Aquarium Cookies (Simplified Shakashaka Cookies)
Updated: May 14
I saw the Aquarium Cookies on the Tasty YouTube channel and I had to try to make them!
Aquarium cookies were developed as a simplified recipe for Japanese shakashaka cookies, which are supercute cookies which have treats and candy inside them. They are stained glass cookies and I think the sugar to make the stained glass is complicated. In the simplified recipe for Aquarium cookies, they used a Jolly Rancher to make the stained glass.
GOAL: Aquarium Cookies from Tasty
by Rie McClenny •
Ingredients for 8 cookies
4 oz unsalted butter - softened, ½ cup sugar, 1 egg, 2 cups flour, 20 pieces hard candy, sprinkles to taste, ¼ cup white chocolate, melted
In a medium bowl, mix softened butter and sugar until smooth. Add the egg and stir well to combine. Sift in the flour and fold until fully incorporated.Cover the dough with plastic and rest in a fridge for at least 30 minutes.Preheat the oven to 350˚F (180˚C).Sprinkle flour on the work surface and rolling pin so the dough won’t stick. Roll out the dough to ¼- to ⅛-inch (6- to 3-mm) thickness. Using a 3-inch (7-cm) round cookie cutter, cut out the dough.Cut out center of each cookie with using a 2-inch (5-cm) round cookie cutter.Place the cookie on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.Take out the sheet from the oven and place hard candies in the center of each cookies. Bake for 3-5 minutes or until the hard candy melts and spreads out.Let the cookies cool completely.In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the white chocolate, about 10-15 seconds.For the bottom cookies, add your favorite sprinkles onto the hard candy. Take the top cookies and drizzle melted chocolate around the rims. Immediately sandwich the 2 cookies and set in fridge for 15 minutes.Enjoy!
Thursday, October 17, 2019 -- Attempt #1
I decided to try to make them with Pillsbury sugar cookie dough. The store I went to didn't have Jolly Ranchers, so I tried to make them with Life Savers. I barely had any cooking or baking equipment. I have been baking and cooking off of this little tray from my toaster oven. Haha. :) I didn't have any cookie cutters or rolling pin, so I used this water bottle I had and tried to use this cup as a cookie cutter.
I think Pillsbury sugar cookie dough (and Pillsbury products in general) are delicious. Usually they are a good hack as you will see in some of my other cooking experiments.
RESULT: Fail! :)
We are good at this? :)
In this cake, the Pillsbury sugar cookie dough wasn't easy to mold into the ring shape. The "rolling pin" (water bottle) I used did not work too well. :) It didn't make an even layer and the cup I used to try to make the ring shape (using the bottom for the big circle, the top for the smaller circle and trying to cut around it with a butter knife) didn't work well either.
The sugar cookie in the Aquarium cookie video was more of a shortbread and the Pillsbury cookie was a little different texture, though delicious.
The Life Saver did melt in the oven, but it didn't diffuse enough to fill the ring. It probably could have melted a little more if I had left it in there longer, but it was not as transparent as a Jolly Rancher.
I decided I needed to make my own cookie dough and buy some baking & cooking equipment if I was going to really try to make Aquarium cookies and the other recipes I wanted to try. I was long overdue to buy some cooking equipment anyways. :)
Sunday, October 20, 2019 -- Attempt #2
I received my baking and cooking equipment. I bought some baking pans, mixing bowls and measuring cups.
Note: I did not buy a rolling pin or cookie cutters.
I bought the ingredients to make the cookies and I bought Jolly Ranchers for the stained glass.
I only used 1/2 Jolly Rancher per cookie. I did this by microwaving a Jolly Rancher for about 30 seconds (but at 15-second intervals, watch it). I did not let the Jolly Rancher melt all the way. I just wanted it to be soft, so I could cut it in half.
RESULT: Better, but probably still a fail. :)
We are good at this? :)
I had thought that if I made my own cookie dough that the "rolling pin" (water bottle) and cup for a cookie cutter would be good enough to work. I was wrong.
As you can see, the Jolly Rancher was more translucent than a Life Saver. The 1/2 Jolly Rancher almost filled the ring, but the aquarium would still leak. :)
I decided I had to buy a rolling pin and some cookie cutters to make the cookies, so they weren't wonky.
Wednesday, October 23, 2019 -- Attempt #3
I got the rolling pin and cookie cutters and this baking mat. How professional does this look? :)
I made half the recipe like I did the other day. Half the recipe called for: 2 oz unsalted butter, softened, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 egg, 1 cups flour.
I softened the butter in the microwave -- about 15-20 seconds.
Tip: When you have a recipe with eggs like this one, when you are softening butter, you don't want to microwave it too long or get completely melted or too hot because when you add the eggs, they will scramble. Always err on the side of having the butter be a little cold and hard to mix rather hot/melty.
In baking vs. cooking savory foods, you have to be a little more exact with the ingredients and their amounts. I thought I followed the measurements for half the recipe, but when I added all the ingredients together, the dough felt a little dry. I didn't think it would come together to form cookies even after chilling the dough for 30 minutes. I may have added slightly too much dry ingredients. So I added a more wet ingredients to the dough: a tiny bit more butter, maybe 1/4 or 1/2 pat of butter and the rest of the egg. That's another tip, when you are following a recipe, even if you follow it exactly, if it doesn't look right, make some tweaks.
So this batch had: 1 cup of flour, 1/4 cup of sugar, 2.25 oz. butter, and 1 egg.
After chilling the dough for 30 minutes or more, it was time to test out my rolling pin and cookie cutters! What a difference it made! :)
I baked the cookies at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. I took them out and then added the Jolly Ranchers to the center.
In the larger rings, I placed 1 whole Jolly Rancher each. In the smaller rings, I put 1/2 Jolly Rancher each (which I cut in 1/2 after softening in the microwave). Try to put the Jolly Ranchers in the middle of the ring, so they diffuse evenly.
I thought using a smaller amount of Jolly Ranchers in a cookie would make it more translucent like an aquarium and another added benefit: less calories. :)
I baked the cookies for another 3-5 minutes to let the Jolly Ranchers melt.
Note: When I removed the cookies from the oven, there were a lot of bubbles! I thought this meant that it wouldn't be clear like stained glass when it hardened. But this is fine as you will see.
If you didn't put the Jolly Ranchers in the middle and you notice the melted candy is a little off center and not covering the whole central area, then right after you take the tray out of the oven when the Jolly Rancher is still liquid hot, you can move the cookie around a little bit, so the whole central area is covered with hot melted candy.
I let the cookies cool complete for maybe 20 minutes or so.
After hardening, the little rings were still not completed covered with Jolly Rancher and had bigger bubble spaces. The little rings would be very leaky aquariums. I wonder if that is from heating / reheating the Jolly Rancher to cut it in 1/2, which may have changed its chemical composition vs. just putting a room temp Jolly Rancher in the middle and baking once. I will experiment with this again. :)
Below is the cookie from upper right-hand corner, which had the most bubbles! After it hardened, the bubbles disappeared. Don't worry about the bubbles when they come out of the oven. :)
To make the aquarium, you assemble two cookies: one on top and one bottom with sprinkles and candies inside.
I added sprinkles and mini M&Ms. The original recipe called for melted white chocolate handy to seal off the aquarium. I didn't have any on hand, so I just used some icing I had.
RESULT: SUCCESS! :)
We are good at this! :)
Check it out! Shakashaka! You can hear the shakashaka (aquarium) cookie shake! :)
I'm going to experiment with the melting the Jolly Ranchers and the central ring, but this was a good batch!