Cardamom shortbread cookies boast an exotic warm flavor, balanced with a sweet, citrusy orange glaze. The cookies are buttery, tender, and melt-in-your-mouth delicious!
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Cardamom shortbread cookies are excellent when you want something a little extra special. They make a delicious addition to an assorted cookie tray, and are perfect for a wedding or baby shower!
My family was a little suspicious of these cookies at first, but after one bite, my husband exclaimed, "These cookies are crave-worthy!" Once you taste them, I am sure you will agree! My kids would eat a whole tray of these cookies if I would let them!
What is Cardamom?
Cardamom is a warm spice, with a strong, sweet flavor. It has a hint of citrus and herbs. The seed pods come from a plant closely related to the ginger and turmeric families. This spice is the main ingredient in chai, so if you like chai tea, you will love these cookies!
Cardamom can be found already ground, but I like to use freshly ground cardamom for the best flavor. Once it is ground, the oils start to dissipate, which weakens the flavor of the cardamom. I found cardamom pods in the spice section of my local grocery store, but if you have trouble locating them they can also be ordered through Amazon.
There are tiny seeds inside each cardamom pod, and some recipes direct you to use only the seeds. However, there isn't a flavor difference in using just the seeds versus the whole pod, so for simplicity, I grind the whole pod.
What Makes these Cookies Special?
This recipe follows very closely with the formula for traditional shortbread cookies, which crumble as you bite into them, and then almost melt in your mouth. The addition of the cardamom brings an unexpected warmth, and the orange glaze balances the cookie with a bright sweetness. Plus, it looks gorgeous!
- Confectioner's Sugar: We use confectioner's sugar (also known as powdered sugar or icing sugar) versus granulated sugar in this recipe because it has cornstarch in it. This makes the cookies less crisp and more tender.
- Butter: There is a lot of butter in this recipe! It is part of what makes it so good! I use salted butter, but if you prefer to use unsalted then just add ½ teaspoon of salt to your recipe.
- All-Purpose Flour: The standard ratio for traditional shortbread is 1 part sugar, 2 parts butter, and 3 parts flour. This works beautifully for simple cookies, but the dough will spread as you cook it. I have added a little more flour to this recipe so that the dough will hold its shape as it bakes, but not too much, so it still feels like a shortbread cookie when you take a bite.
Simple Steps to Make Shortbread
Cream Butter and Sugar
- Use butter that is softened, but not melted. Using softened butter allows it to cream with the sugar, without overmixing. To get the dense texture that is classic for sugar cookies, we cream the sugar, and then the rest of the ingredients are mixed in very gently. You do not want to add too much air to the batter.
Stir in Flour and Cardamom
- Once the flour and cardamom are added in, mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. The mixture will still be crumbly, but it will be in large chunks instead of small crumbs.
Keep Shortbread Cold
- Think about your dough like butter (after all, that is a large part of what this dough is made of). If you touch soft butter then it will stick all over your hands. But you cannot roll out a stick of hard butter. The same is true for this dough. You want it to be cold enough that it isn't sticky, but not too cold.
- We achieve this balance by forming the dough into a disk and refrigerating it for 30 minutes before it is rolled out. If it gets too soft while you are rolling it out, just stick it back in the refrigerator for a little bit.
- Once the dough is cut, put it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. This will allow the butter to harden so that the sugar and flour begin to bake before the butter melts, which keeps the dough from spreading too much.
Roll and Cut
- Roll the dough ½-inch thick, then cut using your favorite dough cutter.
- Gather remaining dough and roll out again, until all of the dough has been used. Remember, you can refrigerate your dough again if it gets too warm.
- Use a small spatula to transfer the dough cutouts onto a parchment-lined plate and freeze them for 15 minutes before baking.
Bake on a Low Temperature
- Shortbread is cooked at 325 degrees, which is a lower temperature than most other cookies. This low temperature helps the cookies to cook all of the way through without browning too much. You want the cookies to just begin to turn golden.
- This lower temperature also helps contribute to the wonderful shortbread texture, as it controls how the butter melts into the starch.
Make the Orange Glaze
- Once the cookies have cooled completely, whisk together powdered sugar, orange juice, and milk. This can be drizzled over the top of the cookies, but I like to cover the entire top surface of the cookie by dipping them.
- Gently place a cookie top-down into the glaze, then remove the cookie and let it drip. Turn the cookie over and set on a plate or cooling rack.
- Wait to stack the cookies until the glaze has completely dried. Otherwise, they will stick together.
Slice and Bake Shortbread
- If you want a simpler shortbread you can also slice the dough instead of rolling and cutting! Simply roll the dough into a log. Refrigerate the log for at least an hour. When you are ready to bake, slice the dough into ½-inch disks.
Frequently Asked Questions
Shortbread usually has flour than a butter cookie, making them more delicate and tender. Butter cookies are also baked at a higher temperature than shortbread cookies.
Sugar cookies have more sugar and flour than shortbread and butter cookies, and less butter making them a sturdier cookie. They are ideal when you want to cut out fancy designs.
Shortbread cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 7 days, in the refrigerator for 10 days, or in the freezer for up to 4 months.
Freshly ground cardamom is much more potent than cardamom that is already ground. I have not tested this recipe with pre-ground cardamom, and recommend that you use freshly ground, if possible.
Try These Other Delicious Recipes
Cardamom Shortbread Cookies with Orange Glaze
- 1 cup (219g) salted butter, softened
- ½ cup (60g) confectioner's sugar
- 1 teaspoons ground cardamom
- 1 ¾ cups (252g) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup confectioner's sugar
- 1 tablespoon orange juice
- 1 tablespoon milk
- orange zest to decorate (optional)
Making the Shortbread
- If using fresh cardamom, grind pods into a fine powder.
- Beat butter, sugar, on low speed until the sugar is incorporated, and then increase to medium speed and continue to beat until creamed, about 30 seconds. Scrape the sides.
- Add the flour and cardamom and mix on low speed until the dough comes together in medium-sized chunks and you do not see any flour streaks in the bowl. Do not overmix.
- Press the dough together using a spatula or your hands, then turn onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Use the plastic wrap to help shape the dough into a disk. Wrap tightly with the plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 325 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Remove dough from the refrigerator. Unwrap the dough and place it between two sheets of parchment paper. Roll ½-inch thick, then cut out with cookie cutters. Place the cookies onto a parchment-lined plate and put in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
- Transfer the dough onto your baking sheet and bake for 20-22 minutes, or until very lightly golden. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Making the Glaze
- Once the cookies have cooled, mix together 1 cup of powdered confectioner's sugar along with the orange juice and milk, until smooth.
- Dip the cookies, top side-down, into the glaze. Then remove and turn top-side up. Sprinkle with zest, if desired. Set on a plate or cooling rack until the glaze has set.