Pumpkin-Spiced Shortbread with Apple Cider Buttercream

Pumpkin-Spiced Shortbread  with Apple Cider Buttercream - crisp, buttery shortbread topped with a bright, fresh buttercream flavored with reduced apple cider.

Are you one of those people who enjoys having help in the kitchen or would you rather have a quiet workspace, free of interruptions and distractions?

I can go either way, depending on the situation. If I’m getting ready for overnight guests or perhaps a big dinner party, I really like time to myself to think through all of the details and keep organized.

But I also love cooking with friends, whether it’s in their kitchen or mine. And I’ve got three sisters, a daughter and a daughter-in-law and some of our most fun times are when we’re playing with pots, pans, knives, mixing bowls, fresh produce, herbs, flour, sugar, etc. – talking, laughing and creating wonderful family memories, meals and delicious food to enjoy.


This past weekend I had a wonderful assistant in my kitchen. Scott and I were thrilled to have our 19-month old granddaughter, Emery, for the weekend while mommy and daddy snuck off for a special get-away. She kept us laughing the whole time with her antics, and we had lots of fun taking walks, playing at the park, reading books and doing a little baking together.

I’d been rolling around an idea for a fall-inspired shortbread cookie and decided it would be a good project for little Emmy and I to work on while she was here.

Pumpkin-Spiced Shortbread  with Apple Cider Buttercream - crisp, buttery shortbread topped with a bright, fresh buttercream flavored with reduced apple cider.

I used my favorite crisp, buttery shortbread recipe and added a generous helping of Pumpkin Pie Spice. The buttercream topping gets it’s bright apple-infused flavor from apple cider that’s reduced to a delicious caramely syrup. The same syrup is drizzled over the finished cookies for one more tasty burst of apple.

Pumpkin-Spiced Shortbread with Apple Cider Buttercream - crisp, buttery shortbread topped with a bright, fresh buttercream flavored with reduced apple cider.

I mixed up the dough while Emery was napping and chilled it till we were ready to roll, literally! With my rolling pin and a miniature one for the little Café chef, we set to work!

I’ll let her tell the story of our baking adventure…

Emmy in the kitchen.
I love helping you cook Grammy, so I’m putting on my most serious face. I just don’t want you to think that I’m one of those silly, flighty sous chefs that aren’t worth the salt in their soup. I’m ready to work. Bring it on!


Emmy in the kitchen
I thought you said we were making cookies Grammy. This looks nothing like the last time we baked together. Remember the Double Chocolate Sugar Cookies? Are you spoofing me? What in the world am I supposed to do with this glop of dough?


Emmy in the kitchen.
You roll the dough? What in the world does that mean?


Emmy in the kitchen.
Hey, that’s a pretty cool looking gadget. I think I get how you do it. You’ve got such fun toys Grammy!


Emmy in the kitchen
Okay, I think I can do it Grammy. At least I’m ready to give it a whirl. I really like having my own rolling pin!


Emmy in the kitchen
Roll, roll, roll your boat ……….. come on Grammy, sing with me! Isn’t that how the song goes?


Emmy in the kitchen
Did I do good? Did I, did I? It still doesn’t look like a cookie to me! Are you sure we’re doing this right?


Emmy in the kitchen
Oops, sorry Grammy, I should have known we weren’t done yet. So you cut out cute little flowers from the dough? I see…….. Can I do it?


Emmy in the kitchen
This is the bestest fun I’ve ever had!


Emmy in the kitchen
Try a taste of the dough, it’s really schmaka-laka (in case you don’t know Grammy, that means super delicious!)


Emmy in the kitchen
Okay, what comes next? Oh, I see, now is when we bake them till they’re golden and crisp. Got cha!


Emmy in the kitchen
Whoa, Grammy …… that delicious smell in this kitchen is so wonderful! And now you have another fancy looking contraption ….. Can I try it?


Really, all you do is squeeze and it comes out like this? Too…. cool!


Emmy in the kitchen
I’m giving my prettiest smile before I ask you this question. Are you ready? Is this Apple Cider Buttercream any good? Should I sample it, you know, for your readers?


Emmy in the kitchen
Okay, here goes. But I’m going to be honest, is that okay Grammy?


I think I like it, but I probably need one more taste, just to be sure……


Emmy in the kitchen
I like it, I like it, I really do! Mommy would probably say an apple would be a bit better for me, but I think this might be the next best thing!


Emmy in the kitchen
Bravo, Bravo! – to another wonderful cooking adventure together, Grammy. We are one good team!! (And thanks Papa for standing by with your camera, while Grammy and I had so much fun.)


Emmy and I used a pastry bag fitted with a 2D Wilton tip, but you could also spread the icing on with a knife. Either way, I think you’ll flip, just like my little friend did, when you take the first amazing bite.

These Pumpkin-Spiced Shortbread with Apple Cider Buttercream are a delicious dessert, on their own or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. They make a wonderful gift in a box with a pretty ribbon and a delightful treat for any special occasion. They’re really the perfect way to celebrate the season!

Pumpkin-Spiced Shortbread  with Apple Cider Buttercream - crisp, buttery shortbread topped with a bright, fresh buttercream flavored with reduced apple cider.



Pumpkin-Spiced Shortbread with Apple Cider Buttercream

Pumpkin-Spiced Shortbread with Apple Cider Buttercream - crisp, buttery shortbread topped with a bright, fresh buttercream flavored with reduced apple cider.

4.6 from 9 reviews

Crisp, buttery shortbread topped with a bright, fresh buttercream flavored with reduced apple cider.

  • Author:
  • Category: Dessert, Cookies


  • For the Pumpkin-Spiced Shortbread:
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ¾ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup corn starch
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • For the Apple Cider Buttercream:
  • 1 ½ cups apple cider
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 pound powdered sugar, about 4 1/2 cups
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3-4 tablespoons half and half


  1. Beat butter until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar and beat for another minute.
  2. Add flour, corn starch, pumpkin pie spice, salt and vanilla. Beat just until incorporated. Don’t over beat, but make sure all dry ingredients are incorporated.
  3. Scrape contents of bowl out onto a lightly floured work surface and form into 2 approximately equal size balls. Place each ball of dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten into a disk. Wrap dough balls completely and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 325˚F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Set aside.
  5. Remove one ball of dough from refrigerator and place on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out to ¼ inch thickness. Cut out dough as desired and place shapes on prepared sheet pans.
  6. Bake at 325˚F for 14-16 minutes or until pale golden brown. Remove to cooling racks to cool completely before icing. Ice if desired with Apple Cider Buttercream.
  7. For the Apple Cider Buttercream: while cookies are baking, bring apple cider and brown sugar to a boil in a medium-size pot. Reduce to a steady simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes or until syrupy and reduced to 1/2 cup. Set aside and allow to cool.
  8. Place softened butter and 1/4 cup of the cooled, reduced apple cider in the bowl of a stand mixture. Using the wire whisk attachment, whip the butter mixture on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl once or twice.
  9. Reduce speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar. Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, add half and half, 1 tablespoon at a time until soft and fluffy, then increase the speed to medium-high, add vanilla and mix until incorporated. Continue to beat for a few minutes until light and fluffy, scraping the bowl as needed.
  10. Frost cookies as desired. To decorate cookies like in pictures, use a Wilton 2D decorating tip. Holding tip perpendicular to one of the cookies, start in center and swirl icing in a circular pattern working towards the outer edges making a complete circle around the cookie. Sprinkle with jimmies or nonpareils, if desired. Repeat with remaining cookies.
  11. Place cookies on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Drizzle lightly with apple cider reduction, if desired. Store in an airtight container or freeze and thaw several hours before serving.


Yield will depend on size of cookies. I used a 2 1/2-inch cutter and got 20 cookies.


39 thoughts on “Pumpkin-Spiced Shortbread with Apple Cider Buttercream”

  • I pinned this recipe back when you first posted it, and I finally had a chance to try it out. I made these cookies for a potluck dinner with my grad school cohort, and everyone went wild over them! They were seriously so amazing! The recipe was so easy to follow, and I loved the pictures that you posted with your granddaughter. That made reading through even more fun! Thank you for posting such a perfect fall recipe!!

  • Recipe sounds great and I can’t wait to try it. I realize a blog is a personal thing, but really 18 pictures of your granddaughter before I can get to the recipe? Everyone is being so very kind in their comments, but self-indulgence is just that.

    • Thanks LakeladyP for leaving such a thoughtful comment. My family does mean the world to me and I love to weave fun stories for my readers, sometimes involving my husband, children and/or grandchildren. I know there are lots of blogs out there that are much more generic and strictly culinary oriented. They would probably suit your fancy much better than The Café. Hope you do enjoy this recipe. Kind Regards, Chris

  • I usually like to work alone in the kitchen when I’m working on a new recipe, only because I need to concentrate. But if I have this cute one with me in the kitchen, I’ll just let her play and have fun as much as she likes 🙂

    I love the shortbread Chris, they look amazing, I guess I ‘ll have two to start with 🙂

  • Oh Chris, your little helper is so cute…I love all the pictures…
    The cookie looks delicious with the apple cider buttercream topping…what a perfect treat for the season.
    Enjoy your week 😀

  • You are the BEST grammy! Just look at Emery’s brilliant smile and you know it’s true! She is such a cutie pie…and if she liked your cookies, then I’ll like your cookies. They look smashing!

  • Oh my goodness, Chris, your little helper is sooooo adorable!! What fun you all had in the kitchen together. Those cookies look so wonderful and perfect for a Fall flavor sensation. I’m happiest with some frosting on top and these fit the bill!

  • Hi Chris,
    Jackie Gleason had a wonderful saying., “How sweet it is. Of course I mean the absolutely adorable little girl
    My Grand will be 3 in November. She is beginning her journey in the kitchen with. Little steps. I love your Grands little apron. I just purchased a pattern to make one for my Grand..
    Those cookie look wonderful… I just love pumpkin spice.
    Happy Fall happy baking..

  • Well, I would love for you to come over and help me make these. But, I usually like to be in the kitchen alone. I am pretty particular….. LOL

  • Hi Chris, your granddaughter is adorable, we just spent the last 10 days watching our 4 and 8 year old grandsons and had the best of times. Love this pumpkin shortbread.

  • Thank you for this most wonderful, wonderful Post with that little doll who was such a helper. I wrote about “Why I Blog” this week. One of the Whys? was that my Blog is a Diary and Journal. Aren’t you glad your grandchildren have such wonderful memories of your cooking to refer to via your Blog? Oh, and the shortbread cookies look delicious also.

  • Icing on a shortbread cookie! How brilliant! Your little helper is such a cutie! I just saw a line of products at Target this week for little bakers~mini whisks, spatulas, aprons and chef hats~ so adorable! Love her apron too! Apple cider buttercream sounds irresistible!

  • I’m filled with joy looking at you two playing in the kitchen. I just got off Skype with my 8 year old granddaughter. It’s nearly bedtime but she gets to stay up later if she’s talking to granny. I’ll take it any way I can get it. Today she learned how to send photographs through skype. I’m in heaven.

    She and I would love to make your beautiful shortbread cookies.

  • Oh my goodness, you certainly had the best and cutest baker by your side! She is a precious doll!
    Beautiful recipe, Chris-I will certainly be pinning this one!
    Have a lovely weekend,

  • These sound so good & definitely will be trying them. Your granddaughter is just precious.& it is so good that you are sharing these times with her, she will remember them forever. That is what being a Gramma is all about.

  • Thanks SO much to all of you who noticed that I missed the butter in the recipe. I’m so happy to know I’ve got a bunch of extra eyes out there watching out for me. It’s corrected now 🙂

  • She is just adorable and the food has to take a second place today! Especially the picture of her looking at you and laughing!! How wonderful and special for you two to have a baking day, and you can really see ho much she loves it!

  • Just confirming… a cup of butter for the cookie? I have a secret ingredient too…. my g1randdaughters make everything sweeter. Thanks for sharing Emmy’s pics! Note to self, must get aprons for the kids!

  • Gorgeous cookies, Chris!! And I agree they ARE the perfect way to celebrate the season ( oh, the flavors in these!). But, I need to borrow your sous chef or I won’t have nearly as much fun making them. 🙂 These shortbread cookies are sweet, but Emory’s smiles are sweeter. Such joyous photos, Scott!

  • OMCuteness.I thought the cookies were so cute till I saw her.
    I could eat her up.
    She is priceless..What a beautiful post w/ the cookies ..but the chef..steals the show.

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