Cookie Bars with Ube Cream Cheese Frosting

This coming week marks the one year anniversary of staying home because of the pandemic. I’ve baked my heart out. I made layer cake, cheesecake, brownies, ice cream pie, icebox cake, chocolate cake, snack cake, and many more desserts that didn’t make it to the blog. We stopped traveling. Instead we just stayed in and did almost everything virtually. We worked out at home, called family and friends on video, ordered so much takeout (I was featured in this Boston Magazine article on how to take actually stunning photos of take-out food). We’ve mastered the art of looking Zoom-ready every day while staying comfortable. Outside our cozy little apartment, the world has changed even more.

But one thing has also remained the same: my love for all things ube.

Ube brings me so much comfort, and comfort is what we all need after the year we had (and the pandemic is still not over).

For those new here: ube is purple yam. It’s vivid in color, mild in taste, almost nutty. It’s one of the most popular dessert ingredients in the Philippines, and certainly one of the most recognizable and craveable flavors.

I wanted to make something simple and unfussy, like sugar cookies, but in bar form (no need to roll the dough into balls). Then I wanted to frost it in cream cheese frosting, but not just any cream cheese frosting, I wanted ube frosting. And then I wanted to finish it with a sprinkle of nanpareils. So here we have one of the best treats I’ve ever made (according to my number one taste tester, my husband).

These Cookie Bars with Ube Cream Cheese Frosting is exactly what I wanted. The cookie base is perfectly chewy, thanks to the addition of an extra egg yolk. The frosting tastes decadent, but decidedly ube. If you’re unfamiliar with the flavor of ube, it reminds me of a mix of vanilla and pistachio. And the frosting is perfectly creamy, from the mix of ube jam, cream cheese, and butter. The sprinkles add a fun little pop of texture.

Cheers to a brighter, healthier, and more fun year ahead.

Yield: 16 bars

Cookie Bars with Ube Cream Cheese Frosting

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

CAKE

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

FROSTING

1/4 cup ube jam
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 drops ube extract (I used McCormick)
2 drops purple food coloring (optional)
2 tablespoons sprinkles (I used non-pareils)

Directions

  1. Make the cookie base. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Line an 9x9 in baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the melted butter, sugar, egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract. Mix well until smooth.
  4. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir until just combined.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan. Press tops with a wooden spoon or spatula to even it out. Bake for 15 minutes or until an inserted toothpick in the middle comes out clean. Let cool completely.
  6. Make the frosting. In the bowl of a standing mixer (or hand mixer), combine the ube jam, softened butter, and room temperature cream cheese. Using the whisk attachment, beat at medium speed, scraping bowl as needed, for a total of 1-2 minutes or until smooth and creamy.
  7. Add sugar, salt, ube extract, and food coloring (if using). Mix until well-incorporated, for another 1-2 minutes.
  8. Spread the frosting evenly on top of the cookie base, and finish with sprinkles (if using). Cut into 16 even squares.

Ube jam, or halaya, is made with mashed purple yam, plus a sweetener (sugar or condensed milk) and something to make it a little creamy (like coconut milk or butter). I used a brand that only has ube and sugar, which I purchased from Amazon. Ube jam is available at Filipino grocery stores, but most other Asian grocery stores also carry jars of it. 

If you are interested in making more ube desserts, here are some of my favorites:

Ube Cookies

Ube White Chocolate Fudge

Ube Rice Crispies

Ube Basque Burnt Cheesecake

   

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