Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sunflower Seeds


Chocolate chip cookies with sunflowers

The seeds of inspiration: Marion Cunningham

Summer sunflower

“If one were properly to perform a difficult and subtle act, he should first inspect the end to be achieved and then, once he had accepted the end as desirable, he should forget it completely and concentrate solely on the means. By this method he would not be moved to false action by anxiety or hurry or fear. Very few people learn this.”

East of Eden, John Steinbeck


Many years ago I was given a copy of the The Fannie Farmer Baking Book written by Marion Cunningham as a birthday present. It is the 1984 edition which includes over 800 baking recipes. Holding a place of prominence on my bookshelf, it is a cookbook that has stood the test of time. My daughter now uses this cookbook. My favorite scone recipe is here. I have tried other scone recipes, but I always return to Marion Cunningham. My daughter uses the The Fannie Farmer Baking Book for “Soft Oatmeal Cookies” and the recipe I adapted for this post “Chocolate Chip Cookies”. She likes this recipe with peanut butter; just hold the peanuts. For years it was the only baking book I used. I was busy, working full time while raising a family. When I baked I needed to be sure the final product was a stellar success. There was no time to experiment. This is the book I used.

End paper from The Fannie Farmer Baking Book

End paper from The Fannie Farmer Baking Book

The illustrations and baking tips found on the endpapers of the book are favorites of mine, organized, useful, yet whimsical. Next to “Liquid and Dry Measure Equivalents” are instructions for cracking open a coconut. Inside an illustration of a coconut is written “The easiest way to crack open a fresh coconut: throw on the ground monkey style.” An indication that this is a great baking book.

Marion Cunningham on passed away on July 11th. It affected me profoundly. I felt a deep sadness. It was as if a favorite teacher had passed away. The teacher who pushed you to try harder, yet always smiled and had words of encouragement. I wondered if she knew what an positive impact she had made on those of us who baked from her books? I hope so. I had been baking with her for decades even though I never met her or tasted one of her famous waffles at her northern California home. The easy confidence of her baking style was inspiring. She freely shared tips for successful baking outcomes. I learned by baking her recipes. I use her recipes to nourish and sustain my family. I hope she knows how much she will be missed and how important all 800 of those recipes are to those of us who treasure her life’s work.

“So push up your sleeves, go into your kitchen, put your hands into the dough, and start—mixing, kneading, stirring. Don’t let yourself be faint-hearted or frightened. Baking is simple and natural. Even if your early results aren’t perfect, they almost certainly will be eaten with relish. Baking is just like driving a car; you can read every manual you can get your hands on, but until you get in and do it, you won’t really learn how.” Marion Cunningham

Sunflower starting to bloom


Living along the coast of central California we wistfully wait for sunny summer days. While the nation wilts under a searing, red hot summer, we live under a moist blanket of cool coastal fog. Even on a sunny day we never leave the house without a light jacket. We know the fog will soon roll in again. September is our summer; with warmth that spills into October. It is this longing for intense, brilliant sunshine that I sought out. A cool summer day framed by sunflowers at Earthbound Farms Farm Stand in Carmel Valley held promise of what was to come.


This is a chocolate chip cookie just for summer. Toasty browned butter is paired with creamy sunflower butter and the earthy crunch of roasted sunflower seeds for an seductive chocolate chip cookie. Adding the vibrant milk chocolate covered sunflower seeds was an act of sunshine in defiance of a foggy summer. Their bright colors evoked a sultry, sunny afternoon and found their way into my shopping basket. They may be replaced with unsalted, roasted sunflower seeds. If your sunflower seeds are raw, toast them briefly in a skillet until they are a warm toasty brown, cool, then roughly chop.

Chocolate and sunflowers

1C/ 8oz butter
1C/ 8oz roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds or kernels, roughly chopped
1-1/2C/ 240 grams brown sugar
1C/ 8oz sunflower seed butter or spread
2 eggs, room temperature
1t vanilla extract
2-1/4C/ 260 grams flour
1t salt
1t baking powder
1t baking soda
3/4C/ 150 grams semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4C/ 150 grams 60% cocoa chocolate chips
1/2C+1/2C/ 100 grams+100 grams chocolate covered sunflower seeds

Making cookies

  1. Prepare the browned butter or beurre noisette by melting the butter in a saucepan or skillet with a light colored or shiny interior on medium-low heat. You will want to be able to watch the process of browning the butter, as it will quickly transform from browned to burnt. (If that happens, you will need to begin again.) Watch the pan the entire time you are browning the butter. At first the butter may sputter for a bit as the milk solids cook. Gently swirl the pan until the milk solids are a warm toasty brown at the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat to cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°.
  3. In electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the cooled browned butter on medium speed until light and creamy, approximately 2-3 minutes. Add the brown sugar, beat another 2-3 minutes until fully incorporated. Mix in the sunflower butter until thoroughly combined. On medium-low speed, add eggs, one at a time, then add the vanilla extract. Beat until thoroughly incorporated with the sugar mixture. Stop and scrape down sides and bottom of mixer bowl to make sure all the ingredients are combined.
  4. Sift or shake through a large sieve the flour, baking power, baking soda and salt.
    Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in the mixer bowl, mix to combine. When the dry ingredients are fully incorporated, add the chopped sunflower seeds, both types of chocolate chips and 1/2C of the chocolate covered sunflower seeds. Thoroughly mix into the dough, stopping to scrape down bottom and side of mixer bowl. But do not over mix the cookie dough.
  5. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Using a ice cream scoop to make uniform sized cookies, drop the cookie dough on the prepared cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Gently press several of the remaining chocolate covered sunflower seeds into the top of the cookies. I also added a few more chocolate chips to the tops of the cookies.
  6. Bake cookies at 350° for 10-12 minutes. When done the cookies will have lightly browned edges and the middle will be set. Cool on tray for 3-5 minutes, then remove cookies to wire rack to finish cooling.

Sunflowers in a bowl

Warm cookies

Chocolate-covered sunflower seeds

Sunflower patch

Sunflowers at the farm stand

View of Carmel Valley

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42 Responses to Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sunflower Seeds

  1. Carol Sacks says:

    Lovely sentiments, beautiful photography and an inventive recipe. Take a bow, Miss Deb!

  2. Love the sunflower seeds in these cookies! So cute! They sound delicious as well :)!

  3. What a sweet tribute to Marion! I need to track down her cookbook and I love the quote you shared about baking. As for the cookies, the sunflower seed addition is inspired! Beautiful cookies :).

  4. Gretchen says:

    What a lovely tribute to Marion Cunningham. I’ll bet she would be thrilled to know she made such a difference to your baking. The chocolate sunflower seed cookies look fun and festive. Stunning photography, as usual, Deb!

    • Deb says:

      Thank you for your scrumptious comment Gretchen! I am on the prowl for Marion Cunningham’s other cookbooks. I am not sure why I don’t already have them all!

  5. Beautiful post – recipe, photos, quotes, everything! Love the Steinbeck quote.

  6. So colorful and fun! I’m going to miss summer.

  7. Valerie says:

    These cookies are beautiful, a great way to pay homage to summer. I love that you used brown and sunflower butter! I’m not familiar with Marion Cunningham, but based on her quote, I’m already smitten. 😀

    p.s. Thanks for the lovely blog comment. It’s good to hear from someone who understands the quirks of point & shoot cameras.

    • Deb says:

      After writing the blog post I realized I need to search out Marion Cunningham’s other cookbooks! Although there are no photos, only illustrations in the Baking Book, I know you would enjoy her recipes! Thanks for the sweet comment!

  8. kellypea says:

    What a lovely blog you have — and such a poignant post for so many reasons. I think the central coast in general is a special place and one of my favorite places to visit. I think I actually recognize that stand of trees on the ridge in your last photo — is that possible? We’ve been through that area many times this year. Lovely cookies, flowers, and sentiments on Marion Cunningham…A nice visit with my first cup this morning.

    • Deb says:

      Thank you for your beautiful comment! The last photo was taken at the Earthbound Farms, farm stand in Carmel Valley, facing west to the coast. We had just finished photographing in the maze of sunflowers when I thought to take one more photo.

  9. Love the idea to use sunflower butter and chocolate covered seeds! They’ve gotta be much healthier than M&M cookies, but just as pretty!

    • Deb says:

      Oh my! I am not sure these cookies could be considered healthy! But the sunflower seeds and sunflower butter are a touch better for us than M&M’s! Thank you your splendid comment!

  10. Deb, great to see someone incorporate these tasty (and healthy!) little seeds into a cookie. Definitely one of the more underrated dessert ingredients out there!

  11. Deb, this is such a wonderful recipe with the browned butter and choco covered seeds! Never heard of those by the way. I´ve been reading this book in detail for a while now, and want to bake it from cover to cover. But, I didn´t get those great illustrations on the endpapers!

    • Deb says:

      Thank you for your lovely comment Paula! With 800 recipes, I have not yet tried them all either! I am going to scout out the other versions of Marion Cunningham’s books and see what surprises await!

  12. Claire says:

    I was so taken with your Steinbeck quote, the timing of it couldn’t be better for me! Thank you.
    And the sunflowers grabbed me – in all their sunshine. September sounds like a glorioous month to enjoy in California, and what better way than to celebrate sunflowers than with your scrumptious recipe.

    • Deb says:

      Thank you Claire! This was a very personal post for me so I am more than pleased that you enjoyed it! I find Steinbeck so easy to quote, every sentence is eloquent.

  13. I love your personal story in this post. And also choc covered sun seeds. Love it! 😀

  14. Tiffany says:

    I’ve seen these seeds and have wanted to try them. Now, I have a reason too! 😀

  15. I’ve realized my cookbook collection is missing an important piece with no books by Marion Cunningham. I need to fix that! And, I wish I could grab a couple of these cookies right now. The chocolate covered sunflower seeds look so great in them!

  16. Mary says:

    I became a “later in life” Marion Cunningham fan. She will truly be missed by many. These cookies are my idea of the perfect cookie.

  17. cakewhiz says:

    those chocolate covered sunflower seeds sound so tempting and using them in a chocolate chip cookie must have taken these cookies to a whole new level of “awesomeness” 😛

    those sunflowers are just gorgeous… i can’t believe summer is almost over 🙁

  18. Geni says:

    Your writing draws me in Deb. I never have owned a Fannie Farmer cookbook, but now I’ve decided I must. I think it’s going on my Christmas wish list. These cookies are jubilant, bright and a great way to celebrate the last few days of summer. I’ve never considered adding sunflower seeds to cookies…great idea!

  19. I love this cookie. Sunflower seeds are brilliant, and you can’t beat brown butter.

  20. I love the way you bring recipes and history together. The photos are so gorgeous that my 5 year old son has asked me to make him both the cookies…and the sunflowers!!!!! I’ll be sending him directly to you! A beautiful post Deb, thank you.

    • Deb says:

      I would very much enjoy making cookies for your son! Please thank him for the lovely compliment. I am glad you enjoyed the post!

  21. Deb: You added a crunch to this scrumptious cookies. What a great idea to incorporate sunflowers seeds to them! They look fun and quite delish.

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