The Brown Betty Cookbook, which has been sitting unused on my bookshelf for entirely too long. The Chocolate Buttermilk Cake requires 2 egg yolks, which had me wondering what to do with the leftover egg whites. In hindsight, I probably should have used them in the frosting, but that would have been too simple. Plus, I have been stalking Katherine Sabbath’s instagram profile lately, and I love the idea of using meringues as cute little cake toppers.

Aaron loves mint chocolate cake, but he requires that it be paired with mini chocolate chips, so I threw some of those in between the layers. I also had a few Peppermint Jo Jos on hand so I crushed them up and threw some of those in along with some crushed meringue cookies because, why not? It’s a total smorgasbord of minty chocolate chippy cookie crunchy goodness. I didn’t measure how much of each topping I used, but after I tasted the finished product, I wish I had added more. You can add anything you want- crushed candy canes, peppermint bark, etc. And don’t be afraid to use a heavy hand. Texture = good.

Mint Chocolate Cookie Crunch CakeMint Chocolate Cookie Crunch CakeMint Chocolate Cookie Crunch Cake

If you don’t have 7-inch cake pans, you can get 3 shorter 8-inch layers out of this recipe or 2 9-inch layers. Keep in mind that if you use different sized baking pans, you will need to adjust the baking time.

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookie Crunch Cake

Yield: One 3 layer 7-inch cake

Ingredients

    For the Buttermilk Chocolate Cake:
  • 2¼ cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (60 grams) plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup (180 ml) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (240 ml) vegetable oil unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ¾ (180 ml) cup boiling water
  • For the Mint Meringues:
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) superfine sugar (I took granulated sugar and put it through the food processor)
  • ¼ tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp mint extract
  • a few drops of green gel food coloring
  • For the Mint Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting:
  • 8 large egg whites or 8 ounces (227 grams) liquid egg whites
  • 8 ounces (227 grams) granulated sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 pound (454 grams) unsalted butter, softened but still cool and cut into chunks
  • 2-3 teaspoons mint extract
  • a few drops of green gel food coloring (I used Americolor brand)
  • Toppings:
  • Mini Chocolate Chips
  • Peppermint Jo Jos or Mint Oreos
  • Leftover mint meringues
  • For the Chocolate Glaze:
  • 1/2 cup (90 grams) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons hot milk

Instructions

    For the Chocolate Buttermilk Cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit and grease and line 3 7-inch cake pans with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt on low speed.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the buttermilk, oil, eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla extract until blended.
  4. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture in 2 additions and beat on low speed until blended. Turn the mixer up to medium high and beat until smooth.
  5. With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour in ¾ cup boiling water and beat until blended.
  6. Divide the batter equally between the cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25-28 minutes.
  7. Cool the cakes in the pans on wire racks for 15 minutes.
  8. Turn the cakes out onto wire racks to cool completely.
  9. For the Meringues:
  10. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  11. Whip the egg whites with an electric mixer on medium low speed until they are frothy (about 60 seconds).
  12. Add the cream of tartar and turn the mixer up to medium high.
  13. Beat the mixture until it becomes stiff and shiny. (about 90 seconds).
  14. Add about ½ of the sugar, and beat until stiff peaks form. Add the remaining sugar, mint extract, and a few drops of the food coloring and beat until incorporated.
  15. Place a round pastry tip in a decorating bag and fill the bag with the meringue mixture and pipe onto the parchment paper (I made a few in different sizes).
  16. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until the cookies are firm, smooth and dry.
  17. Turn the oven off and let the meringues sit the oven for a few more hours or overnight.
  18. After the meringues are completely cooled and dry, use the edible pens to decorate them.
  19. For the Mint Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  20. Combine the egg whites, sugar, and salt in a bowl (I used the bowl of my stand mixer).
  21. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. The bowl should not touch the water, nor should the water be at a rolling boil. It's the steam that's going to heat the egg whites, since we don't want scrambled eggs.
  22. Heat the egg white mixture until it reaches 150 degrees fahrenheit (140 is ok for liquid egg whites), whisking frequently so as not to get scrambled eggs.
  23. Remove the bowl from the heat, and whip the egg whites on medium high using the whisk attachment of your stand mixer.
  24. Whip the egg whites until they become fluffy and double in volume. The bowl should be cool to the touch (this will usually take several minutes).
  25. Turn the mixer down to medium low, and add the butter in one chunk at a time, until it has all been incorporated.
  26. If the mixture looks curdled at this point, this is normal. Just keep whipping for a few more minutes until it comes together. If the mixture looks soupy, you can add a few cubes of chilled butter, or stick the whole bowl in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes and then continue beating.
  27. Once the buttercream has become smooth, and the mint extract and food coloring and beat until incorporated.
  28. To Assemble the Cake:
  29. Place one layer of the cake on a7 or 8-inch cake board.
  30. With an offset spatula, spread about 1 cup of the buttercream filling on top of the first layer.
  31. Top with mini chocolate chips, crushed oreos, and crushed meringue cookies.
  32. Repeat this process with the second layer, spreading the remainder of the filling on top.
  33. Place the 3rd layer on top.
  34. Place the cake on a turntable, and apply a thin layer of the chocolate frosting on the sides and the top of the cake to lock in the crumbs.
  35. Let the frosting set up in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
  36. Apply the remainder of the frosting to the sides and top of the cake.
  37. Refrigerate the cake while preparing the glaze.
  38. For the Chocolate Glaze:
  39. In a microwave safe bowl, combine the chocolate chips, butter, and corn syrup.
  40. Microwave on medium power for 30 second intervals and stir after each interval until the mixture is smooth.
  41. Drizzle in the hot milk a little bit at a time until you reach a pourable consistency.
  42. Pour the warm glaze over the top of the cake (the frosting should be cold) and use an offset spatula to even it out.
  43. Top the cake with additional mini chocolate chips, crushed oreos, and meringue cookies.
  44. Serve at room temperature.
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Notes:
Cake recipe adapted from the The Brown Betty Cookbook
Chocolate Glaze adapted from allrecipes.com
Design inspired by Katherine Sabbath

-Since there are a lot of components to this cake, I made it over a period of a few days. I made the cake and the meringues one the first day and kept the cake in an airtight container at room temperature. I frosted the cake the next day, and did the glaze on the 3rd day.

-The glaze on this cake is shiny at room temperature. I was in a hurry to take the pictures and the cake was still cold so the glaze had hardened.

-Don’t forget to wipe down your tools with vinegar before making the meringue cookies and the swiss buttercream. Any traces of grease can cause a weepy meringue.

Mini One Bowl Yellow Cake with Malted Chocolate Frosting

Mini Yellow Cake

Sometimes I wonder why the holidays are the most stressful time of year. I mean, shouldn’t it be the opposite? They are called the holidays, after all. Last week, I found myself completely stressed out and trying to cram in a bunch of pumpkin recipes before I left for my trip to LA when I stopped and thought to myself, why am I doing this? It kind of got me thinking about why I blog in the first place. Perhaps one day I will take over the world with cake, but for now, the main reason that I blog is because it makes me happy. Baking cakes makes me happy, eating them makes me even happier, sharing them with you makes me the happiest, and if I’m not happy blogging then there’s no point. Cake should never be the cause of so much stress.

Most people know that it’s important to take a step back every once in a while and do something good for yourself, but sometimes it’s easier said than done. The last couple of holiday seasons have been all about to do lists for me, and I don’t want another one to go by in a stress frenzy. So today, when I should probably be posting something holiday themed, I am making myself some cake. A mini yellow cake with malted chocolate frosting and crunchy sprinkles. There’s just something about this combo that reminds me of childhood birthdays, and I can’t not be happy when eating it. Since mini cakes are my most favoritest thing ever, I made a 4-inch layer cake just big enough for two.

Mini Yellow Cake
Mini Yellow Cake
Mini Yellow Cake

I tried this recipe with both all purpose and cake flour, and I liked the lighter and fluffier cake flour version better. All purpose flour will work if you’re in a pinch, although you’ll end up with a slightly more dense cake and you’ll need to reduce the amount of flour by one tablespoon. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, add a drop of vinegar to the milk and let it sit for a couple of minutes. The frosting recipe makes more than enough, but I like to have plenty on hand because since I like a smooth finish to my cakes. If you don’t plan to do a crumb coat and pipe a border, you can cut the frosting recipe in half. I also like the flavor of a little bit of malt powder in my chocolate frosting, but if you’re not a fan, you can leave it out.

Mini Yellow Cake

What dessert makes you happy?

Mini One Bowl Yellow Cake with Malted Chocolate Frosting

Yield: One 2 layer 4-inch cake

Ingredients

    For the Yellow Cake:
  • 1/2 cup plus one tablespoon (65 grams) cake flour
  • 1/3 cup (65 grams) sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into pieces
  • 3 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • For the Malted Chocolate Frosting:
  • 8 tablespoons (4 ounces/113 grams) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
  • 1 cup (115 grams) confectioner's sugar
  • 1 tablespoon malted milk powder
  • 1/2 cup (85 grams) good quality semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk, half and half, or heavy cream
  • Sprinkles or nonpareils for topping

Instructions

    For the Yellow Cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Grease 2 4-inch cake pans and line them with parchment paper.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Add the butter and 2 tablespoons of the milk, and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 1 minute.
  5. Add the egg, vanilla, and remaining milk and beat on medium for an additional 30 seconds.
  6. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for an additional 20 seconds, until the mixture looks smooth and satiny.
  7. Divide the batter between the 2 pans and bake for 17-20 minutes.
  8. Cool on wire racks for 15 minutes.
  9. Turn the cakes out of the pan and cool completely.
  10. For the Malted Chocolate Frosting:
  11. With an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium high until light and creamy.
  12. Add the confectioner's sugar and malt powder and beat on low until combined.
  13. Beat on medium high for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  14. Add in the melted chocolate and beat until combined, working quickly so the chocolate doesn't start to solidify.
  15. Add the vanilla extract, salt, and milk and beat until combined.
  16. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat on low until no more streaks of butter remain.
  17. To Assemble the Cake:
  18. Place one layer of the cake on a 4-inch cake board or plate.
  19. With an offset spatula, spread half a cup of frosting on top.
  20. Place the second layer on top, and then place the cake on a turntable.
  21. Apply a thin layer of the chocolate frosting on the sides and the top of the cake to lock in the crumbs.
  22. Let the frosting set up in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
  23. Apply the remainder of the frosting to the sides and top of the cake and use the leftover frosting to pipe a border if you wish.
  24. Top with sprinkles.
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