Pastry chef Samantha Cilia is a cookie bar buff

Intro by Pam George | Photograph by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
From the June 2022 issue


In summer, Samantha “Sam” Cilia often walks around with grit in her shoes. The Milton resident and her family are frequent visitors to Lewes Beach and Cape Henlopen, where they inadvertently pick up sandy souvenirs. 

“Over fall and winter, it all comes out,” she says. “So, I always joke that once all the sand is out, it’s time to refill them.”

Since Cilia is the executive pastry chef for SoDel Concepts, count on her to bring sweets for her son Brantley, 7, and the son of boyfriend Ryan Mortimer, 4-year-old Landon. “I call him my bonus son,” she says of Landon. In addition, she and Mortimer have a third son, 4-month-old Winston.


Cookies are a family favorite, because they travel well and don’t need refrigeration, says Cilia, a Wilmington native who grew up vacationing in Bethany. 

You can elevate the expected treat with cookie bars, which the chef and her team often bake for catered events. The busy mom suggests making the dough ahead and freezing it. “Just thaw overnight to press it out in the pan,” she says. Instead of the buttercream topping shown below, you can use a flavored icing or jam. (Cilia is a fan of Bennett Orchard peaches.) Feel free to incorporate chocolate chips, candy pieces or fresh or dried fruit. 


(Makes 15 cookie bars)

For the cookies:

2 sticks of butter, softened

1 3⁄4 cup (330 grams) of sugar

4 tablespoons of corn syrup

2 eggs

1⁄2 tablespoon of clear vanilla extract

3 cups (400 grams) of all-purpose flour

1⁄4 cup of milk powder

3⁄4 tablespoon of cream of tartar

1⁄2 tablespoon of baking soda

1⁄4 tablespoon of salt

1⁄4 cup of sprinkles or cereal

STEP 1 With a mixer on medium speed, cream the softened butter, sugar and corn syrup until light and fluffy.

STEP 2 Add vanilla extract and eggs, one at a time. After each addition, use the paddle attachment to blend.

STEP 3 Add dry ingredients and paddle until combined, about one to two minutes.

STEP 4 Add sprinkles or cereal and finish mixing, about one to two minutes longer.

STEP 5 Cover a 13-by-9-inch pan with nonstick spray, and press the dough into the pan to completely fill it, from edge to edge.

STEP 6 Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. The cookies should be soft but not look wet. Let cool completely before frosting.

For the American buttercream icing:

1 cup of butter, softened

1 pound of 10x powdered sugar, sifted

1 teaspoon of clear vanilla extract

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

1 teaspoon of salt

3 tablespoons of heavy cream

Food coloring

STEP 1 Paddle the butter for three to four minutes on medium speed until light and fluffy.

STEP 2 Add half of the sifted 10x sugar and paddle on low until combined. Then paddle on medium for two to three minutes.

STEP 3 Add the extracts, salt and remaining sugar. Scrape down the bowl and paddle another minute.

STEP 4 If the frosting is too thick, add heavy cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the frosting has reached the desired consistency.

STEP 5 Divide icing into bowls and add food coloring, one drop at a time, until you have the desired shade for each color.

STEP 6 Using a pastry bag, swirl the icing over the cooled cookie bars until they’re completely covered. Then, using a toothpick, start at the center and pull outward to create a swirling tie-dye effect, as shown in the photograph at left. Or microwave the icing in 10-second intervals until soft and pour onto the cookies in a swirl pattern. Then use the toothpick. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. 

STEP 7 Cut cookies into squares.