A Little Debbie Treat, All Grown Up (With Spiced Brown Butter)

September 22, 2017

As an adult, I can appreciate my mother's aversion to feeding us junk food. With the wisdom and perspective of age, I can say I'm glad I was raised on homemade cookies instead of Dunkaroos; freshly-baked 7-grain bread instead of squishy white sandwich slices. But as a second grader, I would have killed for just one pack of Oreos or a single strawberry Pop-Tart.

High on my list of coveted sweets was the Little Debbie oatmeal creme pie, a whoopie pie–esque confection of two soft oatmeal cookies sandwiching a toothachingly sweet whipped frosting. Needless to say, I did not sample many Little Debbie pies as a child.

Photo by Posie Harwood

Happily, a perk of adulthood is that I could buy them for myself. But as my mother's daughter, I now prefer learning to make things from scratch, and enjoying them all the more because of it. Not only it is satisfying to master an iconic dessert, but you can tweak it to taste just the way you want. My version of the Little Debbie pies is different. Brown butter adds a sophisticated, nutty flavor. A hefty dose of spices makes the base flavorful and complex. Instead of making a sandwich cookie, I bake the batter in a square pan, creating a cross between a cake and a bar, with a chewy yet soft texture and golden edges.

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The frosting is less sweet that the classic Little Debbie filling, but you'll use marshmallow Fluff, so don't worry that we're getting too highbrow or anything. If you want, you can even dial back the sugar and add some spice (like cardamom, or cardamom sugar) to the frosting for a more sophisticated version.

Photo by Posie Harwood

The bars keep well overnight at room temperature, and I actually preferred them the second day. If you remember vending machine desserts with a fervent happiness, this recipe is for you. If you've never even heard of Little Debbie or her pies, this recipe is for you, too!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • April Huff
    April Huff
  • Dawn Capwell
    Dawn Capwell
  • Posie (Harwood) Brien
    Posie (Harwood) Brien
I like warm homemade bread slathered with fresh raw milk butter, ice cream in all seasons, the smell of garlic in olive oil, and sugar snap peas fresh off the vine.


April H. September 21, 2018
Please clarify: 1/2 cup butter (8 oz) or 1/2 stick of butter (4 oz).
Posie (. September 21, 2018
1/2 cup of butter equals 4 ounces which equals 1 stick.
Dawn C. September 22, 2017
You are not alone with the no-junk childhood! Many a day was spent with my mother and grandmother in the kitchen, whipping up confections that I took for granted way back when! I think I tasted my first Pop-Tart when I was in college and haven't had one since!
Thase bars are going to be made this weekend and my house is going to smell wonderful! There is nothing better than a chewy, iced oatmeal cookie...unless it's one of these bars! I have faith! Thank you for sharing!