Circus Animal Cookies

Circus Animal Cookies

 "All eyes on [these], in the center of the ring, just like a CIRCUS!"- Britney Spears referring to these cookies that are basically a circus for your mouth. 

Like... WHOA. I'm taking us on a trip down memory lane this week with homemade circus animal cookies. 

DISCLAIMER: Once you have homemade circus animal cookies, it'll be hard to go back to Mother's®. Cookies from scratch are always better than cookies out of a bag, even if cookies out of a bag are delicious. Actually, just keep eating both. Cookies all around! 

I grew up with Mother's® Cookies. As a kid, I was lucky enough to have a grandpa who worked for Mother's® and would kindly have a variety of snacks for us when we would visit in the summer. Obviously he earned him the fabulous nickname of Grandpa Cracker. One of my favorite snacks, of course, was the bright pink and white-sprinkled-circus-animal variety: packed chock full of sugar and color, any kid would be drawn to them. I mean, who can turn down sprinkles?! I have very fond memories, and probably cavities, from these cookies. Come to think of it, Grandpa Crackers probably should've been named Grandpa Cookies...

Are you tired of the word cookies yet? Because I'm sure not!!!


As an adult, I haven't indulged in the store-bought circus cookies in awhile but when I ran across a homemade version on a blog in January, I wondered how I could whip up some circus animal cookies of my own. Amazon to the rescue, pretty much.  After a little research, I learned that with a little adaptation on a sugar cookie, rainbow non-pareils, and candy melts I'd be able to recreate this nostalgic treat in my own kitchen. 

I should've realized they'd be addicting. Even better than I remembered. Left to my own devices I might be able to eat a whole batch. Who am I kidding? I definitely could. 

Circus Animal Cookies

  • 2¼ cups  all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, brought to room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Princess Emulsion (or 2 teaspoons Vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon Lemon extract)
  • 1 large egg

In a mixing bowl sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat your butter and sugar on medium speed until it becomes pale. This should take about 2 minutes then add the Princess Emulsion (or vanilla and lemon extracts) to the butter. Next add the egg. Beat until well incorporated. You can scrape down the sides of the bowl and then beat again until homogenous. Reduce the speed of your mixture to stir and slowly add the flour until the dry ingredients are just incorporated. We don't want to "over-mix" or dry out the batter. Roll the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Press the ball down flat so it will be easy to roll out later and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours. 

Unwrap the chilled dough and put it on a large piece of parchment paper. Put two 1/4-inch wooden dowels on either side of the dough and put another sheet of parchment paper on top. Roll out the dough until it’s flush with the dowels (or simply roll the dough to a 1/4-inch thickness–the dowels do make the rolling even more flawless, however). Slide the parchment paper and dough onto a board and refrigerate for 30 minutes or freeze for 15 minutes.

After your dough is refrigerated, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the dough from fridge and cut out shapes with your mini-circus animal shapes. Put the cookies on the prepared baking sheets and place the sheet into the freezer for 15 minutes.

Once the circus cookies are chilled, bake them until they turn slightly golden. This only took about 5 or 6 minutes for the small sized cookies in my oven, but it totally depends on yours. Just make sure to check them at 5 minutes. They puff up slightly when cookies but get crisp and flat when removed. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the cookies from the parchment and let your shapes cool completely. After about an hour, you can melt your candy melts. I used pink, white, and some white melts with a touch of violet gel food coloring. Pink, white, and purple go swimmingly together and ensures your friends know they're handmade ;-)

Melt your candy melts according to manufacturers instructions. Dip the cooled cookies quickly and promptly sprinkle with non-pareils sprinkles. Trust me, this process is much quicker with a cookie-dipping-partner-in-crime. Let dipped cookies "set" for a couple hours or overnight (or sneak a couple in bites before sharing). Enjoy to your hearts content!

Photos courtesy of the talented Rhonda J Smith