I know the name of these cookies is long. But. Don't let that intimidate you because these cookies are SO GOOD. A crisp, buttery cardamom shortbread sandwich cookie with vanilla beans and filled with an espresso Swiss meringue buttercream filling. Think a warm, spiced vanilla latte in cookie form. ( Recipe and notes have been updated 2022 - see below)
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You all know how much I love to make cookies around the holidays, my Christmas cookie recipe collection is coming along nicely on my blog.
I love cardamom and thought a cardamom shortbread cookie would be amazing. But I wanted something else with the cardamom. I happened to have some vanilla beans and decided that the cardamom and vanilla would be perfect together. I mean, just look at those little flecks of vanilla beans!
And then because I am usually very extra when it comes to baking, I just had to add a buttercream filling and the espresso Swiss meringue buttercream goes so well with these sandwich cookies.
What ingredients are in cardamom shortbread sandwich cookies?
- Butter - I use unsalted, make sure it is room temperature ( about 65-7o deg F. You don't want it melted, but soft enough to mix until fluffy).
- Confectioners sugar - also known as powdered sugar. I don't use granulated sugar in these cookies. The powdered sugar makes them melt in your mouth.
- All purpose flour - I have only tested these with all purpose flour. If you want to try to make them gluten free please do so at your own risk as I have not tested them that way.
- Arrowroot starch - I love using arrowroot starch in cookies, you could also use corn starch.
- Vanilla bean seeds - scraped from a few vanilla bean pods. ( Vanilla beans can be on the pricey side, you can also use vanilla bean paste).
- Ground cardamom - a warm spice, often used in Chai blends. Originated from Indian cuisine, and is from the ginger family. I love using it in both sweet and savory recipes.
- Vanilla extract - for another layer of vanilla flavor
- Kosher salt - I prefer Diamond Kosher in my baking
What ingredients are in Espresso Swiss meringue buttercream?
For the original espresso Swiss meringue buttercream recipe I made an espresso syrup and a Swiss Meringue buttercream then add them together. Really not that hard to make, but, you need to pay attention to the temperature of the sugar and egg white mixture on the stove, I highly suggest using a candy thermometer. I have since changed the recipe to make it without the syrup but by adding espresso powder to the buttercream. Much easier.
- Egg whites - from large eggs. Save those yolks for curd or ice cream
- Sugar - granulated sugar
- Butter - unsalted at room temperature
- Salt - kosher salt
- Espresso powder - mixed with a little water
I loved making these snowflake shaped. You can make the cookies as is, in any shape you like. Or make them into sandwich cookies. If you make them just as cookies and not a sandwich cookie you can roll them out a little thicker.
These make great gifts, they're perfect for any holiday cookie box or tray. You can freeze them before packing up too.
I like to pipe the espresso Swiss meringue buttercream into the cookies with a piping bag and a small open star tip. These are holiday cookies, so I like to make them a little fancier. You can save time by using a small spatula and spreading the buttercream between the cookies.
The vanilla cardamom shortbread really is amazing on its own, but I love coffee flavored anything and the espresso buttercream really works so well here.
Other holiday cookie recipes you might enjoy:
Linzer Kipferl - a classic Austrian sandwich cookie with apricot jam and dipped in chocolate.
Tropical Snowball Cookies - a tropical twist of the classic snowball cookie made with macadamia nuts and lime zest
White Chocolate Dipped Soft Ginger Molasses Cookies - classic soft ginger molasses cookies with an upgrade.
Chocolate Peppermint S'mores Cookies - Chocolate cookies with melty peppermint marshmallows
White Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread Cookies - tender buttery shortbread with white chocolate and peppermint bits
Recipe update (2022)
I have updated the recipe to make the espresso buttercream easier to make. No more espresso syrup. If you want to make it with the espresso syrup I have included that in the recipe notes.
I originally bought espresso from a coffee shop since I don't have an espresso maker. I made it into a syrup with sugar. I then added it into a basic Swiss meringue buttercream and after I took one taste, I was amazed any made it to the cookies.
This buttercream is definitely something that can be eaten by the spoonful. It is SO good. However, after some reader feedback I decided to remake the recipe and make it a little easier with one less step. Still just as tasty. Make it either way you like, and its also great for cupcakes or cakes not just for sandwich cookie recipes.
Swiss Meringue buttercream does take a little longer than American buttercream but the effort is worth it for the silky smooth buttercream. It is more butter forward than sugary like American buttercream made with powdered sugar. You can always add in a little more granulated sugar to the recipe if you want it sweeter but I don't suggest adding in powdered sugar. It will change the flavor and texture.
Many people are saying that 10-11 minutes at 300 Deg F isn't enough. This is enough in my ovens and I always check temperature with an oven thermometer. I have made these cookies many times and it has always come out the same way for me. So please make sure your oven temp is calibrated properly but if the cookies aren't done at 10 minutes bake at 1 minute more increments until the tops look dry but they aren't browning. These cookies do not get browned at all when they are done.If you have browned them they are over baked. I do not recommend raising your oven temp to 350 Deg. F to bake these. They will brown too quickly. I promise you 300 Deg F is enough to bake the cookies and set them. They will look dry on top but not brown.
Another issue is the cost and availability of vanilla beans and vanilla bean paste. If you have a Trader Joes near you they have affordable vanilla bean paste. You can buy vanilla beans online in bulk that will last a long time.Vanilla Bean Paste is also available in many stores online. A quick google search will show you lots of options and stores in your area that carries it for cheaper. Vanilla bean paste is a great ingredient to have and a little goes a long way.
Vanilla bean powder is another option that is cheaper than beans and paste and will give you that lovely vanilla flavor as well as the little black flecks form the vanilla seeds.
Vanilla Cardamom Shortbread Sandwich Cookie Recipe:
Vanilla Cardamom Shortbread Sandwich Cookies with Espresso Buttercream Filling
A crisp, buttery melt in your mouth cardamom shortbread sandwich cookie flecked with vanilla bean seeds and filled with an espresso Swiss meringue buttercream. Similar to a spiced vanilla latte in cookie form.
For the cookies:
- 3 cups all purpose flour (375 grams)
- 1 cup arrowroot starch (128 grams) (could also use corn starch)
- ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 2 cups butter (452 grams), room temperature
- 1 cup confectioners (powdered) sugar (120 grams)
- Vanilla bean seeds from 4 vanilla beans ( 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla bean seeds) OR 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the espresso Swiss meringue buttercream
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 ½ cup butter (3 sticks) (339 grams)
- ¾ cup granulated sugar (150 grams)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon espresso powder
- 2 teaspoons water
For the cookies:
In a medium bowl combine the flour, salt, starch and cardamom. Whisk to combine well. Set aside.
In a bowl of a stand mixer on medium, cream the butter until soft and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and add the powdered sugar and mix on low until combined. Add in the vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds or paste. Slowly add in the flour mixture and mix until combined.
Form the dough into two sections and form each section into a ball with your hands. Flatten into a disc and wrap with plastic wrap. Chill for one hour.
Preheat oven to 300 deg F. Prepare baking sheets with either parchment or silicone bake mats.
On a lightly floured surface roll out on dough disc at a time to ¼” thick. Cut out with 2” diameter snowflake shaped cookie cutters and place on cookie sheets about 2” apart. Bake for 10-11 minutes. Do not over bake or let them brown.
Let cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheets and carefully remove to a wire cooling rack to cool completely before filling and assembly. Since they are thin cookies they cool pretty quickly.
For the espresso Swiss Meringue buttercream:
Make the buttercream while the cookies are cooling. You could also make this a day ahead of time and bring to room temperature before using, just whip again in your mixer to make it light and fluffy.
Set a pan of water over the stove and bring to a simmer. Set your mixing bowl over the pan to make sure it doesn’t touch the water, either pour out some of the water or add a foil ball to keep it from touching. In the stand mixer bowl, combine the egg whites, sugar and salt.
Set the bowl over the pan of simmering water until it reaches 160 deg f. ( use a candy thermometer). Return the bowl to the stand mixer and attach the whisk attachment. Slowly bring the speed all the way up and whip the mixture until thick and glossy and the bottom of the mixer bowl is cooler to the touch, about 7 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add in the butter one tablespoon at a time allowing a few rotations of the whisk in-between each addition.
Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl and bring the speed up to high and whip until the buttercream comes together. Mix the espresso powder with water then add to the buttercream. Whip to fully incorporate for another minute.
If piping the buttercream for the filling - fit a piping bag with a small open star tip and fill with some of the buttercream, squeeze to get rid of any air. I always squeeze a little back into the mixing bowl when getting rid of the air.
Take one cookie and spread or pipe some of the buttercream on the underside of the cookie (the side that touched the baking sheet when baking) and top with the other cookie. Repeat with remaining cookies. Chill until ready to serve. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
The original recipe called for an espresso syrup to be added to the buttercream. An extra step that got a lot of questions. I decided to make the buttercream a little easier and omit this step. However, if you wanted to make it this way here is the ingredients and instructions for the original recipe:
Combine the ½ cup brewed espresso (125 ml) and ½ cup sugar (100 grams) in a saucepan over medium heat stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil and then return to a simmer and heat until reduced and thickened. About 15 minutes. Transfer to a jar and let cool completely. It will be the consistency of honey.
Instead of the powedered espresso and water in the updated recipe, add this syrup in one tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired flavor of buttercream. You might have some syrup leftover.
Some readers are saying they needed to bake the cookies longer. These are a thin, buttery cookie that are baked at 10-11 minutes. You don't want them to brown. They will firm up once cool. I have made them many times and they come out perfect every time. I would suggest checking your oven temp with a thermometer to make sure it is at the correct temp before adjusting the recipe to a higher temperature or baking for a lot longer.
These look amazing and I want to make them, but question: can I substitute the vanilla beans for extract? If so, how much? Vanilla beans are so expensive 🙁
You can just omit them. They add more vanilla flavor to the cookie, and add the speckles you see, but since it is a shortbread cookie, too much liquid wont work. Vanilla beans, and vanilla extract, has gotten a lot more expensive these days. When I buy beans, after I use them I will put one in a jar of sugar for vanilla sugar, and I make my own vanilla extract. Helps to offset the price when I use them in other applications.
Jonna Lee says
Couldn't you use vanilla bean paste in place of the extract and the bean?
You can. I have found vanilla bean paste to be on the more expensive side so I stick with extract and vanilla bean
The filing calls for 1/2 Cup sugar. The instructions say to use 1/2 C sugar with the espresso, but then "sugar" with the egg whites. How much more sugar are you using in the egg whites?
3/4 cup. Its listed in the ingredients after the egg whites. I added "3/4 cup sugar" to the instructions to make it more clear
This looks so good! The shortbread would be good on its own too!
The shortbread is amazing on its own!
Thanks for sharing! How far ahead of time can I make them?
They freeze well up to 3-4 months after being baked and assembled. You can make the dough and freeze it as well as the buttercream. Bring the cookie dough to cool to room temp before rolling and baking. Same with the buttercream, make it, freeze then thaw in refrigerator then on your counter until soft enough to re-whip.
Eileen France says
Wonderful looking recipe and such beautiful cookies. How many cookies does this recipe typical make. Thinking about boxes of these to the neighbors for Christmas. Thank you
36 sandwich cookies. The yield is at the top of the recipe card. This is based on the size and shape cookie cutter I used.
Would this recipe work with a stamp? I’m new to cookie stamping and love the sound of this cookie!
I believe it would. You would just need to make sure the dough is chilled before stamping and flour the stamp well to make sure it doesn't stick or the cookie dough sticks to the stamp. Let me know how it comes out!
I feel like it’s worth mentioning that if it rains for MONTHS prior to making these cookies, one must needs add more flour, and/or bake these cookies longer. I did 13 mins at 300° as directed and they were so soft they were aaaalmost raw. Not knowing any better I served them and they were devoured. But a few days later I put the remaining couple dozen on a baking sheet and baked them another 10mins at 350° and they are more like a shortbread now. The light sweetness from the confectioners sugar is perfection!
Oh yes humidity will affect any kind of baking. Also - ovens do vary by temps depending on brand and age. So I always suggest having an oven thermometer to make sure you are at the correct temp and bake according to how your oven works best.
Not the fault of the originator of this recipe, but cookie didn't turn out to be my cup of coffee the way it's written. Vanilla beans are priced out of this world and the paste isn't available locally--again, not the fault of the originator of this recipe. And, of course, I waited until the last minute to make these, having no time to order paste on line, lol! I scraped one organic vanilla bean I splurged on at Walmart ($12.58 for one bean--yes, one--'cuz I just HAD to taste these cookies!!!!!) and added a pinch more cardamon to cookie dough (to get look) along with more pure vanilla extract (2 teaspoons) to taste. Probably still didn't add same amount of flavor vanilla bean paste would have if I was able to obtain some. If I had it to do over, I'd probably add more powdered sugar, too.
Because of other errands, I let dough refrigerate longer than instructed, so the butter set up pretty solid. To soften enough to roll out, I microwaved 5 seconds at a time (leave dough wrapped in plastic wrap) until I could press the heal of my hand into the dough. It rolled out and cut fine, then. Very nice texture and neither sticky nor too dry.
Took longer at 300 F oven (per instructions) to set cookies. Might have been because of moisture from vanilla extract I added to dough (not per instructions). Overall, they were nice, and I avoided browning them. (I use parchment paper on cookie sheet placed on middle rack of oven.) Advice for others: just go in 1 minute increments over instructed time until they're right. Any gloss/wet-look in center of surface will be gone from top.
You definitely don't want to see any hint of browning on top or along edge/bottom edge of cookies. Lift edge up a bit with knife to see if set. Peak a bit underneath to make sure cookie isn't browning. For extra measure if you still don't feel confident they're set after removing from oven, let sit on cookie sheet for a minute or two before removing to cooling rack. As long as you don't see browning after peaking at the underside with the knife, you're safe:) A little gold shading underneath is perfect, imo.
I really liked the idea of making buttercream filling from scratch. Texture/fluffiness/lightness was excellent! Added a bunch of powdered sugar (1/2 c. at a time) to taste AFTER filling was followed/developed per instructions. Too bland for me, otherwise. Nice texture/fluffiness remained after powdered sugar was added.
I understand vanilla beans and paste have gotten pricier. You can find vanilla bean paste for cheaper at Trader Joes. I do not ever recommend microwaving cookie dough to thaw it before rolling out. It will ruin the dough. Just let it thaw at room temp and make sure you leave ample time for it. Microwaving isn't a good shortcut at all. As far as the buttercream goes - it its not as sweet as American buttercream made with powdered sugar. I find American to be way too sweet, and many people say they don't care for buttercreams because of how sweet it usually is. This is why I make meringue based buttercreams that are more buttery than sweet but I am glad you found a way to make it more to your liking.