Caramel Apple Spice Thumbprints

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.

Apple spice thumbprint cookies filled with homemade caramel! These delicious fall cookies are completely irresistible and so simple to make! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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?

Apple spice thumbprint cookies filled with homemade caramel! These delicious fall cookies are completely irresistible and so simple to make! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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.

Caramel apple spice thumbprint cookie dough on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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:

  1. Mix the topping ingredients together.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients together.
  3. Cream the wet ingredients together.
  4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients together.
  5. Roll balls of dough + coat with topping mixture. Use a little less than 1 Tablespoon of dough for each (about 1 inch balls).
  6. Indent each cookie. (see below for more details)
  7. Chill cookie dough balls.
  8. Bake.
  9. Fill with caramel.
  10. Bake for 1-2 more minutes.
  11. Enjoy!

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.

How to make thumbprint cookies! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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.

How to make thumbprint cookies! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Caramel Filling

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!!

Apple spice thumbprint cookies filled with homemade caramel! These delicious fall cookies are completely irresistible and so simple to make! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Leftover Apple Pie Spice?

Use any extra apple pie spice in apple cinnamon oatmeal cookies or baked apple cider donuts!

Apple spice thumbprint cookies filled with homemade caramel! These delicious fall cookies are completely irresistible and so simple to make! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Print

Caramel Apple Spice Thumbprints

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours, 50 minutes
  • Yield: 24 cookies
  • Category: Cookies
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Caramel apple spice thumbprints are filled with homemade caramel sauce!


Ingredients

Topping

  • 1/3 cup (67g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice*

Dough

  • 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*

Instructions

  1. Mix the topping ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. Whisk the flour, apple pie spice, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Chill the shaped cookies for at least 2-3 hours and up to 4 days. Cover them if chilling for longer than 3 hours.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Notes

  1. 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.
  2. Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer, Apple Pie Spice, Silpat Baking Mat, Baking Sheet, and Cooling Rack
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
Apple spice thumbprint cookies filled with homemade caramel! These delicious fall cookies are completely irresistible and so simple to make! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

81 Comments

  1. Loving the look of these cookies. Already printed off a copy to make ASAP! Thanks again Sally for all you share with us. Can’t wait for the new book to arrive! Hope you are keeping well. 🙂

  2. Cookie week!! How exciting!! Love the apple spice cookies with the caramel in the middle. This just makes getting your cookie cookbook that much more exciting!! Hope that you are feeling well and taking time to be good to yourself☺

  3. Hi Sally,
    I didn’t know Apple Pie Spice was a thing! How could I miss something like that?! I love love this recipe!!!! The shortbread, the Caramel, the apple pie spice – that’s a whole lotta tum!!! Looking forward to the rest of cookie week, and of or course your new book!

  4. You almost lost me at the mention of snicker doodle but the flavor combo is one I would love to try! Plus, I did not realize apple pie spice contained cardamom.  I would have never guessed.  Cannot wait to make these beauties today. I am totally loving this week being all cookie recipes!  Thanks for your hard work.

  5. Yay! Cookie week and it’s not December!!!!! These look amazing! Can’t wait to try, always need a reason to make caramel sauce!!!! Thank you for always coming up with new and exciting recipes. I hope you are feeling well and getting some rest!

  6. This look amazing! I can’t wait to make them. I’m going to go out and find apple pie spice today. Looking forward to the rest of cookie week and can’t wait for your book. Hope your feeling well. 

  7. When I first saw these in the newsletter e-mail I was so excited but I was not expecting the APPLE pie spice! I’ve never noticed that spice in the stores but am super excited to try it out. I also LOVE that you use a snickerdoodle cookie as opposed to the shortbread style. Ummm… hello, AMAZING idea! Thanks again for another great recipe Sally! Hope you and your little girl are doing well- I know we all cannot wait to meet her! <3

    1. I’m trucking along! She’ll be here so soon 🙂
      And I’m so glad you got excited after seeing these in my new newsletter! Let me know if/when you try them.

  8. Great recipe! My family has always done walnut & raspberry jam thumbprints at Christmas time, and I had always wondered if there were versions for different times of year. Thanks Sally!

  9. I love pumpkin, but it’s always nice to see the other Fall flavours have their chance in the spotlight! I’m so excited for your cookbook & can’t wait to bake up a cookie storm this Fall 🙂

  10. Hi Sally,

    Is it possible to freeze the dough (before or after rolling into balls but prior to baking) and then just bake straight from the freezer (similar to some of your other cookies)??

    Thanks
    Neha

  11. Per the comment on the caramel recipe page, the caramel will be ok out on the counter for only one day. Does that mean these cookies need to be refrigerated if not eaten right away? Thanks!

  12. Hi Sally!! 
    SOOO excited for these cookies (& cookie week, & the cookie book!)!!  I must make them ASAP!!  Some actual apple flavor would be incredible in these.  Any excuse to make (and eat) caramel though so these are happening soon!! 🙂

  13. What is the difference between pumpkin pie spice and apple pie spice? I have never seen apple pie spice. Can we make our own apple pie spice?

  14. Was already planning on making salted caramel today and now I have a recipe to use it in! 🙂 Definitely trying these out later. And can’t wait to get my book!

  15. Could I make the caramel sauce ahead of time and freeze it? Just a general question (I often have extra heavy cream and don’t know what to do with the rest of it)

  16. Hi Sally, these wonderful cookies made me think of a recipe hack… Recently I found a recipe for apple cider caramels (I think it is originally from Deb Perelman’s 1st smitten kitchen cookbook) and there is an extremely reduced apple syrup, made from apple cider, in these caramels. So, inspired by that, I’m thinking of making an apple flavoured caramel sauce and use it for a shortbread version of thumbprint cookies with apple pie spice (I’m more of a shortbread fan – I love your raspberry almond thumbprint cookies!). So, apple pie spice in the shortbread dough, actual apple flavour in the caramel sauce. I’ll let you know if I attempt this.
    Wishing you a relaxed and comfortable time… waiting… 🙂

  17. I bet apple butter would taste good in these too ! We’re on a whole30 now, but I think I’ll make these to celebrate the end of our reset / beginning of October!

    I’m making your apple cake for a dinner Saturday night. I live in Paris and we have AMAZING bakeries, but the French (and our international community) always LOVE American baked treats. It’s like introducing everything to a brand new audience… We’ve had a lot of fun with some of your recipes here !

    1. Hi Rachel, I’m so flattered that you have been using my recipes from Paris where there are so many extraordinary bakeries! It’s so fun to hear what people from different parts of the world are baking! Let me know how the apple cake is received and what you try next 🙂

      1. Apple cake was loved by all- we had folks from France, South Africa, Nigeria, New Zealand, and Canada, so I think that’s a win! No Bundt pan (I haven’t seen them here), so I did two thin round layers and it worked great. And I used creme freche instead of Greek yogurt because that’s much easier to find. Can’t wait to try these cookies next!

        Thanks for all the great recipes. My friends have been asking me how to find brown sugar and baking soda and vanilla so they can try some American baking too. 😉 Baking spray doesn’t exist here… I do miss that!

  18. We just finished making these now and first impressions from everyone are excellent. Thanks for a very yummy recipe! Looking forward to the cookbook 🙂

  19. Made these just yesterday! They came out perfect just like your pictures! And taste amazing of course! I love your caramel recipe, I made the salted version awhile back and decided to try the sweeter version for these like you suggested! MMM! I could just about drink it but that doesn’t sound like such a bright idea! Thanks so much for the recipe <3

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