Happy Birthday to all fellow Geminis! I spent this past weekend hanging out with two of my nephews to celebrate their 2nd and 4th birthdays. Their birthdays are 2 years and 2 weeks apart, but they’re young enough still not to complain about joint birthday parties (good luck to my brother and sister-in-law when this time ends). This also was my birthday weekend, but there’s no need to share how many years apart I am from my nephews.
Knowing that I would be at a BBQ surrounded by foods, snacks, and (the most enticing) an icing covered birthday cake that would not be allergy-friendly, I decided to bring a few homemade allergen-free icing filled snacks to share and enjoy when everyone else at the party was devouring birthday cake. As many of my friends and family know, I love almost anything with lemon, so I figured the cookies would be a great treat to myself for my birthday!
Little did I know, however, that my allergen-free strawberry-lemon buttercream filled spice cookie sandwiches would be such a hit that I wouldn’t even get to enjoy one myself!! It was like my wedding day all over again, when neither my husband nor I had a piece of cake (ironically, it also had a strawberry buttercream layer), because the staff forgot to serve us. When I had seen others eating my wedding cake, I asked for a piece but was told it was gone. Anyhow, I should have known these spice cookie sandwiches also would go quickly, as several of my office pals have told me my raspberry-lemon buttercream versions, which I shared at work months ago, are still their favorite allergy-friendly treat.
This cookie recipe was based on a chewy molasses cookie that my friend, creator of the Ipso Fatto blog, shared with me years before I was allergen-free. I think the recipe is the “traditional gingersnap recipe” she uses from Sunday Best Baking: Over a Century of Secrets from the White Lily Kitchen, which I realize is the same recipe my mother used to bake all the time.
I understand why the egg substitute shared by Linda Coss is her favorite, as it has become my favorite too, primarily in cookie recipes! (See also salty oat craisin cookies and chocolate chip granola sunbutter cookies.)
- 2 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 ½ tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp ground allspice
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- ¾ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
- ½ cup dairy-free, soy-free buttery spread (like Earth Balance)
- ¼ cup canola and/or sunflower oil
- 1 ½ tbsp warm water
- additional 1 ½ tbsp canola or sunflower oil
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¾ cup brown rice syrup
- ½ cup buttery spread (like Earth Balance)
- 4 ½ – 5 cups powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp lemon extract
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 tbsp fresh strawberries liquefied in a blender (mix with just enough water to blend)
(Makes about 30 cookie sandwiches)
Method (or Mistakes)
Cookies: Place parchment paper on at least 2 cookie sheets (leave paper out to replace for each cookie batch). In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves, and then set aside. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large bowl, using a hand (or electric) mixer, on medium speed, cream together the brown sugar, buttery spread, and ¼ cup of oil. In a small bowl, whisk together the other 1 ½ tbsp of oil with the water and baking powder, and then add to the brown sugar mixture. Beat on medium speed for about 1 minute. Add the rice syrup and beat on medium speed until light colored and creamy. On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture in 3-4 parts. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula so ingredients are well combined. (Note: the batter will be quite thick, and may test the limits of your hand mixer – the first time I made these, my cheap hand mixer burned out.) Using a small cookie scoop (about 1 ¼ inch diameter) or a tablespoon, place dough on cookie sheets at least 2 ½ inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes, or until set but not browned. Let cool on baking sheet for 5-10 minutes, before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely. Repeat until no dough remains.
The original recipe states that it makes about a dozen large cookies, which I do not recommend trying. By large they mean HUGE! Plus, with the added icing, the gigantic cookies ended up way too sweet and overwhelming to eat in one sitting alone. Although the baked cookies are soft enough to easily cut with a knife and share, it’s easier (and more enjoyable) to just make smaller cookies.
Strawberry-Lemon Buttercream: Using a hand (or electric) mixer, beat the buttery spread until creamy. On low speed, add half of the powdered sugar and beat until well combined. Add lemon juice, extracts, and strawberry mixture, and then beat to combine. On medium-high speed, beat in as much remaining sugar needed to thicken icing.
Sandwich Assembly: Place 1 tablespoon of buttercream icing in between two completely cooled cookies. Either serve or place in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to enjoy. (If you need to store these cookies for longer than 7 days, I recommend freezing. Make sure cookies are well-wrapped before freezing.) If frozen, for soft, chewy cookies with melt-in-your-mouth icing, allow cookie sandwiches to sit at room temperature for atbout 30 minutes before serving.
These cookies bake to a beautiful golden color, and the natural, dye-free light pink frosting is a nice contrast. The secret to having cookies with soft and chewy centers and golden-brown crispy chewy edges is making sure to remove them from the oven promptly. My 3-year old and I were huge fans of the strawberries in the filling. Not only did their flavor slightly come through, but they made the icing a pretty shade of light pink spinkled with bits of strawberry confetti-like pieces. When my son first tasted the icing, he asked, “Mom, are there strawberries in the icing?” Worried what his response would be when I answered; I was shocked when he then exclaimed “YES – Awesome!” as he pulled down his fist like he had just hit the jackpot.
Everyone who has tried these cookies has loved their spice combination, including friends who don’t otherwise like certain spices (like ginger). The different icing fillings that I’ve made for these have also been a hit. Even my brother who swears he doesn’t like lemon flavored treats, enjoyed these and my raspberry lemonade cupcakes (of which I have used the icing to fill these cookies).
As I mentioned, these cookies were such a hit at my nephews’ birthday party that I didn’t even get to have one myself. I had stepped inside to tend to a brief call about a children food allergy awareness project that I am trying to plan in my community. When I came back outside, I couldn’t even find a crumb in the large empty container. And here I thought people might have been discouraged when they heard that these cookie treats were dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, peanut-free, nut-free, and corn-free. I think part of the problem is most of them didn’t know they were allergy-friendly! Luckily, I had set aside a few spice cookie sandwiches back home for pictures. So after my husband and 3-year old sang “Happy Birthday Dear Mommy,” we got to share a yummy summer spice cookie sandwich.