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Top Holiday Cookie Recipes

baking holiday muffins

Holiday Cookie Recipes

Let’s face it; one of the best parts of the holiday season is food. In fact, at Mariner Finance, we have such a sweet tooth that we held an internal contest for the best cookie recipes. We had our team members send in their families’ favorite time-tested holiday cookie recipe and then held a vote to see who the winners were. Below are the ones that made it to the top ten. Happy baking!

Chocolate Espresso Shortbread

Prep Time: 23 minutes
Cooking Time: 33 minutes
Servings: 2 dozen


  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder or instant coffee powder (we tested with Café Bustello)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 ounces white chocolate baking bar (we tested with Ghirardelli)
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate baking bars


  1. Combine first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; gradually add powdered sugar, beating well. Stir in dry ingredients; beat just until blended.
  3. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide dough into 3 equal portions. Place 2 portions on opposite ends of 1 baking sheet. Place remaining portion on the second baking sheet.
  4. Cover dough portions with plastic wrap; gently press or roll each portion of dough into a 5 1/2″ circle. Lightly score each round with a sharp knife into 6 or 8 wedges.
  5. Bake rounds at 325° for 23 minutes or until shortbread feels firm to the touch. Gently score each round again with a sharp knife. Slide parchment from baking sheets onto wire racks. Let shortbread cool completely on parchment. Cut shortbread into wedges along scored lines.
  6. Melt chocolate baking bars separately in small bowls in the microwave according to package directions. Partially dip wide end of each shortbread wedge in unsweetened chocolate. Place on a wax paper-lined jelly-roll pan, and freeze briefly to set chocolate. Then partially dip the other half of the wide end in each wedge of white chocolate. Freeze briefly to set white chocolate.

Carrot Cake Cookies

Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Cooking Time: 10-12 minutes


  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 (8 oz) can crushed pineapple, drained with juice reserved
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • Frosting
    • 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
    • 2 cups powdered sugar
    • 1 tbs juice from pineapples


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheets.
  2. Whisk flour and cinnamon together and set aside.
  3. Beat 1/2 cup butter, shortening, white sugar, and brown sugar w/ electric mixer until smooth. Add 1 egg and allow to blend into butter mixture before adding second egg and vanilla. Mix in flour mixture until just incorporated. Fold in crushed pineapple, carrot, raisins, and chopped walnuts- mix just enough to evenly combine.
  4. Drop onto baking sheets by heaping teaspoon, allow 2 in. of space between cookies.
  5. Bake until edges are golden brown (10-12 min).
  6. To make frosting: beat cream cheese and 1 tbs butter w/ electric mixer until smooth. Add powdered sugar and pineapple juice. Beat until no lumps remain.
  7. Spread on cookies once completely cool.

Black Forest Chocolate Chip Cookies

Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Cooking Time: 16-19 minutes
Servings: 2 1/2 dozen


  • 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbs baking soda
  • 1/2 tbs salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla & almond extract
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 full bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips


  1. Measure dry ingredients into a small bowl & combine.
  2. In a larger bowl cream together sugars, eggs & flavorings. Add the dry ingredients gradually until the dough stiffens up.
  3. Add the cherries, chocolate chips, and almonds.
  4. Place the cookie dough into the fridge for at least one hour for best results.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Scoop cold cookie dough onto cookie sheet.
  7. It is recommended to make a test batch of 3 cookies to test texture & browning results and then afterward 9- 12 cookies on a sheet.
  8. Bake cold cookies from 16-19 minutes depending on how crunchy as opposed to soft & chewy you prefer.

Cocoa Thumbprints

Prep Time: 1 hr
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Servings: about 3 dozen


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/2 cup for rolling
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • Sprinkles, mini marshmallows, mini candies or dried fruit for filling


  1. Whisk the flour, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, the cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and eggs and stir until combined. Cover and refrigerate the dough until firm, about 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Place the confectioners’ sugar and the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar in 2 separate small bowls. Roll scant tablespoonfuls of dough into balls; roll in the granulated sugar and then in the confectioners’ sugar. Place 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Lightly flatten each ball with your fingers and make a deep 1/2-inch-wide indentation in the centers with your thumb. Place your choice of filling in the indentation.
  3. Bake the cookies until puffed and slightly cracked about 10 minutes. Let cool 3 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Cranberry Almond Cookies

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 11 minutes
Servings: 3 1/2 dozen


  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups chopped fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup slivered almonds, toasted


  1. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugars, beating well. Add almond extract and eggs, beating until blended.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating at low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in cranberries and almonds. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets.
  3. Bake at 375° for 9 to 11 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Fireball Apple Pie Cookies 

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes


  • 2 Pillsbury pre-made pie crusts
  • 1/4 cup of caramel (at most)
  • 1 can apple pie filling
  • 1 shot Fireball whiskey
  • 1 egg
  • sugar
  • cinnamon
  • nutmeg


  1. Preheat over to 350 degrees.
  2. Lay out a sheet of pie crust, sprinkle it with some flour.
  3. Pour caramel sauce onto the crust and spread evenly.
  4. Stir 1.5 ounces of Fireball Whiskey into apple pie filling, be sure to mix thoroughly.****This can be ommitted!
  5. Coarsely chop the apple pie filling into small pieces.
  6. Top the caramel layer chopped up Apple Pie Filling. No need to get close to the edge.
  7. Slice second pie crust into thin strips.
  8. Create a lattice crust on top of the pie filling.
  9. Whisk one egg and 2 tbsp milk or water to make egg wash
  10. Dip cookie cutter into egg wash and cut out your pie cookies.
  11. Brush the tops of them with some egg wash and sprinkle with the cinnamon, sugar, and nutmeg.
  12. Arrange cookies on greased baking sheet.
  13. Bake them at 350 degrees for approx. 20-25 minutes, until they’re golden and firm.

Nutella Peanut Butter Criss Crosses 

Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Cooking Time: 7-8 minutes


  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 large egg


  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup Nutuella chocolate hazelnut spread
  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda.
  3. In a large mixer bowl beat butter, peanut butter, and brown sugar on medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes. Turn mixer down to low and add milk, vanilla and egg. Mix until combined then turn up to medium high for one minute. Scrape down sides of the bowl and turn mixer on low.
  4. Slowly add the flour mixture until just combined.
  5. In a small bowl mix together the filling ingredients to form a soft dough.
  6. Measure a heaping tablespoon of cookie dough and roll in your hands a moment, then flatten in your palm. Measure 1 teaspoon of filling dough and place it in the center of the cookie dough. Gently spread it across the dough a bit, then close the cookie dough around the filling, forming a ball. Roll in your hands and place on the cookie sheet. Flatten slightly in crisscross pattern with tines of fork.
  7. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes or until set and just beginning to brown. DO NOT OVERBAKE. Cool 2 minutes on baking sheet. Remove cookies and allow to cool.

Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Prep Time: 5-10 min
Cooking Time: 10-12 min
Servings: 2 1/2 dozen


  • 2/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 5-ounce package Dried Cranberries
  • 2/3 cup white chocolate chunks or chips


  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat butter or margarine and sugar together in a medium mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs, mixing well. Combine oats, flour, baking soda and salt in a separate mixing bowl. Add to butter mixture in several additions, mixing well after each addition. Stir in dried cranberries and white chocolate chunks.
  3. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies

Prep Time: 10 min
Cooking Time: 10 min
Servings: 24 cookies

You can buy Kraft Caramel Bits at Target. If you can’t find Kraft Caramel Bits, you can use caramel squares. Just chop them up into pieces.


  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups all-purpose gold medal flour
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup caramel, bits
  • sea salt, for sprinkling on cookies


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk flour, cornstarch, baking soda and sea salt together. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugars until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla extract and beat until combined. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients.
  4. Stir in the chocolate chips and caramel bits. Form cookie dough into tablespoon balls and place on prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle each cookie with sea salt.
  5. Bake cookies for 10 minutes, or until slightly golden brown around the edges. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for two minutes. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.

Santa’s Old Fashioned Sour Cream Sugar Cookies 

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 8-10 minutes
Servings: Makes 6-8 dozen


  • 5 ½ cups flour
  • 2 cups ugar
  • ½ cup butter
  • ¼ cup shortening
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs, beaten


  • ¼ cup melted shortening
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Dash of salt


  1. Cream shortening and butter together.  Gradually add sugar.  Add sour cream, and beat until light and fluffy.
  2. Blend in eggs, vanilla, and dry ingredients in small batches, until mixed.
  3. Chill overnight.
  4. Roll out dough 1/8” thick, and cut into shapes. Bake at 375 degrees on greased cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes. Cool and frost.

 Frosting Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients, and split into different bowls.
  2. Add food coloring to color. Note: If the icing is too thin, add hot water.

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