Chewy Red Velvet Bars w/ Whipped Cream Frosting


The other day, I discovered what looked like multiple bloody gashes on my hands, arms, and elbows. You would’ve though I just took a tumble onto hard pavement and scraped myself up. But then came the awkward moment when I realized it was just dried red velvet batter, which I had been elbow-deep in all day.

That’s Food Blogging Problems 101 right there.

I guess it’s never really a problem to be working with delicious red velvet batter though.  Unless of course you’re like me and a) can’t keep it in the bowl and b) can’t stop eating it raw and putting yourself at risk for salmonella. But let’s not get hung up on the negatives here. Red velvet flavored anything is about feeling good. It evokes pleasure, creating a romantic moment between you and your food. Maybe that’s why it’s such a popular flavor around Valentine’s Day.

On Monday, I’m going to be churning out one lovey-dovey post filled with my best Valentine’s recipes to get you ready for the big day, but I had to slip in a few more V-Day recipes before the big round-up. So here you go, fellow red velvet lovers: Chewy Red Velvet Bars with Whipped Cream Frosting.DSC_0728-2

These are similar to my Strawberry Sweetheart Bars because we start with a boxed cake mix. Then, you just need to add two ingredients to turn it into a moist and chewy bar with a texture teetering between cake and cookie. You’ve only got to dirty one bowl, and they bake up pretty quick, so you could say these 3-ingredient bars are one of the easiest, tastiest treats on the planet. Who doesn’t love the ease semi-homemade?

The only thing that could make these bars better is so creamy, cloud-like Whipped Cream Frosting. It’s sweet and smooth with a hint of vanilla flavor. But what makes this whipped cream better than most? It’s stabilized, which means it won’t separate and get runny like regular whipped cream does, so these bars last for days!

If you’re looking for something that will impress but requires minimal effort, then this is the recipe you want. The bars are indulgent yet light at the same time, with the perfect amount of sweetness. Share ‘em with your sweetheart or enjoy ‘em all yourself. I won’t tell!

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Not over-baking is the key to a nice and chewy texture. These guys go from done to dry fairly quickly, so pull them just before you actually think they’re done.
  2. I would imagine this recipe works with any brand of cake mix, but because I’ve only done this with Betty Crocker Super Moist, I cannot guarantee they’ll come out the same. I know they’ll work; your texture just might be slightly more brownie-like, or you may have to adjust cooking time.
  3. People who haven’t made whipped cream are scared by the idea of it, but it’s actually super easy to make; in fact it’s easier than any other kind of frosting, I think. All you have to do is beat the crap out of it until it forms stiff peaks. How much easier could it get?DSC_0762

Red Velvet Bars with Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting
By The Smart Cookie Cook


For the bars

  • 1 box red velvet cake mix (I used Betty Crocker Super Moist)
  • ½ cup (1 stick), butter, softened
  • 2 eggs

For the whipped cream frosting

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream, chilled
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch


  1. Place a large mixing bowl in the fridge to chill. You will use this to make the whipped cream later. The cooler the bowl is, the faster the cream will whip.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9×13 pan with nonstick spray.
  3. In a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, beat together the cake mix, butter, and eggs on low speed just until well-combined.
  4. Transfer batter to the prepared pan and press down into an even layer. It will probably be sticky, so you may want to spray your hands with nonstick spray when spreading out the batter.
  5. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs. Let cool completely.
  6. Make the frosting: Place all the frosting ingredients EXCEPT for the cornstarch into the chilled mixing bowl. Beat on high speed until soft peaks form. Add cornstarch and continue beating until stiff peaks form. When you pull the beater away, the whipped cream should follow and hold its shape.
  7. Spread frosting onto cooled bars in an even layer. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container.DSC_0739

Gooey Milky Way Cookie Bars

Remember that Milky Way Ganache from Tuesday that I made to top my Classic Buttery Pound Cake? I had some leftover, and I couldn’t possibly let that edible and legal equivalent of crack go to waste. So, I whipped up a batch of soft and chewy cookie bars then drowned them in my Milky Way Ganache. Thus, my friends, you have Gooey Milky Way Cookie Bars.

These babies are gooey in more ways than one. First, you have the Milky Way Ganache, which is basically the definition of ooey gooey. But the layer of cookie bar has its own sort of gooey goodness too, the key to which is making sure you don’t over-bake. However, you still get a great balance of textures since the cookie layer is substantial and chewy, while the ganache layer melts away on your tongue.

Now, it’s hard to say who is the star of the show here. I, of course, am infatuated with my Milky Way Ganache. Smooth, caramel-filled Milky Ways are my favorite candy, but then I get to enjoy them melted down into a velvety sauce. It’s good enough to eat with a spoon alone. But that cookie bar is divine as well, with a deep, buttery flavor and caramely undertones from dark brown sugar. I’d say this is a dynamic duo; they’re equally wonderful.

The second you sink you teeth in, Coldplay bursts into you brain singing, “Para-para…paradise.” I don’t even like that song, but there is no better way to describe the moment. My boss had one and said they were “to die for.” I agree wholeheartedly.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. As I mentioned, it’s  very important not to over-bake your cookie bars, or they’ll be crunchy and dry.
  2. I don’t recommend substituting light brown sugar. It alters the texture and won’t give you as deep and dark a flavor.
  3. Mix as little as possible to keep that texture gooey and chewy. Overmixing makes it more cake-like.
  4. Watch my video for how to make the ganache.
  5. The ganache recipe is cut in half from the original, but feel free to double it to yield the full batch and save the extra for whatever use you please (like topping ice cream!).

Gooey Milky Way Cookie Bars


For the cookie bar layer
From Smitten Kitchen

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

For the Milky Way Ganache
By The Smart Cookie Cook

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped Milky Ways
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream


  1. Butter an 8×8 pan and line with parchment paper so that it hangs over the edges. Mix melted butter with brown sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in egg and then vanilla on lowest possible speed just until incorporated. Do not mix more than necessary.
  2. Mix in salt and flour until just combined. Pour into prepared pan and spread out in an even layer Bake at 350°F 20-25 minutes, or until set in the middle. You’re better off pulling it out earlier than you think it’s done.
  3. Let cool completely on wire rack.
  4. While the cookie layer finishes cooling, make the ganache. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, continuously stir Milky Ways and cream until the candy starts to melt. Switch to a wire whisk and continue mixing to make sure it doesn’t burn. Let cook until completely smooth. Immediately remove from heat.
  5. Let sit for 5 minutes then pour over cookie bar layer and smooth out. Place in fridge until set. Use the parchment paper overhang to remove the cookies from the tray and place on cutting board. Chop into bars and enjoy.

Warm Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae

When someone offers me a cookie:

“Yes, please!”

When someone offers me a giant cookie:

“Hell yeah!”

When someone offers me a warm, giant cookie with ice cream:


That’s right; in the face of an oversized cookie with ice cream, I break out the all-caps. It’s one of those foods that makes me lose all sense of rationality. What’s my name? Where am I? If there’s a warm cookie sundae afoot, then I don’t know. All I know is I want that cookie, and I want it now.

In the past, I’ve created a big, fat Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae and a Giant Triple Chocolate Bookie, both of which were like oven-baked, chocolate-studded crack. But now that fall is here, and pumpkin is populating every edible substance in existence, it was only logical to create a Warm Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae.

Hello hybrid treat that bonds the two things I love most. Let’s be friends. And by “friends,” I mean I’m going to eat you.

Gooey, warm, soft, chewy, and stuffed to the max with molten chunks of chocolate, this gargantuan pumpkin-kissed treat is truly euphoric. Enjoy the ultimate form of edible comfort with seasonal appeal. Let’s be honest, we all love us some pumpkin. Put it into a cookie sundae, and you’ve got perfection.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Vanilla or pumpkin ice cream is the perfect topper. Also add some fudge sauce. Yum!
  2. Using chocolate chunks instead of just chips is essential, especially since this cookie is on a bigger scale. You need that big chocolate impact.
  3. Letting the dough chill lets it garner flavor.
  4. Don’t want to bake the extra dough just yet? Or perhaps you just want one pookie? You can freeze the extra stuff and bake whenever you want it.

Warm Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae
Adapted from Baking Illustrated

Yield – 4 to 6 pookies


  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp. packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 4.4-oz. milk or dark chocolate bar, chopped into chunks (equals about 1 cup of chunks)
  • 1/2 cup additional milk, dark, or semi-sweet chocolate chips


1. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.

2. Either by hand or with an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the pumpkin, egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients while beating at low speed just until combined. Stir in the chips and chunks to taste. Chill the dough in the fridge for at least an hour before continuing.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Pack about 1 cup of dough into ungreased ramekins, small baking dishes, or mini skillets. Do not form to the shape of the pan; you’re making a cookie, not a crust! You have a few options. You can make all the dough into pookies, or you can make a couple pookies and bake the rest of the dough as regular-sized cookies (bake regular cookies for 8 minutes). If you don’t want to bake the extra dough, then you can freeze it.

4. Let bake for 20-30 minutes until set and puffy. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with crumbs, but not gooey. Don’t over bake! Let sit for 2 minutes. Top with ice cream and serve immediately.

Jack Skellington Brownie-Cookie Pie + How-to Video

I remember watching The Nightmare Before Christmas as a kid and falling in love with it. But much to my childish chagrin, I lost my VHS tape (remember those things?), and my small world collapsed, or so it seemed. Then came the time when DVD’s came into existence, and I received TNBC on DVD for my birthday. Jack Skellington, Sally, Zero, and the rest of the Halloweentown crew were back in my life once more. And from there, my love only grew.

Still to this day, TNBC holds a special spot in my heart. Quirky, classic, and just a little bit too creepy for its targeted age group, it’s one of those original and lovable gems, not unlike the rest of Tim Burton’s films. The stop motion animation, which Burton excels in, makes the whole film enchanting. There was nothing I wanted more as a child, or now as an adult, than to visit Halloweentown and pow around with its residents.

Even if you haven’t seen TNBC, you’re probably familiar with the movie’s main character Jack Skellington. As the people of Halloweentown say, “Our man Jack is king of the pumpkin patch!” He’s also the star of my latest edible artwork: Jack Skellington Brownie-Cookie Pie. I started with something already amazing on its own: a big, fat, fudgy brownie-cookie loaded with chunks of chocolate and slathered in fluffy vanilla buttercream frosting. Then, I added a few simple decorations to create Jack’s iconic grinning skeleton face.

You don’t need advanced decorating skills to churn this cookie pie out. Just about anyone can do it, and you’ll be sure to impress all the guests at any ghoulish Halloween get-together. Plus, the cookie pie itself is to die for. Crisp on the outside like a cookie, but fudgy on the inside like a brownie, it’s perfection!

Join me for my festive Halloween-themed video below to answer a few Nightmare Before Christmas trivia questions and see how easy this treat is to make.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. You will have some extra cookie dough. This is hardly a problem. As you’ll read in the recipe, you can just bake them up as individual cookies to keep to yourself.
  2. I recommend a mix of milk and semisweet or milk and dark chocolate because all one way or the other is too much. The contrast of the sweet and the bitter is delicious.
  3. Do not overbake! I have been guilty of this, and your cookie pie turns to a brick. You’re better off pulling it before you think it’s actually done.
  4. You can use any kind of cookie dough for this. Or, use the same decorations on a round cake.

Jack Skellington Brownie-Cookie Pie


For the brownie-cookie
Cookie dough recipe adapted from

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 (1 oz.) unsweetened chocolate squares, melted & cooled to room temperature
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the vanilla buttercream & decoration
Buttercream by The Smart Cookie Cook

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp. almond extract
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • black frosting/writing gel


  1. Combine sugar, oil, and melted chocolate in a large mixing bowl; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended. Mix in eggs and vanilla on low speed.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl. Add about 1/3  of dry mixture at a time to chocolate mixture, mixing on low speed until incorporated after each addition. Cover and let chill at least 2 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Reserve about 1/3 of the dough, placing the rest in an ungreased 8×8 pie dish. Flatten out into a thick disk; do not shape to the pan. Cover the edges of the pan with foil so they don’t burn. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes or until puffed and set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with fudgy crumbs. Do not overbake. Let cool completely on wire rack.
  4. While the pie cools, make the frosting. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the butter on high speed for 30 seconds. Beat in the sugar, 1 cup at a time, scraping down the sides between each addition. Once butter is well-incorporated, beat in cream, vanilla, almond, and salt for 1 minute, or until light and fluffy. Spread out in an even layer on top of cooled pie.
  5. Use the black frosting to draw two large circular black eyes at the top of the pie. Draw two oval-shaped nostrils centered just below the eyes. Draw a long grin towards the bottom of the pie, then draw stitches through the mouth. Viola! It’s Jack!
  6. Do with the remaining dough as you like. You can bake it up into normal-sized cookies at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes, or freeze it for later use.

Little Owl Cookies + How-To Video

I have an obsession with anything owl-related. They’re just so cute, and if they’re done the right way, they can be chic too. Part of the reason I love Fall so much is that all kinds of owl-adorned objects pop up. It’s yet another reason to love this time of year.

To kick off my favorite food season, I figured an owl-themed treat would be perfect. So, I whipped up some simple but adorable Little Owl Cookies that are almost too cute to eat. Don’t worry though; you’ll get past the whole cute factor when you realize how tasty these tender, chocolatey cookies are. And hello! They’re topped with Reese’s cups, Reese’s pieces, and candy corn! It’s like a Halloween treat smorgasbord!

Cute? Check. Tasty? Double check. These little guys will send you falling into autumn with a smile on your face, just like a kid collapsing into a pile of freshly fallen leaves. The cookies look like little owls but taste like soft chocolatey goodness. It’s a double-win! Kids and adults alike will hoot with glee for these cookies. Fly your butt into the kitchen and whip some up right now.

Happy Fall!

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Words can only do so much in describing the how-to process; you should watch the video above if you really want to get the gist of it.
  2. You don’t have to use this chocolate cut-out cookie recipe; any will do. You could even use a sugar cookie recipe. My favorite chocolate cut-out cookie recipe is actually the one I used for these Chocolate Moose Cookies.
  3. I give a bunch of shortcuts in the recipe and the video, so you have tons of options.
  4. You can use M&M’s in place of the Reese’s Pieces, or York patties in place of the Reese’s Cups.

Little Owl Cookies

Yield – 22 cookies


For the chocolate cookie dough
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

For decor

  • 22 Reese’s cups, sliced in half
  • 44 Reese’s pieces
  • 22 pieces of candy corn
  • White frosting/writing gel
  • Yellow frosting/writing gel
  • Orange frosting/writing gel

Special equipment

  • medium round biscuit cutter, cookie cutter, or glass, about 2 3/4-inches in diameter
  • small round biscuit cutter, cookie cutter, or shot glass about 3/4-inch in diameter (I actually used a wine bottle stopper)
    *If you can’t find something small enough, just roll out a little ball and flatten it into a circle with your hands.
  • optional: piping tip to attach to writing gel (Wilton tips attach to Wilton frosting)


  1. Whisk flour, salt and baking powder in bowl and set aside. In a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and cocoa on medium speed until well-combined. Gradually add flour mixture, and mix in on medium speed until smooth. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least one hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Dust working surface and rolling pin with cocoa powder. Sprinkle cocoa powder on top of dough and roll out just shy of 1/4-inch thick (thicker is better!). Use the larger cutter to cut out circles. Place on prepared baking sheet. Use the smaller cutter to cut out two “eyes” for each circular “owl body” cookie and stick them centered towards the top of the owl body, right next to each other. Use a knife to cut out little triangle ear tufts (or just use your hands to shape them) and stick them on top of the owl’s head.
  3. Bake 6 cookies per sheet for 8 to 11 minutes until the edges are firm and the centers are slightly soft and puffed. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  4. Once cookies are completely cool, proceed to decorating. Start with the candy corn beak. Use a knife to slice off the yellow top of a piece of candy corn then use any color of frosting to glue it onto the cookie, centered underneath the eyes (you don’t have to cut the candy corn. I prefer how the shorter beak looks).
  5. Wings: I recommend cutting a little sliver extra off the Reese’s cup half so it’s thinner and fits better on the cookie. Then put some frosting on the back of the “wing” and attach it to one side of the owl. Add another Reese’s “wing” to the other side.
  6. Eyes: Use the white frosting to draw a circle on each cookie eye. Place two Reese’s Pieces of the same color on top to represent the pupil. Press in lightly.
  7. Feathers: Use yellow frosting to draw little ruffled feathers on the owl belly.
  8. Feet: Use orange frosting to draw little feet on the bottom of the owl, under the belly. Make three connected humps for each foot.
  9. Your owl is complete!