Once in a Chocolate-Spice Moon Cookies

Once in a Chocolate Spice Moon Cookies

On the fourth day of Christmas, ¯¯ my true love gave to me ¯Once in a Chocolate-Spice Moon Cookies.


You might be tempted to think that this is just another ho-hum rolled chocolate cookie recipe. But I assure you, this is not the case.  


When you open a tin of these cookies, your nose will tell you that there is something special going on here. Aromatic spices combined with chocolate, espresso, orange, ancho chile, and cayenne make these cookies highly addictive and a good choice for afternoon tea, even well beyond the holiday season.


The idea comes from a chocolate bundt cake I developed a few years ago. It has essentially the same flavors as these cookies; and like these cookies, it disappears quicker than Santa can slide down a chimney.

The first time I experienced heat in a cookie was at the home of my soon to be mom-in-law, Ellen Bradley. She served her famous Pepparkakor cookies alongside an antique silver teapot filled with freshly brewed Darjeeling. What a heavenly experience! The heat built with each cookie, until my mouth was burning wildly. And yet, I couldn’t stop eating those amazing cookies.


Ellen’s Swedish Pepparkakor get their heat from a heavy dose of white pepper, but a moderate amount of cayenne suits this chocolate cookie better.


As far as decoration goes, simple seems to work best here. Perhaps a bit of piped, colored Royal Icing, a bare sprinkling of clear sanding sugar, or nothing at all. The dark chocolate color is quite striking on its own.

Once in a Chocolate-Spice Moon Cookies


1½ cups (7 ounces) King Arthur’s unbleached, all-purpose flour

½ cup unsweetened cocoa (not Dutch process)

1 teaspoon ancho chile powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon cayenne

¼ teaspoon cloves

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt


1 cup unsalted butter (2 cubes), at cool room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 egg yolks, light beaten, at cool room temperature


finely grated zest of 1 large orange

1 teaspoon espresso powder, dissolved in 1 teaspoon hot water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon orange oil (or 1 teaspoon orange extract)


1.In a medium mixing bowl, sift the flour, cocoa, chile powder, cinnamon, cayenne, cloves, and salt together. Reserve.

2.Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together thoroughly, about 3 minutes.

3.Add the egg yolks and continue beating until creamy.

4.Add the orange zest, dissolved espresso, vanilla, and orange oil, and incorporate.

5.Add the flour mixture and mix very briefly, only until incorporated.

6.Divide the dough into 3 equal portions and flatten each portion to a ½-inch thick disk on a sheet of plastic wrap. Seal the plastic wrap around each portion of the dough and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight. (The sealed dough can be refrigerated for 2-3 days if necessary.)

7.Remove one portion of dough at a time from the refrigerator so that the dough stays cold while you are working with it. With a floured, cloth-covered rolling pin, roll the WELL CHILLED dough out thinly (1/4-inch or less) on a generously floured pastry cloth. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters.

8.Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet, decorate with clear sanding sugar if desired, and bake at 375º for 6-8 minutes. Watch closely to prevent cookies from over-browning. It is difficult to tell when these cookies are done because color is not a cue.

9.Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks.

10.When completely cool, store in air-tight cookie tins in a cool, dry location.


These cookies improve with age and will keep, if stored properly, for many weeks. You can also freeze them.


Makes about 6 dozen small to medium cookies.

Print Friendly


  1. Michelle from Vancouver BC says

    So glad I found your website! I search all year for new and interesting cookies for my Christmas Cookie plates. I’ve always wanted a spice cookie but not the normal ginger type, wow, love these and hate them all at the same time! Spicy, then yummy, then too spicy …. I can’t stop eatting them!
    I chickened out with the rolling/cookie cutter deal and just rolled into a log, rolled in orange sanding sugar and sliced ( after the dough spent 3 days in the fridge due to crazy work schedule ). Brought them to work as my “scary spicy Halloween cookies” and they were a huge hit.
    Thank you for this recipe, easy instructions to follow and worked perfectly.
    I have your Coconut Vanilla Lime Shortbread in the oven right now, it smells like heaven.

  2. says

    These are so outrageously delicious! Thank you so much! I’ve made four batches of these cookies and I get better and better! The first time i did not have the pastry cloth or cover for the rolling pin; I was frustrated because the dough stuck to everything I tried including cheese cloth, linen towels etc…
    Too late to go to the store I prayed to my mother kitchengod and she said “honey do what you know how to do”;and with that message I pulled out the wax paper. The next morning I was at BBB buying 2 sets; one for my daughter-in-law.
    I made moons (cold) and stars (hot and spicy) so everyone at our Christmas celebration could enjoy them without concern for too much chili. Sharing the moon and stars with the ones we love is truly the holiday spirit! Thank you again!
    Phyllis recently posted…Holiday Gifts from the LunaCafe KitchenMy Profile

  3. Jennifer says

    Okay, I’ll definitely try this & report back. I actually did the roll-outs to 1/8″ – 3/16″ thick, very few of them turned out to be a 1/4″ thick. We still have some in a Tupperware and they’re as good as day one, which was well over 2 weeks ago.

    Also, I couldn’t find ancho chili powder so a friend suggested I just buy the dried chilies and grind them. That worked perfectly! (For anyone reading this who may try this at home, don’t forget to seed the chilies first) Another friend suggested I grind plain white rice after the chilies in order to remove the chili oils from the grinder (aka Braun Coffee Grinder that I use for spices). This was also a great tip!

    Really liking your blog!

    • Susan S. Bradley says

      Excellent tips, Jennifer, thank you! I was just fussing over cleaning the spice grinder. I don’t want to get it wet. Rice makes perfect sense. Happy holidays! …Susan

  4. Jennifer says

    These cookies are WONDERFUL! I can’t tell you how many I’ve given out and how many people have begged for the recipe. I’ve sent them all to your site. Thank you for this truly great cookie.

    I followed the recipe exactly with no mishaps. I kept the dough cold, rolled it out on parchment, and kept the wood rolling pin well floured. It worked perfectly! I used orange extract and zest from 3 mandarin oranges (they’re tiny), and that worked perfectly as well.

    One question for you…have you tried rolling the dough into logs & freezing it, then slicing it into coins for baking? If so, did it work? I’m asking because it would take way less time than rolling them flat & doing cut-outs. And I’ve got a 3 year old under foot, so any time-saver I can think of, is always a good thing. :-)

    • Susan S. Bradley says

      Jennifer, this is music to my ears, thank you! :-) You can definitely turn these into slice and bake cookies. Test bake 1 or 2 cookies intially to see how thin you should cut them. You will likely lose the crisp snap if you go too thick. See if you can cut them 1/8-inch thick. The texture and flavor of the cookies will improve with a couple of days in the frig with the dough. Do let us know how this goes for you.

      • Jennifer says

        I made these again but this time, rolled the finished dough into 2 logs in plastic wrap, and froze them. Then I sliced them into 1/8″ thick discs and put them right in the oven. They came out perfectly!

        I also used Vietnamese cinnamon from Penzy’s this time, which was a nice punch up on the cinnamon flavor.

  5. phaedra says

    Just wanted to thank you for this wonderful site, for sharing all of this (recipes, stories, humour). I just finished cooking up a batch of these cookies. I wanted so badly to make them last year, but, being the newbie baker I am, didn’t have all the supplies (and went with a bunch of other recipes from last year’s 12-day set). Now I found I still didn’t, as the chili powder I thought I bought pure had all kinds of other things in it (I’ll learn someday ;)). Substituting a wee bit more cayenne, I went ahead anyway – I love them! I can’t wait to share them with other spice lovers at our Christmas gathering (following the Julian calendar), Christmas eve on January 6 😀

    Thank you and Happy New Year!

    • sms bradley says

      Phaedra, what a lovely note and on New Years Ever to boot. Thank you so much for making my day. Wishing you everything sweet and spicy for 2010! :-) …Susan

  6. dmoney says

    thanks! i was having a frustrated moment…i basically ended up rolling the chilled dough 9overnight — 2 hours is not even close to enough time,) putting it back in the fridge, then cutting the shapes and chilling again before putting them on the cookie sheet. the shapes weren’t as crisp-edged as i would have liked, andperhaps circles would be better, but they taste delicious.

  7. marybeth says

    You are soooo incredibly helpful!!! and kind with your explanations of why (these people who error) are not realizing how scientific baking is- and the importance of basic chilling, rolling techniques. Continue your fabulous site!!!

  8. sms bradley says

    If the correct flour is used, the dough is well-chilled, and the pastry cloth and rolling pin cover are well-floured, as the recipe directs, the cookies will roll out easily and beautifully. That said, this dough is very delicate and does require a light and quick hand to get the chilled dough rolled, cut, and onto the baking sheet before the dough begins to warm and soften. Adding baking powder will not help you here, and I don’t recommend it for this recipe. What I do think I should add to the recipe is the weight of the flour. If folks are measuring the flour in different ways, different amounts of flour are being used. There is little margin for error in this recipe, so that could be the problem.

  9. BMARIE says

    I had a problem with these cookies spreading out too much on the pan. SHouldn’t there be more flour or Baking Soda in the recipe?
    They smelled sooo good while cooking but they do not look like the cookies on the website. Any advice would be great!

    • sms bradley says

      BMarie, I’m not sure what happened with your cookies. This type of cookie does not benefit from baking powder, so that’s not the issue. It is very important, however, that the dough is well chilled when rolled and that some flour is absorbed by the cookies in the rolling process (floured rolling pin cover and pastry cloth). The slightly short amount of flour prescribed takes into account the tiny amount of flour that will be added in the rolling out process. Do use King Arthur unbleached, all purpose flour, if you can get it, as it doesn’t vary from batch to batch and always gives good results. Also, be sure to measure your flour by spooning the unpacked flour into a 1-cup measuring cup and then, without tapping it down, sweep off the excess with a straight edge. In my kitchen, using King Arthur unbleached, all-purpose flour, 1 cup of flour measured in this way weighs 4 5/8 ounces. I added the flour weight to the recipe. I hope this helps!


  1. […] chocolate spice cookies with cayenne and orange zest. mmm, these cookies won round one of a workplace cookie tournament for me. the cookie tournament is currently in semifinals, but i’m out of the running. if i’d just made these cookies again for round two, i might not be. they are delicious. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

CommentLuv badge