The Cake Therapist Makes Homemade Oreos

As kids, growing up in Ohio, my sister and I would enjoy after-dinner coffee. 

We weren't into sophistication, though. We were into the flavor combination of cookies and coffee.

Our parents would pour us each a very little cup of coffee and then add milk and a sprinkling of sugar.

And then the main attraction--Oreos for dunking.

When it came time for me to figure out what baking recipes make people happy,

it wasn't difficult to choose this cookie.

Let’s face it. Oreos can be addictive, as a study by researchers at Connecticut College determined.  Nibbling the salty chocolate cookie with its sweet vanilla filling prompts neuronal activation in the “pleasure center” of the brain (at least it does in lab rats). 

But we’re not lab rats. We’re people. 

So, let’s have a homemade, you-know-exactly-what’s-in-it treat. 

I adapted this from a recipe by Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery in Boston. These homemade Oreos can be what you want them to be. 

Make them bigger or smaller. 

Neat and tidy, as pastry chef Heather Roebbeke made the festive ones above, or the more rustic and colorful ones below. 

Color and flavor the filling as you wish. 

Give them a holiday twist.

And dunk all you want.

Homemade Oreos
(adapted from Bake Happy by Judith Fertig)
Makes about 16 (3-inch) sandwich cookies
1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup (170 g) granulated sugar
1 cup (175 g) semisweet chocolate chips
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
11/2 cups (188 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (88 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon fine kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Vanilla Filling:
1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
12/3 cups (195 g) confectioners’ sugar
1/8 teaspoon fine kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Food coloring (optional)

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, whisk the butter, granulated sugar, and chocolate chips together until the butter and chocolate have just melted. Remove from the heat and whisk in the egg and vanilla until well blended. Whisk in the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda until well blended. Let cool for 15 minutes, then transfer the saucepan to the refrigerator and let cool for 30 minutes or until the dough is thick like modeling clay.
Place a 15-inch long sheet of parchment paper on a work surface. Spoon the dough into a 12-inch line on the parchment paper. Roll the parchment paper around it and work the dough into a smooth cylinder about 10 inches long and 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap and chill the dough for 2 hours or overnight. (You can also wrap and freeze the dough for up to 3 months at this point.)

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Unwrap the cookie dough. Using a chef’s knife, cut the dough into 1/4-inch thick slices and place 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. 

Place on the upper and lower racks in the oven. Bake for 11 minutes, then switch the baking sheets and continue baking for another 11 minutes or until the cookies are set when pressed gently in the middle. Let cool on the baking sheets for 1 hour. The cookies will firm up as they cool.
For the filling, beat the butter, confectioners’ sugar, milk, and vanilla in a medium bowl with an  electric mixer until smooth. Add food coloring, if you wish.
Place about 1 tablespoon filling in the center of 1 cookie, top with another, and gently press in the middle of the top cookie to spread the filling out to the edges. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Variation: For smaller cookies, form the dough into a 14-inch long cylinder with a 11/2-inch diameter. Cut the dough cylinder into 1/4-inch slices and bake for 20 minutes, switching the baking sheets halfway through baking.  Fill with 2 teaspoons filling.
Variation:  For Coffee Filling, add 1 tablespoon freshly brewed dark roast coffee in place of milk.
For Vanilla Lavender Filling, add 1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) dried culinary lavender buds.

So Happy Together:
Homemade Oreos + Flavored Milk
As a kid, I loved to dunk Oreos in a little cup of coffee flavored with milk and sugar, which my sister and I were allowed to have after dinner.  For extra pleasure, dunk your Homemade Oreos in a flavored beverage to match your filling.
Vanilla Filling: Dunk in Mint Milk, made by stirring 2 teaspoons Fresh Herb Syrup (page 000) made with fresh mint in a glass of cold milk. You can also try dunking in egg nog.
Coffee Filling: Dunk in a cup of café au lait or hot chocolate.
Vanilla Lavender Filling: Dunk in chamomile lavender tea.

And grab a copy of Bake Happy for even more ways to bake you happy!

The Cake Therapist: The Art of a Wedding Cake Tasting

Does life imitate art or does art imitate life?

Sometimes a little of both.

When I was writing The Cake Therapist

Get your copy here!
I wanted to create a wonderful setting in which Neely, the specially-gifted pastry chef, could showcase her flavor magic for wedding cakes.  I imagined her having an artist's palette on which she placed little cups of fillings and frostings. She would then give mothers and brides a taste of what their signature wedding cake would taste like.

So this is what I wrote in The Cake Therapist:

"My front parlor was simple yet sophisticated, with plaster walls painted a soft French gray, the woodwork a subtle ivory, and a few landscape paintings that I loved. Here we could close the painted shutters halfway to block off the sights and sounds of Benson Street. I wanted my potential clients to feel that they were in another world.

A gas fire in the white marble Victorian hearth warmed the room against the chilly afternoon and cast the bookcases into shadow. The round table with its heavy cloth in nubby French linen was set with a coffee service and a French press coffee pot. A wooden tray shaped like an artist’s palette—one I had specially made—held small clear cups of pastel-colored fillings and frostings. Miniature cupcakes in their paper frills filled a tiered stand."


In real life, I found an artist's palette at an art supply store and then colored dabs of buttercream frosting to create a flavor rainbow. I love the idea of flavor energies--represented in color--just waiting to be brought to life to make someone's day, someone's life even more special.

And then my daughter Sarah got engaged and we decided on my friend, Andrea Adams Britt of  Classic Cakes to make the wedding cake. She offers a wonderful variety of cake and buttercream frosting flavors that we could mix and match.

I never had a wedding cake tasting when I got married, back in the proverbial day. You just ordered cake. And it was probably white cake with white frosting. I also had petit fours with almond paste and raspberry fillings, so I was an outside-the-traditional-wedding-cake flavor person even back then.

Today, brides have so much more choice. (Below, you see a selection from a happy bride-to-be Nicole at Bridgette Bartlett-Royall's wonderful site

Here are two other cake tasting techniques.

An individual artist's palette so you can assemble your own signature cake. And a "mis en place" tray.

Lauren and Luke Williams of The Wedding Cafe offer lots of great tips on how and when to book your wedding cake tasting. And suggest you sip a lot of water as a palate cleanser between samples.

Great advice! So, we were prepared.

On a cold day in January, my daughter, her father, aunt and I, went to Classic Cakes for our tasting.

Like I had imagined for Neely's cake tasting in The Cake Therapist, Andrea's place was serene, calm, and pretty.

Andrea had that calm, quiet, orderly work space that pastry chefs have to have in order to concentrate.

And the cakes! Thirteen different combinations. . . .

Soon, it looked like this. . . .

Sarah chose a design.

Sarah liked the stucco finish of the buttercream frosting and the more rustic-looking, sort of architectural succulent plants (like hens and chickens) decorating the cake. 

We thought about using the vintage cake topper from my parents' 1948 wedding, but it was too fragile to sit on top of the cake (and be man-handled by servers later). This cake topper, however, has had a presence at all of our family weddings (just not on top of the cake).

And when it all came together--five different layers and flavors--it told a story of love and commitment, of two people starting a life together.
That's the power of cake.