Why It Works
- Molasses helps these drop cookies spread, so each one bakes up thin enough to sandwich.
- Fresh lemon zest adds a sense of lightness to the spicy dough.
- Refined coconut oil in place of butter gives the lemon filling a bright and zippy flavor.
It's no secret that I like making copycat cookies at home—half my cookbook is devoted to re-creating store-bought snacks—but my cravings aren't limited to iconic American treats. Aside from Belgian Biscoff and quintessentially British chocolate digestives, I'm a big fan of Carr's Ginger Lemon Cremes.
They're as elegant as a mass-produced tea biscuit can be, with a pair of dainty ginger cookies sandwiched around a refreshingly tart lemon creme. With the first bite, it's hard to register anything but crunch; then, as the crumbs dissolve across your tongue, there's a spicy hit of ginger, followed by sweet molasses and a burst of lemony brightness.
The only thing more impressive than serving ginger lemon cremes at teatime is being able to say you made them from scratch. And why not? They're super easy, and, while I've designed my recipe to be as close to the original as possible, the spice blend is easily tweaked to taste.
To start, I use a mix of butter, sugar, molasses, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, plus lemon zest—lots of lemon zest. Despite the simplicity of those ingredients, it's worth noting a couple things. The first is that, while plain ol' cinnamon works perfectly well, the floral aroma of Ceylon cinnamon is a knockout when paired with lemon and ginger. It's not a make-or-break ingredient, as it is for my homemade Biscoff, but if you happen to have some on hand, it makes an especially fragrant cookie.
The second thing to remember is that when I call for molasses, I'm talking about plain, unsulfured molasses, not blackstrap (never blackstrap). I've written about this before, but blackstrap is too high in sodium, too low in sugar, too thick, and way too bitter to taste or behave like plain molasses, which is more mellow and sweet but less viscous.
Combine everything in the bowl of a stand mixer, and cream until the mixture looks fluffy and light—you should notice a stark difference in both color and texture when it's done. If not, not only will this recipe yield fewer cookies, but they will also be far too dense, so don't rush the process! Keep beating the butter and sugar until you've noticed a significant change, and bear in mind this may take much longer than the recipe suggests if you're using a hand mixer instead. For those curious to learn more, here's my deep dive on the importance of proper creaming process for cookies.
When the mixture looks soft and light, sprinkle in the all-purpose flour (I use bleached Gold Medal for its fantastic balance of protein and starch), then drizzle in a little cream. It takes the place of egg, providing a bit of water and protein for the dough, while giving the cookies a texture more in line with shortbread than a typical drop cookie. Plus, all the lactose in cream helps the cookie dough brown more flavorfully in the oven.
After giving the bowl and beater a good scrape, fold the dough a few times with a flexible spatula to make sure it's well mixed from the bottom up. A rogue streak of unincorporated butter will really wreak havoc on how these little cookies spread. And "little" is the operative word—these require no more than three-quarters of a teaspoon of dough each (three-eighths of an ounce, or 10 grams).
That's because the cookies' thickness will be more than doubled after they're sandwiched with the "creme," so, to keep the finished products from being obnoxiously thick, it's important that they start out dainty and small. Trust me, when beefed up to a larger size, these crunchy cookies will only seem hard. I use a one-and-a-half-teaspoon cookie scoop to initially divide the dough, then I go back through to cut each portion in half, then round them all up by hand. This is a lot faster than individually weighing each tiny portion out on a scale, but you can absolutely go that route if you prefer.
However you go about it, do take the time to make each portion smooth and round. If haphazardly scooped or just dolloped onto a baking sheet, they'll spread into irregular shapes that make sandwiching a pain. Due to their small size, the cookies will bake fast—just about 10 minutes in a 350°F (180°C) oven. While they're cooling, whip up a simple filling from refined coconut oil, fresh lemon juice, salt, and powdered sugar.
Since coconut oil is solid and firm below 74°F (23°C), it stiffens up more than butter and makes a nice and sturdy filling. And, unlike butter, coconut oil is a pure fat, so there's very little moisture in the filling to soften the crunchy cookies over time. Plus, its neutral flavor makes the lemon seem more zippy and bright. (This is why I prefer making my lemon bar filling and lemony scones without any butter at all.)
Transfer the whipped filling to a disposable pastry bag fitted with a half-inch pastry tip. (If the filling seems too soft or too stiff for piping, that just means it's too warm or too cold, so briefly chill or warm it over a water bath to adjust.) Flip half the cookies over, pipe a heaping teaspoon of filling into the middle, then sandwich with the remaining cookies.
Freshly made, the filling will be squishy and soft, but it'll set up as it cools. To speed things along, I like to transfer the cookies to an airtight container and pop 'em in the fridge. Once hardened, the filling will stay firm without refrigeration, so long as your kitchen is below 74°F.
That means they're a great make-ahead dessert for family gatherings, and a great cookie for packing and shipping in cooler months (or simply gifting to a friend). And, despite the super-crunchy cookies above and below, the lemony filling won't go squishing out the sides with every bite.
For the Dough:
5 1/4 ounces sugar (about 3/4 cup; 150g)
4 ounces cold unsalted butter (1 stick; 110g)
1 ounce unsulfured molasses (about 1 heaping tablespoon; 30g), not blackstrap
1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Ceylon cinnamon or 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground or grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon (0.5g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use half as much by volume or use the same weight
1/8 ounce lemon zest (1 tablespoon; 4g)
6 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/3 cups, spooned; 170g)
1 ounce heavy cream (2 tablespoons; 30g)
For the Filling:
5 ounces powdered sugar (about 1 1/4 cups; 145g)
2 1/2 ounces refined coconut oil (about 1/3 cup; 70g); see notes
1/2 ounce fresh juice from 1 lemon (about 1 tablespoon; 15g)
1 teaspoon pure lemon extract or lemon oil
1/4 teaspoon (1g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use half as much by volume or use the same weight
For the Dough: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 350°F (180°C). In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine sugar, butter, molasses, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and lemon zest. Mix on low until moistened, then increase to medium and cream until soft and light, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add flour all at once, then drizzle in cream and mix until fully incorporated.
With a 1 1/2–teaspoon scoop, divide dough into about 40 level portions. Cut each in half, then roll smooth and round between your palms. Alternatively, scale out 3/8-ounce (10g) portions, then roll smooth. (They will look tiny, but they'll spread considerably as they bake!) Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving at least 1 1/4 inches between them to account for spreading. Bake until cookies are golden brown, no longer puffy, and a little firm around the edges, about 10 minutes. If needed, rotate pan about halfway through to ensure even baking. Cool to room temperature directly on the baking sheet; the cookies will not be crisp while warm.
For the Filling: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine powdered sugar, coconut oil, lemon juice, lemon extract, and salt. Mix on low to combine, then increase to medium and cream until soft and light, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a disposable pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch pastry tip and use immediately.
To Assemble: Flip half the cookies upside down and pipe a shy 1/4 ounce filling (about a heaping teaspoon or 6g, but there's no need to measure) into the center of each. Sandwich with remaining cookies. Due to the slightly irregular shape of drop cookies, you'll need to play a bit of mix-and-match to ensure similarly shaped cookies are paired together.
Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate 15 minutes to harden the coconut oil. If temperatures in your kitchen routinely climb above 75°F (24°C), it will be best to store the cookies in the fridge and bring a few to room temperature as needed to serve. Stored this way, the cookies will last about 1 month. If your kitchen is generally cooler than 75°F, after chilling you may store the cookies at room temperature for up to 1 week.
If you want to make a true copycat, refined coconut oil will produce the most traditional results, with absolutely no coconut flavor at all. But the pronounced flavor and aroma of virgin coconut oil is incredibly tasty with lemon and ginger, giving the cookies an intriguing tropical twist.
The consistency of the filling will vary dramatically depending on the temperature of the coconut oil. Below 70°F (21°C), coconut oil will be hard and dry; above 76°F (24°C), it will be liquid. This recipe works best at a "room temperature" somewhere between 70 and 74°F (21 and 23°C).
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 5g||7%|
|Saturated Fat 4g||19%|
|Total Carbohydrate 14g||5%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||1%|
|Total Sugars 10g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||2%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|