vanilla spice cookies

As you know, I’m not exactly the type of person to miss winter. But can I tell you something? When these vanilla spice cookies bake, even in the middle of May, filling the kitchen with a fragrance sweet and filled with nostalgia, I’d swear I was walking around a Christmas market where they sell fresh-roasted cinnamon pecans wrapped in paper cones, the kind you take in your gloved hands, the air visible in front of you as you breathe in and out, your face flushed pink.

It’s like that time last winter when my friend Becky and I drove out to Geneva, on, I swear, what must have been the coldest night ever, on the hunt for homemade candy canes and cups of hot chocolate. After we walked up and down a street of bundled carolers and holiday decorations, our skin cracking and our noses running, what we found instead were frozen toes and fingers, even after returning to the car; a few photos of us, in the dark, standing near twinkling lights; and my first taste of a chestnut, which, in all honestly, smells a hundred times better than it tastes: hot and bland. I don’t often feel nostalgic for nights like those, so it would take something pretty special to make me remember all the good parts: the smell of fresh popcorn from the white tent in front of one of the shops, the gleaming red and gold globes hanging from a tree, the group of musicians who played, hands exposed, as if they couldn’t even feel the freeze.

Let me tell you: these cookies are that something.

cookies on Silpat

They came to me the other night, quickly, because I had the ingredients on hand and because, as icebox cookies, I figured they’d hold up well to shipping. I was planning a package for my friend Jarrelle. You’d like Jarrelle. We met in college, I can’t remember when exactly, but she’s the kind of person that is easy to like, in a way that not many people are, and if she lived a little closer to Chicago instead of New Hampshire, I’d be going over tonight to visit and give her a big hug, which is exactly what she needs right now.

The original recipe for these cookies calls for chopped nuts, which I omitted, and the weirdest thing was that an almost nutty flavor still came through. It’s like these cookies were all the best parts of candied pecans—the sweetness, the slight caramelizing—without the actual nuts underneath. Fresh out of the oven, they are nothing short of irresistible.

chocolate chocolate-chip cookies

Along with the Christmas cookies, I also packed some of Nigella Lawson’s death by chocolate cookies (though less of them because I was afraid they’d melt), which are exactly what you think of when you think of emotional comfort food: rich, decadent, soft and chocolate. Originally designed to be oversized quarter-cup cookies, they are made to be eaten with a big glass of milk, maybe while you watch a movie you love.

Anyway, since you’re so nice to let me talk about cookies again here, I’m giving you both these recipes—a two-for-one post, you could say—and wishing you a happy, wonderful long weekend, filled with friends, long hot sunshine and, of course, something sweet to eat.

Vanilla Spice Cookies
Adapted from Recipe Zaar

The original recipe suggests dipping the cookies in chocolate icing, so by all means try that. I, however, like them just as they are. Also, the recipe as it is yields around 80; feel free to freeze the logs to bake later, whenever the mood strikes (dough may be frozen several months).

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter at a medium speed and gradually add sugar, beating well. Next, add egg and vanilla, and beat well. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and spices; add this dry mixture to the butter mixture and combine.

Shape the dough into two approximately 12-inch rolls. Wrap each in wax paper and chill for at least two hours.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Unwrap rolls and cut into 1/4-inch slices. Place on ungreased (or Silpat-lined) baking sheets, and bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

Cool slightly on baking sheets, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Nigella’s Death by Chocolate Cookies
Adapted from Nigella Lawson

Originally, these cookies are designed to be mammoth in size, each created from a quarter-cup of batter dropped onto a baking sheet. I went smaller, but you can definitely experiment.

16 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cold butter, cubed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 F. Set aside 8 ounces of the chocolate chips, and melt the remaining chocolate (I put it in the microwave for half a minute).

In a large bowl, combine the melted chocolate with butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Cool mixture. Stir in flour and baking powder. Add chocolate chips that had been set aside.

Spoon onto cookie sheets lined with parchment or Silpats. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until puffed and set to touch. Cool for a minute or two on the cookie sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 24 Comments

  1. Chocolate Angie

    These look absolutely delicious! Can someone with little kitchen experience make these?

  2. Marta

    Both cookies look fantastic! Thanks for sharing them! I know about those recipes that just inspire some much nostalgia and reminisance (I’m not sure how to spell that word, let’s flow with it!) they taste better, they take on a special meaning and a dear place in your heart. I could have some cinnamon-roasted nuts right about now! And a cookie! One of each actually. And a glass of milk!

  3. The Duo Dishes

    Cardamom is a fave, fave, fave! It makes baked goods sing. Great pictures too.

  4. rachel

    lookin quite yum there. :)

  5. carolyn

    they look delicious! i’m sure they’ll brighten your friend’s day… i had to mail some “heartbreak” cookies to a far-away friend a little while ago. i think they’re the best substitute for an in-person hug!

  6. Whitney

    Man those chocolate cookies look fantastic. Perfect with a big glass of milk!

  7. sue

    Ok, Jordan will flip when he sees the recipe for the death by chocolate cookies!! Yum. I’m flipping, too :)

  8. Alicia

    The Death by Chocolate look amaaaazing. Got any left? Because if you bring some of those in on Tuesday, I’ll bring some of my homemade Oatmeal cookies!!

  9. The Purple Foodie

    When a cookie is named “death by chocolate” who wouldn’t want to try it. And what could be better than having warm cookies with a glass of cold milk.

  10. Jess

    Those vanilla spice cookies are right up my alley. I love that you provided a vanilla alternative to the chocolate, and that you gave the vanilla cookie top billing! Thanks for the recipe.

  11. Shannalee

    Chocolate Angie – Absolutely!

    Marta – Your comment made me smile. You’d be lovely to share a cookie and milk with.

    DD – I agree! Cardamom is underused!

    Thanks, Rae!

    Carolyn – A friend sent me some cookies in December, and I almost cried, I was so happy!

    Whitney – Exactly!

    Sue, LOL! I wish we could have a baking day together (with Elyse, of course!)

    Alicia – None left, but I’m holding you to the oatmeal promise. Can’t wait!

    Purple Foodie – I know!

    Jess – You are sweet. Thank you!

  12. EAT!

    I have been on the lookout for a simple yet delicious cookie. On my list of things to bake tomorrow are your Vanilla Spice cookies.

    Your blog is fantastic! I love the layout and your writing.

  13. LB

    I made the chocolate cookies last night and they turned out really flat. Tasty, but super flat. I made the first pan with room temperature dough, and the second with chilled dough. Both versions turned the same way. Any suggestions?

  14. Shannalee

    LB, The chocolate cookies turned out a little flat (as you can see) for me, too, so I think it is partly the recipe. This is definitely a question I’ve heard before and with several cookie recipes, so I’ve done a little research online. Check out this Serious Eats article:

  15. Lisa

    I absolutely love the top picture on this page. It’s like a little leaning tower of Pisa only made of cookies 😉

  16. Shannalee

    Lisa, Ha! It is! Thank you.

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  19. Sadie

    I just received the new Bath and Body- Winter Spice and Vanilla hand soap and thought wow- wouldn’t it be great to eat something that smelled just like this. So, I’ve been trying to decode the smell and find a recipe that would taste this good. Just made the Vanilla Ccookies and have them in the fridge doing their icebox thing. I have high hopes for this recipe as the use of cardomom/ with lots of vanilla would be just right.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Sadie (I love your name!), I haven’t made these in quite a while, but the main thing I remember is the smell. Just like Christmas! Would love to hear what you think once they’re done!

  20. Sadie

    I made a big log but cut it in half lengthwise/sliced and baked for 12 mins. Texture was a wee bit chewy yet crisp-and the smell and taste was spicy but mellow and fresh and not overpowering. I put course sugar on top before baking and that looked nice. I didn’t use convection but next time I will. It wasn’t exactly the smell/taste I was looking for but close. I will try again with the same recipe and spices and add vanilla bean seeds or get a better quality vanilla. I’m very intrigued by that soap smell and plan to contact B.B.W. and ask about the scent mixture.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Thanks for coming back to update me, Sadie! Glad you liked these, and I hope you find the exact smell and taste you’re after soon!

  21. Alyssa


    Love, love, love your vanilla spice cookies!! :)

    Thanks so much for one of the best food blogs ever!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      You’re too kind. Thank you, Alyssa!

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