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.
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.
How I Adapted Grandma’s Orange Cookies
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?
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. I love this flavor combination so much, I even made a Cranberry Orange Muffins recipe.
The cranberries make the cookies feel extra festive for the holidays (they’re also delicious in these Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies) and taste lovely paired with the orange, but if you prefer the orange cookies without, you can simply omit them.
How to Store These Cookies
- To Store. Store leftover cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
- To Freeze. Place cookies in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer 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)
More Delicious Cookie Recipes
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.
Melt-in-Your-Mouth Orange Cookies with Cranberries and Orange Frosting
FOR THE CRANBERRY ORANGE COOKIES
- 1 cup mashed cooked carrots about 7 ounces uncooked—4 to 5 large carrots or 16 larger baby carrots
- ½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature*
- ½ cup vegetable shortening*
- ¾ 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
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ 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 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 ½ 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)
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