When I volunteered to make desserts for the painting fundraiser last week, I knew I wanted to incorporate as many fall flavors as I could. That meant a lineup of pumpkin spice, apple pie, and carrot cake (and, of course, chocolate for those crazed chocoholics. Can’t leave them out of the fun. So I made it salted caramel. That’s a fall flavor, right?) But when you’re painting, it’s challenging to stand around eating honkin’ slices of cake and pie (that’s a two-handed gig right there), so I knew I’d need to find a way to make these seasonal staples portable, single-hand-(tr)eats.
Which brings me to today’s recipe (and one of my favorites this year so far): carrot cake cookiewiches with a toasted coconut cream cheese filling! They may sound complicated but I think you’ll find them surprisingly simple to make.
It starts off with a boxed cake mix which you turn into cookies. While those cool, you whip up an easy coconut cream cheese filling into which you’ll fold some toasted coconut. Sandwich that amazingness between two cookies and you’ve got yourself a mighty pleasing dessert right there. All the delights of carrot cake without the need of a pesky fork. Low-calorie it is not. But portable and packed with flavor it most definitely is.
I found this recipe on the Show Me the Yummy blog and followed it pretty closely, except I made my cookies a little smaller both so I could get a larger yield and so people could try all the desserts instead of filling up on this one. I’m nice like that.
Carrot Cake Cookie Sandwiches filled with Toasted Coconut Cream Cheese
For the cookies
1 box Duncan Hines Carrot Cake Mix, mix packet only
1 packet Duncan Hines Carrot & Raisin blend packet (which comes in the box with the carrot cake), raisins removed
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened to room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature and lightly whisked
1 Tablespoon coconut oil, melted
1 cup white chocolate chips
(optional) chopped walnuts or pecans
8 oz brick cream cheese, softened to room temperature
¼ cup (1/2 cup) butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes,toasted
Step 1 – MAKE COOKIES
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line your baking sheets with Silpat or parchment.
2. Mix together room temperature butter, eggs, and melted coconut oil until well combined. Note: The butter might look a little curdled when you stir in the egg. Don't worry about it. When you add the dry ingredients it’ll come together. (Why room temperature ingredients, you ask? They distribute more evenly in the recipe. Rule of thumb: if your recipe calls for room temperature butter, make sure your egg is also room temperature. You can take them out of the fridge to sit on the counter for about an hour, or you can place the egg in a cup of warm water for 5 minutes.)
3. Stir in the carrot cake mix—mix only. (You’ll add the carrot in the next step--removing the raisins is a great job for little helper hands.) The dough will be thick and sticky.
|Helpers! Their reward? Raisins
4. Stir in the carrots and white chocolate chips.
5. Use a cookie scoop to drop rounded balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheet, at least 2 inches apart. (I used my small OXO scooper which is just under a Tablespoon of batter.)
OPTIONAL ADDITION: Since I was making these for a crowd, I wanted to stay nut-free in case of allergies or taste preferences. However, my mom had specially requested walnuts in hers, so I made one tray with nuts. After scooping the nut-free batter onto the cookie sheet, I pressed 6 pieces of chopped walnut into each cookie blob. If you only want a few with nuts, that’s a good way to go about it. However, if you want nuts in all the cookies, you can stir in ½- ¾ cups chopped walnuts (or pecans) in Step 4.
6. Bake for 8 - 10 minutes. (I did mine for 10.) It's ok if they seem slightly underdone. They’ll continue to set as they cool. Remove pans from the oven and let them sit on the hot pan for 10 minutes.
7. Remove cookies to wire cooling racks to cool completely.
Step 2 – MAKE FROSTING
1. Toast coconut. In 350 degree oven, place a single layer of coconut on a rimmed baking sheet (I used the same Silpat-lined sheet I’d used for the cookies) and bake for 5-9 minutes, stirring every minute after the 5-minute mark. Remove from oven when golden and toasted. Be careful not to burn it—there’s a dangerously narrow window between toasted and burnt.
Meanwhile, as the coconut toasts…
2. In stand mixer, beat softened cream cheese for 1 minute.
3. Beat in butter and mix until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
4. With the mixer on low, slowly beat in powdered sugar. Always scrape down the bowl as needed.
5. Add heavy cream, vanilla, and salt. (If you find your icing too thin, you can thicken it by adding a little more sugar. To thin it out, you can add more cream. Mine, however, didn’t require any additions.)
6. Stir in the toasted coconut. (As the original blogger noted, the warmed coconut will slightly thin out the frosting.)
7. Cover and refrigerate for an hour, up to overnight.
Step 3 – ASSEMBLE SANDWICHES
1. Turn cookies so the flat bottom faces up.
2. Use a small cookie scoop or a Tablespoon (I used my small OXO again) to drop between 1-2 Tablespoons of icing onto every other cookie. (Remember, you’ll be sandwiching them together so you don’t need it on every cookie.)
3. Place the flat side of another cookie onto the top of the icing and gently press together to sandwich.
If you aren’t eating these right away, store them in the refrigerator. Storing flat is best, and if you’re stacking them, try not to go more than 2 or 3 high and separate your layers with waxed paper or parchment.
Make-ahead option and notes:
When I made these, I completed Steps 1 and 2 on the first day, and completed Step 3 the following day, the day of the party. After completely cooling, I stacked my cookies in an airtight container. A word of caution: the ones I stacked in tall piles (about 8-10 cookies high) stuck together a little so I had to gently pry them apart with the tip of a knife when I was ready to use them. (I’m not sure why, but I feel like they got weighted down and sort of melded together, especially since they’re a chewy cookie.) However, the ones I stacked in shorter piles (4 cookies high; they were the ones with the nuts, which I’d packaged separately) did not stick together. Ergo, I’d recommend not stacking cookies more than 4 high and/or separating layers with waxed paper or parchment to avoid that entire issue.
These cookie sandwiches are chewy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and have the perfect sweet and tangy blend from that coconut cream cheese frosting. They’re just delightful and utterly portable. So go ahead and eat them with one hand. And while you’re add it, grab a second one for the other hand. No judgment here!
**I have no affiliation or relationship with any of the brands mentioned or linked in this post. All opinions and experiences expressed herein are my own.**