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In this bake off, I was curious if we could find a recipe could replicate the original, but also if we could find an elevated version. As it turns out, we got fairly close to the OG, but the top-rated cookie was a far cry from the original Lofthouse.
METHODOLOGY // RESULTS // FACTORS // ANALYSIS // RECOMMENDATIONS
- 32 total tasters
- All 9 recipes were baked the day of tasting
- 4 recipes were rested overnight per the recipe recommendation
- All cookies were baked on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (except Dessert for Two, which was baked on Silpat)
- All tasters ranked each cookie on a scale from 0-10 for overall flavor, texture, and as a whole. They also rated how similar each cookie was to the original Lofthouse cookie
- All ingredients were measured by weight according to the King Arthur website
- Gold Medal bleached all-purpose flour
- Swans Down cake flour
- Unsalted and salted Land O Lakes butter
- Spice Island vanilla extract
- Adams clear imitation vanilla extract
- Bob’s Red Mill baking powder and soda
- Diamond kosher salt
- Imperial granulated sugar and powdered sugar
PARTNER NOTE: I’m delighted to be partnering with Imperial Sugar on this bake off as I’ve consistently used their consistent, high-quality pure cane sugar products throughout my bake offs. Imperial Sugar is non-GMO verified, allergen free and gluten-free!
For more sweet inspiration, you can visit Imperial Sugar to find more than 4,000 expert-tested recipes, free downloadable vintage cookbooks, sugar scrubs and bath products at the Sugar Spa, and lots of helpful guides on their blog. You can also check out their Pinterest, You Tube, Instagram for even more recipe inspiration!
How I Selected the Lofthouse Cookie Recipes
Here is a quick summary of each Lofthouse recipe that was tested along with its categorization by ingredient (mostly fat + dairy). I tried to include a cross-section of recipes that used butter, shortening, sour cream, cream cheese, oil and egg/egg white/egg yolk. I also include the “Similar Recipes” column for reference in case you’ve made and loved a similar recipe!
For the nitty gritty details, you can also view my recipe spreadsheet (first tab has all the recipes I scraped).
|Butter + sour cream||Brown Eyed Baker||Two Peas & Their Pod, Food Network, Wholefully, Just a Pinch, Wishes N Dishes, Lil Luna, Cincy’s Hopper, Your Home Based Mom, 12 Tomatoes, Mom Dot, Passion for Savings, , Center Cut Cook, Self Proclaimed Foodie|
|Butter + sour cream||Sally’s Baking Addiction||Love from the Oven, Simply Recipes|
|Butter + cream cheese||Cooking and Beer|
|Butter + sour cream||New York Times|
|Butter + shortening||Cooking Classy||Spaceships and Laserbeams, Princess Pinky Girl, Life Made Simple, Sweet C’s Designs, Oh Sweet Basil|
|Butter + oil||Girl Inspired|
|Butter + cream + egg whites||Serious Eats||I Heart Eating|
|Butter + cream + egg yolks||Dessert for Two|
|Butter + shortening||Sugar Geek Show|
Results for the Best Lofthouse Cookie Recipe
In the first chart below, you can see the ratings listed by overall preference on the left and by resemblance to the original Lofthouse cookie on the right.
I always encourage you to take these results with a grain of salt as everyone has different preferences, but I really do need to emphasize in this case that the “resemblance” survey question had some issues. Some tasters interpreted this question as most similar in taste while others rated purely on similarity in texture or aesthetics.
Which cookie is actually closest to the original based on taste, texture AND aesthetics? I’d say Serious Eats (and I discuss further in the Analysis section below).
Below are more details on how the tasters ranked the flavor, texture, and whether they would eat the cookie again in case this data is of interest:
Factors that affected the Lofthouse Cookie Rankings
- Cake flour: In other bake offs, I’ve often found that cake flour is not a totally necessary ingredient–you can achieve very comparable results with all-purpose. But in the case of these cookies, bleached cake flour is crucial for that nostalgic artificial cookie flavor. Coincidence that the top two recipes call for bleached cake flour? Maybe, but I think not! Stella explains the “why” more eloquently than I could:
- Dairy: As you can see above, recipes were divided up into 4 main categories: (1) butter + sour cream (2) butter + cream cheese (3) butter + shortening or oil (4) butter + cream or no added dairy. The addition of sour cream and/or cream cheese definitely led to a softer, cakier cookie. However, I think the same soft and cakey affect can be seen in Cooking Classy and Dessert for Two using just eggs and fat without added dairy (and with a less spongy effect).
- Eggs: While the majority of recipes used whole eggs, Serious Eats used only egg whites, Dessert for Two used only egg yolks, and Cooking Classy added an extra white. Based on the high rankings of SE and CC, it seems the extra egg whites may have given those recipes an edge when it came to enhancing the vanilla flavor. In contrast, I found that recipes like Sally’s Baking Addiction and New York Times with higher egg ratios tasted comparatively eggier in a way that took the recipe farther away from the original recipe (but still made for a delicious cookie).
- Sugar type: I thought for sure using powdered instead of granulated would lead to a better, softer cookie thanks to the added cornstarch in powdered sugar. But the two recipes that used this trick (Girl Inspired and Sugar Geek Show) didn’t necessarily stand out for a superior texture compared to others. Sugar Geek Show was nicely plush, but Girl Inspired was surprisingly crisp (I think more from its oil content). While cornstarch/powdered sugar can play a role in tenderizing a cookie, I think the bigger influencing factors are fat, sugar and egg content.
If you don’t want to read all the words in this section, you can watch my live tasting video on YouTube here! Or scroll down to keep reading 🙂
Girl Inspired: a crumbly, shortbread-like cookie that is way crisper than Lofthouse with a shortening-based frosting
This was one of the more intriguing recipes as it combines cake flour, cream of tartar, salted butter, powdered sugar and most interestingly, vegetable oil in the dough! The oil is supposed to create a more moist and soft texture, but we actually found that these cookies baked up with a crisp edge and a very light, distinctly powdery, crumbly texture. The pervading flavor was that of a slightly artificial sweetness.
These would make for a delicious shortbread/sugar cookie hybrid, but were a pretty far cry from the original Lofthouse cookie. I also thought that this shortening-based frosting would make for a more similar frosting to the original Lofthouse. However, it surprisingly had an even blander flavor than Lofthouse, so if you’re going to the trouble of making these from scratch, I’d recommend sticking with a buttercream.
- Not incredibly close to the original, but I actually prefer this one more than the original. It actually has a flavor, and I like the crumbly, almost shortbready texture
- Looks the most like a Lofthouse but the texture and flavor are off
- Texture is sandy, chalky, a little dry
- Frosting leaves me dissatisfied in that it just tastes sweet and disappears–hoping for more vanilla
- Dense and firm, disintegrated in my mouth
Sugar Geek Show: a soft cookie that leans doughier than the Lofthouse original with a slight tart undertone
I had high hopes for this recipe with its combination of cake flour, powdered sugar, cream of tartar, cornstarch, and the option to use both butter and margarine (to better replicate the original). To be transparent, I mistakenly thought this recipe called for half butter, half shortening (rather than margarine). When I realized I had bought the wrong ingredient on the day of the bake off, I happened to have Earth Balance on hand (which is technically a vegan margarine), so I used that, which I think greatly affected the rankings from where this cookie should have been (so sorry Liz!).
Ultimately, this cookie had a distractingly salty flavor note which I think can largely be attributed to the use of Earth Balance. I didn’t love the cream of tartar as it lent a kind of tangy burn to the cookies that the original doesn’t have. I also didn’t enjoy the technique of scooping the cookie dough, chilling it, and then rolling it (I prefer the chill and scoop method in other recipes). But when baked as directed for 8-9 minutes (or until the sheen disappears from the top of the cookie) these cookies yielded a slightly underbaked, slightly doughy texture that I loved! Texturally, this is way softer and had a different flavor from Lofthouse–but this would be a strong candidate for an even better version with all butter!
- Texture is too moist for a Lofthouse cookie
- Kind of a cookie dough flavor? It’s working for me
- Nice tartness, but some bites are too much
- Oily aftertaste, tastes a little artificial, even more underwhelming than the original
- Texture is soft and oily
Original Lofthouse: the infamously pasty-but-satisfying frosted grocery store sugar cookie
These were not as delicious as I remembered (bland sugary sweetness), but the texture is where it’s at for me. The unnervingly smooth exterior belies a layered, powdery interior that has just the slightest bit of resistance when you bite down. The soft texture quickly turns pasty in your mouth in a strangely satisfying way as the intensely sugary frosting melts on your tongue.
After making 9 from-scratch recipes side by side with the original, I have concluded…they’re honestly not that good! From-scratch is way better than storebought!
- I could eat 24 of these in one sitting…and definitely have in the past. So flaky, such great solid frosting
- Perfect melt in your mouth texture, not as much flavor as I remember
- Lethargic but pillowy
- Cakey, chalky, chewy, straight sugar
- Mouth glue
Cooking and Beer: slight tang and pronounced sweetness give this soft sugar cookie more flavor than the original Lofthouse
I included this recipe for its unique combination of sour cream and cream cheese. Texturally, this cookie felt softer (not as much of a toothsome bite) than Lofthouse. It had a nice amount of tang and sweetness with a tender, moist and springy-soft texture. Flavor-wise, this was quite similar to Brown Eyed Baker and Sally’s Baking Addiction, and the recipe ratios are very similar (almost identical to BEB but more flour, more sugar, and slightly more egg).
Frankly, I would be less likely to make this recipe again just because it calls for both cream cheese and sour cream (I usually don’t have either on hand), though Justine notes you can make these with all sour cream if you like. Overall: more flavorful than Lofthouse, and too soft to call it a close replica (but in a good way).
- Better flavor than some others but more like a sugar cookie than a Lofthouse cookie
- Flatter, buttery cookie with a soft bite
- Cookie is similar in texture to OG but I’m wanting more flavor
- A tad dry, bland cookie with an overly sweet frosting.
Brown Eyed Baker: a little dry, a little toothsome, a little pasty: a very close textural replica to Lofthouse!
If you follow this recipe’s attribution, you can trace back to what I believe is the original source of tons of adaptations, Recipe Secrets. The original recipe uses butter and sour cream paired with a shortening-based frosting; I chose to use BEB because her recipe is slightly more precise and uses a buttercream.
Are these cookies a little dry? Yes. Are they the closest in texture to Lofthouse? Also yes, in my opinion. They have the most chewy bite around the edges, just like the originals. There was something extremely addicting about the slightly dry texture to me. To get closer to the Lofthouse flavor, I might try using cake flour next time (not sure if this would affect the chewiness of the cookie) to get that artificial starchy sweetness. But if you like the flavor of a buttery sugar cookie, stick with the all-purpose flour!
- Buttery, vanilla, dynamic, so much more flavor and fluff than the original
- Definitely the closest to the OG for me
- A biscuit snuck into a cookie party, bready with frosting that’s way too sweet
- Frosting is too sweet, texture is too soft and cakey
- Fluffy, dry, bland. Feels more like cake, so not as authentic
New York Times: a spongy, moist, slightly tangy cookie with an incredibly delicious raspberry frosting that bears little resemblance to the original (but we don’t care)
Like Cooking and Beer, this was another recipe that used cream cheese, but with less sugar and cake flour instead of all-purpose flour. The result: an airy, slightly spongy, soft cookie that looks and tastes like a muffin top. It’s far thicker and moister than Lofthouse with a much more complex, tangier flavor. Where this cookie really hits is the perky frosting made with freeze dried raspberries. The bright tang of the naturally-dyed frosting contrasts beautifully with the cakey cookie base in a way that I far prefer to the original Lofthouse sugar-on-sugar pairing.
I do think the unique frosting helped boost this cookie’s overall ranking. While the slightly spongy cookie base wasn’t my favorite, I’d happily pair this frosting with a cookie like Brown Eyed Baker or Cooking Classy!
- Much more flavor in the cookie itself.
- Thick and cakey cookie that needs more vanilla and salt; icing is the star of the show
- Looks like a Lofthouse but so much better
- Acidity from the raspberry adds such a welcome contrast
- Didn’t like the bubby, crumbly interior texture
- Totally different than the original cookie base
- Unfair because the frosting is transcendent
Dessert for Two: a thick, dense, buttery sugar cookie with a luscious crumb that elevates the Lofthouse ideal
Note: this frosting had a slightly higher ratio of butter to sugar compared to others. As a sugar fiend, I personally prefer a higher sugar ratio for maximum sugar crusting (for example, Cooking Classy’s frosting).
- Cakey, dense, buttery texture that’s pretty similar to the original
- Butter bomb. If Lofthouse was like this, I might buy them at the grocery store
- Soft cookie with a great texture and a “floury” flavor that feels like the original
- Flavor was a little eggy
Sally’s Baking Addiction: plush, moist and buttery cookies that are significantly cakier than the original Lofthouse
With similar dry ingredient amounts to BEB but double the amount of butter, 150% the sugar, 1/4 cup more sour cream, a little more egg and added almond extract, these cookies were incredibly plush and cakey. Flavor-wise, they’re quite similar to Brown Eyed Baker, just slightly richer with a moister, more cake-like texture and slightly eggier flavor. I found BEB to be closer to the drier texture of Lofthouse whereas Sally’s is more of a moist, cake-like sugar cookie.
Both BEB and Sally’s have a more traditional buttery sugar cookie flavor rather than the slightly artificial, vanilla-y, super white cake-y flavor of Lofthouse–aka most will probably enjoy the flavor of these even if they’re not a close replica to the original.
- Fluffy, cakey, a nice buttery biscuit
- It doesn’t resemble the original that much but is way better
- White cake’s cousin: little flavor and frosting tastes like sugar
- More muffin top than cookie, very cakey. Starbucks vanilla scone vibes. Icing was too sweet.
- Even sweeter than the OG? A little too sweet
Cooking Classy: doughy, oversized sugar cookies that closely imitate the Lofthouse white cake flavor
This recipes uses a combination of butter and shortening, cake flour, an additional egg white, and both vanilla and almond extract. If you portion out the dough according to the recipe (nearly a 1/4 cup dough per cookie), you’ll end up with very large and thick cookies that are way bigger than the original. But they’re delightful in texture: a little chewy, a little tender, and they dissolve in your mouth similarly to Serious Eats. Like Serious Eats, these also imitate the Lofthouse flavor nearly perfectly.
I did also prefer the sugar:butter frosting ratio on this cookie. If you like a thicker, doughier cookie texture with the flavor of Lofthouse, this one is for you!
- LOOOVE how thick this one is, texture is a little doughy
- Offers the nostalgic flour-forward flavor of the OG that’s so weirdly satisfying
- Super soft and floury tasting, not too sweet, well-balanced
- Queen for sugar cookie lovers: dense, soft, melt-in-your mouth with hints of almond
- Flavor is getting back to the original, but frosting is superior. Like a fancy version of Lofthouse
- Nice moist sugar cookie if a little sweet
Serious Eats: a perfectly soft and melt-in-your-mouth cookie with a perfect white cake flavor that gets very close to the original!
A win for Stella’s version of Lofthouse, featuring cake flour, heavy cream and egg whites! Stella (of Bravetart fame) notes that egg whites play a dual role in keeping the cookies pale and allowing the vanilla flavor to shine. The egg whites are paired with heavy cream specifically to simulate the fat of the yolk. This allows the heavy cream to aid the emulsion and compensate for the low fat content of egg whites in the dough (without the flavor of egg yolks). Like I noted above, Stella also points out the importance of bleached cake flour for flavor, which tastes “particularly sweet” thanks to its starch content. Lastly, her frosting is made with cream instead of butter as the liquid content is better at dissolving the powdered sugar for a creamier frosting.
These cookies had a fabulous texture: tender with a melt-in-your-mouth delicate crumb (vs. more of a chew on Lofthouse)! Flavor-wise, these nail the sweet, artificial white cake flavor. The distracting note for me? The frosting was way too sweet! (I missed Stella’s note to use organic powdered sugar, which I hear makes a big difference so I would definitely try that next time). Still, most tasters didn’t seem to mind. For me, these cookies get the closest in both flavor and texture to Lofthouse!
- Feels like Lofthouse but better
- Very dense cookie but not dry; frosting is super sweet and balances mild flavor of the cookie
- Texture is almost perfect but icing is so sweet!
- Honors the original but makes it better–more moist, more flavor in general with a hint of salt
- Best of the bunch, sweetness offset tastelessness of the cookie
- Lighter vanilla flavored cookie with a well-balanced icing
- Soft dense cookie with a nice salt balance
In short: my personal favorite cookie that I would make again if I was craving Lofthouse would be Serious Eats. My personal most-strangely-addicting cookie was Brown Eyed Baker. And of course, the frosting winner for me was New York Times. But honestly, it’s worth branching out to try any of these recipes for a bomb sugar cookie!
Most similar cookie to the original: Serious Eats (flavor and texture), Cooking Classy (flavor), Brown Eyed Baker (texture)
Most similar frosting to the original: Potentially Serious Eats, if made with organic powdered sugar. Note: Sally’s Baking Addiction, Cooking and Beer and Cooking Classy all had a frosting ratio of ~1 stick of butter to 2.5 cups of powdered sugar, which was my preferred ratio frosting.
Best thick and soft cookie: Cooking Classy, Dessert for Two, Sugar Geek Show, Sally’s Baking Addiction, New York Times
Best thin and cakey: Cooking and Beer, Brown Eyed Baker
Best shortbread-y texture: Girl Inspired
Easiest to make: Dessert for Two or Serious Eats
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I love your bake offs, and I always check them before trying out a new recipe. Could you please, please do a chocolate or nutella babka bake off?
Can’t wait to try to make some of the winners. This is the cooking blog I didn’t know I needed! Seriously, this content is underrated. I hope your blog and your other accounts take off! 🙂
What does it mean to be “Lethargic but pillowy?” (Love love this post, by the way!) Off to watch your YouTube channel.
Also (I fell down a Lofthouse cookie recipe hole, lol), it looks like BEB (via Cook’s Country) has a Berger Cookie that is so close to SE’s version.