This is a recipe I’ve literally been meaning to get up on the site for years. It’s hands down my favorite holiday recipe, and one that I make every year for Thanksgiving. Except for last year, because last year I couldn’t find where I put the recipe (which is why I really need to get it up on the site). There’s a bit of a warning here though, while the cookies themselves are really fast to whip up and get in the oven, icing them all can seem daunting. The key is to not care how perfect they are, and to NEVER use a spatula to ice them, unless you’re trying to have yourself committed. As long as you’re OK just dunking the tops into the icing, you’ll be done within a half hour.
So, what’s so incredible about these cookies? They’re like the baby of pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread. They taste just like pumpkin pie, but they’re soft, fluffy, and moist just like the best pumpkin bread you’ve ever had. Then you go and add-on that light coating of nutty brown butter icing and well, it’s over. Just ask Oliver, or Anna. They ran laps around the kitchen table and island while they were cooling and being iced, and just kept stuffing their mouths full of them. They can’t get enough. Oliver walked in seeing me prep the photos for the post and started begging me to make them again. This is the reaction you will get from everyone who tries them.
What I’m trying to tell you is that if you want to be the holiday super star, you need to make these cookies.
First, whisk together your flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.
Beautiful, now set it aside for a bit.
Add the softened butter and brown sugar to your mixer bowl.
Cream it together until it’s a nice, uniform mass.
Toss in the eggs, pumpkin puree (NOT PUMPKIN PIE MIX!), evaporated milk, and vanilla.
Mix it for a minute until it’s all combined.
Add the flour, all in one dump, and mix on low until combined.
That’s it, batter’s done. It’ll seem really runny and fluffy, but that’s what makes these cookies so darn incredible!
Get yourself a pastry bag and fit it with a nice big, round tip. If you don’t have one, just use a zip lock bag with the corner cut out of it, not a big deal.
Pipe out your cookies. You’re aiming for rounds about 1½” in diameter, and about 1″ apart. You can see that I wasn’t exactly awesome or exact with either of these measurements, and I can promise you, it didn’t change how they tasted one bit.
Now, if you’re the really particular type, you could wet your finger in a glass of water and flatten the center peak on all the cookies. I would call you nuts though. They mostly flatten during baking anyway.
See. This here is just one cookie tray full. This recipe makes more than six dozen bite size cookies. This is why flattening the tops is not worth it. Also, ignore the dinosaurs on the top left. Baking is my thing. Tidying is not. Bonus shot of Bo half asleep on the couch watching some god awful home improvement show he’s already seen a dozen times.
While the cookies are cooling, and while subsequent batches are baking, let’s get to the icing.
You’ve got to prep the ingredients ahead of time so you can work quickly once the butter is browned. First up, sift your icing sugar to get out any lumps.
Look how nice and fluffy that is.
Also, put your vanilla and evaporated milk into a small bowl. (Like my recipe pages? I forgot that I made a whole binder of my favorite recipes like 8 years ago, apparently that’s where I kept this recipe).
Add the butter to your sauce pan and melt over medium heat. If you’re used to making brown butter, do your thing. If you’re not, it will only take you a couple of times to be a pro, and then you can crank up the heat a bit to get the job done faster. For now, here’s the play by play, that’ll take around five minutes.
The first thing you’ll see to tell you that you’re on the right path is a whole lot of bubbles and foam.
When that stops you’ll be looking at something like this, a nice, nutty brown, thin foam on the surface.
Swirl the pan and tip it to get a quick peak at the bottom. All those little brown bits are what you’re looking for. This is perfect!
Turn off the heat and add the milk, vanilla, and icing sugar.
Whisk it together until you’ve got a nice, uniform icing.
Get your cooking all lined up, and start dunking the tops into the icing. Note: This icing sets up really quickly, so you’ll have to keep adding evaporated milk and whisking it in, a tablespoon at a time, to keep the consistency thin enough to dunk. This won’t affect the flavor at all, so don’t be afraid to do it as needed.
Voila! I really wish I had a few dozen of these right now to tear in to. That’s right. I said a few dozen.
There’s those yummy rolls I always make too. Fresh bread, fresh cookies… this here was a good day.
Here’s your printable:
Pumpkin Cake Cookies with Brown Butter Icing
- 2¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1¼ tsp salt
- 1½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1¼ tsp ground ginger
- ¾ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter, softened
- 2¼ cups light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1½ cups canned solid-pack pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
- ¾ cup evaporated milk
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 10 tbsp butter
- 4 cups icing sugar, sifter
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 6 tbsp evaporated milk, plus more for thinning
- Preheat your oven to 375ºF. If you have convection use it so you can bake lots of sheets at once. Also, line your baking sheets with parchment paper or sil-pat mats.
- Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Cream butter and brown sugar until pale. Mix in eggs, pumpkin, milk, and vanilla until combined. Add flour mixture until combined.
- Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large, round tip (or a zip lock bag with the corner cut out. Pipe out 1½” rounds about 1” apart on the parchment paper.
- Bake for about 12 minutes, until the tops are springy and lightly browned at the edges. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely before icing.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan on medium heat until golden brown. You'll see little brown specs floating in the butter and sitting on the bottom. This will usually take between 3 and five minutes. Go slow if you're nervous. Immediately combine with confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, and evaporated milk. Stir until smooth.
- As cookies cool, dip the tops of the cookies into the icing, let harden. If the icing becomes stiff, whisk in a little more milk, a tablespoon at a time.
Let me know below!