Funfetti Cookies

Not since that time I made chewy, marshmallow-y Brown Butter Rice Krispy Treats has a dessert I've served to my non-American friends caused more confusion than this recent batch of Funfetti Cookies. The responses to the enthusiastic message I sent out about these ("Made Funfetti cookies yesterday!!! in my office if you want one!") were nearly all along the lines of "I like cookies but what is funfetti?" and "Don't know what that first part means but I'm on my way" This surprised me -- who doesn't know what funfetti is?! -- but led me to realize than that if you're not American (or a baker) the name of this recipe probably confuses you, too. Before I go any further then, let me answer the question at hand: What exactly is funfetti? 

A little Funfetti 101: Funfetti refers to multi-colored sprinkles reminiscent of confetti -- fun + confetti=funfetti -- and is a (genius) concept first created by Pillsbury, who rolled out a white layer cake mix dotted with rainbow sprinkles back in 1989 (also the year I was born -- good things were happening). Funfetti cake subsequently became all the rage, so much so that it wasn't a kid's birthday party in the 90s without the presence of a tall, festive funfetti layer cake, swirls of vanilla frosting and all. Flash forward to 2015ish, when funfetti didn't make a comeback -- rainbow sprinkles never go out of style, right?  -- but was reborn in a big way, suddenly America's newest dessert trend. The sprinkles usually limited to a box of cake mix began to show up in everything from shortbread to scones, cupcakes to cookies, pancakes to waffles, in bakeries and on blogs across the country. In fact, the Funfetti trend became so popular that it caught the attention of the New York Times itself (click here). It just so happened that the addition of brightly colored sprinkles made any dessert more fun, charming, and eye-catching, not to mention added a dose of nostalgia for all of us who grew up eating Funfetti cake.

So how did these go over with my friends who were not yet educated in the ways of funfetti? The answer is incredibly well, not only with a bunch of Italians but also two Germans, a friend from France, a friend from Switzerland, another one from India, and still another few from the UK. "BUONISSIMI!" ("very very good") was the feedback of one Italian who went on to eat several, and another two friends commented that these had something special and distinctly American about them, and hat they stood out from your usual European biscuit in terms of flavor and texture. 

The moral of the story? It would seem then that soft, chewy and extra vanilla-y cookies packed with vibrant sprinkles is something that most everyone likes, appreciates, and has in common, no matter where they come from. Another friend called these "happy cookies, cheer-spreading cookies" and theorized that they were probably capable of cheering up anyone on a bad day, because how can you not smile at the sight of an overly festive, over-the-top cookie?! I'd conclude then that these funfetti cookies -- apart from being charming and delicious -- are also cross-cultural, universally appealing, and mood-lifting, which are all pretty powerful properties for a dessert, don't you think?! 

Last thing -- I baked these on February 26th, or the day that it snowed in Rome. You have to know that snow is incredibly rare in the Eternal City -- the last time it had snowed in Rome was all the way back in 2012 -- and these therefore will forever be Snow Day Cookies for me. Pictures below of Rome in the snow and a few hours after the snow had melted, all sun and blue skies.
A couple of notes: This recipe comes from one of my favorite new blogs,, belonging to the very talented Posie Harwood (who also writes for Food52, another great site). If you don't have sprinkles on hand no problem -- Posie says you can make excellent soft and chewy sugar cookies without the sprinkles, and that you could also add chocolate chips to the batter if you wanted to take these in another direction. Be sure to use the longer artificially colored sprinkles and not naturally colored ones or nonpareils, as the color will bleed in to the cake.

Looking for other cookie recipes? A few more favorites: these Brutti ma buoni, these White Chocolate, Almond, and Apricot Biscotti, these Brownie Cookies, these Brown Butter and Chocolate Chunk Cookies, these Gingerbread Cookies, these Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, these Dark Chocolate Coconut Macaroons, these Magical 4 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies, and these Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies.

(recipe from Posie Harwood at my new favorite site,

1/2 cup (1 stick or 112 grams) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (195 grams) flour
1 tablespoon (9 grams) cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (about 160 grams) rainbow sprinkles

In a large mixing bowl using electric beaters or in the bowl of a standing mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add the egg and vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes, at least. The mixture should look very pale in color. Add the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt and mix until just combined (be careful to not overmix). Fold in the sprinkles with a spatula. 
Using a large cookie scoop (an ice cream scoop works well), scoop balls of dough (about 2" wide each) onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Leave a few inches between each as they will spread.
Freeze the sheets of dough balls for at least 20 minutes, or refrigerate them for a least 1 hour. Don't skip this step!
When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the cookies for about 10-12 minutes. They should be barely golden brown around the edges and will look and feel underbaked -- this is okay, as it will ensure that the cookies are soft and chewy. You can bake them a bit longer if you'd like a crisper cookie. Move the cookies to a wire rack to cool and enjoy asap. Makes 15-20 cookies.

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