Enjoy the Aroma of the Christmas Market with Slice-and-Bake Vanilla Spice Cookies

I’m not exactly the type of person to miss winter. But can I tell you something?

When these vanilla spice cookies are baking in the oven, even if it’s the middle of May, they remind me of the cold-weather months.

Overhead shot of scattered vanilla spice slice and bake cookies with whole cinnamon sticks and cloves on a piece of parchment paper, printed with orange and white text.

Filling the kitchen with a fragrance that’s sweet and permeated with nostalgia, I’d swear I was walking around a Christmas market, where they sell fresh-roasted cinnamon-flavored nuts 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, feeling their warmth, your face flushed pink.

When my friend Becky and I drove out to Geneva on what I swear must have been the coldest night ever, we were on the hunt for homemade candy canes and cups of hot chocolate.

After we walked up and down a street packed with bundled-up carolers and holiday decorations, our skin cracking and our noses running, what we found instead were frozen toes and fingers, which remained that way even after returning to the car.

There are also a few photos of us to commemorate the occasion, taken in the dark, standing near twinkling lights. And I had my first taste of a chestnut which, in all honestly, smells a hundred times better than it tastes. In my opinion, they were just hot and bland.

I don’t often feel nostalgic for nights like this one, so it would take something pretty special to make me remember all the good parts with vivid clarity months or years later:

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 their instruments with hands exposed to the elements, as if they couldn’t even feel the freeze.

Let me tell you: these cookies are that something.

Overhead oblique vertical shot of scattered round cookies with whole cloves and cinnamon sticks on a piece of parchment paper.

Becky and I didn’t find our homemade candy canes, but as soon as I got home, I made a batch of these cookies.

And let me tell you, it was so amazing to be able to warm up in the cozy kitchen with the oven cranked up, a welcome respite from the cold.

The recipe came to me quickly, in part because I had the ingredients on hand and because, since they’re slice and bake icebox cookies, I figured they’d hold up well in shipping. I was planning a package for my friend Jarrelle.

You’d like Jarrelle. We met in college, I can’t remember when exactly. She’s the kind of person that is easy to like, in a way that not many people are.

If she lived a little closer to Chicago instead of in New Hampshire, I’d be going over to her place to visit and give her a big hug, which is exactly what she needs right now.

A stack of six vanilla spice slice and bake cookies topped with another with a bite taken out of it, on a piece of parchment paper with whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, and more of the baked goods in soft focus in the background.

The original recipe for these cookies that I adapted to make my own calls for chopped nuts, which I omitted. Even so, they’ll always remind me of those classic Christmas market treats. And weirdly enough, an almost nutty flavor still came through.

You can add half a cup of pecans if you want, but I think they’re just as magical and delicious without them.

It’s like these cookies included all the best parts of candied pecans – the sweetness, the slight caramelization – without the actual nuts. Fresh out of the oven, they are nothing short of irresistible.

Dipping the cookies in chocolate icing or melted chips is a nice suggestion, so by all means, try that. I, however, like them just as they are.

This recipe makes a big batch, so feel free to freeze the logs to bake later, whenever the mood strikes. The dough may be frozen for several months.

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Oblique shot of small round cookies with whole cloves and cinnamon sticks on a piece of crumpled parchment paper on a brown wood surface.

Vanilla Spice Slice-and-Bake Cookies


  • Author: Shanna Mallon
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 12 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours, 27 minutes
  • Yield: ~4 dozen

Description

Fill your home with the scent of the Christmas market with homemade vanilla spice cookies. They’re perfect to set out for Santa.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Pinch ground nutmeg

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter on medium speed. Gradually add the brown sugar, beating well until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, and beat well.
  2. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, chopped pecans, and spices. Add this dry mixture to the butter mixture and stir to combine on low speed.
  3. Shape the dough into two logs approximately 12 inches in length. Wrap each in waxed paper and chill for at least 2 hours.
  4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F. Cut dough into 1/4-inch slices.
  5. Place on ungreased baking sheets (or line with silicone mats for easy cleanup), spacing them about 1/2 to 1 inch apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until set and  golden brown on the bottom.
  6. Cool slightly on the baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
  • Category: Cookies
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Dessert

Keywords: vanilla, warming spices, cookie, Christmas, slice and bake

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Soften Butter, Chop Pecans, And Measure All Remaining Ingredients

Soften refrigerated butter at room temperature for about 30-60 minutes, longer if frozen, until softened or just spreadable. If you don’t have time to let it soften the traditional way, place in the microwave for 15 seconds on 30% power.

Chop pecans until you have 1/2 cup total.

Overhead shot of chopped pecans and ground spices in a plastic pitcher-style measuring cup on a striped beige and brown wood background.

Measure out all remaining ingredients, making sure to set them out as they are listed in the ingredients list.

Step 2 – Beat Wet Ingredients

Add butter to the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed and slowly add the sugar, beating until the mixture is light in color and fluffy.

Overhead shot of creamed brown sugar and butter, a cracked egg, and vanilla extract at the bottom of a large stainless steel mixing bowl on a brown striped wood background.

Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined.

Step 3 – Mix Dry Ingredients

In a medium bowl, add the flour, baking soda, salt, pecans, and spices. Stir together well until they are combined and evenly distributed.

Step 4 – Finish Batter

Add all of the dry mixture to the wet ingredients, and beat on low speed until thoroughly mixed, and the dough comes together.

Step 5 – Chill Dough

Divide into two equal parts. Roll each half into a 12-inch log. These will be about 1 inch in diameter.

Two logs of yellow cookie dough arranged parallel to each other on a piece of waxed paper.

Wrap each log tightly in waxed paper. Chill for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator, or overnight.

Wrapped dough can also be frozen until you’re ready to use it, just be sure to place it in an area of the freezer where it won’t become misshapen. Defrost before slicing and baking.

Step 6 – Slice and Bake

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line two large baking sheets with silicone mats, or leave them ungreased.

Unwrap the dough and cut it into slices that are about 1/4 inch thick. Space the cookies about 1/2 inch apart. The cookies won’t spread much, so it’s okay to arrange them close together.

Sixteen slices of cookie dough are arranged in four rows on an orange and beige Silpat silicone pan liner on a rimmed metal baking sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until they’re set and golden brown on the bottom.

Cool for about 5 minutes on the baking sheets, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

To Dunk or Not To Dunk? That Is the Question…

Once you try these lightly spiced, vanilla-scented cookies, the question that immediately comes to mind is: Do you dunk them?

For me, the answer to this question is always yes. While the traditionalists out there will pair these cookies with milk, English tea or even coffee makes a nice pairing.

The flavor of the spices in the cookies gets a boost of soothing comfort from either warm beverage, and the spice of the cookie seeps into your drink with every dunk.

Perfect at any time of year, from holiday cookie exchanges to summertime bake sales, bake up a batch of these any time you’re in the mood for a nostalgic treat, or bring them to a friend who could use a little pick-me-up.

Oblique shot of small round cookies with whole cloves and cinnamon sticks on a piece of crumpled parchment paper on a brown wood surface.

Craving even more scrumptious homemade desserts that feature flavorful vanilla? Try our recipes for:

Or visit our full archive of dessert recipes here!

When will you bake your cookies, and what are some of your favorite holiday baking memories? Tell us in the comments below, and be sure to come back to rate the recipe as soon as you’ve tried it!

Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published May 22, 2009. Last updated: November 20, 2018 at 21:46 pm. With additional writing and editing by Meghan Yager and Allison Sidhu.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

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About Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.

22 thoughts on “Enjoy the Aroma of the Christmas Market with Slice-and-Bake Vanilla Spice Cookies”

  1. 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!

  2. 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!

  3. 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!!

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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?

  8. 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 our article on the topic!

  9. 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.

    • 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!

  10. 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.

    • 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!

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