These Clementine Cookies look AND taste just like real clementines! Orange-scented cookies are sandwiched with orange marmalade and decorated to look just like citrus fruits. You’ll love the fresh and vibrant flavor of these unusual treats.
These cookies surprised me. All my life I’ve been ride or die for chocolate chip cookies—and the more giant chunks of melting chocolate chips, the better! I never thought I could love a non-chocolate chipper in the same way. Falling for these Clementine Cookies is like the prom queen choosing the mathlete over the hot quarterback…it just doesn’t happen in real life.
And yet, here we are. I’m obsessed with these Clementine Cookies, and also sort of giving myself a backdoor compliment with that prom queen analogy. SORRY NOT SORRY.
Let me ‘splain these cookies a little bit. I was inspired by Italian peach cookies, which are a traditional recipe where cakey cookies are sandwiched with peach jam, then dipped in colored peach liqueur and rolled in sugar to give them a really remarkable appearance to fresh peaches. I’ve never actually tasted them, but every time I’d see a picture, I’d swoon just a little bit. They’re beautiful, and they’re also a dessert that looks like healthy fruit! I am so sold.
So I decided to put my own spin on it, and create a citrus version. It’s still closer to clementine season than peach season, at least where I live, plus I thought a clementine version would be great because I could really play on that sweet-tart citrus flavor. And thus, these cookies were born.
Let’s break down the anatomy of a Clementine Cookie. They start with a soft, cake-like cookie with THREE types of citrus flavor: clementine zest, clementine juice, and orange oil (you can substitute extract). I should not here that I keep saying “clementine,” but you can use any orange-adjacent citrus you like: navel oranges and tangerines would both work beautifully, and I think grapefruit would be a REALLY delicious variation.
After the cookies are baked and cooled, they get hollowed out, and the inner crumbs are mixed with orange marmalade until it forms a sticky filling. This is then used to sandwich two cookie halves together.
BUT! I’m not done yet! The final touch, the thing that actually makes them look like oranges, is to mix a bit of orange food coloring with orange liqueur (I used Grand Marnier…you can use Triple Sec, or orange juice for a non-alcoholic version) and briefly dip the cookie in the orange liquid. While it’s still wet, roll that baby in granulated sugar, stick a bit of chocolate in the top for a stem, and you’re golden!
Speaking of the coating of sugar, I added a bit of citric acid to mine (you all know I love me some citric acid) so that it wasn’t just a sweet crunch on the outside, but also added a bit of tartness as well. Between the sweet-and-sour sugar, the orange liqueur, the marmalade, and the three types of citrus in the cookies, these are INSANELY flavorful!
It’s not just the flavor I loved, though. The sugar dries into a slightly crunchy exterior, while the inside is wonderfully soft and moist thanks to the marmalade mixture. Three generations of my family loved these cookies. We usually give away most of our leftovers to neighbors and coworkers, but this was one dessert we didn’t share at ALL. Sorry not sorry about that, too! Enjoy!
For the Cookies:
To Assemble and Decorate:
- 6 oz orange marmalade (1/2 cup)
- ¾ cup orange liqueur or orange juice
- Orange food coloring
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ¾ tsp citric acid optional
- Chopped chocolate pieces
To Make the Cookies:
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl, and set aside momentarily.
- Combine the sugar and clementine zest in the bowl of a large stand mixer, and rub them together between your fingertips until the zest has released its oils into the sugar and it is damp and fragrant. Add the egg to the sugar, and beat on medium speed until the color lightens, about 2 minutes.
- Add the oil, two extracts, and juice to the mixing bowl, and mix it in on low speed until combined.
- Finally, add the dry ingredients and mix on low, stopping when there are a few streaks of flour remaining. Finish mixing by hand with a spatula, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl well. To dough will be very loose, somewhere between a cookie dough and a cake batter.
- Dampen your hands. Use a cookie scoop to scoop up a tablespoonful of dough and roll it between your damp hands to make it round. (It won’t stay round, but it will smooth out the outside of the dough ball, which is all we really care about.)
- Space the cookie dough balls out on the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between them. You should get 26 cookies, or enough for 13 cookie sandwiches.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes, until puffed on top and the edges are just starting to color. They won’t turn golden brown, so don’t rely on the color of the cookies to check for doneness. After 5 minutes, transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely before assembly.
- Use a paring knife to cut a circle from the bottom of a cookie, and scrape out the inner filling. Don’t come too close to the sides or top of the cookie, or they might crack or collapse. Put all the filling materials in a bowl.
- Add enough marmalade to the bowl to make a stick, spreadable filling. Spread it on the inside of two cookies, and sandwich them together. Repeat until all of your cookies are assembled.
- In one bowl, whisk together the orange liqueur and orange food coloring. (It’s better if the orange coloring is fairly strong.) In a second bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar and citric acid, if using.
- Dip a cookie completely in the orange liqueur. If the coloring is strong, it will need only a very short dunk to take on the color—if it’s weaker, you may need to leave it in for a second or two.
- Set the wet cookie on a baking sheet, to dry off for a moment, and repeat with two or three more cookies. Roll the cookies in the granulated sugar, covering the outside completely, and wiping off any sugar clumps. Repeat until all of the cookies are dipped and rolled.
- Finally press a small chocolate shard into each sandwich cookie to be the clementine stem.
- These cookies keep very well and stay moist for days. Store them at room temperature for up to a week, or in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.