Latest Recipe Testing

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 🙂


  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. Sally do you know how to make the Smith Island cake? I’d love to see what you could create and then we could copy you!

  3. I have not heard of Smith Island Cake–definitely interested in finding out what it is! My favorite pizza of all time is called “The Flathead” and it includes a creamy white garlic sauce instead of marinara, grilled chicken, crispy salty bacon, chopped tomatoes, and spinach!! The BEST!

  4. I haven’t heard of a Smith Island Cake either. I just Googled it & wow, what a creation. Looks rather spectacular!
    As for favorite pizza topping, I love a homemade tomato sauce, carmelized onion, mushrooms, sundried tomato, olives, baby spinach, capsicum, bocconcini & parmesan. I might even add some pepperoni.

  5. hey Sally
    I haven’t heard of a Smith Island Cake but it sounds delicious!
    I love black olives and pepperoni on my pizza.

  6. Mickie Hedrick says:

    Smith Island Cake – all those layers and that chocolate fudge icing! I use 10 disposable aluminum cake pans. Is there another way to get even layers. And… my icing sets up so fast. Would love a good recipe. As for flatbread toppings, I like crispy pancetta, onions and mushrooms.

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

  8. No to Smith island cake but i am curious. I like Hawaiian pizza or peppers and onions.

  9. Cathy Gregory says:

    Yep, I live in the Baltimore area and love Smith Island Cake. (The local bakery makes it with crushed Reese’s Cups in the frosting– that does NOT work for me. 🙂 I’ve never made it because I don’t have enough cake pans! Would love to see what you come up with, especially if I don’t have to buy extra equipment.

  10. Diane VandenPlas @ Snowflakes & Coffeecakes says:

    I’ve been to Maryland so many times and have family there – we’ve never heard of Smith Island Cake!

    My favorite pizza to make is Philly Cheese Steak Pizza, which is even better than the sandwich! Alfredo sauce, topped with Swiss-American cheese, philly steak meat, onions, mushrooms, green peppers and a little salt and pepper. SO GOOD!

    My kids go nuts for Chicken Pot Pie Pizza, which is alfredo sauce topped with shredded chicken breast, broccoli, peas, carrots, onion and cheddar cheese. Any way I can get vegies into them I love!


  11. 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.

  12. Oh my flatbread toppings! This is a regular thing in our house….
    We love to take left overs and transform them into a second nights supper. Some of our favorites are…
    chicken alfredo- we use left over alfredo sauce, throw on some grilled chicken and a little mozarella
    Sweet Chili chicken- we use your sweet chili chicken left overs and top it with a little colby jack cheese
    BBQ chicken is an easy one too- a little BBQ sauce, chicken, red onion, and colby jack

    While none of those are overly inspiring- they are all delicious but let me get your attention with BREAKFAST flat breads! A little white gravy topped with scrambled eggs, your favorite breakfast meat diced up and topped with cheddar cheese! DELICIOUS and everything can be prepared ahead of time! One last tip– when it comes out of the over, top with either a little salsa or grape jelly! I know how it sounds but TRUST ME! So good!

  13. Hi Sally – I literally searched your site last night for a post like this! Thank you!

  14. I have to say, every time I chill cookie dough I hate the results. They ALWAYS come out tasting fine, but they are so small that it’s like I made mini cookies. This last time I made choc chip cookies I let it chill overnight and then let it come to room temp for 3 hours and they still came out looking nothing like your picture. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.

  15. My favorite flatbread is with – no sauce, just use caramelized onions. bacon jam and Gorgonzola cheese. Bake, then top with arugula and a drizzle of balsamic reduction. SO GOOD!

  16. I have not heard of the cake. I can’t wait to see you make it! Pizza toppings on flatbread it is carmelized onions, roasted garlic, spinach, and ricotta. So good!! Regular pizza is mushroom, pepperoni, bell peppers.
    Dang, now I want pizza and it is only 6:17 am!

  17. 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!

  18. Hey Sally! Wow, what a difference between the 3 batches! O.O

    1. Haven’t heard of the cake but OMG it’s soooo similar to the “unofficially official” cake of the region I live in Serbia! I just googled to see how Smith Island Cake looks like and can’t believe it! 😀 Ours is called “Doboš torta”.

    2. Where should I start… 😀 Let me pick two of our many favourites. 😀 Tomato sauce, mozzarella, sausages, olives, fresh oregano; or our all-time favourite for the flatbread – olive oil, fresh rosemary, garlic, sea salt and freshly ground coloured pepper.

    Can’t wait for the cookie post! 🙂

  19. I have not heard of Smith Island Cake. Gotta oook that up. Berger cookies were the Maryland dessert I learned about there.

  20. I once made a flatbread pizza with honey-roasted carrots, creamy goat cheese and dukka seasoning. Sounds weird, but it was SO good as an appetizer at a dinner party I hosted a couple weeks ago.

  21. Breanna Dale says:

    I had an idea for some posts. Maybe you could do some more posts on gifting/selling/transporting/bulk recipes? I am slowly getting requests from friends and family to make wedding shower/baby shower/wedding desserts. I would love more tips on planning out the order and timing of making things so they are done on time but still look and taste fresh.

    I have never heard of that cake before!

    My favorite pizza toppings are prosciutto, kalamata olives, feta cheese, ricotta cheese, green bell peppers, roasted garlic cloves, pesto, sauted onions, fresh balls of mozzarella, polish sausage, canadian bacon… really I love flatbreads and pizzas of all sorts.

    1. Thanks Breanna!

  22. I love fig jam, fontina cheese, and prosciutto with arugula sprinkled on top once it’s out of the oven.

    Smith Island cake: I am a Marylander and would love a recipe!

    1. Yes to fig jam!! So good!

  23. 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!

  24. Yes, I have heard of Smith Island cake and have seen recipes varying in the number of thin layers. My mother used to make it at Christmas but we didn’t know that Smith Island was the “proper” name. I made it one year for Christmas for my family but they didn’t like it and I ended up throwing most of it away. I don’t know why they didn’t like it because who doesn’t like cake with chocolate icing?

  25. Yay! Another cookie recipe; I can’t wait until you publish it! As for Smith Island Cake, no, I’ve never heard of it, but I’m very intrigued. As for pizza and flatbread toppings, I love veggies of all kinds: mushrooms, red onions, spinach, sliced tomatoes, peppers, olives etc. with a red sauce.

  26. Hi Sally!

    I absolutely love your blog! I have been following for many years now and have told my family and friends they need to as well! I’ve lost track of how many of your recipes I’ve made. Our family favorite is your chewy chocolate chip cookies! I’ve made 3 batches in the last 3 weeks!
    I moved to the eastern shore of Maryland 10 years ago when I started dating my husband. He introduced me to Smith Island cake and it’s still one of my favorite things about living here! We served it at our wedding! I’ve never made it, but would be up for the challenge if you posted a recipe!

    Thanks for all your hard work!!

  27. Ok, so this could sound totally weird, but there was a pizza shop near where I used to live in Connecticut that made a pizza with no sauce, sour cream, cheddar, sliced red potatoes, bacon, broccoli, and chives. It’s national award-winning and soooooooooo good.

    1. YUM! That sounds incredible!

  28. Sally,

    I made one of your chocolate chip cookies (unfortunately don’t remember which one but think from your newest book), followed all instructions, put it onto the baking sheet in a peaked mound (as instructed) and it came out flatter than a pancake…I would love a suggestion as to what I did wrong!

  29. Linda @ Today She Loves says:

    Yes on Smith Island Cake! So delicious with the extra layers of chocolate in each bite. I plan to make this for bf’s birthday if I have the time. 🙂 Can’t wait to try the rest of your cookie recipes.

    1. Thanks Linda!

  30. Thank you for the cookie refresher, Sally! I have never heard of a Smith Island Cake…I’m intrigued. My favorite flatbread toppings are pesto, procuitto and arugula. If you feel adventurous, top it with an over easy egg. Light, warm, a little drippy and totally yummy! 🙂

    1. Delish!!

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I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally