Grandma’s Cocoa Drops are a chocolate lover’s dream cookie. The cookie itself is soft and cakey, made with cocoa and chopped pecans. The frosting is a rich fudge-like topping that takes these cookies over the top. A glass of milk on the side is a must!
Cocoa Drops are a recipe from my mom’s mom, Grandma Verie. She always had cookies hanging around, whether freshly baked on the counter, in the freezer, or in the back of Papa Sam’s pick-up truck.
Though she had a stand mixer, Grandma Verie always mixed cookies by hand, with the bowl placed inside the kitchen sink. I’m not quite sure why she did that—maybe so the dough wouldn’t fly all over. Or maybe so she could get a better handle on it instead of using the high countertops.
In any case, these Cocoa Drop cookies are a tradition in our family, especially around Christmas. Here’s how to make them!
How to make cocoa drops
This cookie dough makes a very “wet” dough, more similar to brownie batter than cookie dough. As a result, it needs a few hours to firm up in the refrigerator, so take that into account when making these cookies!
1. Using a stand mixer, start by creaming together the butter and the sugar.
2. Add the egg and beat until combined.
3. Turn the mixer to low and add the buttermilk and vanilla.
4. With the mixer still on low, add the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Add the pecans and mix on low just until combined.
5. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or until firm. You can refrigerate the dough, covered, for up to 48 hours before baking.
6. Spoon the cookie dough onto sheet trays fitted with a silicone mat. Bake for 8–10 minutes, or until the cookies no longer look wet on top.
A note on these cookies: they are known for sticking to pans, even the most well-seasoned cookie sheets. I use a silicone baking mat (these are similar) when I make these.
The cookies come off really easily, and I’m not left scraping the pan for little bits of cookie left behind. Parchment paper would work, too.
How to make chocolate frosting
The frosting comes from a family heirloom: the first edition Betty Crocker cookbook. It was published in 1950, and belonged to my great-grandmother. The cookbook holds a collection of cooking and entertaining tips, plus hundreds of recipes.
They re-printed the same Betty Crocker cookbook, which you can still get on Amazon! The chocolate frosting recipe is thick and fudge-like—perfect for these cookies!
To make the frosting, melt unsweetened chocolate and butter in a double boiler or in the microwave in 30 second intervals.
Using a handheld mixer, mix in the vanilla, milk, and powdered sugar until combined.
Once the cookies are cool, frost them with a generous amount of frosting.
How do I make homemade buttermilk?
To make homemade buttermilk, pour 1 tablespoon of vinegar into the bottom of a liquid measuring cup. Fill the rest of the cup with milk up to the ¾ cup line. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes, and then it’s ready to use. You will see the vinegar curdling the milk—that is a good thing! You can use any type of milk (skim, 1%, 2%, whole) and either white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or white wine vinegar.
Can I make these cookies with vanilla frosting instead?
Yes! Simple omit the unsweetened chocolate from the frosting recipe and continue on with the instructions. You may need a little less powdered sugar. If the mixture gets too stiff, add a splash more milk until it thins to a spreadable consistency.
More Christmas cookies
Cocoa Drops are part of a collection of Christmas cookie recipes from both of my grandmothers. You can find the rest here:
Grandma's Cocoa Drops
For the cookies:
- ½ cup butter softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- ¾ cup buttermilk or substitute 1 tablespoon of white vinegar + almost ¾ cup regular milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ½ cup cocoa
- 1¾ cup flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup chopped pecans
For the frosting:
- 3 oz unsweetened chocolate
- ⅓ cup 5⅓ tablespoons butter, softened
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2–3 tablespoons milk
For the cookies:
- Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 3–4 minutes.
- Turn off the mixer and add the egg. Beat until combined.
- In a medium bowl, combine the cocoa, flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine.
- With the mixer on low, add half of the buttermilk. Once it is incorporated, add half of the flour mixture. Repeat with the remaining buttermilk and flour mixture.
- Add the chopped pecans and mix until just combined. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or up to 48 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 375°. Use a spoon to scoop out one tablespoon of dough and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Repeat with the remaining dough, leaving 3 inches of space between each tablespoon of dough (the cookies will spread).
- Bake for 8–10 minutes, until the cookies no longer look wet on top. Let sit for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet. Remove the cookies and place on a cooling rack.
For the frosting:
- Place the unsweetened chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 20 second increments until melted.
- Place the softened butter, melted chocolate, powdered sugar, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons milk in a large bowl. Use a handheld mixer to mix until it reaches frosting-like consistency and the powdered sugar is incorporated. Add an additional tablespoon of milk if the mixture looks too stiff.
Frosting the cookies:
- Use an offset spatula to spread approximately 2 tablespoons of frosting on each cookie. Serve with a tall glass of milk!
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