Chocolate Shape Cookies
Chocolate Shape Cookies

When it comes to cut out holiday sugar cookies or "shape" cookies as we affectionately refer to them around here, I'm a little meh. Sure, it's fun to cut them out and decorate, but as far as the eating part goes, they're not the most exciting of treats. We make them because it's tradition, right? But what if I told you that you could now make those same shape cookies out of a rich chocolate-y dough that you'd actually dream about because the taste is out of this world?! Would you, out of pure joy, start belting out "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"? Chocolate does that to people, you know. It's an unexplained but totally understandable phenomenon. Make these and experience the phenomenon of the chocolate shape cookie too!

Making shape cookies used to be one of the highlights of December for my kids and nieces. My grandparents used to come over to watch whoever was "the baby" of the time and too little (or wild) to be involved with the cookie cutters, sprinkles, frosting...needless to say it was a big messy production (I'd usually be cleaning sprinkles or gobs of frosting off the walls for days after the event) the cookies were often inedible, and some little people had stomach aches afterwards from eating too much candy and frosting, but it was FUN!! Imagine if I'd had this chocolate dough to work with--things would have been even more out of hand!!

The dough has both cocoa powder and melted bittersweet chocolate in it, so you are guaranteed a thoroughly chocolate experience with each bite. Truly we and the people we brought these cookies to, couldn't get enough of them!! Ok, enough talk--time to take action and get baking. I'm considering a second batch right now. Add these chocolate gems and I promise you'll wind up with Santa's best cookie plate ever! 

Chocolate Shape Cookies

Makes about 20 large cookies, you'll get more if you use small cookie cutters
Prep Time:  15 minutes to make dough, plus at least 4 hours chilling time; Bake Time:  9-12 minutes


  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Sprinkles, icing, sanding sugar for decorating (optional)

The Recipe

1.  Into a medium bowl, sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and soda and salt and set aside. In the top of a double boiler set over simmering water, melt the chocolate. Remove from the heat and set aside.

2.  In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add in the sugar and beat another 2 minutes, until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Add the egg and beat well to mix, another minute or so. Lower the speed and beat in the vanilla extract and the melted chocolate, scraping the bowl as necessary. Add the flour mixture all at once and beat on low speed just until incorporated, scraping the bowl as you go. 

3.  Gather the dough into a ball and divide it in half. Flatten each half and wrap each disk separately in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 4 hours and up to 2 days.

4.  If you've chilled the dough for a long time, you may need to let it sit at room temperature for about half an hour before you roll it out. Place one large sheet of waxed paper on your counter or board. Place one of the disks on top of it and cover with another sheet of waxed paper. Roll out the sandwiched dough to somewhere between 1/4-1/8-inch thickness. Line a few cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

5.  Use any kind of cookie cutters you like to cut out the dough and transfer to the lined cookie sheets, spacing the cookies about 1 inch apart. Leave as is or decorate with sprinkles or sanding sugar if not icing the cookies. 

6.  Gather the remaining dough together and re-roll out. If it seems too soft and is hard to work with, place it in the freezer for 5 minutes or so. Continue rolling and cutting out cookies until all the dough is used up.

7.  Bake cookies , 1 sheet at a time, for about 9-12 minutes depending on the size and thickness of the cookies. You can't really tell by the color if they're done. When cookies are firm on top and slightly darker around the edges, remove them from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack until completely cool. 

8.  Cookies keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.


Note:  Recipe adapted from a 2007 issue of Bon Appetit Magazine.

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