Melt in Your Mouth Orange Cookies with Cranberries

The holidays have a way of making me nostalgic. My cravings, be they for certain foods, rituals, or even smells, often tie back to pieces of my childhood. I bought the same pine-scented candle that my mom burns in her kitchen. I listen to The Carpenters’ Christmas album that once played in our minivan on repeat. Most of all, I bake from my Grandma Dorothy’s collection of Christmas cookie recipes, including these Melt-in-Your-Mouth Orange Cookies with Cranberries and Orange Frosting.

Frosted Orange Cookies with Cranberries. MELT IN YOUR MOUTH. Super soft and easy to make! Perfect for Christmas or anytime you want to bake. Recipe at wellplated.com | @wellplated

Grandma Dorothy has made several appearances on my blog. Last Christmas, I shared these Candy Cane Snowball Cookies, which are based off of her Swedish tea cakes, and her homemade cinnamon buns inspired these recent Biscuit Cinnamon Rolls.

Before she lost her battle with Parkinson’s disease last Thanksgiving, my grandma painstakingly recorded her most treasured recipes in a home-printed cookbook she called Lovin’ from the Oven. Included in that cookbook is the base recipe that I used for these orange drop cookies.

I’m calling my version of Grandma’s cookies “Melt-in-Your-Mouth Orange Cookies with Cranberries and Orange Frosting.” As their name would suggest, these orange cookies are pillowy soft and float away on your tongue. The orange frosting is smooth, buttery, and, as I can personally attest, tastes as delicious licked right from your fingers as it does atop the buttery orange cookies themselves.

Frosted Orange Drop Cookies with Orange Frosting and cranberries. So soft and easy to make! Recipe at wellplated.com | @wellplated

My version of the orange cookies does take a few departures from my grandma’s. The first is that her original recipe calls for 100% vegetable shortening. I opted to replace half of the shortening with butter, because I prefer butter’s flavor (and because it seems a bit more natural to me). If you prefer to stick with the original version, feel free to keep the shortening instead.

I also used whole wheat pastry flour in place of half of the all-purpose flour to give the cookies a slight nutritional boost. You can’t taste the whole wheat AT ALL, and my thinking is that if we can squeeze in a bit of extra healthy at the holidays with zero negative impact on flavor, why not?

Melt in Your Mouth Cranberry Orange Cookies. Soft and pillowy with the BEST orange icing. Easy drop cookie recipe that’s perfect for Christmas or anytime you want to bake. Recipe at wellplated.com | @wellplated

Finally, I updated the name of the cookies and what that name implies. My grandma’s original recipe is actually called “Carrot Cookies,” because the cookie dough contains mashed carrots.

BIG IMPORTANT NOTE: These orange cookies do NOT taste like veggies. The carrots don’t flavor the cookies; rather, they make the cookie dough sweet and incredibly tender. I kept Grandma’s carrots then took the liberty of adding lots of orange zest and cranberries.

The cranberries make the cookies feel extra festive for the holidays and taste lovely paired with the orange, but if you prefer the orange cookies without, you can simply omit them.

Melt in Your Mouth Cranberry Orange Cookies. Soft, citrusy, and frosted with creamy orange icing. Easy drop cookies you are going to love! Recipe at wellplated.com | @wellplated

What hasn’t changed: the way these orange cookies truly melt in your mouth and that dreamy, too-perfect-to-be-true orange frosting. Every bite of these Melt-in-Your-Mouth Orange Cookies with Cranberries and Orange Frosting is sweet, citrusy, and reminds me of the love my grandma put into everything she made. I hope that your family loves them too.

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Melt-in-Your-Mouth Orange Cookies with Cranberries and Orange Frosting

Frosted Orange Cookies with Cranberries. Melt-in-your-mouth soft! Easy drop cookies topped with creamy orange frosting.

Yield: 4 dozen small cookies

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 8 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

FOR THE CRANBERRY ORANGE COOKIES

  • 1 cup mashed cooked carrots (about 7 ounces uncooked—4 to 5 large carrots or 16 larger baby carrots)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature*
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening*
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • Zest of 2 large oranges
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped reduced-sugar dried cranberries

FOR THE ORANGE FROSTING

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, then set aside. If needed, cook, mash, and cool the carrots: Peel and cut the carrots into large pieces (cut baby carrots in half), then place in a small saucepan. Cover with water, then bring to a boil over high. Let boil until the carrots are tender, about 6 minutes. Mash and let cool to room temperature (you can also place the carrots in the freezer to cool more quickly).
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, shortening, and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the orange zest, orange juice, and vanilla extract. Stir in the mashed carrots.
  3. In a separate bowl, stir together the all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the wet ingredients, then mix gently, just until the flour disappears. Fold in the cranberries.
  4. Drop by rounded teaspoons (the cookies are very small—do not make them larger or they will not bake as well) onto the prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 8 minutes, until the edges are barely golden. Let rest for 2-3 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. For the frosting: In a mixing bowl, beat together the powdered sugar, butter, orange juice, and vanilla extract. Frost the cooled cookies, then enjoy!

 

*My grandma’s original recipe called for all shortening. If you prefer to stick to the original, use an additional 1/2 cup vegetable shortening in place of the butter. If you prefer to use ALL butter, you can swap it out for the shortening, but the cookies will have a heavier texture.

  • Store leftover cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months. If freezing the cookies, I recommend waiting to frost them if possible (or freezing the frosting separately), but frosted cookies can also be frozen (they just aren’t as easy to stack)
All images and text ©/Well Plated.

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 2 cookies

  • Amount Per Serving:
  • Calories: 197
  • Total Fat: 9g
  • Saturated Fat: 4g
  • Cholesterol: 28mg
  • Sodium: 141mg
  • Carbohydrates: 27g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Sugar: 17g
  • Protein: 2g

About Erin Clarke

I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food taste incredible. Wearer of plaid, lover of bourbon, and firmly convinced that sweets and veggies both deserve a place at the table. MORE ABOUT ERIN...

11 comments

  1. Wonderful mixture with the orange and cranberries. I feel like it gives a nice natural sweetness instead of just using the sugar. Nice work (:

  2. These cookies have become a holiday classic for me. Delicious with a cup of tea or coffee, great for a gift or cookie exchange or just to munch on at home. I highly recommend them!

  3. These cookies look wonderful and I think that it is great that you are sharing your grandmother’s recipe! That makes it even more special!

  4. Why do some of the ingredients have asterisks? I don’t see the notations for them at the bottom of the recipe.

    I lov the recipes and stories you provide!

  5. So disappointed!! My mouth was watering because they look delicious AND healthy? My let down began when I was reading, shortening, flour, wheat flour & sugar. Not for this Paleo chick. VERY unhealthy!!

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