Animal Circus Cookies

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Animal Circus Cookies — an over-the-top delicious treat with a cake-batter flavored cookie base, cream cheese frosting, sprinkles, and an Animal Circus Cookie to top it all off.

 

Overhead image of the animal circus cookies.

Animal Circus Cookies

Growing up, frosted animal crackers were a rare-but-favorite treat of mine. I loved the bright colors, sprinkles, and small pop-able size. So, why not channel these fun treats into a bakery-style, delicious cookie?!

Animal Circus Cookies combine the best of homemade and store-bought baking! They start with a cake-batter inspired cookie base, are loaded high with cream cheese frosting and are topped with an animal circus cracker from the store and plenty of sprinkles.

They’re cute and fun, while being completely decadent and sweet.

Process shots-- images of the wet and dry ingredients being prepped and mixed together.

Recommended ingredients for these Animal Circus Cookies

  • To truly channel the animal circus crackers from my childhood into these cookies, we use nonpareil sprinkles. Nonpareil colors bleed into the cookie dough, so stir the batter as little as possible, being gentle as you mix.
  • A quality cake mix makes a huge difference for the base cookie in this recipe. I highly recommend Betty Crocker® Super Moist cake mixes (not sponsored). As far as the flavor of the mix, I recommend Party Rainbow Chip. If you can’t find that particular mix, a close second we like in these cookies is Betty Crocker® Super Moist yellow cake mix.
  • I recommend an instant-vanilla pudding mix for this recipe, not the cook-and-serve pudding mixes or the sugar-free/low-sugar versions. Neither will work properly in these cookies.

Process shots-- images of the cookies being baked, frosting being piped on, and the animal crackers being added on top.

Animal Circus Cookie tips

  • Chill the dough. The dough needs time to chill so the butter can re-solidify and the pudding mixture can be fully absorbed. This will ensure you don’t have flat (and less-flavorful) cookies. I don’t recommend chilling the dough for more than 3-4 hours, as it begins to dry out.

QUICK TIP

Piping the frosting on top. To make these Animal Circus Cookies look more fun and “bakery-style”, I like to pipe the frosting in a swirl pattern. Use either a plastic bag or a piping bag and cut off the very tip. Holding the cookie in one hand and the frosting bag in the other, swirl the frosting from the inside of the cookie outwards. You can easily cover any piping “blemishes” with the animal cracker and/or extra sprinkles.

Up-close overhead image of Animal Circus Cookies.

QUICK TIP

You’ll probably have a bit of extra cream cheese frosting (depending, of course, on how much you add to the cookies). I’d rather err on the side of extra than not having enough to frost the Animal Circus Cookies generously. If you end up with extra frosting, use it as a fruit dip or spread over sliced strawberries. You could even add it on top of waffles or pancakes for a cheesecake-type breakfast.

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Animal Circus Cookies

0 from 0 votes
An over-the-top delicious treat with a cake-batter flavored cookie base, cream cheese frosting, sprinkles, and an animal cracker from the store to top it all off.
Print Recipe

Animal Circus Cookies

0 from 0 votes
An over-the-top delicious treat with a cake-batter flavored cookie base, cream cheese frosting, sprinkles, and an animal cracker from the store to top it all off.
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American
Keyword animal circus cookies
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Chilling Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings 17 cookies
Calories 386kcal
Cost $5.17

Ingredients

Cookies

  • 12 tablespoons (3/4 cup; 170g) unsalted butter at room temperature (not melted at all)
  • 3/4 cup (135g) light brown sugar lightly packed
  • 1/4 cup (50g) white granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/3 cup (51g) instant vanilla pudding mix dry, not prepared, NOT sugar/fat-free
  • 1 cup (138g) Funfetti (or yellow) cake mix dry (I recommend Betty Crocker's Super Moist Party Rainbow Chip)
  • 1 and 1/4 cups (156g) white, all-purpose flour measured by spooning and leveling
  • 1/4 cup (48g) nonpareil sprinkles

Frosting

  • 4 ounces (115g) full-fat cream cheese at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons (56g) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste ( or use 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract)
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 cups (242g) powdered sugar
  • Garnish with frosted animal crackers and additional nonpareil sprinkles

Instructions

  • BUTTER AND SUGARS: In a large bowl, use a hand mixer to beat together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar. (The butter should not be melted at all. Beat until ingredients are completely smooth and combined, and light and creamy.)
  • FINISH WET INGREDIENTS: Add in the egg and vanilla extract and beat until combined.
  • DRY INGREDIENTS: Stir together the baking soda, salt, unprepared pudding mix, unprepared cake mix, flour, and nonpareil sprinkles in a separate bowl. (See Note 1.) Stir until combined.
  • COMBINE: Add the dry ingredients to wet. Mix gently (otherwise sprinkles begin to bleed colors) until just combined; do not overmix. Heads-up: this cookie dough gets thick!
  • SHAPE COOKIE DOUGH BALLS: Form cookie dough balls that are each 2 tablespoons in size. Roll balls that are taller rather than wider. Place cookie dough balls on a plate and cover. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours.
  • BAKE: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking liner. Place no more than 6 cookie dough balls per cookie sheet to give ample room for the cookies to spread. Bake for 9-13 minutes or until lightly browned at the edges and still soft (slightly under-baked in the center-- we bake for about 11 minutes). Remove from the oven and, working quickly, immediately press the edges of each cookie slightly inwards with the back of a spoon.
  • LET STAND: Remove from the oven and allow cookies to stand on the cookie sheet for another 3-4 minutes. Remove with a metal spatula to a cooling rack until fully cooled.
  • FROSTING: Meanwhile, prepare the frosting. In a large bowl, beat the room-temperature butter and cream cheese until completely smooth; mix in the vanilla and salt. Add in the powdered sugar and then beat until the frosting is smooth. It will seem like you need more liquid, but just keep beating; it will come together! If it does happen to be too wet, add a bit more powdered sugar and if it is too dry, add a touch of milk or cream.
  • DECORATE: Transfer the frosting to a plastic bag and cut off the tip (or piping tip fitted with a small tip. Frost each cooled cookie by piping the frosting in a swirl on top. Sprinkle tops of the cookies with extra sprinkles and press a frosted animal cracker into the center of each cookie.
  • STORE: Store any leftover (completely cooled) cookies in an airtight container at room temperature. Frosted cookies are best enjoyed the same day they're made.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: If you press a measuring cup into a bag of flour, you will pack in way too much flour; use a spoon to scoop it into a measuring cup and then level the top with the back of a table knife.
Nutritional information does not include the store-bought frosted animal crackers used for garnish.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 386kcal | Carbohydrates: 63g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 48mg | Sodium: 144mg | Potassium: 48mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 48g | Vitamin A: 453IU | Calcium: 23mg | Iron: 1mg

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