Similar in texture to snickerdoodle cookies and inspired by homemade caramel apples, caramel apple spice thumbprints are completely irresistible. These fall cookies are filled with homemade caramel and spiced with cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg.
Let’s kick today off with a cookie inspired by homemade caramel apples. These aren’t shortbread cookies– you know the dense crumbly melt-in-your-mouth shortbread texture? I actually have a shortbread thumbprint cookie recipe in Sally’s Cookie Addiction for you. Today’s thumbprint cookie, rather, is similar to a snickerdoodle cookie. Snickerdoodles paired with apple spice and caramel. Is there a better cookie trio? Dare you to name one.
Why You’ll Love These Thumbprint Cookies
If pumpkin isn’t your thing… or even if it is… you *have* to try these apple spice thumbprints because:
- adorable little 2 bite cookies
- super soft
- apple pie spice + sugar coating
- gooey caramel!!! that sets after a couple hours!!!
- simple + straightforward cookie dough
- have I mentioned that they’re teeny and cute?
Caramel Apple Spice Thumbprint Ingredients
Each ingredient plays an important role in keeping these cookies soft and spiced, so I don’t recommend any substitutions.
- Flour: All-purpose flour serves as the base of these thumbprints. We use 2 and 1/2 cups of it to provide the cookies’ structure and shape.
- Baking Powder: Helps the cookies rise.
- Salt + Vanilla Extract: Both add flavor (try using homemade vanilla extract).
- Apple Pie Spice: What makes these apple spice thumbprints… apple-spiced! Apple pie spice is pretty standard here in the US, but if you don’t have access to store-bought apple pie spice, you can make your own with cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg.
- Butter: 1 cup of butter adds flavor, structure, and buttery goodness in each bite. Make sure it’s properly softened to room temperature before beginning.
- Sugar: We’re use all granulated sugar in this cookie recipe.
- Egg: One egg binds everything together.
- Salted Caramel: We fill each thumbprint cookie with homemade salted caramel– you can make this ahead of time or while the cookie dough chills. I reduced the salt in the salted caramel to 1/4 teaspoon so it’s a regular caramel, not salted. Don’t leave out the salt completely! You can, of course, keep as regular salted caramel too. I prefer the sweet version with this cookie and highly recommend you try it too.
How to Make Apple Spice Thumbprints
Apple spice thumbprint cookie dough is super simple and straightforward– it makes wonderful drop sugar cookies and thumbprints provided that you chill the dough appropriately. Here’s how to make these thumbprint cookies:
- Mix the topping ingredients together.
- Mix the dry ingredients together.
- Cream the wet ingredients together.
- Combine the wet and dry ingredients together.
- Roll balls of dough + coat with topping mixture. Use a little less than 1 Tablespoon of dough for each (about 1 inch balls).
- Indent each cookie. (see below for more details)
- Chill cookie dough balls.
- Fill with caramel.
- Bake for 1-2 more minutes.
My tip: Chill the cookie dough AFTER rolling the dough balls into apple pie spice/sugar and making indents– chilling the cookie dough at this stage is the most important step. In my recipe testing, I found that chilling the dough before indenting made it a little too firm; it was hard to work with. Chilling the dough after indenting was much easier. And if you chill the cookies like this (picture below), they’ll hold their shape much better when baked.
My Indent Trick
My #1 trick for indenting thumbprint cookies! Instead of using your thumb, use the end of a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. This way you don’t dirty your thumbs, get dough under your nail, touch all the cookies again, AND you obtain a perfect uniform indent among each cookie in the batch. Are you a control freak/neat freak like I am? Then you’ll totally appreciate this hack.
You might be wondering what about the caramel filling? We haven’t forgotten it– instead, we’re saving the best for last.
Here’s when you’ll add the caramel: AFTER you bake the chilled + shaped cookies for about 12 minutes. At this point, remove the thumbprints from the oven, fill with caramel, then bake for about 1-2 more minutes. This helps the caramel set.
If you find that the indents have lost their shape after the initial 12 minutes in the oven, grab the end of your spatula again and press down to make a deeper indent. Deeper indent = bigger pool of caramel. Obviously a good thing.
To jazz up the look, sprinkle the tops with a little extra apple pie spice/sugar. The caramel is super gooey right out of the oven (um, yum), but will set after a couple hours making these caramel apple spice thumbprints perfect for stacking, packing, gifting, and traveling. And a little less messy for teeny hands and hungry tummies!!
Leftover Apple Pie Spice?
Caramel apple spice thumbprints are filled with homemade caramel sauce!
- 1/3 cup (67g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice*
- 2 and 1/2 cups (315g) all-purpose flour,
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons apple pie spice*
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- homemade salted caramel*
- Mix the topping ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Whisk the flour, apple pie spice, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. Set aside.
- In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and beat on high speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl and beat again as needed to combine. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on low until combined.
- Roll balls of dough, a little less than 1 Tablespoon each (about 1 inch balls), and then roll generously into apple pie spice/sugar mixture to coat. Place dough balls onto a large lined baking sheet. Using your thumb or the end of a spatula (see post above), make an indent into each cookie. If you find that the balls are cracking when you make an indent, use your hands to push back together.
- Chill the shaped cookies for at least 2-3 hours and up to 4 days. Cover them if chilling for longer than 3 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Remove chilled and shaped cookies from the refrigerator. Divide between both baking sheets, spacing the cookies about 2-3 inches apart.
- Bake for 12 minutes, remove from the oven, and spoon 1/2 teaspoon of caramel into each indentation. If the indents have lost their shape or have puffed up, use the end of a spatula to make an indent again. Place cookies back in the oven for 1-2 more minutes.
- Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Caramel will set after a couple hours.
- Make Ahead Instructions: Cookies stay fresh covered at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Store leftover caramel in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. You can make and shape the cookie dough and chill it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, as noted in step 4. Baked and filled cookies freeze well for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.
- Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer, Apple Pie Spice, Silpat Baking Mat, Baking Sheet, and Cooling Rack
- Apple Pie Spice: Do you have apple pie spice where you live? It’s pretty standard here in the US. If you don’t have access to store-bought apple pie spice, you can make your own with cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg.
- Caramel Sauce: I reduced the salt in the salted caramel to 1/4 teaspoon so it’s a regular caramel, not salted. Don’t leave out the salt completely! You can, of course, keep as regular salted caramel too. I prefer the sweet version with this cookie and highly recommend you try it too.