I'll always love Christmas cookies, but the glossy bats, spooky ghosts, and orange pumpkins we made for Halloween had my heart.

By Bridget Hallinan
September 12, 2019

When I was little, the weeks leading up to Christmas felt like the great cookie race. The kitchen island was perpetually dusted with flour; stacks of metal tins waited impatiently nearby, lined with wax paper at the ready. It was a ritual for us, a sort of learned dance my mom, grandmother, and I knew by heart as we piped buttons on gingerbread men and shook yellow- and blue-dyed sugar over Swedish Christmas stars, only surfacing for air hours later. We’d say each year that we’d start earlier and get ahead of the rush, but we never did—and we weren’t alone, either. The rest of my family and friends had holiday cookies of their own, so I’d look forward to December playdates with the knowledge that a little frosted snowman wasn’t far away, with a mug of Swiss Miss hot cocoa to match. Once the holidays had passed and the new year began, everyone retired their cookie cutters to cabinets, where they’d gather dust until December rolled around once more. 

We, on the other hand, were just getting started.

If you dig through the cabinet above my fridge, you’ll find bags of cookie cutters for every season—spring flowers, Easter bunnies and eggs, turkeys for Thanksgiving. We diligently made them all, which is why our baking cabinet, too, hoards a stash of colorful (and likely expired) sugar and icings. While there are sparkling golds and pastel purples, I was always itching for October when I could finally grab the black icing to make some of my favorite holiday cookies of all. Don't get me wrong—I adore Christmas cookies. But the glossy bats, white ghosts, and orange pumpkins we made for Halloween had my heart. They combined the spice-forward flavors I knew from gingerbread cookies with spooky, quirky designs that were a far cry from my delicate Christmas stars. Maybe I had a punk streak in me; maybe I just liked biting the stems off the pumpkins. But when they came out of the oven, warm with the scent of cloves, I couldn’t wait to eat them. 

It’s been a while since I’ve made these cookies—busy schedules and general exhaustion have forced us to consolidate our big baking push to Christmastime, and we now join the others in stowing away our tins when January rolls around. But looking back this year, I felt a pang of nostalgia. I missed trying (and failing) to execute perfectly spooky ghost faces with black gel; I don't even like icing, but the idea of getting out my piping bags and drawing lines on pumpkins again was tempting. I came to realize that there was a certain magic in having a cookie to get excited about almost every month of the year, not just in the winter, and that I much preferred making bat cookies to the customary fall apple pie. So next month, I’m determined to get my mom and grandmother together and start up our conveyor belt again. I've already started gathering some potential recipes, mi in oatmeal cookies with the pumpkins and ghosts and bookmarking a spin on the classic snickerdoodle. We'll definitely be making them this year—maybe you can make it a new tradition, too.

Find some of our favorite fall cookie recipes below.

Spiderweb Sugar Cookies

Abby Hocking / mkgallery

Cocoa icing-laced spiderweb cookies would make a fun addition to your Halloween party. 

Get the recipe here.

Ghostly Sugar Cookies

Abby Hocking / mkgallery

These spooky ghosts may look hard to make, but the decorating process is actually pretty simple—just brush on the glaze, let it dry, and then pipe on the facial expressions. 

Get the recipe here.

Pumpkin Sugar Cookies

Abby Hocking / mkgallery

Fall is peak pumpkin-picking season, so get in the spirit with these colorful cookies. (We love nibbling on them with a glass of milk.)

Get the recipe here

Candy-Corn-and-Chocolate-Chip Cookies

Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi takes Halloween candy and makes it into an irresistible cookie. 

Get the recipe here.

Chewy Cinnamon-Spelt Cookies with Sea Salt

Warming cinnamon and a hint of applesauce combine some of the best flavors of fall in this riff on a snickerdoodle. 

Get the recipe here.

Maple Oatmeal Cookies

© Scott Hocker

Maple syrup is a seasonal ingredient we love, perfect in everything from cocktails to sticky rolls. In this recipe, it shines in oatmeal cookies. (The better the syrup, the better the flavor.)

Get the recipe here. 

Bacon-Chocolate-Chip-Oatmeal Cookies

You heard it here first—bacon makes everything better, and these sweet and savory cookies are perfect for when the weather cools down.

Get the recipe here.

Pumpkin Cookies

Instead of pumpkin pie, use pumpkin puree for these lovely cookies, which have studs of candied ginger in every bite.

Get the recipe here

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