Sharing is caring!
















These Chocolate Sugar Cookies are deliciously soft, fudgy, and full of deep, dark chocolate flavor. Roll them thicker for a softer cookie, or roll them thinner and bake longer for a crispier edged texture. I rolled them thick and then added a fudgy dark chocolate icing for a crave worthy, chocolatey, melt in your mouth cookie! 

Decorated Chocolate Sugar Cookies on a pedestal by themerchantbaker.com

 

I love Valentine’s Day. I always have. Beyond all the hearts and flowers and cards and gifts…it’s like the unofficial chocolate holiday. What’s not to love about that?

I think about the stages in my life of celebrating the day…like making decorated shoebox mailboxes and homemade valentines in elementary school or wearing pink and red and painting a tiny heart on my cheekbone in high school, expressing undying love for my high school sweetheart, or celebrating with my single girlfriends in my twenties.

Then, spending the holiday as a newlywed and then as a new mother…

Decorated Chocolate Sugar Cookies hearts on a rectangle plate by themerchantbaker.com

Fast forward to my kids’ elementary school days and being a room mother, making loads of valentine cake pops or chocolate cupcakes topped with my favorite Whipped Cream Cream Cheese Frosting. Oh, and then being on the flip side of the classroom mailbox and valentine crafting, but now with my kids as the creators.

Hit that fast forward button again and here I am making cookies to post on a food blog. It’s pretty crazy, isn’t it? And life? I am forever shocked at how fast it goes by….

But, believe it or not, here we are making Chocolate Sugar Cookies together. 

Decorated X and O Chocolate Sugar Cookies on a rectangle plate by themerchantbaker.com

A while back, I made Raspberry Valentine Sugar Cookies, made with real raspberries and dipped in chocolate. Yum! 

And then, one Christmas, I developed Rustic Caramel Iced Brown Sugar Cookies. I’ve made them every Christmas since then. I love the warm caramel flavors in that cookie and the icing is so delish!

I considered posting a classic sugar cookie, but I just had to do chocolate for Valentine’s Day, so here we go…

This recipe comes together much like a typical cookie…you know, cream butter and sugar, add egg and vanilla, then beat in dry ingredients.

Let’s start with the critical part of this chocolate cookie, the cocoa.

Overhead photo of decorated Chocolate Sugar Cookies on a sheet pan by themerchantbaker.com

What kind of cocoa should I use in a chocolate sugar cookie?

The short answer is…in this particular recipe, you can use the one you like best. 

Just like all chocolates taste different, like a Hershey’s kiss does not taste like Valrhona, all cocoas taste different.

If you bake often and haven’t experimented with different cocoas, you don’t know what you’re missing.

I’ve talked about various cocoas in recipes like Black Cocoa Brownies, Crazy Chocolate Olive Oil Cake, Dark Chocolate Cupcakes and in my King Arthur Flour Favorites post.

The bottom line is this, while I always have Hershey’s Cocoa in my pantry, I also have triple cocoa, double dutch dark cocoa, black cocoa,  Bensdorp cocoa and Droste cocoa.

I realize that’s a little crazy. But hey, I have a food blog. I make stuff……stuff with chocolate :)

So, back to the using the cocoa you like best. I love using dark cocoas. I also love using dutched cocoas. But you can’t use dutch cocoa in every recipe.

Decorated Chocolate Sugar Cookies on a pedestal by themerchantbaker.com

What is dutch processed cocoa?

Dutch process cocoa is cocoa that’s been processed with an alkalizing agent. This changes its color and mellows out its flavor. 

Now there are all kinds of rules for when you can use a dutch processed cocoa and when you can use a natural cocoa, but we’re not going to get into that today. If you want to geek out on the baking science of it all, check out this post.

A lot of those rules have to do with what kind of leavener you use and how to balance acids and bases. 

We’re not using any leavener in these cookies so you can use any kind of cocoa you desire. So, feel free to use a natural cocoa, like Hershey’s or a dark dutch processed cocoa.

I used Double Dutch Dark Cocoa. It has black cocoa in it, you know the kind they use in Oreo cookies. It’s one of my favorite cocoas. I love using it for brownies and cakes. I love it’s deep dark rich flavor. That’s the flavor I wanted for these cookies. And, the rich dark color was simply a bonus.

Pressing a candy heart into chocolate icing on a chocolate cookie by themerchantbaker.com

Sprinkling white candy dots on to a chocolate iced Chocolate Sugar Cookie by themerchantbaker.com

How to insure sugar cookies keep their shape after baking

If you look at my cookies, you’ll see they have beautiful sharp edges. They definitely kept their shape, right?

While the recipe has something to do with it, the thing I want you to remember is this: make sure your dough is chilled when you bake it.

This cookie, like most, is made with butter. If the butter goes into the oven already soft, then it’s just closer to melting and therefore spreading out before the cookie sets up.

So, we’re chilling our dough. But, like my Easy All Butter Pie Crust, we’re going to roll it before we chill it. (And after we cut it, if necessary.)

Closeup photo of a chocolate iced Chocolate Sugar Cookie with white sprinkles and candy heart by themerchantbaker.com

The easiest and cleanest way to roll out sugar cookie dough

I’ve become a huge fan of using plastic wrap to roll out dough. I don’t have to use a bunch of flour to keep it from sticking and my counter stays clean. In fact, you won’t use any flour at all to roll these babies out. Win, win!

Just place a couple of sheets of plastic wrap on your rolling surface. (This only works if your plastic wrap sticks to the surface. That way it remains stable while you’re rolling.)

Take half the dough, form it into a flat disk, cover it with more plastic wrap and then roll away. Lift up the edges of the wrap periodically so that your dough can roll freely without getting “trapped” between the layers of the wrap.

Cutting hearts out of a sheet of unbaked Chocolate Sugar Cookie dough by themerchantbaker.com

Be sure to use even pressure when you roll the dough and don’t try to flatten it all out at once. Use multiple rolls to get to your perfect thickness or thinness.

Also, release the pressure as you approach the edge of the dough. If you let the rolling pin roll right over the edge and onto your surface, it will smash the edges and make them much thinner than the rest of your dough. No bueno.

After you’ve gotten the dough rolled out, just bring the edges of the wrap up and over the dough to seal it and place the wrapped flats of dough on a cookie sheet in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or until firm.

(If you don’t want to go the plastic wrap route, feel free to flour your surface and roll out your cookies the traditional way.)

Heart shapes from unbaked Chocolate Sugar Cookie dough from themerchantbaker.com

How thick should you roll sugar cookie dough?

This one’s up to you. Thicker cookies will bake up softer. Thinner will bake up a bit crisper, though not super crispy.

If you’re looking for super crispy, I might try baking them at a lower temperature, say 325 and baking them for a longer time. But really, the ratios of flour, sugar and fat matter to getting a crispy cookie. This recipe isn’t developed for that, but thinness and bake time will certainly get you closer.

I rolled my dough to generous 1/4″. I wanted a somewhat softer cookie and I wanted it to feel substantial.

If you want a thinner cookie, roll to 1/8″.

Top view of baked cookie shapes of Chocolate Sugar Cookies on a sheet pan by themerchantbaker.com

How to keep the the cookie cutter from sticking to the dough

Ok. So we didn’t use flour to roll out the dough because we used plastic wrap instead. 

But, if you’ve ever cut out cookies before, you know you’re going to want to dip the cookie cutter into something to help keep it from sticking to the dough.

Normally, you’d dip the cutter into flour between cuts. You can do that.

Or, if you don’t want the white bits of flour on your cookie, dip it into cocoa instead. You won’t need a lot of cocoa. I think a tablespoon or so should be enough. Start with just a spoonful, so that you don’t end up wasting it.

You can always add more if you need it. You’ll have to dispose of any leftovers now that the cocoa has been exposed to raw egg and raw flour, so don’t think about putting any excess you used for dipping back into the container. 

The cocoa will keep your cookies looking nice and chocolatey without any of the white flour residue.

If you do use white flour (and it’s totally cool if you do…) just take a pastry brush to brush away any excess flour that may be left on the cookie before baking.

Stack of heart shaped Chocolate Sugar Cookies by themerchantbaker.com

 

The following paragraphs contains affiliate links. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. 

How long to bake sugar cookies

It can be difficult to tell when a chocolate cookie is done because you can’t really see how golden brown they’re getting. You’re going to have to look at other factors and use some guidelines to start.

First, an accurate oven temperature is key. If your oven runs hot or cold, then the guidelines below will not work.

Further, there’s a reason that certain recipes bake at certain temperatures. Results will vary if the temperature isn’t accurate.

Use an oven thermometer {aff. link} to check your oven temperature, especially if you suspect your oven runs hot or cold.

Decorated Chocolate Sugar Cookies on a sheet pan by themerchantbaker.com

 

So, assuming you really are baking at 350…

For a softer cookie, roll to 1/4″ and bake for 10-12 minutes. The edges should be set and the tops should have a dry matte finish.

For a thinner, slightly crisper cookie, roll to 1/8″ and bake for 8-10 minutes. Again, you’re looking for the edges to be completely set and a dry, matte finish on top.

Smaller cookies bake faster than larger cookies, so if you use small cookie cutters, you might want to start checking your cookies a minute or two sooner to insure they are on track.

If you used cocoa to dip your cookie cutters, you may see some darker edges on some of your cookies where there was some excess cocoa.

Top view of pink, white, and chocolate icing in bowls by themerchantbakr.com

Icing Options for Chocolate Sugar Cookies

The truth is, I really wanted to cover these cookies in a thick chocolate ganache. But, I store items with ganache in the refrigerator and I wanted these to be stable and well set at room temperature. 

I also thought about dipping them in chocolate, but I already did that with my Raspberry Valentine Sugar Cookie recipe and I wanted this to be different.

You could also sprinkle them with coarse sugar before baking for a nice crispy sugary topping baked right into the cookie.

Or, you could make a simple confectioner’s sugar icing with sugar, water or milk, and vanilla.

For this recipe, I went with a chocolate icing made with bittersweet chocolate and confectioner’s sugar. It’s kind of like the glaze you get on a black and white cookie, but thicker and with more chocolate.

Spreading chocolate icing on a chocolate cookie by themerchantbaker.,com

The flavor continues to develop on days 2 and 3

I’m going to be honest with you. Everyone loved these cookies from day one. One person even said that she doesn’t really like chocolate but she thought these cookies were delish! Others said they were so good they just melted in their mouths…

Me? I didn’t love them on day one. I questioned whether or not I should have rolled them thinner…I questioned my icing choice…I questioned whether or not I should have baked them longer…I thought maybe they were too sweet…

This is the madness I go through when developing recipes. The cookies are good. But, I get focused on every nuance of texture, color, taste etc. 

Dipping the top of a small chocolate heart cookie in to a bowl of chocolate icing by themerchantbaker.com

I considered not posting them, even though everybody loved them!

Turns out, for my palate…I just needed to wait until Day 3. I know. It sounds mad. I have mentioned previously that my Crazy Chocolate Olive Oil Cake is much better on days 2 and 3. Like, wayyyy better. Same with brownies.

And, as it turned out, it was the same with these cookies. The chocolate flavor mellowed and got deeper. The icing kind of became one with the cookie. I ended up with a fudgy, melt in your mouth chocolate cookie that I loved!

Yes! Now I could share it with you. Now it was post worthy. And, they totally satisfy a chocolate craving.

Iced Chocolate Cookies broken in half to show inner texture by themerchantbaker.com

So, now that we’ve got that all settled…I’d like to slow things down a bit. I want to skip the fast forward button and hit pause so we can stop and enjoy some cookies :)

Overhead photo of decorated Chocolate Sugar Cookies on a sheet pan by themerchantbaker.com

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Yield: About 3 dozen (3") cookies
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Additional Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 2 minutes

These Chocolate Sugar Cookies are deliciously soft, fudgy, and full of deep, dark chocolate flavor. Roll them thicker for a softer cookie, or roll them thinner and bake longer for a crispier edged texture. I rolled them thick and then added a fudgy dark chocolate icing for a crave worthy, chocolatey, melt in your mouth cookie! 

Ingredients

For the cookies:

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dutch process dark cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder, optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

For the icing:

  • 3 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 4-5 Tablespoons hot water
  • 3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons light corn syrup

Additional topping options:

  • Sprinkles
  • Sparkling sugar
  • Chopped nuts
  • Toasted coconut
  • Small candies

Instructions

To make the cookies:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder (if using) and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and creamy, about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add egg and vanilla to butter mixture and beat until combined.
  4. Gradually add flour mixture and beat until fully combined.
  5. Spread a couple of sheets of overlapping plastic wrap on your work surface to create an area large enough for you to roll your dough.
  6. Take half of the dough and place it on the plastic wrap. Flatten into a disk and cover with another sheet or two of overlapping plastic wrap.
  7. Roll the dough between the two pieces of plastic wrap to desired thickness. Occasionally lift the plastic wrap to release any wrap that might be trapping the dough. I roll mine to about 1/4". Roll it thinner for a crispier cookie (about 1/8"). Repeat with other half of dough.
  8. Wrap the edges of the plastic wrap up and over the rolled out dough and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until dough is firm.
  9. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  10. Remove one of the flats of dough from the refrigerator, so that the other can stay chilled. Remove top layer of plastic wrap and use cocoa or flour dipped cookie cutters to cut desired shapes. I dip the cutter in between each cut or two.
  11. Place cut out cookies a couple of inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Repeat process with remaining dough.
  12. If you spent a lot of time rolling and cutting and your cut out cookies on the sheet are now warm, just put the tray back into the refrigerator or freezer for a bit to chill them again.
  13. Bake for 8-12 minutes. Time will depend on how thinly you rolled your cookies and how hot your oven runs. I baked mine for about 10-12 minutes or until the bottoms edges were just beginning to get lightly browned, the cookies look set and the top has a matte finish.
  14. Allow to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then remove to a rack to finish cooling.

To make the icing:

  1. In a small mixing bowl, combine powdered sugar, very hot water, vanilla and corn syrup. Stir vigorously until smooth and glossy. For decorating purposes, remove a few Tablespoons of the white mixture and place into each of two bowls. I had about 2-3 Tablespoons in each bowl. I kept one white and used food coloring to make the other pink. You don't need a lot if you just want to drizzle some color here and there. It all depends on your decorating plan.
  2. You can place the extra colors (the bit of pink and white) into zip top bags. Squeeze out the air and then snip a corner for drizzling. Because they don't have chocolate in them and they are sealed in the bag, they should remain fluid for your entire decorating session.
  3. Add the chocolate chips to the remaining bowl of icing. Heat in microwave for 15 seconds to insure chocolate chips have fully melted. Stir well. You're looking for a glossy mixture that's thick enough to spread. Repeat heating a few seconds at a time, if necessary. You can add more hot water to thin it out, if necessary.
  4. As you're icing the cookies, the mixture will thicken and set up as it cools. This is primarily because of the chocolate, but can also be the sugar setting up. You can pop it back into the microwave for 5 or 10 seconds to melt the chocolate again. Then stir up the mixture so that it looks glossy before icing each cookie. You can also add a spoonful of hot water. I did both, periodically, as I iced the cookies.
  5. Stir the frosting before icing each cookie to insure it's smooth and glossy. If you spread matte frosting on the cookie, it will stay matte. If you spread glossy icing, it will set up with a better finish.
  6. Drizzle white and pink icing as desired to decorate the cookies.

Notes

*If you use salted butter, you can eliminate the salt.

*For a rich, dark chocolate taste, use a dark dutch process cocoa. I use King Arthur Flour's Double Dutch Dark Cocoa. You can use regular cocoa, if desired. Just know that the type and quality of cocoa you use will significantly affect the taste of your cookie, so use one that you love.

*I iced my cookies generously with a thick coat of icing. If you want a much thinner coating, use more water in the icing and keep the chocolate warm and melty. If you're going thinner or you only want to drizzle the tops with the chocolate portion, you can probably cut the icing recipe in half.

*For my smaller hearts, I warmed up the icing so it was thinner and dipped the tops of the cookies into it, scraping off excess with a knife.

*If you're using sprinkles, nuts, candies or anything you want to stick to the icing, make sure you sprinkle them on as soon as you ice the cookie. Otherwise, the icing will set up and the toppings won't adhere.

*If you want to skip the icing entirely, you can sprinkle coarse sugar (like turbinado) generously on the cookies before baking.

*I let the cookies sit, lightly covered at room temperature overnight to allow the thick layer of icing to fully set up before I stacked them in an airtight container. They will stay soft for days. The chocolate fudgy flavor develops and is even better on day 3 than it is on day 1!

*Your yield may vary based on how thick/thin you roll the dough and what size cookie cutters you use.