Blog Kahlua Spice Cookies

Blog Kahlua Spice Cookies

We've probably all had the experience of biting into a gorgeous dessert at a bakery or restaurant only to find out that its flavor doesn't quite live up to its looks. When it comes to icing cookies at home there can also be a bit of a tradeoff between appearance and taste. When you're decorating cookies for holidays and special occasions, the way they look is a big part of their appeal—and the fun of making them. Royal icing takes color beautifully and dries smooth and firm, which allows you to make elaborate and colorful designs.

Buttercream is trickier to spread smoothly onto a cookie, but it does have the advantage of flavor (think: butter….cream). The one-note sweetness of royal icing isn't usually a problem, if you're using a good, flavorful cookie as your base; we have lots to choose from in our recipe section. But sometimes nothing but buttercream will do, and this week's recipe for Kahlua Spice Cookies is a case in point. These delicious cookies are like a very mild gingerbread, with brown sugar, molasses, and just a hint of warm, mellow spices. The cookie dough contains a couple of tablespoons of the coffee liqueur Kahlua, which gives the cookies a nice depth of flavor. But the lion's share of the Kahlua flavor comes from the buttercream icing spread on top. The soft, buttery coffee topping completes the cookie. Royal icing just wouldn't be the same. But that doesn't mean you can't dress these cookies up. Here are a few tips to help you achieve a smooth look with buttercream:

  1. Before you mix the buttercream, make sure the butter is very soft.
  2. As buttercream sits, it becomes spongy. As you work, periodically give the buttercream a good stirring to rid it of air bubbles. It's fine to use an electric mixer, as long as you run it on low speed; you don't want to incorporate any more air.
  3. When frosting the cookies, spread a thick layer of buttercream on the surface of the cookie with a small palette knife, and sweep the knife back and forth in one fluid motion if you can, pressing down lightly on the buttercream.
  4. To clean up the edges, hold the palette knife perpendicular to the side of the cookie and scrape the extra frosting from the cookie. Use a slight downward motion as you go to pull the excess frosting downward. (It helps to do this right over the bowl of frosting, so the extra frosting will simply fall into the bowl.) Repeat this motion all around the edge of the cookie, making sure to hold the palette knife straight up and down as you follow the cookie's shape.
  5. If your buttercream seems too stiff and you don't want to thin it out with too much liquid, you can warm about a quarter of it in a microwave just for 10 to 15 seconds until almost (but not quite) melted, and then stir it into the remaining frosting.

The shape used for these Kahlua Spice Cookies, the state of California, is a nod to the upcoming Academy Awards in Hollywood. Since this buttercream is already beige, you can't do much about tinting it, but sparkling sugar creates a nice effect. You could use gold sparkling sugar or make your own "gold" effect by blending equal amounts of yellow, orange, and white. Or you could paint it with gold luster dust, an edible powder that you mix with clear spirits. However you decorate it, the flavor is sure to shine.

My favorite shapes for Kahlua Spice Cookies include the California cookie cutter, the Teddy Bear cookie cutter, and the Cat cookie cutter.