When shorter days and chilly weather arrives, there is no better treat than a chewy gingerbread cookie flavored with molasses and warm spices. Well, maybe there is: two chewy gingerbread cookies sandwiched with fluffy lemon icing. Now that’s a treat!
I’ve long been making a version of these pretty cookies, especially around the holidays. It was inspired by a dark, sticky gingerbread cake with warm lemon icing—something my mother makes for Christmas.
This dessert combines ginger and lemon. The gingerbread cookies contain fresh ginger and molasses and have a soft, chewy texture. The buttery filling is bright and lemony with fresh lemon zest and juice.
Tips for Making Tidy Sandwich Cookies
The key to a professional-looking sandwich cookie is consistency. This cookie dough tends to spread evenly, especially after chilling, and makes thin, round cookies that are still soft. For a dessert worthy of a bake sale or cookie swap, follow these tips:
- Weigh the flour: For a cookie dough that spreads just enough and stays chewy, weigh the flour. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, make sure you’re measuring it accurately—fluff the flour in its container, spoon it into the measuring cup, then gently sweep off the excess flour by scraping the flat edge of a knife over the measuring cup.
- Chill the dough: The dough is soft, so it yields soft cookies. It’s hard to work with if you don’t chill it first. For evenly sized cookies, chill the dough for at least an hour (and longer is even better).
- Measure the dough: You could eyeball the portions for most cookie recipes. For this recipe, it’s important to measure each portion of dough. That way you’ll end up with evenly sized cookies that make evenly sized sandwiches. A cookie scoop or a one tablespoon measuring spoon help ensure you get even portions. Another alternative: Scoop and weigh out the cookie dough—they should be 22 grams each.
- Grease the cookie scoop: A light spritz of cooking spray will help the slightly sticky cookie dough emerge from the cookie scoop in one piece. Reapply every few scoops or as needed.
- Pipe the filling: For ultra-neat sandwich cookies, you can transfer the lemon filling into a piping bag or zip top bag with the corner snipped off and pipe it onto the cookies.
I wouldn’t suggest tweaking these cookies too much since every change will affect the texture and bake time. However, here are a few variations that work well:
- Make them dairy-free: The texture and neatness won’t be the same, but the cookies and filling can be made using vegan butter.
- Make it with lime or orange: Swap the lemon zest and juice for lime or orange.
- Just the cookies: These cookies are flavorful and delicious enough to enjoy on their own. After portioning the cookie dough into balls, roll them halfway in a coarse sugar like cane sugar or turbinado sugar and place them sugar side-up on the baking sheet. This will give them a pretty sparkle and a little crunch.
Assembling the cookies is quicker and easier than frosting cupcakes. If you prep the dough ahead of time, it’s even possible to make a whole batch of cookies on a weeknight. You can prepare the dough up to one day ahead and keep it stored in the fridge. The filling should be made fresh since it can dry out, but it takes just minutes to whip up.
These gingerbread sandwich cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days. They keep even better if they are individually wrapped.
The lemon filling is best if used right away since it can become dry. Sandwiched between the cookies, it stays moist and keeps better than it does on its own. The plain baked cookies will keep for up to four days in an airtight container at room temperature.
To freeze the unbaked cookie dough: Make the dough, chill it, and roll it into portioned balls. Instead of baking them, freeze them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet for at least one hour. Transfer the frozen cookie dough into a zip top freezer bag and freeze for up to three months.
To bake the cookies from frozen: Place them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and preheat the oven—no need to defrost. Once the oven is hot, bake as directed, adding about one minute to the cook time.
Pretty Cookies for Gifting
- Holiday Pinwheel Cookies
- Brookies (Chocolate Chip Brownie Cookies)
- Slice-and-Bake Pistachio Butter Cookies
- Lofthouse-Style Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies
- Chocolate Florentine Cookies
Gingerbread Sandwich Cookies with Lemon Filling
- For the cookies
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup (220g) sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated
- 2 1/2 cups (315g) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Cooking spray for the cookie scoop
- For the filling
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups (240g) powdered sugar
- 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Beat the butter and sugar:
In a bowl of a stand mixer set with a paddle attachment, add the butter and sugar. Beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. You can use a handheld electric mixer.
Add the egg, molasses, and ginger:
Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the egg, molasses, and fresh ginger. Beat until fully combined and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes more.
Mix the dry ingredients:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ground ginger, ground cloves, and salt. Add it to the wet ingredients and mix on low speed until completely combined. Do not overmix.
Chill the cookie dough:
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill the dough in the fridge for at least one hour or up to overnight.
Preheat the oven:
Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven and another one on the top third. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Portion the cookie dough:
Lightly spray a #60 or #70 cookie scoop or a one tablespoon measuring spoon with cooking spray. Scoop the cookie dough and quickly roll it into a ball with your hands. Place it on the prepared baking sheet.
Repeat with enough cookies to fill two baking sheets with at least 2 inches of space between the cookies. Grease the cookie scoop as needed with cooking spray so that the dough slides off cleanly.
Flatten the cookies:
Use the palm of your hand to very lightly flatten each ball—try to make them all about the same size. Place the excess dough back in the fridge to chill while you bake the cookies.
Bake and cool the cookies:
Bake the cookies until spread, only slightly puffed, and the edges are beginning to brown, about 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through.
Cool the cookies:
Let the cookies cool for 3 minutes on the baking sheets before using a spatula to transfer them onto a cooling rack. Let cool completely before frosting.
Let the baking sheets cool, then repeat with the remaining dough until all of the cookies are baked.
Make the filling:
In a medium bowl, add the butter, lemon zest, and salt. Using a handheld electric mixer, beat until combined and creamy, about 30 seconds.
Add the powdered sugar and lemon juice:
Add the powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Beat until thick, creamy, and fluffy, about 1 minute.
Add more lemon juice if needed, a teaspoon at a time—you’re looking for a frosting that is creamy enough to spread on a cookie but thick enough that it won’t squish out when sandwiched.
Assemble the cookies:
When the cookies are completely cooled, use an offset spatula or a butter knife to spread about 1 tablespoon of the filling into a circle in the center of a cookie, leaving a 1/4-inch perimeter bare. You’re adding frosting to the bottom (the part that touched the baking sheet) of one cookie.
Top with another cookie (the bottom should be facing the filling). Gently press the cookies together, pushing the filling almost to the edge. Be gentle to avoid cracking the soft cookies.
Assemble the remaining cookies.