Chocolate Cookie Dough Cake

cookie cake side 2

Sean’s list of acceptable birthday treats were as follows: vanilla ice cream, plain chocolate cake, and plain chocolate chip cookies.


You should know by now that I don’t do “plain.” In an attempt at making something slightly more exciting, I came up with the idea for this cake by combining two of these three acceptably plain desserts. But, before moving forward with my idea, I secured a guarantee from Sean that he would at least TRY the cake. Promise in hand, I searched the internet to see if someone had done anything similar before. The closest recipes I found were on Something Shiny and The Domestic Rebel, both of which made delicious-looking chocolate chip cookie cakes. But because I wanted (needed? I had a promise to fulfill, after all) a chocolate cake base with a buttercream frosting (so as to avoid cookie dough overload and satisfy the birthday requirements), I used those cakes as inspiration for my own creation. And you know what? The birthday boy ate an entire slice. Only folks in my lab will understand, but this is a major success. HUGE. This cake is a keeper for sure!

cookie cake cut

I combined a few great recipes to make this cake. The chocolate chip cookie recipe I adapted from Cooks Illustrated, the chocolate cake recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen, the cookie dough filling recipe comes from Fake Ginger, and the buttercream frosting recipe comes from Gale Gand, on the Food Network. The cookies can be made a day ahead, which makes assembly a breeze. This cake is moist and sweet, loaded with classic flavors and beautiful in its simplicity. I’m quite pleased with how it turned out and hope you like it, too!



Feel free to use your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. This one makes fairly thin, chewy cookies with crunchy edges. It makes a lot more cookies than you’ll need, but who doesn’t want extra cookies? Adapted from Heather Homemade, originally from Cooks Illustrated.

2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour

¾  tsp. baking soda

¾ tsp. cornstarch

¾ tsp. sea salt

12 tbsp. (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to just warm

1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

1 large egg + 1 egg yolk

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

(Optional: 1 tbsp. ground instant coffee)

Make the cookies: 

1. Adjust oven racks to upper and lower-middle positions; heat oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare two large baking sheets by lining with parchment paper or spraying with non-stick spray.

2. Combine flour, baking soda, cornstarch, and salt in small bowl with whisk; set aside.

3. In a large bowl with an electric hand mixer, mix butter and sugars together until well combined, about 1 minute. Beat in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla just until combined. Add dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand.

4. Place by rounded spoonful on the prepared baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake until cookies are light golden brown, the edges start to harden, and the centers are still soft and puffy – about 15 minutes. Cool completely on baking sheet.

*Note: if you want to decorate like I do, make a mixture of medium and tiny cookies. For the tiny cookies, roll small balls of dough by hand, about the size of a dime, and cook for ~12 minutes.



From Smitten Kitchen, originally from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes.

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 cups sugar

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup sour cream

1 1/2 cups water

2 tbsp. distilled white vinegar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 large eggs

Directions to make the cake:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottoms and sides of three 8 or 9-inch round cakepans. Cut out a circle of parchment or waxed paper and line the bottom of each pan; grease the paper. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the oil and sour cream; whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well-mixed. Pour into the prepared cake pans, dividing evenly among all three.

3. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. Like Deb notes, these cakes are incredibly delicate. Put them in the freezer for half an hour to make your life infinitely easier. In fact, it’s going to be essentially impossible for you to make a layer cake out of these cakes if you don’t firm them up in the freezer. They’ll defrost once assembled, don’t worry.



Doubled from Fake Ginger.

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

Make the cookie dough filling:

Combine the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and cream on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the flour, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla until well-incorporated and smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand.



From Gale Gand, on the Food Network.

3-4 cups powdered sugar

1 cup salted butter, softened

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1-2 tbsp. whipping cream

Make the frosting:

In a stand mixer, beat together 1 cup of the sugar and softened butter. Mix on low speed until well blended, gradually adding the rest of the sugar. Increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes. Add vanilla extract and cream; continue to beat on medium for 1 minute more, adding extra cream or powdered sugar to reach a spreading consistency.



1. Place one cake round down on your cake platter and cover the top generously with half of the cookie dough filling. Use your hands to press the cookie dough into the place, making sure you go all the way to the edges. Gently put another cake round on top of the filling and spread the rest of the cookie dough filling over it. Top with the third and final cake round.

2. Crumb coat the entire cake with some of the frosting. If you haven’t done this before, I explain it in my banana cake post. Essentially you want to cover the sides and top with a thin layer of frosting to “seal in” all the crumbs. Refrigerate the cake with the crumb coat for at least 15 minutes before frosting the final coat, to make sure the crumb coat sets up.

3. While the crumb coat sets in the refrigerator, cut about 5 large cookies in half. Remove your cake and coat generously with the remaining frosting. You’ll probably end up with some leftover frosting – might I suggest spreading it on your leftover cookies? Just a thought… Gently press the half-circle cookies around the bottom of the cake and small cookies in a circle on top of the cake. 

*TIP: It’s a bit difficult to cut through the cookies on top of the cake (the side ones cut just fine), so I pulled them off as I cut and placed them on each slice afterwards. I also brought extra cookies to put on slices that didn’t get the removed small cookies.

Dark Chocolate Chip Salted Caramel Nutella Cookie Bars

This weekend found me back at the Cape Cod field site for a few days, ostensibly to help with data collection and discuss potential contributions I can make to the research. And both of those did happen

cape sand ripples

But we also explored the Cape for a few hours, walked along the beach for a few miles, and were fascinated by the water and sand ripples. I even found a half dozen heart-shaped rocks! The hunt for these put me a good 100 yards behind Beth and Ellie for half of the walk… oops. But aren’t they just so darn cute?!

heart rocks

Furthermore, I was treated to some hilarious delirium on the parts of Beth and Ellie, who’ve been out here for weeks now. As an ever-so-slightly-more-sane addition to the house, I felt it was necessary to cure their field campaign doldrums with something sweet. While hunting for recipes, I asked Beth if I could make this one and she gave me the most incredulous look. “Has anyone ever said no?!”

choc chip caramel nutella cookie bars

A dinner of homemade lasagna and garlic bread paired with local Truro red wine (Beth and Ellie have amazing taste and culinary skills, in case you couldn’t tell), topped off with these dark chocolate chip salted caramel Nutella cookie bars for dessert was just what we needed to push through the last few days out here. Days that included unlocking and re-locking dozens of chained entrances. Days of moving very large and very heavy gas cylinders up and down an uneven sandy hill. And yesterday’s grand adventure: getting locked out of our rental house after they showed it to prospective buyers, thus having to break back in by climbing (horrifically ungracefully) through a window. All excellent excuses to savor our relaxed evening. Find yourself a similarly perfect excuse for making these. Did you check off a few key things on your “to do” list recently? Spend your entire day working up data or tweaking models on a computer? Finally tackle the pile of laundry you’ve been putting off for weeks? Arrive to work on time every day last week? Successfully breathe all day? Impressive, my friend, very impressive indeed. You need these. No, wait, you deserve these. You worked hard for it.

I took this already perfect recipe from Two Peas & Their Pod and amped it up just a tad. First, I switched to dark chocolate chips because I love the combination of salted caramel and dark chocolate. Second, I added Nutella because why would you ever need an explanation for adding Nutella? These are buttery. These are sugary. These are melty. These are gooey and salty and sweet and chocolate-y and carmel-y and Nutella-y (those are all words) and basically everything you could ever dream of. Best of all, they are a cinch to pull together. The ONLY thing that could possibly be holding you back right now is lacking the right ingredients in your pantry. Otherwise, you should already be preheating your oven (325 F, but you scrolled to the directions a long time ago, didn’t you?).



(Recipe barely adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod)

2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

12 tbsp. butter, softened

1 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk

2 tsp. vanilla extract

~2 cups (one 1o-oz bag) dark chocolate chips

10 oz caramel candy squares, unwrapped

3 tbsp. heavy cream

~1/2 cup Nutella

Sea salt, for sprinkling over caramel and bars


1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease an 11×7-inch baking pan with nonstick baking spray or butter.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda until well-mixed. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer or using an electric hand mixer, combine the softened butter and sugars until well-mixed, at least one minute. Beat in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract until smooth. Gradually beat in the dry mixture until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

4. In a large microwave safe bowl, combine the caramels and heavy cream. In 20-second intervals, microwave caramels on High until they melt, stirring after each round. This should take ~2 minutes.

5. Press half of the cookie dough into the prepared pan, pressing it down evenly and smoothing the top with a spatula. Spread Nutella evenly over the cookie layer. Pour the melted caramel over the Nutella and sprinkle with sea salt. (Here I let out an audible “Oh!” because the sight of caramel pouring over Nutella is darn close to divine.)

6. Take small portions of the remaining cookie dough and press flat with your hands. Place gently over the caramel, and repeat until you’ve covered all the caramel. Sprinkle the top with additional sea salt.

7. Bake at 325 F for 30 minutes or until the top of the bars are light golden brown and the edges start to pull away from the pan. Cool completely* on a wire rack and then cut into squares.

cookie bars stacked

*Um, yeah right! I say go for it after you’re sure you won’t burn your tongue. Letting it cool completely means you’ll have clean cuts, but if you’re not giving the entire thing away to people, dig in as soon as it cools down. You’re okay with a spoonful of cookie, Nutella, and caramel all melted together, right? That’s what I thought. You can cut the rest up nice and pretty later. But you need a warm and gooey mess right now. Mmm… délicieux…

Also, apologies that we’re back to bad photos for the day. My talented photographers are a few hours away!

Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

cookies copy

Field campaigns require nourishment. Seeing as we are currently residing in a cute Cape Cod house with a rather well-stocked kitchen, clearly we needed to get baking. What better than these Oreo stuffed chocolate chip cookies from Picky Palate? Not much, my friend, not much.

Although these field site views aren’t too bad, either.



Oh, and let’s not forget…


But then again, can anything really compete with this?

cookies and milk

Follow the link above for Picky Palate’s instructions. She does such a great job, you don’t need me to recap them here. But you do need these. Get baking!! Also, a hint: for ones that you don’t eat fresh out of the oven, pop them in the microwave for about 20 seconds to get them warm and gooey again!

Chocolate Caramel Cookie Dough Peanut Butter Cups

Lucky for you, they weigh enough to double-time as paperweights!Let me break this down for you: Chocolate shell. Chocolate cake + peanut butter layer. Caramel sauce layer. Chocolate chip cookie dough layer. Chocolate lid. Sprinkles. AKA everything that is good about baking. Happiness in a cup. Bliss made tangible. Need I go on?

These are brought to you by my insane, driven-crazy-by-research brain. The recipe was dreamt up over the course of a very stressful week, with the caramel added by a last-minute stroke of genius (even though you can’t see it in the photo, the caramel layer is there. Oh yes, it is there.)

Just make these. It might take you a few hours, but it’s worth it. I mean, LOOK AT IT. Did you read what’s inside?! Pure joy.


4 cups semi-sweet chocolate (2 for now, 2 for the top)
2 tbsp. shortening
cupcake liners (I used foil ones)

1. Microwave 2 cups of chocolate chips plus 1 tablespoon shortening for a minute.

2. Stir until all the chips have melted and it’s smooth, microwaving at 15-second intervals as necessary (stir first; usually simply stirring will work out the un-melted chips).

3. Drop a spoonful or two of chocolate into each cup, using your finger to push it up the sides of the cupcake liners. You might have to do this a few times to get a good coating on the sides and bottom.

4. Let these harden in the fridge or on the counter; I used foil liners so once the chocolate hardened, I could take the liners out of the muffin tin (the foil will hold the shell’s shape, and you can place these chocolate-filled foil-liners on any baking tray or plate) and make another round to get 24 cups.



¾ cup unsalted butter (softened)
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp. milk
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup powdered sugar
1 ½ cups mini chocolate chips

1. Use an electric mixer to combine the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until fluffy (1-3 minutes).

2. Mix in the milk and vanilla extract until combined. Add the flour and powdered sugar until well-mixed.

3. Stir in the chocolate chips.



Chocolate cake mix
1 cup peanut butter

1. Prepare the chocolate cake mix according to instructions, bake, and let cool completely (the refrigerator can help with this).

2. Cut off all edges (and eat, obviously). Crumble the cake into a bowl.

3. Microwave the peanut butter for 30 seconds; stir until it’s smooth and almost liquid-y.

4. Mix the peanut butter into the cake crumbles. You might need to use your hands to mix it in really well and get the cake sticking together.



More chocolate
Caramel sauce

1. Push about a ping-pong ball-sized scoop of chocolate & peanut butter cake into each cup, spreading it out to the edges.

2. Pour in a thin layer of caramel sauce.

3. Top with another ping-pong ball-sized scoop, this time of the cookie dough, and press down until smooth.

4. When all the cups are filled, melt another 2 cups of chocolate chips plus 1 tablespoon shortening. Top off each cup (about 1 tablespoon) with the chocolate and spread a spoon or tilt/shake the cup gently to get the chocolate to spread out.

5. Decorate with sprinkles before the chocolate hardens. If the chocolate hardens before you get the sprinkles on, a quick blast with a hair dryer on the highest heat setting will melt the top layer of chocolate so you can add sprinkles. Cool on the counter or in the fridge.

Inspired by: Cake-filled Peanut Butter Cups on Vanilla Sugar

Trifecta “Cupcakes”: Chocolate Chip Cookie + Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup + Brownie

You aren't dreaming, I promise - these are real. And really, really good!

A few people audibly gasped when they took a bit and discovered the Reese’s cup inside. It was a good gasp. These “cupcakes” are incredible! Definitely worth baking up, as they impress both the mind and the stomach. They were inspired by a post I saw on Pintrest.



(adapted from Savory Sweet Life)

1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips


~24 Reese’s peanut butter cups (unwrapped)


any boxed brownie mix + necessary ingredients (usually eggs, water, vegetable oil, etc.)


1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a cupcake tray.

2. Make the chocolate chip cookie dough first. Cream the butter and the two sugars until fluffy (~3 minutes on medium-high speed). Add eggs and vanilla; beat for 2 minutes. In a separate bowl, mix baking soda, baking powder, salt, and flour. Slow beat dry ingredients into the wet until fully incorporated. Mix in chocolate chips evenly.*

3. Press cookie dough into each cupcake well, to a depth of ~1 centimeter.

4. Place a Reese’s peanut butter cup (unwrapped!) in each well, on top of the cookie dough.

5. Whip up any boxed brownie mix you like, and pour brownie mix on top of the Reese’s cup to just above 3/4 full.

6. Bake for about 22 minutes, until done in the center. Remove from the tray once they are cool enough to touch, place on a rack to finish cooling, and enjoy!

*Note: I had enough cookie dough leftover to (a) eat a ton while baking, and (b) make about 20 cookies. Which is great news, because this recipe makes very chewy and delicious cookies!