Fudgy brownie chocolaty goodness with chunks of birthday chocolate: white chocolate, sprinkles and (the best part) birthday cookie crumbs!
I started making these cookies years ago, shortly after I had developed this small batch double chocolate chip cookie recipe. I’d add the birthday cake bars from trader joes (I can’t find them anymore?!) and later, as I am wont to do, I thought I’d try making the birthday cake bar myself. The bars themselves are great but I figured we could do better with more cookie crumbs and using quality white chocolate.
I’ll warn you, these birthday cake crumbs are rather addictive, especially when you pair them with the right chocolate. I began my cookie recipe with Christina Tossi’s birthday cake crumbs recipe; once the crumbs are made you melt the white chocolate and add the crumbs.
The process is very similar to making a chocolate bark; spreading the chocolate and adding the toppings. In this case one of our toppings is actual cookie crumbs (idk why they’re called cake crumbs, they are crunchy!).
Pair the ‘birthday bark’ with a dark chewy brownie cookie base and it’s a damn winner. The contrast of the deep chocolate and the white chocolate/imitation vanilla/sprinkle sweetness is a perfect balance. You get the soft fudginess of the cookie, the snap of white chocolate and the crisp of the crumbs. It’s fantastic.
Cake flour: Because it’s finer than all purpose and has some added cornstarch, it makes for a crispy crumb. You can substitute all purpose, simply swap 1 teaspoon of the flour for a teaspoon of cornstarch. If you are out of cornstarch, just use all purpose. The crumbs might be a bit more dense but it’s not a deal-breaker.
Grapeseed oil: This oil has a subtle but lovely flavor. You can use something flavorless if you like, like canola or avocado (some avocado oils are stronger in flavor, taste a bit before you use it).
Sugars: We’ll need both fine granulated and brown sugar.
Salt: Fine sea salt. If you are using table salt use only a teeny pinch as it’s much saltier in flavor.
Imitation vanilla: This is the clear vanilla that gives that nostalgic ‘birthday’ flavor. You can use pure extract if you don’t have it/don’t want to use it.
Sprinkles: Jimmies work best here. Avoid the ones that are naturally colored as they will bleed or the color will disappear under the heat.
White chocolate: Use something you enjoy eating! I like the Lindt bars because they taste pretty good and are easy to find. Ghirardelli also makes a good white. Avoid chocolate chips as those are often made without cocoa butter and with added oils that take from the flavor and texture of the chocolate.
Cocoa: Dutch process cocoa. Don’t use black, it causes the cookies to over-spread. If you use natural cocoa the cookies will spread less and have less of a chocolate forward flavor. Brands I like: Hershey’s Special Dark, Guittard Rouge, and Ghirardelli dutch.
Flour: All purpose of a medium protein content. If you are using something with a very low protein content, like White Lily for example, the cookies will spread very thin. If you are using a bread flour which has a protein content of 11% or more, the cookies will spread less. I use KAF all purpose.
Egg whites: Just the whites! It’s “ok” if some yellow gets into the egg whites when you are separating them.
Sugars: Brown (light or dark is fine) and fine granulated. Bigger sugar granules break up slower and you’ll have to whisk more to get them to incorporate.
Butter: Unsalted or salted is fine, but if you are using salted halve the amount of sea salt added to the recipe. The butter should be only partially melted when making the dough.
Mix the ingredients: start by adding all the dry ingredients to a bowl. Use a whisk to mix it and break up the brown sugar clumps. You want it to evenly distribute.
Then you’ll add the oil, vanilla and jimmies and mix.
Mix until all of the dry ingredients are covered in oil and you can clump them together by pressing a small handful into your palm.
Baking the crumbs: You want a mix of bigger clumps and bits and smaller bits. Spread them onto a cookie sheet in an even layer so that they will cook and brown evenly.
The crumbs bake on a low 300 F for about 18-20 minutes, at the half-point give them a turn by moving them around.
Storing the crumbs: Once they have a golden color on them you can remove the tray from the oven and then let the crumbs cool.
At this point the crumbs can be stored in an airtight container and kept for about 4 days until you are ready to make the bark. If you want to keep them longer, store them in the freezer.
Tempering the chocolate: I like to use the seeding method to temper my chocolate.With this method you reserve a portion of the chocolate, usually about a quarter or a third of the total chocolate you are melting, to add once most of the rest of the chocolate has melted. Then stir until it’s smooth.
To start, you’ll add the chopped chocolate to a heatproof bowl. White chocolate melts pretty quickly so you’ll likely need no more than a minute or two in the microwave. Start with 60 seconds, stir the chocolate then add it for another 30. Once it looks like it’s almost melted add the reserved chocolate and stir.
Assembling the bark: I usually make the bark and crumbs back to back so I’ll transfer the crumbs to a bowl, wipe down the pan and parchment paper and then spread the melted chocolate into one layer and scatter the crumbs over the chocolate.
You’ll have enough crumbs to generously scatter over a thin layer of 250g of chocolate. If you want to make more bark, but dont’ need many more crumbs, use 357g of chocolate (three 4.4 oz bars) and y ou’ll have a thicker layer of bark with a decent distribution of crumbs to chocolate.
So it can firm up enough to chop, set the bark in the freezer. Once it’s solid you can chop it up. You won’t need the full amount for the recipe below, it should give you enough for two batches of chocolate birthday cookies. Store the remaining bark pieces in the freezer in an airtight container (a ziplock bag works great), that way they’ll stay fresh!
The cookie dough needs to be made the day before you plan to bake them as it needs an overnight rest in the fridge.
Start by partially melting the butter so that at least half of it is melted. It’s okay if it’s more than that, you want it soft/melty enough for you to be able to whisk in the sugars.
Give the mix a really good whisk, at least 2 full minutes. You’ll see the sugar granules begin to dissolve into the butter and the mix will start out with the butter visibly separate from the sugar but as you whisk it’ll become cohesive and shiny.
Whisk the egg whites until the mix turns a few shades lighter.
Add the dry ingredients: if your cocoa is lumpy, sift it in so it’ll be easier to whisk and you won’t have to overmix the dough.
Fold in the bark pieces: be delicate with this step, use a rubber spatula and fold until the bark pieces are well distributed. Overmixing the dough will cause the chunks to break up into tiny pieces and we want some bigger chunks in the cookies.
Because the birthday cookie dough is made with melted butter, it needs to chill so the butter can firm up. An overly soft butter in cookie dough leads to cookies that spread paper thin. The chilling also helps hydrate the flour and deepens the cocoa flavor as it dissolves into the fat.
Because these cookies are made with dutch cocoa and dark in color you won’t be able to tell from the color change of the edges if they are done. Instead look for clues in the center of the cookie; if it still looks wet or overly soft they’ll likely need another minute or two. They will show signs of being overdone; that’s when you’ll see the edges turn black. Avoid that!
You can freeze this dough for a few days, weeks or even months if you want to bake it off slowly. You will need to do the overnight dough rest, this is an important step that hydrates the flour and deepens the flavor, but after that you can portion the cookie dough onto a plate or tray, flash freeze it (no cover necessary) for about 10 minutes until solid, then transfer the dough balls to a ziplock bag for longer storage.
If you are baking the dough straight from the freezer, add 2-3 minutes of bake time to ensure they cook fully.
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