One of my favorite childhood authors was and still is Roald Dahl. His treasury remains in my bookcase to this day. I often crack it open—with a glass of wine perhaps because I’m an adult (at least age-wise)—and peruse some well-written stories. You’re really missing out if you’re not familiar. Think Matilda, The Twits, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and The BFG. But one of the most recognizable is Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. You know, the one with lovable Charlie Bucket and his grandfather and a fantastical candy world where there’s a chocolate waterfall and a girl turns into a blueberry? You might know it from the movie re-make where Johnny Depp looks crazy and wears sunglasses with lenses the size of your palm.
I, like many others I’m sure, used to picture Willy Wonka’s factory as the most ideal place in the universe. Who wouldn’t like a magical land where everything is made of candy? But in all seriousness, I always loved the idea of creating new candy and sweet experiences. And guess what? I get to do that in real life now! If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that I am a food scientist with a flair toward sweet recipes. Well, drumroll please, I will begin my new dream job in just a few short days. Creating new candy! As a product developer! In Long Island! New flavor combinations, chocolate concepts, and seasonal confections abound! A Midwesterner turned East-Coaster. Swimming in caramel and gummies. If all of those exclamation points didn’t tip you off, I’m freaking excited about it.
But back to this post! And more sugar dreams. (Perhaps in celebration?) What’s better than little bite-sized delicious cookies? Little bite-sized delicious cakies! What are cakies you ask? They’re basically like soft pillowy hand-held cupcakes in the form of cookies. Which is way better in my opinion. And something that Izy of Top With Cinnamon introduced to me.
So what makes the same sort of ingredients—flour, sugar, eggs, butter—turn into a cookie versus a cake? While that is a rather loaded and complicated question, there are a few rules of thumb that distinguish the two. When you think of a cookie, it’s usually predominantly flat, a bit chewy, and a bit crunchy (depending on the cookie). A cake on the other hand is fluffy, soft, and elastic. The primary attribute that makes that difference is air bubbles!
Cakes have a few ingredients in different proportions than cookies that accomplish this. First, there is generally an increase in liquid that allows for greater volume (or foam) formation from air bubbles. More liquid = more air penetration.
But once we establish the air incorporation, how does it stay there? Gluten and/or egg proteins stabilize (though weakly when compared to other baked goods like bread) the overall network of the batter and the final cake, or cakie!
Other important ingredients for foam stabilization? Fat and emulsifier. Air and water are not the best of friends. So the air bubbles will naturally exit from the cake batter. Fat and air, however, are similar in nature and do not repel each other to the degree that air and water do. And as we all learn as children, water and fat are definitive enemies. So in a cake batter, the fat acts as a barrier between the water and air pockets to prevent them from leaving. Emulsifiers help with this stabilization because they inherently have water-loving and water-hating components to them, acting as the middle men.
That’s why you generally think of eggs as the primary ingredient in greater proportion in cakes versus cookies. The eggs add a bunch of liquid plus some extra protein for structure stabilization. Additionally, the lecithin and fat present in the yolk aid in getting the ideal foam in the final product. Ta da!
These cakies are fluffy, soft, while also deliciously dense thanks to some yogurt and less substantial creaming in the prep process that gives these babies the best properties of cookies and cakes! Plus, they’re red velvet which means that they’re primo. You may even get away with eating them as a breakfast treat like me with enough coffee to offset the sweetness 😉 Enjoy!
Red Velvet Cakies
Makes 12-14 small cakies—depending on size
Adapted from Top with Cinnamon
¼ cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 tablespoons plain yogurt (regular or Greek)
½ tablespoon red food coloring
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
Cream Cheese Frosting
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 ½ ounces cream cheese, softened
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cups powdered sugar
A pinch of salt
- Prepare the cakies first. Preheat oven to 350⁰F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and set aside.
- Cream together 4 tablespoons of butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and beat to combine.
- Add the egg, yogurt, and red food coloring. Beat until completely mixed. Scrape the bowl and ensure the batter is well-mixed.
- Sift together the cocoa powder, flour and baking powder in a medium bowl. Add to the batter and beat until just combined.
- Drop the batter by tablespoon onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 8 minutes or until the top of the cakies is smooth and firm to the touch.
- When finished baking, remove from the oven and transfer them to a wire baking rack to completely cool.
- Prepare the frosting for the cakies by mixing all of the frosting ingredients together until smooth. Swirl the frosting on top of the cakies with a butter knife, and enjoy! These will keep for 1-2 days in an airtight container.