neapolitan thumbprint cookies
Behold — the brainchild of a late-night craving for ice cream and cookies all in one! These Neapolitan thumbprint cookies feature a two-in-one cookie dough that’s half chocolate, half vanilla, baked together to buttery cookie bliss then filled in the center with fresh strawberry royal icing. Believe me when I say — you may never want Neapolitan flavors any other way ever again.
Neapolitan Thumbprint Cookies
Call me a nerdy food blogger, but I’ve seriously been SO excited to share these cookies with you guys! After testing, developing, tasting, photographing, more tasting, writing, editing, some more tasting and a good night’s sleep (dreaming of more tasting, of course), I am finally here to spill the beans on my latest dessert recipe that I think you’re really going to love. Really.
These Neapolitan thumbprint cookies feature the three essential flavors of Neapolitan ice cream — chocolate, vanilla and strawberry — in one cookie. Make one sugar cookie dough, divide it in two, flavor one half with chocolate, then bake them together in a half-chocolate-half-vanilla thumbprint cookie. Finally, fill each one with a fresh strawberry royal icing that’s smooth and creamy and slightly drippy and bursting with berry flavor. Then, devour. You can do this!
How to Make Neapolitan Thumbprint Cookies
Let’s break this down further: First, we make the cookie dough. Instead of having you make two separate batches of cookie dough to make the chocolate and vanilla dough, I tinkered with a two-in-one cookie dough recipe that allows you to make one dough, divide it in half, then flavor one half with cocoa powder and voila! Two types of cookie dough, ready to combine and bake. Not only do I love the flavors of vanilla and chocolate cookies together, but I think they look pretty, too.
However, no Neapolitan cookie is complete without the strawberry component. I absolutely love thumbprint cookies (for their ease, flavor and textures), and I knew that I wanted to fill these cookies with a fresh strawberry icing — one that was perfectly pink on its own without any added food coloring. So, I played around with a berry royal icing until I landed upon the perfect proportion of ingredients to give these cookies a filling that is smooth, creamy and slightly drippy but above all, exceedingly strawberry-flavored. And ladies and gentlefolk, here we are. HERE WE ARE.
Tips for the Best Neapolitan Thumbprint Cookies
Because I, too, can be an anxious cookie-baker (what if they’re too big? too small? not chilled enough? too cold? wait did I forget the sugar??), I have a few tips for you to keep in mind as you bake these tasty treats to their maximum potential:
1. Freezing or refrigerating the dough once the cookies are rolled and pressed is an essential step so the cookies don’t spread out too much in the oven. If you’re ready to bake right away, I suggest freezing the cookies for 30 minutes — if you need more time, then refrigerate them, covered, at least 2 hours. I’ve never let the dough sit longer than this (because I’m a cookie monster), but I imagine they can be refrigerated, covered and unbaked overnight, up to 8 hours. If you try this, let me know how they turn out!
2. The sparkling sugar is optional, but highly recommended. I love the crunch compared with the soft cookie inside. SO GOOD.
3. Store the baked and filled cookies in the refrigerator, since the royal icing contains fresh strawberries (plus, these cookies are even more amazing cold, letmetellya).
And now, my friends, it’s time for you to get in the kitchen and bake these cookies. It’s the best thing you could do for yourself today, really (#selfcare).
Craving More Cookies?
Here are a few more sweet recipes for you:
Chocolate Cardamom Cookies
Blueberry Lime Cream Cheese Cookies
Soft and Chewy Sugar Cookies
Chocolate Alfajores (Chocolate Caramel Cookies)
Neapolitan Thumbprint Cookies
- Prep Time: 50 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: About 24 cookies 1x
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Bake
- Cuisine: American
Buttery sugar cookie dough is divided into vanilla and chocolate flavors, baked into a rich, chewy cookie and filled with a fresh strawberry royal icing center. Every bite tastes like your favorite Neapolitan ice cream in cookie form!
For the cookies:
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup sparkling sugar, for rolling (optional)
For the strawberry royal icing:
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh strawberries (stems removed)
- 1 to 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter, very soft (but not melted)
- 1 dash vanilla
- In a large bowl using an electric hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat 1 cup butter on medium-high speed 1 to 2 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add sugars; beat on medium-high speed 1 to 2 minutes until light and fluffy.
- Add egg yolk and 1 teaspoon vanilla; beat on low speed until just combined.
- Gradually add flour and salt, beating on low speed after each addition until just combined.
- Divide dough in half; keep one half of dough in bowl, and place second half of dough in a separate bowl.
- To dough in mixing bowl or stand mixer bowl, add cocoa powder. Beat on low speed until cocoa powder is fully incorporated into dough.
- Roll each batch of cookie dough into approximately 24 1/2-inch balls. Press together one sugar cookie dough ball and one chocolate cookie dough ball; roll gently between hands to form one single 1-inch dough ball (to form about 24 cookies total). Place sparkling sugar in a shallow bowl. Roll each cookie in sugar to coat, then place on a rimmed baking sheet. Press thumb gently into center of each cookie to form indentation, about 1/2-inch deep. Freeze unbaked cookies uncovered 30 minutes, or refrigerate, covered, for at least 2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer half of chilled cookies to prepared baking sheet, spaced 2 inches apart (if baking in batches, keep remaining cookies in refrigerator, NOT freezer, until ready to bake).
- Bake cookies 10 to 12 minutes until just set. Use a spatula to transfer cookies to cooling rack to cool completely.
- To make the strawberry royal icing: In the small bowl of a food processor, process strawberries and 1 tablespoon powdered sugar until a puree forms. Transfer to a small mixing bowl. Stir in remaining powdered sugar (start with 1 cup), 1/2 tablespoon butter and dash of vanilla until a smooth icing forms. Add more powdered sugar as needed to form a smooth, thick but slightly drippy icing.
- Spoon approximately 1/2 to 1 teaspoon icing into center of each cookie.* Refrigerate cookies until icing is just set, about 20 to 30 minutes.
- *You’ll probably have some icing left over. I developed a recipe with extra icing because it is difficult to blend less than 1/4 cup of strawberries in a standard-size food processor or blender. Feel free to use leftover icing to dip cookies, drizzle over ice cream or, heck, eat with a spoon.
- Store cookies covered in refrigerator up to 5 days.
Keywords: strawberry royal icing, chocolate cookie dough, vanilla cookie dough
These are super cute!
I’m inspired to whip up some for my mom:)
Sherri, Do it! I bet she’d love them. 🙂
Wow these look amazing !! Does the icing harden ? Looking to add this to my Christmas cookie rotation but don’t want the icing to get onto other cookies so I was wondering if it firms up ?
Christina, The icing hardens a bit but it does stay quite soft. They stack OK but I wouldn’t recommend shipping them or putting them in a box where they get tossed around!
How do you think it would turn out if I substituted freeze-dried strawberries into the icing instead of using fresh?
Jane, I think it could work, yes!
While this icing looks yummy, it isn’t royal icing. In response to the comment asking about freeze-dried strawberries; if you made a royal icing (whipped meringue powder, powdered sugar…) the crushed freeze-dried strawberries would be amazing. Just realize that real royal icing hardens and doesn’t have the soft texture like this recipe has. The other option would be to make the cookie vanilla and strawberry, and put a chcolate ganache in the middle.
Thanks Stephanie for your inspiration!
Just found these on Pinterest and couldn’t believe it. I make so many different types of cookies and have never seen a thumbprint cookie look so amazing. .
I am wondering if the finished cookie can be frozen after the middle has set. Or would it be better to freeze the baked cookie and fill the centre after defrosted. Can the icing recipe be cut in half with success if only wanting to use a dozen cookies at a time
Lookin forward to your response
Can this cookie dough be frozen.. I make about 16 different kinds of cookies every year…
Aunt Carol, Yep! I would either bake the cookies and then freeze, or you can try to shape the cookies, freeze the dough, and bake from frozen. Hope that helps!