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cookie that spread while baking and cookie that didn't spread while baking

Time for another recipe testing post! I launched this recipe testing series in 2018 because I know many of you are equally passionate about learning the hows and whys of baking.

My latest recipe testing adventures include cookies. I tested a new cookie recipe earlier this month and while batch #1 was a complete fail and tasted horrendous, I knew you’d be fascinated with the results. See the photo above? The cookie on the left came from batch #2. Still a little room for improvement in terms of flavor, but far better than batch #1, pictured on the right. That blob of a cookie not only over-spread, it was greasy, delicate, and too crispy. Here’s what I fixed:

  1. Less butter. Butter is obviously a cookie favorite, but it’s easy to go overboard. Too much butter means over-spreading, over-crispy, and over-greasy. There’s not enough dry ingredients to soak it all up.
  2. More flour. To soak up the fat and provide structure to the cookie. There was a little too much flour in batch #2 and the cookies tasted a little cakey. But batch #3, pictured below, was perfection.
  3. Longer chill time. I chilled batch #1 for only 30 minutes and batches #2 and #3 for 1 hour. What a difference!

Cookie recipe will be published on Friday. 🙂

coconut macadamia nut cookies

And because it’s always nice to have a refresher, here are some of my cookie baking tips.

How to Prevent Cookies from Spreading

  1. Chill cookie dough. Not all cookie dough requires the chilling step– and I normally determine that by how the cookie dough looks and feels. If the cookie dough is particularly sticky, wet, or greasy– chilling it is a good idea. The colder the dough, the less the cookies are likely to over-spread into greasy puddles. You’ll have thicker, sturdier, and more solid cookies. After chilling, let your cookie dough sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes (or longer, depending on how long the dough has chilled) before rolling into balls and baking. Your cookie dough may be a solid rock, so letting it slightly loosen up helps. The dough will still be much more solid than it was pre-chilling.
  2. Chill cookie dough balls. Sometimes after I roll cookie dough into balls to bake them, I place the balls on a paper plate and put the entire plate in the refrigerator or freezer. Then I preheat the oven. This firms up the balls which may have gotten a little soft while handling with our warm hands. The extra 10 minutes really helps.
  3. Use a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Coating your baking sheet with nonstick spray or butter creates an overly greasy foundation, causing the cookies to spread. I always recommend a silicone baking mat because they grip onto the bottom of your cookie dough, preventing the cookies from spreading too much. These mats also promote even browning. They can get greasy, but I wrote an entire blog post about cleaning silicone baking mats!
  4. Never place cookie dough balls onto a hot baking sheet. Always room temperature baking sheets.
  5. Butter may have been too warm. If a recipe calls for softened room temperature butter, make sure it’s still cool to touch. Here is correct room temperature butter.
  6. Under-measuring the flour. Less flour means less to absorb all the wet ingredients in your cookie dough. Spoon and level that flour or, better yet, weigh your flour.
  7. Don’t overmix the cookie dough ingredients. Cream the butter and sugar for only as long as you need to. Don’t begin beating then leave the room with the mixer running. I’m guilty of this too! But whipping too much air into the dough will cause those cookies to collapse during bake-time. I guarantee that.


  1. Have you ever heard of Smith Island Cake? It’s the official dessert of Maryland!
  2. Favorite flatbread or pizza toppings? Looking for flatbread recipe inspiration 🙂

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. I haven’t heard of a Smith Island Cake, but I’d love to see a recipe for it! Pizza-wise, caramelized onions, green peppers, and homemade pesto are my favorite toppings. I’m lactose intolerant and love veggies on my pizza, so pesto is absolutely my go-to spread!

  2. Smith Island cake is A-ma-zing!! The coconut is our family favorite!! They ship and we usually get them for extra special occasions!

  3. Yes, I have heard of Smith Island Cake! I have lived in Maryland my whole life, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I’d actually tried it! It’s delicious! Maybe you could come up with a recipe that is easier than the actually cake! All of those thin layers really intimidate me.

  4. YES Smith Island Cake is wonderful!! 🙂
    Made my favorite homemade pizza earlier this week: Roasted figs, goat cheese, carmelized onions topped with fresh arugula 🙂 so summery!

  5. Smith Island Cake- it is delicious. We used to live in MD, but I have never seen it anywhere else. I have never attempted to make one, but would love it if you were inclined to post a recipe for it! 🙂

    As for pizza/flatbread toppings: artichoke, salami and red onion- simply divine!

  6. I love these types of posts, they’re so insightful! I didn’t know that Marylands dessert was the Smith Island cake (and I’m from MD). Do you like them? As for pizza topping inspiration… arugula, fig, brie and hot honey!

  7. OMG I had a major cookie disaster this week too, Sally! Tried a new recipe for simply oatmeal chocolate chunk cookies, and they spread ALLL over my baking tray in my hot kitchen. I mean, they tasted good, but I was still so disappointed in myself! Had to make a new batch the next day to re-instill my confidence in my baking skills.

    As for Smith Island Cake, no I’ve never heard of it! But that might be because I’m Canadian. I’d love to see a recipe for it anyways though hahah.

    Have you heard of BEAVERTAILS? Those are MY favourite classic Canadian dessert.

  8. That cake is new to me!
    As for flatbread toppings, I love a margarita with the freshest of tomato sauce, fresh mozz, and basil. I also love a no sauce pizza option with the crust brushed with olive oil, some mozzarella cheese, lots of gorgonzola, red onion caramelized with balsamic vinegar, and kalamata olives with a bit of oregano.

  9. I would love to try a Smith Island cake! As for pizza/flatbread toppings, right now I am loving bbq for the sauce, topped with lots of mozzarella, diced grilled chicken, bacon crumbles, red onion, and pineapple. So good!!

  10. Never heard of the Smith Island Cake but it does sound fancy! My favorite flatbread topping: I slice fresh tomatoes and use that as my sauce (or you can dice them), then I add basil on top, then pineapple and some cheese. Sometimes, we clean out the refrigerator and throw whatever is in the refrigerator on top of the pizza before the cheese whether that be roast beef, steak, fajita meet, onions, peppers, just anything. I do like my flatbread cooked on the grill just until the cheese is melted – now, I am getting hungry just talking about this.

  11. I have never heard of Smith Island cake, but I looked it up and it looks yummy. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting is my favorite, and I love fudgy chocolate frostings, but haven’t had luck making one that I like.

    I am pretty plain when it comes to pizza toppings, my faves are sausage and pepperoni with black olives and sometimes mushrooms. I eat pizza literally every week with my family at our local pizza joint, Johnny’s (North Louisiana), and the crust is soft very lightly sweet and made with beer. I have moved a lot and tried a lot of pizza, and it’s still my favorite. (But everyone has their own preferences when it comes to pizza, I’ve learned!) I haven’t forayed much into flatbreads, but I would love a flatbread crust recipe to dump random things on. I have some cauliflower alfredo sauce from Pinch of Yum in my fridge right now that I need to use up or freeze pretty soon….

  12. I have heard of Smith Island Cake and hope to sample some later this summer as I live in Maryland. As for flat breads – I was obsessed with chicken, sliced pepperochini (banana peppers), ranch and mozzarella but I have moved on to beef, bell peppers, onions, and white American cheese.

  13. I love basil and roasted garlic pizza. I usually sprinkle the dried basil over the cheese and place roasted garlic cloves all over the top. It’s especially good on sourdough pizza crust (King Arthur Flour’s if you want to try it out )

  14. Flat bread toppings, fig jam and Brie, when it comes out of the oven top with arugula and drizzle with balsamic reduction . Prosciutto and mango, again once out, arugula and balsamic reduction. Pesto sauce, prawns, sun dried tomato and feta, squeeze of fresh lemon juice when out of oven

  15. YES Smith Island Cake! I’ve lived in Maryland my whole life, but was not introduced to Smith Island Cake until after college when I moved to Baltimore – it’s the BEST! One restaurant I’ve been to even had a Red Velvet version!

  16. I am from Maryland and have definitely heard of Smith Island Cake! It’s delicious. 🙂

  17. I’ve never heard of Smith Island Cake, but it looks interesting after viewing images of it!

    I fear I was ruined for pizza after having been to Italy a few times and nothing really compares. If I do eat pizza, I make my own and it’s generally very traditional with lots of red sauce, a little cheese and basil. Occasionally I may add mushrooms or little mild sausage.

  18. The timing of this blog post was PERFECT! I’m a new baker and trying to perfect chocolate chip cookies. The flavor is perfect but the cookies are super flat. I’ve made the following changes: switched to silicon mat, chilled my dough, switched to unsalted butter (can’t believe I missed that in the recipe) and now I’m thinking I’m over mixing my butter/sugar in the first step. Can you describe how “just mixed” looks? I mixed until it was perfect…not a speck of butter showing through….then mixed a bit more. 🙂

  19. Love Smith Island Cake!! Yum! As for flatbread, mushrooms of some sort are a must in our house.

  20. I have never heard of that cake before! So now I’m curious…
    As for flatbreads, I recently had an amazing one at a newly discovered cafe in one of our favorite places, St. Augustine, FL. It had gorgonzola cheese, roasted pear, prosciutto, toasted almond, arugula salad and drizzled with honey. It was heaven! I am still thinking about it!

  21. I stumbled upon Smith island cake when my som requested a 10-layer cake for his 8th birthday. we were on vacation in a rental so I opted to order one from the source and have it shipped. It was delectable. The fudgy frosting was our favorite part!

    There is a flatbread at a local restaurant here that is topped with walnut purée, mushrooms, and fontina, and it is the best way I can imagine to enjoy a flatbread!

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