Snickerdoodle cookies are a delightful treat rolled in cinnamon and sugar. The spiced coating creates a crackly crisp exterior with surprisingly thick soft centers. It’s the perfect balance of simple flavors and contrasting textures.
Snickerdoodle cookies are different than other drop cookies as they have a hint of tangy flavor balanced with warm spices, and a candy-like crust. Their distinctive thickness and soft texture is achieved by using equal parts butter and shortening.
Enjoy them warm from the oven, or add some ice cream in the middle to make sandwiches. These simple, eye-catching cookies are a must-have for any celebration. No need to chill the dough like chocolate chip cookies, just mix and bake!
Sugar cookies vs snickerdoodles
Sugar cookies have a sweet vanilla base and often use a combination of baking powder, baking soda, butter, and oil. They’re rolled in just granulated sugar or colored sugars.
Snickerdoodle cookies have a distinctive tangy flavor from cream of tartar and use vegetable shortening in addition to butter. The dough balls are rolled in cinnamon sugar mixture for more of a churro-like taste.
Don’t skip the cream of tartar!
Cream of tartar (potassium bitartrate) gives snickerdoodle cookies a slightly tart flavor. It provides a nice balance to the abundance of sugar that’s added to the dough and coating, otherwise, it would taste bland and overly sweet.
The acidic salt is a byproduct of grape juice and winemaking that looks like a fine white powder. It can help stabilize eggs or add a slightly sour taste to cookies and cakes. It’s also added as the acidic component to baking powder to help baked goods instantly rise.
Creating a crinkly cookie surface
Adding in a generous amount of cream of tartar paired with baking soda creates a rapid carbon dioxide reaction. These bubbles help the cookies rise, but also crack on the top which is what we want.
The cookies bake at a slightly higher temperature so that the edges set quickly and not overly spread. Baking just about 10 minutes, and cooling them on the warm sheet pan allows for carryover cooking and keeps the texture soft and chewy.
Add in two kinds of fat
Shortening is made from hydrogenating vegetable oil, which contains no water but has a very bland taste. This helps the cookies hold their shape and prevent spreading so they stay nice and high. Butter adds incredible baked flavors from the milk solids, which also brown to give the cookies a more attractive aroma and appearance.
I did some extensive testing on the effects of adding butter vs shortening in cookies, and found some very interesting results! Using only butter makes the cookies spread too much and feel very greasy. Using only shortening keeps them thick but with very little flavor dimension. A 50:50 mix provides flavor, holds the shape better, and provides a soft bite.
Ways to adapt the recipe
- Add ½ to 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract for a richer flavor.
- Use ½ teaspoon almond or hazelnut extract to add a nutty taste.
- Make it chai-flavored by adding ground ginger, cardamom, and cloves.
More holiday cookies
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Don’t use baking powder
This snickerdoodle cookies recipe calls for baking soda and cream of tartar, which is very similar to baking powder but without the starch that prevents the ingredients from reacting when stored. If you add an additional chemical leavening agent like baking powder, the cookies will spread too much and be overly sour in taste.
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- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to 65 to 67ºF (18 to 20ºC)
- 8 tablespoons vegetable shortening
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
Cinnamon Sugar Coating
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- Set the oven rack to the center position and preheat to 375ºF (191ºC).
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl whisk together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.
- Fit a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or use a hand mixer. On medium speed, beat the butter, shortening, and 1 ½ cups of sugar until pale and fluffy, 3 minutes.
- Add the eggs, one at a time to the butter mixture. Mix on medium speed until incorporated, 30 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl in between addition.
- Turn the mixer to the lowest setting and slowly add in the flour. Mix until just combined and the dough feels stiff, about 30 seconds.
- Stir the dough with a spatula to incorporate any flour pockets, but do not overmix.
- In a small bowl combine ¼ cup sugar and cinnamon.
- Make 2 tablespoons (30g, 1 ounce) sized cookie dough balls, then roll into the cinnamon-sugar mixture to completely coat the outside. Repeat with remaining cookie dough.
- Stagger the cookies 3-inches apart on the baking sheets, about 9 to 12 per sheet.
- Bake the cookies, 1 sheet at a time until the edges are just set and beginning to brown, about 10 to 12 minutes, rotating halfway through baking. The centers should be puffy, soft, and cracked and will look slightly raw in the cracks.
- Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 10 minutes.
- Transfer to a cooling rack.
- For medium speed setting on a Kitchenaid or similar mixer, use setting 5.
- Refrigerated cookie dough: Shape, roll in cinnamon and sugar, then refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Bake at 375ºF (191ºC) until edges are set and centers are puffy.
- Frozen cookie dough: Shape, roll in cinnamon and sugar, freeze in a resealable plastic bag for up to 1 month. Bake at 300ºF (149ºC) for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating halfway through.
- Make it Gluten-Free: Subsitute gluten-free flour for all-purpose flour. I reccomened Bob's Red Mill 1:1 gluten-free baking flour.
- Recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated.
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