Old fashioned thumbprint cookies with icing and sprinkles are the ultimate holiday treat! You can even make these thumbprint cookies with buttercream or chocolate icing and nuts instead of sprinkles! The thumbprint cookie filling is so customizable!
And for more of my favorite cookies, try my Chocolate Chip Cookies Without Brown Sugar, my Coffee Cookies, and my full list of 45 Best Cookies for Cookie Exchange + Cookie Exchange Ideas!
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Old Fashioned Thumbprint Cookies with Icing
The thumbprint cookie filling on these old fashioned thumbprint cookies with icing is totally up to you! You can make these classic thumbprint cookies with icing and nuts, or my favorite, with sprinkles! These are perfect for you if you love customizable cookie recipes!
What are thumbprint cookies made of?
The full measurements and ingredient details are below, but here are the simple ingredients you'll need for these shortbread cookies and thumbprint cookie filling:
- powdered sugar - I like using powdered sugar because it gives these cookies a softer, lighter texture that makes them the best thumbpring cookies! Be sure you use a kitchen scale to measure your powdered sugar for best results, or use the spoon-and-level method.
- salted butter - your butter should be cold and cut into cubes. I like to cut it into cubes and then place it back in the fridge to chill. I use salted butter for this recipe, but if you prefer, you can use unsalted butter and then add ½ teaspoon of salt with your flour.
- almond extract & vanilla extract - be sure to use high-quality pure vanilla extract. Or better yet, check out my post on how to make vanilla extract at home with just 2 ingredients!
- all-purpose flour - because these cookies have a shortbread base, it's important to measure your flour correctly. I recommend measuring flour by weight using a kitchen scale. If you measure with a measuring cup, you could end up with too much flour depending on how it's packed in the cup, and that can make your cookies more crumbly and harder to form into dough.
And for that lovely thumbprint cookie filling, you'll need:
- powdered sugar - gives this thumbprint cookie filling a nice sweetness and texture!
- vanilla extract - adds delicious flavor to our icing.
- milk - any milk you like -- I used whole dairy milk.
- pinch of salt - to bring out the flavors in these old fashioned thumbprint cookies!
- food coloring - optional, to add the festive colors you want to these thumbprint cookies with icing! You can choose whatever fits the celebration and time of year -- pink for Valentine's Day, orange for Halloween, or red and green for the holiday season!
- sprinkles (or nuts) - these are optional, but nothing says holiday fun than thumbprint cookies with icing and sprinkles!
See the recipe card below for detailed instructions, but here's how easy it is to make these old fashioned thumbprint cookies with icing!
Cream together butter and powdered sugar in a food processor or the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix in extracts, then flour until just combined.
Form into tablespoon-sized dough balls (or use a small cookie scoop and roll into balls) on a prepared baking sheet and press indents with the back of a measuring spoon, or I use a wine cork. Bake until lightly golden brown on the bottom.
Whisk icing ingredients together in a small bowl, or separate into two small bowls for multiple icing colors.
Fill indents in thumbprint cookies with icing and top with sprinkles or nuts. You can use a piping bag, but I just used a small spoon.
Hint: add your sprinkles or other toppings to the center of each cookie immediately after filling your thumbprint cookies with icing, before the icing sets.
Thumbprint Cookies with Buttercream Icing
Feel free to swap out the simple powdered sugar icing and make these thumbprint cookies with buttercream icing like the one in my Mini Vanilla Cake recipe. You can also use a lemon buttercream frosting like the one from my Lavender Lemon Cupcakes, or a cream cheese buttercream like the one from my Chocolate Spice Cake!
Thumbprint Cookies with Chocolate Icing
To make these thumbprint cookies with chocolate icing, just follow the icing recipe I list below, replacing 3 tablespoons of the powdered sugar with cocoa powder.
Can you freeze baked thumbprint cookies?
This iced thumbprint cookies recipe can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days at room temperature or up to 1 week if kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They can also be frozen, well wrapped, for up to 3 months.
Why are my thumbprint cookies flat?
To make sure your thumbprint cookie dough doesn't spread too much in the oven, keep in mind a few things. First, use very cold butter and avoid touching it too much with your hands! Then, place your cookies in the freezer to chill while your oven preheats. Finally, use an oven thermometer to make sure your oven temperature is accurate and that your oven rack is placed in the center of the oven.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you plan to make your thumbprint cookies with icing and and nuts the next day, you can place it in the fridge the night before to chill. -- just be sure to cover the container tightly so that your dough doesn't dry out. If you end up with cookie dough that's too dry, check my post on how to fix dry, crumbly cookie dough.
If you're able, I would recommend scooping the cookies into balls and then pressing the indents before refrigerating them overnight or freezing them. That way it'll be much easier to just pop them directly into the oven.
Your thumbprint cookies may bake up cracked if they cracked when you pressed the indents. To prevent this, just press the dough back together to repair any cracks before baking.
Now that you've tried this classic Christmas cookie recipe, I've got more for you! If you love lemon desserts, try my Lemon Curd Cookies! If you're a fan of a classic PB&J, try my Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumbprint Cookies! If you love salted caramel, you'll love my Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies with Cinnamon Sugar
If you try this recipe, I would love it if you could leave a star review rating and comment below! It’s so wonderful hearing your feedback! And don’t forget to share your creations with me by tagging @chenee_today on Instagram!
Equipment you may need
- Combine powdered sugar and cold, cubed butter in the bowl of a food processor or stand mixer. Cream them together until well-combined and smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add in extracts.1 cup powdered sugar, 1 cup salted butter, ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract, ½ teaspoon almond extract
- Gradually add in flour, processing until fully incorporated and dough is well mixed. Place dough in refrigerator, covered, to chill for an hour.2 cup all-purpose flour
- Roll dough into smooth tablespoon-sized balls and place 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Use the back of a utensil, your thumb, a teaspoon measuring spoon or a wine cork to press a shallow indentation in the center of each dough ball (about halfway down).
- Place baking sheet in freezer to chill for 15 minutes while you preheat the oven to 350°F and place the rack in the center of the oven.
- Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, or until edges of cookies are slightly golden brown. Let cool for 15 minutes on the baking sheet, then gently transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Thumbprint Cookie Filling
- While cookies are cooling, whisk together powdered sugar, vanilla, and 2 tbsps of milk.2 cups powdered sugar, ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Add up to 2 more tablespoons of milk as needed, a little at a time, until desired consistency is reached.2-4 tablespoon milk
- Add a pinch of salt to taste. Divide into smaller bowls and add drops of food coloring until desired colors are reached.pinch salt, 2-6 drops liquid food coloring
- Immediately top with sprinkles or nuts, let icing set, and serve!sprinkles, nuts, etc.