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One of the more vivid food memories of my childhood took place at a wedding. We were eating pieces of sheet cake, the white kind with whipped frosting that gets a little bit crunchy on top. The woman sitting next to me carefully scraped the frosting off her piece, leaving it in a heap on her paper plate. I don't know why—maybe she genuinely didn't like frosting, maybe it was some sort of calorie-saving measure. But it was totally inexplicable to me at the time, and quite sad, because I love frosting. The idea of eating a piece of sheet cake without a thick layer of sugar and fat seemed like a very depressing act of self-denial, and it took every ounce of my childish self-control not to reach across the table with my fork and scoop the frosting off her plate.
To this day, I am always the person who goes for the piece of cake with the elaborate frosted flower, and the only reason I bother eating cupcakes is for the frosting. In the heady days of living on my own for the first time, I kept a jar of frosting in the refrigerator to eat by the spoonful (for the record, Mike was in on it too). I don't remember when I first spotted these frosted sugar bars on Sally's Baking Addiction, but they immediately resonated with me in a way few recipes do. They're not about making "better for you" choices or eating the trendy new super food. They're not labeled as "indulgent" or a "guilty pleasure." This is simply a recipe that unabashedly celebrates frosting and sprinkles, and I'm very much on board with that.
The original recipe specifies the use of tubular sprinkles in the dough instead of round nonpareils to prevent the dye from bleeding. I tracked down a large container of sprinkles at my local grocery store, and you can also purchase them online. Since these bars were for my sister's baby shower (it's a girl!), I added two drops of red food coloring to the frosting for a pastel pink hue.
Per the original recipe, I made the bars and frosting a day ahead of time and stored them separately in the refrigerator. The next morning, it took a couple of hours at room temperate and a warm water bath for the frosting to get to a spreadable consistency, and then I had to firm up the frosted bars in the freezer before I could cut them neatly. In hindsight, I recommend just frosting the bars the day before, since the leftovers held up well in the refrigerator.
The bars do sink pretty dramatically in the center, so if you frost them evenly, the bars in the middle will have a layer of frosting thicker than the bar itself. I see this as a very good thing, but if you feel otherwise, you should allocate more of the frosting to the edges.
Adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction
Yield: one 8 inch by 8 inch pan of bars
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup sprinkles
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
- 3 tablespoons cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- salt, to taste
- food coloring (optional)
- additional sprinkles (optional)
Make the bars
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 8 inch by 8 inch pan with aluminum foil, leaving enough of a foil overhang on the edges so that the bars can be lifted from the pan.
Cream the butter in a large bowl until smooth with a hand mixer on medium speed, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and cream and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and beat until incorporated.
Whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add about one third of the dry mixture to the wet ingredients while beating on medium speed. Repeat until all of the dry mixture has been incorporated. Gently fold in the sprinkles with a spatula until evenly distributed.
Evenly press the dough into the prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned on top. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
Make the frosting
Beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the powdered sugar, cream, and vanilla and beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Taste the frosting and add a dash of salt if the frosting is too sweet. Beat in the food coloring, one drop at a time, to achieve the desired color.
Spread the frosting on the cooled bars. Garnish with sprinkles if desired.
Store the bars tightly covered in the refrigerator.
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