Pumpkin cookies topped with a smooth cream cheese frosting and chopped pecans. A bold spice blend makes these tasty treats flavorful, while pumpkin puree adds a nice bright orange hue and cakey texture.
Bake up a delicious batch of soft pumpkin cookies to celebrate autumn flavors. Seasonal gourds like pumpkins are now bountiful at the market and just begging to be used in your next recipe.
Alternately, when not making a classic pumpkin pie, the orange puree mixed into a cookie batter can yield tender sweets that have crisp edges with soft centers.
Generally, pumpkin has a mild sweetness that can often taste bland in cookies. So, it’s the combination of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves that really elevate the flavor. Plus a velvety cream cheese frosting is generously spread on top along with crunchy pecans for texture. When cake meets cookie, it’s a winning combination.
Choosing the right pumpkin puree
For convenience, this recipe uses the popular canned 100% pure pumpkin from Libby’s. I find that it has a really smooth texture, beautiful orange pulp, and lightly sweet taste.
The special Dickinson pumpkins that they harvest have the best taste from all the other processed options available. You can also make homemade pumpkin puree which I highly recommend.
How to make pumpkin cookies
- Preheat oven to 350ºF (177ºC).
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, and spices.
- In a large bowl cream the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
- Mix in the egg with the butter mixture.
- Add pumpkin puree and vanilla, mix until combined.
- Slowly add the dry ingredients until just combined.
- Add two tablespoons of cookie dough to a baking sheet, spread into a circle, repeat with remaining dough.
- Bake one tray at a time until edges are lightly browned and centers are set.
- Cool on the sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.
- Make the frosting by whisking together butter, powdered sugar, cream cheese, and cinnamon until smooth.
- Frost the cookies and top with chopped pecans.
Creating a soft cookie texture
This pumpkin cookie recipe uses a classic creaming method. This helps to create air pockets in the fat, and create a thick structure. However, the extra fiber and moisture in the pumpkin attract water, which creates a soft-baked, cake-like texture in the center.
It’s a sticky dough
Because of the moisture levels in the pumpkin, the cookie dough consistency is in between a thick drop cookie-like chocolate chip, and a thick pancake batter.
Since the dough is sticky, when you place each portion on your baking sheet, use the back of a spoon to spread them into round shapes. The eggs and baking powder will help the cookies rise and create a half-dome shape once cooked.
Cream cheese frosting is easy to make
Softened butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, and a touch of cinnamon are whipped together until smooth and spreadable. The consistency should be thick enough to stay put on top of the cookie without running off.
Make sure to refrigerate the cookies within a few hours once you add the frosting. The fresh dairy is highly perishable, so cover and refrigerate any leftover cookies or frosting. The frosting can also be made 1 to 2 days ahead of time, and then brought to room temperature to make it easy to apply.
Boosting pumpkin flavor in the cookies
Normally, when we think about eating a pumpkin-flavored dessert, the expectation is a pumpkin pie-like experience. That’s where pumpkin spice comes into play. It’s typically a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and cloves. I use it so often, that I make my own homemade spice blend. You can make a batch and add 1 ¾ to 2 teaspoons into this recipe.
Ways to adapt the recipe
- Add powdered sugar icing or glaze instead of the frosting.
- Mix in some semi-sweet or white chocolate chips.
- Make it chai flavored by adding cardamom, anise, allspice, and black pepper to the cookie dough or frosting.
More pumpkin favorites
Why these cookies get softer when stored
Granulated sugar and baking soda help these pumpkin cookies brown with lightly crisp edges. But it’s the brown sugar that’s a humectant (keeps things moist) and the fibers in the pumpkin puree like to bind to water. So over time, the texture becomes softer and cakey, especially when storing for a few days.
- 2 cups (284 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon (6 g) baking soda
- 1 teaspoon (2 g) ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon (1 g) baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- ⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
- ½ teaspoon (3 g) kosher salt
- ½ cup (115 g) unsalted butter, softened
- ¾ cup (150 g) granulated sugar
- ¼ cup (50 g) dark brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup (60 g) pecans, chopped
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 4 tablespoons (60 g) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 ½ cups (175 g) powdered sugar
- 4 ounces (115 g) cream cheese, cut into four pieces and softened
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Set the oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 350ºF (177ºC).
- Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, baking powder, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and salt.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or hand mixer), combine butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 minutes.
- Add the egg and mix until combined, 30 seconds.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the pumpkin puree and vanilla. Mix until combined, 30 seconds.
- Gradually add the flour mixture on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Mix the cookie dough with a spatula to incorporate any pockets of flour.
- Spoon two tablespoon-sized mounds of cookie dough onto the baking sheets. Use a spoon to spread the dough into a circle, the dough will have a sticky consistency.
- Repeat with remaining cookie dough, placing them about 2 inches apart, about 12 per baking sheet.
- Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the edges and centers are set and the bottoms are golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes. If baking less than 12 cookies per sheet, reduce time to 10 to 12 minutes.
- Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.
Cream Cheese frosting
- In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or hand mixer), beat 4 tablespoons softened butter and powdered sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy 2 minutes.
- Add cream cheese, one piece at a time and mix until smooth.
- Add the cinnamon and mix until incorporated.
- Spread about 1 to 2 teaspoons of frosting on the top of each cookie, and then sprinkle on the pecans.
- Make Ahead: Cookies and frosting can be made a day ahead and stored separately in an airtight container. Allow the frosting to warm slightly at room temperature before filling.
- Homemade pumpkin spice can be used. Add 1 ¾ to 2 teaspoons of the blend to the mixture instead of the individual spices in the ingredient list.
- The cookies will become cakier when stored overnight or refrigerated.