fall season

Day of the Dead.

This is the first time I’ve ever made Sugar Skulls! For the past couple years, I’ve wanted to make some cookies to focus on Dia de Los Muertos, or “Day of the Dead” festivities, and I finally got the chance!

Dia de Los Muertos Sugar Skulls

I wanted to feature rich fall colors, so I chose a pumpkin orange, russet red, chocolate brown, and bold eggplant. Then I crossed my fingers & hoped they would look okay together…

Sugar Skull colors

I searched for images of of ‘Dios de Los Muertos,’ and I kept all of the ideas up near me on my laptop while I set to work. The ending result was a dozen cookies with a handful of unique designs as I pieced together bits from several sources. I love how they turned out!

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Classic Fall Cookies.

Although this is our second fall season since moving to Texas, this is the first one that we’ve had a chance to appreciate. Last year, I was buried under a 3000+ cookie order for the month of October, so it’s been really fun to have some time to play around with neat, easy cookie designs this year! :-)

First up, Festive Caramel Apple Cookies!

Festive Caramel Apple cookies

I’ve seen caramel apple cookies before, but there was one little detail always missing… the “caramel” icing didn’t look gooey! I consider myself the #1 Caramel Apple Fan ever, and the BEST part is the ooey, gooey, drippy caramel! So… I devised a way to make the apple cookies look as closely as possible to the real thing.

I used this cutter for my apple-shaped cookies:

apple cookie cutter

Since I was planning to add a popsicle stick to the finished cookies, I trimmed the leaf & stem from the cookie shape before baking. Once the cookies were baked & cooled, I iced them in a deep red color, and let that dry for a few hours before moving on to the next step.

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Pumpkin Spice Roll-out Sugar Cookies.

I know it’s the wrong season now, but chalk this up as another entry in the “Never-On-Time” series of posts. ;-)

I first started dreaming of a pumpkin-flavored sugar cookie last year (Fall 2010). I did a bit of researching, but it seemed that putting moist canned pumpkin into a cookie caused the dough to be too soft for traditional roll-outs. I didn’t have time to practice last year, so my idea was pushed to the back burner instead.

THIS YEAR, however, I put my thinking cap on & approached the idea in a new direction. I had made some dog biscuits & cookies for a friend last February, and I learned something in the process. The dog biscuits called for pumpkin, but when I made the dough, I thought to myself, “This doesn’t smell like pumpkin at all!”

I recalled how, every fall, my pumpkin pies don’t “smell like pumpkin” either until I add some spices. In fact, I don’t think canned pumpkin alone has much of a flavor (fresh is different, of course). However, if you wave a tin of “Pumpkin Pie Spice” in front of my nose, I’m practically drooling with anticipation of the pumpkin-y goodness ahead.

Using that knowledge as my guideline, my Pumpkin Spice dough was born! :-)

Mini Pumpkin cookies.

And even though there isn’t any actual pumpkin in the dough, I promise your nose will be fooled while these babies are baking! The aroma is absolutely magnificent!

I tweaked my usual sugar cookie dough in a few ways. Instead of all-purpose flour, I decided to use whole wheat flour. The nutty flavor you get from this switch is a PERFECT complement to the spices. If you want a milder flavor, feel free to stick with all-purpose flour as usual.

Additionally, I traded out my granulated white sugar for light brown sugar. I mixed dark brown sugar as an option, deciding the extra moisture from the molasses might be problematic for spreading, and I even split the light brown sugar with organic turbinado sugar as well. The turbinado sugar is the same light brown color, but it is drier, and provides flecks of sweet *crunch* in the cookie, too.

Aren’t these cookies beautiful?!

Pumpkin Spice Sugar cookies.

Pumpkin Spice Roll-Out Sugar Cookies
(recipe by Nicole Cleghorn)

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup turbinado sugar**
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 2-1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp. milk
  • 2-3/4 cups whole wheat flour**


Cream together the butter and brown sugar until light & fluffy (about 3-4 minutes on medium speed). Add in the turbinado sugar, and cream for an extra minute or so. Add the baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice; mix well.

Add the egg & milk; beat well. Add the flour, mixing until well-combined. The dough should be soft & not sticky. Turn out onto sheets of waxed paper & roll. Cut out shapes, and transfer to baking sheets lined with parchment paper or Silpat liners. Freeze sheets for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 365°. Remove cookies from freezer and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the edges begin to have a hint of brown. Cool cookies on baking sheet for 2-3 minutes, and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Decorate with royal icing, if desired. These are FABULOUS plain, too!

** Substitutions:

  • You can substitute regular granulated sugar for the turbinado sugar. You’ll lose those little bits of “crunch,” but the end result is just as tasty. Alternately, you can also use just the brown sugar, but you’ll need to increase it to 1-1/4 cups total.
  • You can use regular all-purpose flour with great results as well. It is not quite as dense as whole wheat flour, so make sure you change the amount to about 3-1/4 cups of all-purpose flour instead.


Mini Pumpkin cookies.

Meagan & Cody’s Wedding.

A friend of a friend contacted me in July, wanting to order cookies for her wedding reception favors at the end of October. I jumped at the chance, wanting to finally be able to say, “I’ve done a wedding,” when people ask. (I had made cookies for a rehearsal dinner before as a gift, but that was as close as I’d gotten.) Meagan and I began communicating, and we became fast friends over the next few months. :-)

Fall Leaf Wedding Cookies.

Meagan needed about 300 cookies, but because the cookies needed to travel all the way from Minot, North Dakota, to the deep-south Georgia, I made plenty of extras “just in case.” I made an entire extra dough’s worth of cookies, giving her a total of 331 cookies.

The first 1/4 of the cookies, before decorating.

I only have two 1/2-sheet baking pans, but I used every other pan in my collection, as well as the plastic lids, to lay out as many cookies as possible at a time. What you see above is about 1/4 of the cookies before decorating. (And iTunes, of course. Handy-dandy iTunes is what makes most of my nights possible. I swear, these cookies wouldn’t exist if I didn’t have showtunes to sing-along with!)

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Pumpkins and footies.

This past Thursday was to be the second game of the season for Jack’s soccer team. In addition, it was also our family’s designated “snack night.” Any guesses to what I made?

Soccer balls! (Naturally.)

Soccer Ball cookies.

Soccer Ball cookies.

But there is a tale of tragedy and woe. You see, the gods of rain began havoc in the soccer fields beginning on Wednesday morning. They continued straight through until Thursday night. Yes, the night of the game.

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I’m Nicole, and I’m glad you’ve stopped by my little corner of the web! I’m a former Air Force wife whose passions are baking, cookie-making, and photo-taking… all to the benefit of my loves – my family! C’mon in to…read more.


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