Honey Cookies (Heirloom Recipe)
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Create new holiday baking tradition with this family heirloom honey cookie recipe! These soft honey cookies are subtly sweet and frosted with light and airy boiled icing.
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Why you’ll love this recipe:
I’m honored to share with you this well-loved, hand-written recipe from my dear friend, Amber, whose family has been enjoying these honey cookies for generations!
It’s a long-standing tradition to bake an enormous batch of honey cookies every Christmas with her grandma and late mom, Lisa.
I’m honored she chose to share this cherished, old-fashioned honey cookie recipe with me, and now I get to share it with you! It’s doubled and thus makes plenty of iced snowmen, candy canes, and Christmas trees.
These honey sugar cookies aren’t overly sweet, but once paired with the frosting, they’re dangerously good. Be sure to gift these cookies to your friends and family or you might eat seven too many. Ask me how I know!
Key Ingredient Notes:
For the cookies:
- Honey – You can use whatever kind of honey you like! I’ve used raw and regular honey with great results. For a bold flavor, use a stronger honey like buckwheat honey.
- Coffee – Use freshly brewed regular coffee.
- Anise extract – Anise has a strong, licorice taste to it. If you don’t care for anise, omit it from the cookies and the frosting. You can add cinnamon, nutmeg, or ginger if you like a spiced cookie.
- Sugar – White sugar allows honey to be the star of the show.
For the frosting:
- Gelatin lets the icing set up and harden. Be sure to use unflavored gelatin powder, not flavored Jello mix. You can find it in the baking aisle. The most widely available brand is Knox and that’s what I used.
- Sugar dissolves with the gelatin in the water as you cook it and turns into a simple syrup. The sugar stabilizes the gelatin, which causes the frosting to set up as it cools.
- Powdered sugar – The simple syrup is then combined with powdered sugar to give you the perfect icing consistency!
How to make this honey cookie recipe:
Honey cookies are easy to make, but require quite a few simple steps. I’ve included step-by-step instructions with photos to guide you through it.
1. Make the cookies
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Mix: In a large mixing bowl with the paddle attachment, combine all the cookie ingredients and mix until combined. The dough should be soft and sticky.
- Knead: This recipe makes a lot of cookie dough so you may need to work in batches! Sprinkle a clean work surface with flour and place a 1/4 of the cookie dough on top of it. Knead the dough into a smooth ball. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour to the surface while you knead it.
- Roll: Dust a sheet of parchment paper with flour and place the cookie dough ball in the middle. Place another sheet of parchment paper on top and roll the dough into a 1/2-inch thick disc.
- Cut: Cut the dough with Christmas cookie cutters and arrange the cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.
- Repeat: Repeat with the rest of the cookie dough.
2. Make the boiled frosting
- Bloom gelatin: In a medium saucepan, soak the gelatin in cold water.
- Boil: Add sugar and salt to the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil and let it simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Beat until foamy: In a large mixing bowl with the whisk attachment, add the powdered sugar. Pour in the gelatin mixture and beat until it gets foamy.
- Beat until thick: Add the baking powder and beat on medium-high speed until the mixture thickens and turns white, about 10 minutes.
- Add anise: Stir in the anise extract and beat for another 5 minutes. When you lift the whisk, the frosting should fall into the bowl in a thick ribbon that holds its shape for a few seconds.
- Color the frosting: Divide the frosting into bowls and stir in food coloring, if desired.
- Frost the cooled cookies: You can use a butter knife to spread the frosting onto the cookies or pipe it on. The frosting sets up fast, so don’t let it sit.
Don’t care for anise? Swap it with vanilla extract!!
Tips for Success:
- If you find soft cookie dough hard to roll out and cut, you can chill the dough for 30 minutes to firm it up.
- If you’re not a fan of anise, just leave it out! I like to add cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger to add more spice.
- Let the cookies cool on the sheet pan for a few minutes to set up. Hot cookies fall apart!
- While you make the frosting, set up your cookie decorating station. Pull out all the sprinkles, glitter dust, or jimmies you plan to use.
- Once the frosting is set, you can stack the cookies for storing.
- Feel free to make the cookie dough or the baked cookies ahead of time! The dough can be made up to three days before you bake them and stored in the refrigerator. Or for longer storage, you can freeze the cookies or the dough!
- To freeze the dough: Form the cookie dough into four large discs and wrap each disc in plastic wrap. Place the discs into ziplock bags and freeze for up to 3 months. Alternatively, you can cut the cookies into shapes first then freeze them. Place the cut cookies on a sheet pan, freeze until firm, then transfer the cookies to a freezer-safe container.
- To freeze the cookies: Bake the cookies as directed, then let them cool. Transfer the cookies to a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3 months.
- Store leftover honey cookies in an airtight container for up to three days.
- For longer storage, you can freeze the frosted cookies in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months.
Honey sweetens the cookies and adds a subtle floral honey flavor! It also keeps the cookies moist with a tender crumb.
Yes! You can make the cookie dough up to three days ahead and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
This allows the honey flavor to develop in the cookies. Just be sure to let the cookie dough sit out for 30 minutes so it’s easier to roll.
Christmas Cookie Recipes
For the cookies:
- 6 cups (750g) all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups (300g) granulated sugar
- 4 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 large eggs
- 2 sticks (225g) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 cup honey Note 1
- ½ cup coffee Note 2
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon anise extract Note 3
For the frosting:
- 1 ½ cups (360ml) cold water
- 2 packets unflavored Knox gelatin Note 4
- 1 ½ cups (300g) granulated sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon anise extract
- electric hand mixer or stand mixer
- parchment paper
- cookie cutters
- Measuring cups & spoons
To make the cookies:
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
- In a large mixing bowl with the paddle attachment, combine all the cookie ingredients and mix until just combined. The dough is very soft and it’s perfectly normal.
- Place ¼ of the dough on a well-floured surface and knead the dough into a smooth ball. Dust a sheet of parchment paper with flour and place the dough ball in the center. Place another sheet of parchment paper on top and roll into a ½-inch-thick disc.
- Cut with cookie cutters and arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
To make the frosting:
- In a medium saucepan, soak the gelatin in cold water.
- Add sugar and salt. Bring it a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Watch close and stir.
- In a large mixing bowl with the whisk attachment, add the powdered sugar and pour in the gelatin mixture. Beat until foamy.
- Continue beating on medium high speed until the mixture turns white and thick, about 10 minutes.
- Stir in the anise extract and beat another 5 minutes or so. When you lift the whisk, the frosting should fall into a ribbon.
- Divide the frosting into bowls and stir in food coloring, if desired.
- Immediately frost the cookies. You can use a butter knife to spread the frosting, or you can transfer the frosting into a piping bag and pipe the filling onto the cookies. The frosting sets up fast, so be sure to work quickly.
Tips & Notes
– Store leftover honey cookies in an airtight container for up to three days.
– For longer storage, you can freeze the frosted cookies in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months.