Soft and chewy cookie bars frosted with a thick layer of fluffy buttercream and topped with those irresistible Circus Animal cookies!
When it comes to the infamously legendary Circus Animal Cookies, I have a theory.
It’s ALL about the color.
Because had they been coated in any color other than pink and white, they wouldn’t be nearly as enticing as they are. Think about it. If they were green and white, blue and white, yellow and white, or even purple and white, they wouldn’t be half as popular. Pink just makes everything funner and most importantly, tastier.
Am I right, or am I right?
From trifles to ice cream, I’ve definitely created my fair share of Circus Animal Cookie recipes. No matter how many recipes I come up with, I’ll NEVER tire of transforming these little pink and white gems into something bigger and better. This week, I decided to try my hand at some cookie bars.
More importantly, FROSTED cookie bars.
If you think about it, this treat seems a little redundant. They’re frosted, sprinkled cookie bars that are then topped with frosted, sprinkled cookies. However in this case, redundant is a good thing.
A VERY, good thing.
When it comes to sugar cookies, I’m all about the soft and chewy. These bars are just that–thick, perfectly chewy, soft yet not cakey, and just sweet enough. The not-so-secret ingredient that I add to all my sugar cookie recipes is almond extract. I’ve mentioned this probably a million baJillian times already, but it really is that much of a game-changer. There’s no other flavoring that enhances and amplifies the sweetness quite like almond extract. Not even the best Madagascar vanilla bean in the world can take the place of that sweet, almost fruity, almondy flavor. It’s also so much more concentrated than vanilla, so a few little droplets goes a long way. As I’ve said before, you NEED this in your pantry.
Aside from the almond extract, I kept the ingredients very basic–butter, eggs, vanilla, flour, baking powder and soda, sugar–everything that you should already have in your kitchen.
The buttercream frosting is so fluffy and airy. Again, no special ingredients are required. What makes this frosting so light and fluffy is whipping it in the mixer long enough to create enough air and volume. An electric beater can also be used. Beating it long enough also creates a more buttery, silky texture which is perfect for these bars.
The great thing about cookie bars is that they’re a heck of a lot easier and quicker to throw together than regular sugar cookies. The more monotonous steps of rolling and individually frosting are thrown out. Just bake the whole thing in a pan, wait for them to cool, then spread on that frosting!
Then we have the sacred Circus Animal Cookies…
You can either place them randomly or in straight lines–there are no rules here!
What I love about the Circus Animal Cookies is that they retain their crunch thanks to that all-important white chocolate coating. The animal cookie crunch combined with the soft and chewy cookie and the fluffy frosting is enough to make anyone faint of pure bliss when they bite into one.
Frosted Circus Animal Cookie Bars
Yields: 9-12 bars
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 and 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
Pinch of salt
2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons heavy cream or milk
One drop Red food coloring
Frosted Circus Animal Cookies (I used 35 cookies)
Make the Bars: Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper leaving overhang on the sides for easy removal.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add in the egg, vanilla and almond extract, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary and mix until smooth and well incorporated.
Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, mixing on low until the dough comes together.
Press the cookie dough evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 17-19 minutes, or until lightly golden around the edges. Allow bars to cool completely in the pan before frosting.
Make the Frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, vanilla, almond extract and salt on medium speed until creamy. Add the powdered sugar, a cup at a time, until just combined. Beat in the food coloring. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the heavy cream, and beat on high until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
Frost the cooled cookie bars, then top with the Circus Animal Cookies. Add sprinkles, if desired. Using the parchment paper, gently lift the cookie slab from the pan, cut into bars, and serve!
*In order to cut through the animal cookies without smashing the cookie bars, I ended up carefully turning the whole cookie slab over (once the frosting and everything had set overnight) onto a cutting board, then gently slicing through the bottom soft cookie layer first, so that the crunchy animal cookie layer was against the cutting board and easier to cut.