Yes, I know. It’s another pumpkin cookie recipe. Because clearly this world doesn’t have enough. I mean, there are hardly any pumpkin recipes on my Pinterest feed right now (saaaaaaarcasm), so obviously I needed to make some. Forgive me.
Way, way back in the day (or about 4 years ago), I worked at a local bakery part time. I spent my days frosting cookies, piping buttercream swirls onto cupcakes, and making some pretty killer paninis. The place always smelled like fresh baked bread and chocolate cake, and on the best days the pepperoni bread flopped and the poor employees were forced to destroy the evidence by stuffing our faces with its cheesy, spicy goodness.
All in all, not a bad gig.
The bakery specialized in elaborate, towering specialty cakes and a variety of cupcakes, pies, cheesecakes, and muffins. But in my mind, the true star of that bakery will always be their pumpkin cookies with penuche frosting. In case you’re wondering, penuche is essentially a fancy name for the best caramely brown sugar fudge-like glaze you’ll ever consume in your life.
They were perfect. Fluffy, soft, pumpkin cakes with a brown sugar caramel frosting. They were so popular, we sold them year round. This time of year, we could barely keep them in the case. People bought them by the dozens to take to their offices or tailgating parties, or just to hoard at home.
I’ve been wanting to recreate that pumpkin cookie at home for awhile now. I tried a few different recipes last year, but just wasn’t sold on any of them. Fall slipped away, and I decided to table my experiment until this year. I started my quest this year with the standard cake-like pumpkin recipe I’ve seen on multiple blogs and recipe sites. It’s good, but it just wasn’t the same. It wasn’t as fluffy or soft as the cookie I remembered and was almost too moist. By the time I added the frosting, it was mushy and waaaaay too sweet.
So I kept hunting, looking at blogs, and checking my cookbooks, until I finally stumbled on this recipe from an old church cookbook. It has a little less sugar, a little less butter, and, most intriguingly, doesn’t use any eggs. The recipe was a breeze to whip up, and the cookies baked up just like I wanted them to–thick, fluffy, and moist, but sturdy enough to stand up to the penuche frosting. Success!
I can’t even begin to explain the wonders of this cookie. Soft, spiced pumpkin cake and brown sugar penuche frosting is a match made in autumn heaven. It’s buttery, yet light. Sweet, but not cloying. You’ll have a hard time eating just one.
These cookies hold their shape really well. As you can see, they’ll keep whatever craggly shapes you scoop them out in. I don’t worry too much about having a smooth top since it gets covered with frosting anyway, but if you want a smooth top, you can smooth it with your hands or use the bottom of a juice glass to flatten them slightly.
The penuche frosting is really just a brown sugar caramel with powdered sugar added to it to thicken it. It’s best to spread it on warm then let the glaze harden into that wonderful crackly top. If the frosting gets too thick at any point, you can microwave it a bit or whisk in a little milk to make it spreadable.
Eat these cookies in a cozy corner of your house where you’ve got a good view of the changing leaves and a big ol’ glass of milk by your side. I can’t think of a better way to spend an autumn afternoon.
Pumpkin Cookies with Penuche Frosting
For the cookies
- 6 Tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- Pinch cloves
- Pinch salt
For the penuche frosting
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 Tablespoons milk or cream
- Pinch salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
For the cookies:
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add pumpkin and beat until smooth. Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and beat on low speed until the mixture is well combined and cohesive.
- Scoop mounded Tablespoons of dough onto the cookie sheet. These don't spread much so you can keep them fairly close together. Bake for 9-10 minutes, or until tops are firm to the touch. (Your finger shouldn't leave an indent when the tops are lightly touched).
- Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet then cool completely on a wire rack.
For the frosting:
- Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add brown sugar and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add milk or cream and salt, return mixture to a boil, then remove from heat. Allow to cool slightly, then whisk in vanilla.
- Whisk in ½ cup powdered sugar until smooth. Continue to add additional powdered sugar until mixture is thick, but spreadable. It should be considerably thinner than normal frosting. I like it to be at a thickness that allows me to spoon the mixture on then spread it with a spoon or metal icing spatula.
- Frost cookies while frosting is still warm. The frosting will harden and thicken as it cools. If the frosting becomes too thick to spread while frosting the cookies, you can return it to heat for a few minutes or add a few Tablespoons hot water.