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Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Icing

These pillowy spice cookies transform pumpkin pie flavors into portable treats.

  • Yield: Makes about 6 dozen
Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Icing

Source: Martha Stewart Living Special Issues, 2005


  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin (14 ounces)
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon evaporated milk, plus more if needed
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Fit a pastry bag with a large coupler and a 1/2-inch plain round (such as Ateco #806); set aside.

  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a medium bowl; set aside. Cream 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter and the brown sugar on medium speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in eggs. Reduce speed to low. Add pumpkin, 3/4 evaporated milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla; mix until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add flour mixture; mix until combined.

  3. Transfer 1 1/2 cups batter to a pastry bag. Pipe 1 1/2-inch rounds onto parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until tops spring back, about 12 minutes. Cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks; let cool completely.

  4. Put confectioners' sugar in a large bowl; set aside. Melt remaining 10 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling pan occasionally, until golden brown, about 3 minutes.

  5. Immediately add butter to confectioners' sugar, scraping any browned bits from sides and bottom of pan. Add remaining 5 tablespoons evaporated milk and remaining 2 teaspoons vanilla; stir until smooth. Spread about 1 teaspoon icing onto each cookie. If icing stiffens, stir in more evaporated milk, a little at a time.

Cook's Note

Cookies can be stored in single layers in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.

Reviews (40)

  • kali stanland 19 Oct, 2015

    Fantastic recipe. (especially for those that like sweet) The first time I made it, I found it too sweet. But that's my opinion as I do not like things that sweet. So this time...I added only 1.5 cups of raw sugar and a tablespoon of molasses instead of the brown sugar. I also only added 1 tsp of salt. And something extra to add more ymminess...Dark Chocolate chips. And because I LOVE fresh ginger and pumpkin, I added a little extra pumpkin and candied ginger instead of ground ginger. :)

  • anna e troy 18 Oct, 2015

    Made this yesterday and it was a big hit. The cookies are delicious and fluffy - almost like a moon pie. My frosting came out nice and thick (although I could have used more!) and I sprinkled some Halloween sprinkles to really maximize the Halloween spirit! I thought at first the cookies needed more time, but they were springy to the touch, so don't worry if they don't brown too much!

  • Mervandlouise 4 Apr, 2015

    I forgot to add the canned milk and they turned out great, not flat, more cake like and easy to ice. They were a big hit!

  • lisa 21 Dec, 2014

    Made the recipe as is and they came out great. The cookies were not quite pancake flat but they are flatter than what I was expecting. I halved the icing which worked perfectly for the number of cookies I had (59 - many were eaten before they were iced they are that good!). They look better with the icing but I don't think the icing does anything spectacular for them - I may try adding cinnamon or something next time. These cookies are mini pumpkin cakes! Yum!

  • m_k_sager 2 Dec, 2014

    These came out wonderful! My 3-yr-old loved them. I did not pipe the cookie batter as instructed, but used a cookie scoop to scoop round cookie batter onto the cookie sheets and they turned out fine. My icing was the same consistency as the photos and I had barely enough for the cookies I made.

    I will definitely make these again! A yummy pumpkin cookie!

  • sondrabaker0 8 Feb, 2014

    I made these and they turned out absolutely wonderful!
    ....but when it came to the frosting, well, it turned out more like a glaze. It was still delicious but I was really hoping to get the pretty and fluffy icing that's in the pictures! Any help?

  • tanacoleman1990 28 Oct, 2013

    I made the cookies the other day and brought it to my women group and they were a HUGE hit. This will be my go to choice for cookies this season.

  • kmsullivan90 13 Oct, 2013

    Delicious. You only need to make about half of the icing , and you will still probably have extra. This is a keeper.

  • megant620 28 Sep, 2013

    These cookies were incredibly moist and full of pumpkin flavor. Each one was like a mini cake. They were a big hit and I am excited to make them again!

  • jengl 27 Oct, 2012

    Delicious flavor, but the dough was more like batter. Added 2 cups of quick oats and another cup of flour. Still very moist cookie. I don't see how anyone was able to 'pipe' this dough.

  • deb81bill 10 Oct, 2012

    Just tried this recipe, loved it! I will make more to hand out to fiends, however, how do I keep them from getting so moist & sticky. I put them in an air tight container, and the next day, they were stuck together. Any ideas?

  • deannafusco 19 Sep, 2012

    These came out fantastic, and were my boyfriend's favorite out of my cookie-baking-frenzy-sampler. I liked them too, because they weren't too sweet, the icing though is very sweet and although delicious, I might tinker with that 4 cups of confectioner's sugar. But the texture was really nice, I hope they stay like that for a few days!

  • AlexandraTheone 20 Nov, 2011

    macleic, the frosting definitely changes the flavor! I didn't add pumpkin spice. I think next time I will reduce the ginger and add some clove.

  • macleic 20 Nov, 2011

    thanks for that, i guess i'll just have to figure out a way to transport the frosting....

  • AlexandraTheone 20 Nov, 2011

    I'm making them now and have not done the frosting yet, ,but they are pretty plain without it, although I used fresh pumpkin and the ginger seems to overpower. I'm going to sprinkle some pumpkin spice on the icing and see if that helps.

  • macleic 20 Nov, 2011

    does anyone know how these are without the frosting? thanks!

  • sfroass 31 Oct, 2011

    I forgot to mention in my review that I used a medium scoop to drop the cookies. Also, I used the coarse salt once. I didn't care for it, so I later just used 1 tsp regular salt.

  • sfroass 31 Oct, 2011

    These are fantastic. They are light and "pillowy", moist and yummy. The person who had trouble incorporating the butter and milk... Just add the flour and it will all mix in smoothly.
    This is my new favorite fall cookie

  • ally_sweet1 27 Oct, 2011

    I cannot get the butter and evaporated milk to combine. When I add the evaporated milk to the batter the butter separates out! what do I do?

  • Tryche 24 Oct, 2011

    Does anyone know how many Weight Watcher points?

  • rizbing 23 Oct, 2011

    These cookies are wonderful. Very moist and great pumpkin taste. Great for this time of the year. And the brown butter icing made it even better!

  • Plgrm3 22 Oct, 2011

    Great recipe, I added a half walnut on the top to finish it off.

  • mintyburst 22 Oct, 2011

    My daughter made these cookies. They were absolutely delicious! She used regular table salt. That's all we had. The cookies turned out fine. This recipe is a keeper!

  • fromegirl 18 Oct, 2011

    The batter/dough was very runny, more like cake batter. I made mini muffins with the same brown butter icing and they were WONDERFUL!!!!! Would like to make the cookies though. What would you add to make a cookie dough and how much?

  • betrhalf 16 Oct, 2011

    that's where my print button used to be, but now it's to the left side in a "tab" next to where the recipe is. That's also where the save button is.

    As far as table salt vs. coarse salt I would go no more than half amount or maybe 1/2 tsp in this recipe. Hope this helps

  • jengl 16 Oct, 2011

    The print button is right underneath the title of the recipe, on the same line as the 'tweet' button, just over to the right, but before you get to the ads. Hope this helps.

  • jengl 16 Oct, 2011

    Has anyone tried substituting regular table salt for the coarse salt? If so, how much and were the cookies still good? I used coarse salt in one of Martha's recipes and most people who commented on the lemon bars said there was an almost bitter taste they did not care for. These cookies sound delicious - my husband loves spice cookies and cake, but I am hesitant to try them with the coarse salt given my bad luck with the lemon bars.

  • JBCBiltmore 16 Oct, 2011

    Having trouble saving this recipe to my collection and, also, where is the print button?

  • Juliacr 29 Sep, 2011

    These cookies are insanely good, especially the icing. I used a ziploc bag with the tip cut off as a pastry bag, but the heat from my hands really softened the dough. One reader mentioned using an ice cream scoop which I think is the best option for forming the cookies. Either way, though, they're worth it!

  • kelly18657 26 Nov, 2010

    These are, hands down, one of the best cookies I have ever baked! This will be the sixth year I am making them. Each year I get more and more compliments on them! I just use a big Zip-lock freezer bag and cut a [filtered word] in the corner of it instead of piping the dough through a pastry bag - it works wonderfully! If you want to bake a new cookie this year, I would highly recommend baking the Pumpkin cookies with brown-butter icing!

  • DenSal 19 Oct, 2010

    I baked these cookies for our garden club meeting last night and both the men and ladies loved them. Several ladies asked me for the recipe. The icing was especially delicious. Thank you Martha Stewart for another delicious recipe.

  • CarrieeAnn 18 Oct, 2010

    I found that I didn't need to use a pastry bag at all. I used a mini ice cream scoop
    and it worked perfectly. They took exactly 12 minutes to bake and were soft and moist. That icing is delicious! It is crucial to keep them in an airtight container!

  • KokoWarren 10 Oct, 2010

    It sounds like your baking powder may have been a little old. Also spices like cinnamon and nutmeg can go stale within months. Better to buy fresh see and keep in tight fitted glass or metal jars. You will notice quite a difference from the cans of spice in the grocery store.

  • nicoleinseattle 25 Dec, 2009

    These cookies spread out quite a bit on the cookie sheet I would give them more than 1 inch apart for sure. Mine ended up spreading into one another. The cookie is cake like in texture and I thought could use some more pumpkin spice.

  • myke43 17 Oct, 2009

    by all means do chill dough and try mini muffin tins for dainty treats
    for a fall afternoon tea............

  • momzrule 19 Nov, 2008

    I love this recipe! It is one of my "standard" recipes that I go to whenever I need a reliable treat that is always a hit. I typically make these cookies in cupcake form, since it is quicker to make and just as tasty. Same recipe exactly, just pour into cupcake pans and bake! Make 24 cupcakes. (You will have extra icing left over, but I always find a use for it!) I also make this in my mini-loaf pans when I need a nice treat to give a neighbor, teacher, etc. It is perfect!

  • mndivergirl 26 Oct, 2008

    These cookies have a great "pumpkin pie" flavor, but they spread more than i thought they would as well as being "too light" I was looking for a heavier cookie like my gramma used to make. They also were hard to get out of the pan because I don't use parchment paper. They have a very light cake like texture, not like the cookie i'm used to. If you like cake like cookies this recipe is for you.

  • kelseybanfield 24 Sep, 2008

    These cookies are delicious. I let the dough "rest" in the fridge for at least 12 hours before I bake them. I also use an ice cream scoop instead of piping the batter and it works just as well. They come out beautifully and the icing is a nice touch.

  • iammelw 19 Sep, 2008

    dabcave-- I've made these cookies for about four years now, and although I've never frozen the cookies after baking, I've frozen them before baking. Just freeze the batter as-is or pipe them onto the paper and freeze before you bake them. Then you can just take them out of the freezer and pop them into the oven. Hope that helps!

  • debcave 6 Sep, 2008

    These are the best pumpkin cookies I've ever tasted. I would like to know if they can be frozen prior to icing them, so as not to be so rushed before the holidays with all my other baking? If so, how long? Thank you so much.

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